Game 57 Recap: Blazers 83, L*kers 96

I hate having to say "all things considered" because I know we had hoped that at this point in the season we'd be beyond that, but we're not and we're not going to be, so we might as well accept it.  All things considered this was not a bad game.  We played an inspired first half and really showed a lot of things that have been missing from our attack in recent weeks.  Why we have to wait until we have a crippled roster to demonstrate passion, I don't know.  But if we can hold onto that passion, learn to play with it nightly, and then eventually get our full team assembled we will be special.  That isn't even close to happening yet, but it's good to know the possibility is there.

Boxscore

What do I mean about "things that have been missing"?  Here you go:

--We rebounded well throughout the game.  We got multiple possessions on single trips when the L*kers came out flat.  We held them to one shot all night.

--We dove on the floor and ran for loose balls more in this game than I've seen in the last three weeks combined.  We deserve BIG props for the hustle we put in.  At least four different guys went to the floor tonight, maybe five.  We're lucky to get one on a normal night.

--We hit us some free throws tonight.  In fact we were perfect until Martell missed two in the closing minutes.  We also drew 6 more attempts than they did. Techs were a part of that, but I'll take it!

--Even though the L*kers shot a fairly high percentage (47.4%) they either had to work or pass for most of their shots.  We didn't give them too many easy ones.  Kobe knew what he was going up against tonight.  We did end up having to double (or sometimes, unfortunately, triple) team down low which left room for their perimeter shooters but we're not the type of team right now that can cover everything.  We did a decent job of making their attempts hard and/or long.

--Nobody on our side got down, hung their heads, or did that stupid half-jog.  Our body language said we wanted this game...far more than the L*kers' body language did.  That's how we got up on them in the first place.

If you recall last week's post about what's going on with this team, all of these things were mentioned.  Tonight we didn't lack for any of them.  What did we lack?  Talent and experience.  It showed up most in the way the offense bogged down after the L*kers adjusted at halftime.  All of a sudden Lamarcus, who had torn up the first half, was getting doubled and pushed out to 18-20 feet instead of being single-covered going across the lane.  We couldn't adjust.  He couldn't get shots up and when he passed our point guards couldn't make plays happen.  Basically the L*kers said, "No forward is scoring easy in this half."  Had Brandon Roy been there that wouldn't have worked.  We started settling for long shots and couldn't hit any.  At that point the offensive confidence deflated.  A more experienced team would have adjusted sooner, maybe transitioning over to Outlaw instead of Lamarcus.  We did that too late and it wasn't enough.  You can see in our assist total and overall percentage that this wasn't a normal offensive game.  And really we didn't let the L*kers run away with the score until late.  A few more made shots and we would have put some fear into them.  Also we needed a tad more alacrity in getting inside to take their drivers and outside to bother their shooters.  The defense was too lopsided one way or another.  We made the right choice defending the inside first but really we have to develop the capacity to guard both.

Nate got ejected in the fourth, which is not a bad thing in my estimation.  It reflected the fire of the evening.  I said going into the game that I wanted a fight--in basketball terms if I could get that, in physical terms wouldn't have been all bad either.  It never came to blows but we showed some toughness out there.  The L*kers tried to smack us down and we smacked right back.  They just ended up with the last blow.  No shame in that, given our relative positions right now.  I liked the fire I saw even if the execution couldn't quite match it.

Individual Observations

--Lamarcus stepped up with one of his best games tonight.  He was a one-man wrecking crew in the first half.  He's at his best when he's hitting running, sweeping hooks and short turn-arounds in addition to his usual face-up jumper.  He also had a couple of WICKED blocks.  Mmmm...mmmm...I loves me some Lamarcus blocks.  He ended up with 24 on 10 of 19 shooting.  You know what I'm going to say though.  4 rebounds, 3 defensive.  We just have to get more from him no matter where he's playing.  He's our power forward.  He could make the difference between getting killed on the boards, staying even, or dominating.  Even if his offense isn't working right we need that energy on the glass.

--Travis had a fine game also.  He was the other dominant force that kept us in it.  He shot 7-18 for 18 points.  The most impressive thing was him blowing by Kobe again and again on the perimeter.  I mean he left him in the dust like he wasn't there.  I hope Travis REMEMBERS that because it's the one thing we don't see enough of from him.  He got open on the way towards the hoop more often tonight than in any game I've seen this year...even games where he has scored more.  His turn-around jumpers and leaners are fine but he puts so much more pressure on the defense when he drives into the clear and makes them decide how to deal with it.

--Joel Przybilla...WHOOO!  I loved his game tonight.  He anchored the defense inside and grabbed 16 rebounds.  Pau Gasol wasn't a big factor tonight and a lot of that is due to Joel.  He didn't get in the way of the offense either.  It's certainly one of his top five games of the year.  He stayed out of foul trouble too.  No coincidence, I think, that he got a few more minutes tonight than usual.

--Martell got some good looks tonight and was aggressive, they just weren't falling.  It's too bad too because he could have been the third leg of the stool we smashed right over the L*kers' heads.  Alas, it wasn't to be.  He did grab 6 rebounds, which was better than either of the taller forwards.  Had he shot 50% instead of 25% we would have been applauding him with abandon.  Shooters have to hit though.  

--Now we get to the point guards.  It would be great to say we had "Good, Better, and Best" tonight but really we had something between "Better" and "Best" from one guy and some head bonking from the other two.  Steve Blake really tore it up, as he seems to do often against L.A.  He only shot 4-11 but he got 7 free throw attempts.  Don't be too impressed because a lot of those were off technicals.  But he still hit all 7 and ended up with 17 points.  Even better he had 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and only 1 turnover.  Jarrett Jack did not come through at all, hitting only 2-6 and committing 4 turnovers.  The main reason he got 4 was that he didn't have time enough out there to commit 5.  It was not one of his better games.  He didn't lose it for us but he was a non-factor when we needed a factor.  Sergio got 2 assists in 7 minutes.

--Channing Frye played kind of gross and only got 9 minutes.  He got stuck in the interior on offense and defense and that's not his game at all.

One-Sentence Game Summary:

It would have been nice had the score been closer, but I wasn't ashamed.

I'm not much into predictions, but if I were to make one I'd say we'll have a hard time winning tomorrow night after the effort we put out tonight.  It just doesn't feel like we're going to be able to do it twice in a row.  However FRIDAY feels like another story, and that game is my odds-on favorite for us to capture our unexpected, improbable win.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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