Game 25 Recap: Blazers 101, Bucks 108

Arrgh.  It stinks to have to write about another loss.  But you kind of knew when the game went into overtime, let alone double-overtime, that this would be a hard one for the Blazers to pull out.  Shorthanded and on the tail end of a road swing against a team that's been waiting isn't a good recipe for extra-period success.  Nevertheless the Blazers had their chances but couldn't overcome their mistakes and in the end couldn't pull out the win.

The game started with both teams looking to their big men to provide scoring.  LaMarcus Aldridge tore up the Bucks most of the night.  Andrew Bogut returned the favor.  Both were mobile enough and had enough range to their game that their counterparts couldn't stop them.  Centers and power forwards were the order of the day early and the Blazers were fine with that.  But when the various guards stepped up to the plate Portland got outplayed.  Luke Ridnour did damage in the first half, carrying the torch for Brandon Jennings who didn't attempt a single shot in the opening 24 minutes of the game.  Michael Redd chipped in a little bit.  On the other side Brandon Roy was quiet and Steve Blake and Andre Miller were noisy in all the wrong ways...and in the clanging of loud rims.  Nobody but Martell Webster could hit a three.  By now you know what happens to the Blazer offense when nobody hits threes.  Portland exited the first period down 5 and it looked like it could be a long night.

In the second period Roy went on a run, which in turn developed some shots for Martell and for Jerryd Bayless.  Bayless didn't get many opportunities but he did well with what he had.  Martell was still doing well in the first half, so it actually made a decent lineup.  It's important to realize that many of these shots were coming off of movement and screens, which seems to be a consistent factor when Portland's offense is going well.  The Bucks, meanwhile, suffered from a lack of backcourt scoring.  Also Andrew Bogut sat out half the period.  That was a bad combination for the Bucks.  Portland made an enormous comeback behind their rejuvenated backcourt and turned the 5-point deficit into a 5-point lead at the half.

Apparently Brandon Jennings looked at the stat sheet at the half and realized it is really hard to win Rookie of the Year without attempting any shots whatsoever.  Perhaps he looked at LeBron tape from last night's game as well.  Whatever the cause, he came out in the third quarter firing.  The Blazers had to know it was coming but they're a little shy on point guard defense at the moment.  Once Jennings hit a couple of threes the court opened up for anything Milwaukee liked.  It was like going through a pound box of See's soft-center candies for them.  No matter what they picked, everything was good.  Portland started the period by driving inside but after they were rejected at the rim they apparently decided that three-point shooting was the better part of valor.  They got a couple of close shots but mostly it was Brick City.  Only some well-timed free throws saved the period from total disaster.  (You'll recall that giving up copious amounts of charity tosses is in Milwaukee's M.O.)  The game's wobble increased again as the Bucks outscored the Blazers by 15.  For those counting that means the first quarter one team outscored the other by 5, the second quarter it was by 10, the third quarter was by 15, and the superior team alternated each quarter.

Obviously all of the people who believe in an orderly universe are assuming that Portland outscored the Bucks by 20 in the final period and walked out victorious.  You're half right.  They outscored the Bucks by 10.  Both Roy and Aldridge came alive at the same time to spur the comeback.  They even helped each other out a time or two, which is something you don't see often.  Milwaukee shared the ball but maybe they should have considered going with Jennings, Bogut, or Ridnour alone as the Blazers couldn't seem to stop any of them.  In the process of sharing the ball with each other they also shared it plenty of times with Portland, aiding the comeback's progress.  Andre Miller was the third scorer for the Blazers in the period but he was a mixed blessing.  It's easy to love the 5 points and especially the 4 assists he posted in the period.  It's difficult to forgive two critical turnovers down the stretch when Portland had a chance to score crucial buckets.  They were nearly identical, featuring Miller trying to force the tempo by driving against superior numbers on the break when his teammates weren't with him.  He got stripped both times, once by Redd and once by Jennings.  Both of these occurred in the last two minutes of a then-tight game.  The first one the Blazers got right back.  Not so the second.  But either one could have made the difference and you don't expect that kind of thing from a 14-year veteran point guard.  That's not to pin the loss on Miller...it was a group effort.  But it's indicative that every time the Blazers felt the win in their sails in this game they hit a rock.

The final 38 seconds of regulation featured a medley of nice offensive plays.  Andrew Bogut hit a hook shot to put the Bucks up three then Brandon Roy pulled the defense to him and threaded a sweeeeeet pass to LaMarcus Aldridge for a dunk plus the foul to tie it.  After the big man had their curtain call Brandon Jennings made a teardrop runner in the lane to recapture the lead by 2 followed by Brandon Roy hitting a turn-around with 12 seconds left that was so bad that we would have barbequed anyone but Brandon who took it.  We maybe would have barbequed him too but we'll never know because it went in.  You could almost hear the Bucks' fans (who were quite vocal and sounded amazing all game, by the way) lose their beer and pretzels.  The Bucks almost got a tip-in off of a missed Jennings jumper at the buzzer but it was a nanosecond or two too late.  Overtime.

The overtime started out well.  After Andrew Bogut made a layup followed by a short Roy jumper the Blazers fed a running Aldridge thrice.  It was like three punches to Milwaukee's ribs.  It looked like they could be headed for the exit.  Unfortunately the Blazers never scored again after the third conversion.  Perhaps they relaxed.  Perhaps they were fatigued.  Certainly we began to see signs of the perimeter defense breaking down as the Milwaukee smalls scored repeatedly, often times after a screen left them either free or mismatched.

There was a semi-controversial play near the end of the overtime wherein the officials invoked instant replay review for a second time in the game, the first having been the shot at the end of regulation.  Milwaukee missed a shot and there was a scrum for the rebound.  LaMarcus Aldridge was touching the ball but hadn't fully controlled it yet when two Bucks tried to tip it away from behind.  They succeed and the ball went out of bounds along the baseline.  The officials initially awarded the ball to the Blazers but the video review would show that LaMarcus' hand was the last to touch it (by about the same nanosecond as before) so they reversed their call.  Technically they were correct in their determination.  Full marks there.  But this does highlight that even instant replay isn't foolproof because technical correctness sometimes breaks precedent.  Every other call in the game is made in real-time.  And made in real time that call always goes against the team whose players come from behind to tip.  Had this been any time but the last, critical moments of the game that would have been Portland's ball.  As it was, the call was made differently because it was reviewed.  This begs the question:  is technical correctness really correct or is it consistency?

Anyway, Brandon Jennings made a final shot to end the overtime and we were knotted again.

There's not much to say about the second OT except that the Blazers looked even more tired.  Jumpers fell well short.  Brandon Roy drove expecting to get fouled and threw up the shot as an afterthought.  In overtime games you have to get the shot in and expect the foul to be called as an afterthought.  Needless to say, he came away with neither.  Meanwhile the perimeter defense got even worse as switches on screens became comical.  Jennings, Ridnour, and guard Carlos Delfino scored repeatedly.  Portland did not.  End of game.

The Blazers didn't hit enough jumpers and didn't throw a wide enough defensive net to win in this game and that's pretty much the story.  They're tired.  They're banged up.  They need to go home and hope to recover with a little rest and a friendly crowd.

Click through for the rest...

Individual Observations 

These are going to be quite brief tonight.

Brandon Roy scored copiously but less than efficiently again, shooting only 8-24 to get his 23 points.  Part of it is him, part of it is that his backcourt mates are playing like doo-doo right now.  He was streaky, pouring on the points when needed and hitting the critical shot.  But the confidence just isn't there.  8 rebounds and 6 assists but also 4 turnovers.

Blake and Miller combined for 5-22 shooting, 8 assists, and 6 turnovers.  That was ouchy.

LaMarcus Aldridge had a whale of a game with 31 points and 11 rebounds.  The Bucks had a hard time handling him.

Poor Joel Przybilla gets used so badly by his backcourt on defense.  He never gets to worry about just his own guy.  Not that being able to worry about Bogut would have allowed him to stop Bogut, but I do feel bad that Joel has to do everyone else's laundry as well as his own.  He managed 10 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Both Martell Webster and Steve Blake seemed to take some advice we offered last night and stepped in for a few shots instead of just bombing.  It worked OK for Steve.  He was 1-7 on his threes but 2-3 on the shorter shots.  Martell hit 3-6 threes, 3-8 of the remainder.  Keep at it.

Jerryd Bayless played 18 minutes and scored 9 points.  His best moment came when he was set up on the left sideline while Roy drove the lane, Brandon pitched him the ball, and Jerryd drained the three.  That's something Blazer guards playing with Roy need to do.  Jerryd nodded like he knew it and Roy high-fived him afterwards.  18 minutes is better than the 8 he got last night.  We're going to talk more about Jerryd's court situation tomorrow so I'll leave it at that.

Final Thoughts

This was a rough stretch.  You have pretty much GOT to get these two upcoming home games now.  Remember though that we're trying to get through December without totally getting ruined.  It may not be pretty but it doesn't have to be.  It just can't be fatal.  And things are seldom fatal in December anyway.

Boxscore

Check out Brewhoop

See your Jersey Contest scores here  and enter Tuesday's game form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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