Well, this was actually a game for three whole quarters. That's better than it had to be but it was disappointing not to be fighting tooth and nail for the win down the stretch.
The Blazers started out the game doing plenty of things right. They rebounded well. Their defense was superb: quick-footed, covering the right people, forcing turnovers. Portland jumped out to an 8-0 lead, setting Orlando back on their heels. Then wildcard Jason Williams canned a couple of jumpers and Dwight Howard got a monster dunk setting up off of a semi-break. Anyone who wants to know what Greg Oden should do when he runs down the floor should rewind the Tivo to 7:13 left in the first period and watch. Smashy smashy. Those buckets got the Magic rolling and it was on. The Blazers offense, as it would most of the game, started and ended with the guards. Portland scored 83 points total tonight. Roy, Miller, Blake, and Bayless had 70 of them. The offense wasn't all deep shots at this point though. Roy and Miller did a lot of work in the lane. In fact Brandon made a living playing the old "Around the World" game tonight where you get shots from various points at the edge of the key. Portland managed to attack this way while avoiding Dwight Howard's grubby mitts. Unfortunately as soon as Joel Przybilla sat down the Blazers lost their coverage. The second unit had to scramble too much and Orlando scored 6 points in the final 1:05 of the period. Still Portland exited the period with a 2-point lead, 21-19.
The second unit continued to struggle at the outset of the second period. They couldn't score and the rebounding that had been going well at the opening of the game started going south. That reserve lineup is also smaller up front and Orlando's forwards started scoring. The Blazers kept juggling the lineup trying to find a match that worked. They went three-guard for much of the period, even trying Miller, Bayless, and Roy together for a 7-minute stretch. All three of the guards got some offense in but it was generally at the expense of each other, as Andre Miller all but disappeared for the latter half of the quarter. This is not surprising since most of the shots generated were contested jumpers. Portland got bailed out by Bayless, however, as he hit shot after shot to total 10 points in the quarter. He scored 6 in the last 1:37 alone, matching the Magic's run at the tail end of the first quarter. 44-39 Blazers at the half.
The Magic made a couple of adjustments at the half, the chief of which was the determination to go with players who had natural mismatches. Dwight Howard was one of those. They went with him right out of the gate. But the second was Rashard Lewis, who heretofore had been fairly quiet. In a 3-minute, 30-second span Lewis hit two threes and two short jumpers. Portland countered with their natural mismatch, Brandon Roy, who scored 9 in a row for the Blazers in a 4-minute, 30-second span. (You starting to get the idea this was a game of streaks?) Miller interrupted Roy's scoring streak with a couple trips to the free throw line but Roy also finished the period with 6 straight, 15 for the quarter. Curiously enough Portland decided if a three-guard lineup was good a four-guard lineup had to be better, so they played for a while with every double-figure scorer on the team in the lineup at once plus Aldridge or Przybilla. Again the mid-size players for the Magic took advantage. The final straw was a brain-dead defensive stand which saw the Magic inbounding the ball with a little over a second left. Portland let J.J. Redick, whose main claim to fame is shooting threes, get a wide-open look from beyond the arc. It went through and the teams were tied after three.
The Blazers continued to go small through most of the fourth. Brandon Roy scored again and Steve Blake came alive and did some damage from three-point land. But the Blazers couldn't rebound and guys like Matt Barnes and Anthony Johnson worked their size/strength advantages to score. As Portland fell further and further back they got more and more desperate, shooting threes and praying. Unfortunately Blake was the only one whose hotline was working. One streak that continued unabated throughout the evening was Portland's inability to hit deep. They finished 3-18 on the night from distance. Orlando never really exploded. They just edged the Blazers out in the final period and walked away with the win: 92-83.
A lot of things went right for Portland in this game. The energy was good through most of the night. Guys were hustling out there. They held Dwight Howard to 12 points and kept everybody else out of the paint. Vince Carter made it his personal mission to scrape every bit of orange off of the rims with his jumper. The Blazers got more free throws than Orlando as the road team and they remained on the good side of the turnover margin by 7. This game was there.
But a lot of things went wrong for Portland too. They shot 37% from the field and got obliterated on the boards. Howard had 20 rebounds to go with those 12 points. Martell Webster looked like he was trying to outdo Carter in his rim-scraping, going 1-11. LaMarcus Aldridge was running around the perimeter on defense but he barely touched the ball on offense, shot 1-6 for the night, and ended up with 3 points and 1 rebound. The Blazers had 7 assists on the evening which pretty much shows you how well the offense flowed.
The bottom line is that everything has to go right if you're going to win while scoring 83 in this league, let alone against one of the best teams. Some things went right, but not even close to everything. It wasn't the worst game of the season by far but it wasn't a game we were going to win without shifting gears, which we never did. When your only adequate response to a team making adjustments is to get smaller life is going to be hard.
Brandon Roy did everything he could offensively to get this team over and for a while it looked like he would succeed no matter what the Magic did. But when nobody over 6'6" scores more than 4 points on the night it's hard to find enough help to turn that superstar run into a team victory. There weren't many people to trust out there tonight. Thus 27 shots for Brandon, 33 points, but only 1 assist.
Joel Przybilla played a fantastic game and continues his streak of wonderful outings. This guy just doesn't back down lately. 10 rebounds and a lot of body-throwing against Dwight Howard. Whatever he wants on the team plane he gets.
Andre Miller scored 16 and shot 5-10 but he was taking the same approach to the offense as everyone else: shoot, drive, or punt. I was actually surprised to see he scored that many and shot that well because the shots he was getting weren't that great and it didn't look like his offense was that effective. 1 assist, 4 rebounds.
LaMarcus had 3 steals to go along with his 3 points, 1 rebound, and 1-6 shooting. You can talk about his teammates not looking for him. You can talk about him not demanding the ball enough. However you describe it, it's not good for the team when this happens and everybody needs to realize it. Maybe there was an injury that I didn't hear about but short of his foot being about to fall off his frame he's got to be more involved. Due credit for guarding a lot of perimeter players tonight though. He does that well.
Ohhhhhhhh Martell. OK, 7 rebounds, 2 steals. That's good. 1-11 from the field, 0-6 from the three-point arc, 0-2 from the line...it was like he brought his own personal cross-wind to the arena.
Jerryd Bayless played 30 minutes tonight but outside of that run in the second period the offense wasn't clicking. The types of shots the Blazers were getting aren't the type he should be taking generally. He made a couple nice passes early but nobody who received them hit the shot. After that it was every man for himself. 3-13 from the field, 4-4 free throws, 10 points. He also had some defensive difficulties. It wasn't a bad game but it wasn't a tour de force either.
Steve Blake played 27 minutes and was one of the few Blazers hitting his shots, though he hardly took any. He also had some defensive difficulties thought not quite as pronounced. 3-5 from the field, 2-3 from the arc, 11 points.
Juwan Howard tried to fill in for Przybilla for a while. Not the night for that.
Dante Cunningham played 7 minutes and missed 3 of 4 shots.
We better see more LaMarcus tomorrow night in Miami. Michael Beasley needs to worry about defending him or Beasley will just have a field day. Also, new team rule: no shooters get their eyes dilated during exams on game day.
See what they thought of the game at OrlandoPinstripedPost.com