The Portland Trail Blazers' 106-96 home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies -- one that featured a remarkable 29 point deficit and a 31-2 first half run -- was bad. The post-game mixed messages -- sure, call it finger pointing -- were worse.
A visibly frustrated Nate McMillan put the loss on his team's lack of effort and pointed to Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge as the guys who could help remedy the disjointed play. Twice McMillan said "not that we're calling [Roy and Aldridge] out" and then immediately proceeded to do just that. First, "I think Brandon and LaMarcus are our captains and our leaders. We need to feed off of that. That emotion. Not allowing us to play this way. Not that we're calling them [out] -- they are the guys we feed off of, they are the guys that can do a lot, encouraging support. We need that. We need that. We're going to play off of them."
And then again, "In a situation, a game like this, we need that. Somebody to gather the troops and we ride them. It's not calling them out, those are our guys. Those are our go-to guys. Those are guys that have made it happen. That we're playing off of. We need them. We need them."
In the locker room after the game, Roy acknowledged that McMillan's message to the team had been the same as it had been to the media and he looked just slightly miffed that his coach had publicly challenged his captains. Roy deftly avoided giving any detailed response to McMillan's challenge but did admit that, "me and LaMarcus have got to make sure that guys are ready defensively."
Random Game Notes
- Kevin Pelton came away with the quote of the game: Grizzlies Coach Lionel Hollins on rookie center Hasheem Thabeet, "We're teaching him how to play the game of basketball like you would a 7th or 8th grader." Wow. Expecting a middle-schooler, KP2 and I were witness to what looked like a solid pro. Great energy, absurd length, some nice finishing at the rim, very, very respectable numbers: 9 points, 6 boards, 3 blocks in 18 minutes. Thabeet looked terrible in Vegas this summer and looked like a totally different player tonight. Up his minutes!
- Thabeet's performance was all the more impressive in light of his pregame warm-up routine which had courtside observers gawking at how misguided the drills he was participating in were. Thabeet was shooting 15 footers, 18 footers, turnaround 18 footers, 15 footers off the pick and roll, jab step 15 footers, 18 footers off the glass. It was a wonder he wasn't shooting three pointers. Please remember he's 7'3". The only time he practiced any shots at the rim came after he was instructed to pump-fake from the top of the free throw circle and dribble twice down the key before making a layup. You think I'm exaggerating; I'm not. The average height of the Grizzlies assistant coaching staff (which includes Damon Stoudamire, Henry Bibby and Johnny Davis) might have something to do with this. Who knows. I wanted to intervene. Had it been Greg Oden, I probably wouldn't have been able to resist.
- Pelton wants everyone to know that he was a fan of Marc Gasol "before being a fan of Marc Gasol was cool." I guess that means Pelton somehow saw him before that first Geico commercial. It is oh so cool to be a fan of a Marc Gasol that puts up 19 points, 15 rebonds and 5 assists and who is now a better ball-handler than countryman Sergio Rodriguez. I think it's fair to say that Greg Oden trails Gasol in the All Star balloting.
- Joel Przybilla is in some kind of funk. It's hard to remember him getting burned so bad defensively in consecutive games. Non-existent offense; he's not even touching the ball.
- The court needed to be wiped up a few times because Zach Randolph kept licking his chops when single-covered by LaMarcus Aldridge. 21 and 9 for Randolph. 16 and 5 for Aldridge. Teacher. Student. Schooled. After the game, Randolph was met in the back hallway by a large group of well-wishers and had a very big smile on his face (and a Yankees cap on his head...). I think he enjoyed the win more than everyone, except maybe Lionel Hollins, who looked like a man who couldn't believe his team had just done everything he had asked them to do.
- On second thought, maybe McMillan simply wanted to call out Aldridge, and Roy was inserted into his post-game speech as collateral damage so it didn't come off as a truly personal coach-to-player challenge? Thoughts?
Nate's Post-Game Comments
What did you think of your energy in the first half?
There was none. I mean, energy? There was no energy out there in the first half. That team comes in here and jumps on us like that. No energy. I thought for most of the game there was no energy and really no excuse for no energy.
What was the message after the game?
I think Brandon and LaMarcus are our captains and our leaders. We need to feed off of that. That emotion. Not allowing us to play this way. Not that we're calling them [out] -- they are the guys we feed off of, they are the guys that can do a lot, encouraging support. We need that. We need that. We're going to play off of them. Greg has done some good things. We brought Miller in here. Our guys, that we feed off of, are those two. And when they have a nice rhythm going those guys on that floor gain confidence.
Are you saying they didn't have it going?
I'm just saying we need that. We need that. In a situation, a game like this. We need that. Somebody to gather the troops and we ride them. It's not calling them out, those are our guys. Those are our go-to guys. Those are guys that have made it happen. That we're playing off of. We need them. We need them.
They dominated you on the interior.
They dominated the whole game. I just thought ... I think they had 32 points or something in paint (in the first half), defensively they pretty much got what they want. Not getting up and defending. Being down 29, that's all about mentally coming in here and playing. Tonight we just didn't. We didn't. We didn't come to play. I don't know whether we thought this would be easy or what. It just shows if we don't anybody can beat us.
Any concern about the loss to Golden State, the collapse against Detroit and this.
You've got to put those games behind you. You've got to put a win behind you and then you gotta play the next game. You've got to come and bring that effort to play the next game. We know what we need to do. We didn't do that tonight.
You don't see a pattern in some of those games?
Again, I've said this a few times this year. I didn't have to say this maybe once last year. Our effort is not where it needs to be to win some games. And to win. We've been able to win some games but our effort and scrappy and hunger and attitude is not where it needs to be for us to really win big. And I don't get that. We're missing some guys but tonight they outworked us. There have been some other games where teams have outworked us. That's not something we're known for.
Big first quarter run
Just outworking us. We couldn't score. We didn't score. That led to easy baskets. When we got back, offensively they were able to run their offense. It was mainly outworking us.
Worst performance of the season?
You know, it's a loss. That was a surprise.
Miller instead of Blake in the fourth quarter, was that upping the tempo or something else?
Andre had some things going. I thought that team he was in there with got us a rhythm and was able to make a run. I just stayed with them.
Did you like what you saw from the press in the fourth quarter?
You're gambling. You're down by so many so you maybe surprise a team a few possessions and we came up with a couple steals but being down that many eventually they'll get a read on your press and be able to execute against it, which they did.
-- Ben Golliver | (email@example.com) | Twitter