Game 52 Recap: Blazers 98, Warriors 105

Boxscore

General Observations

This wasn't a horrible game.  It wasn't the Blazers' best effort, of course, but it was nowhere near the energy-free frustration fest we saw last week against the Thunder.  Rather the Blazers had some fundamental breakdowns that submarined their effort no matter how much energy they put into it (which varied in stretches from "bleh" to "a lot").

The crux of the matter tonight was spacing on both ends of the court.  Even when they were mobile the Blazers motored to positions that weren't as effective as they could have been.  They wasted men, the ball, and opportunities.  When you're playing against a team that considers scoring 100 about as difficult as Michael Phelps considers lapping a kiddie pool that makes winning difficult.

The basic idea of spacing on offense is creating lanes.  You want openings for drives and you want nice diagonals to make crisp passes.  In general you want to avoid being on the same plane horizontally or vertically, since then a defender can easily cut you off from the guy you're lined up with.  The Blazers played a lot of one-on-one tonight, which wasn't necessarily horrible when that was the plan.  However we were forced into solo ball because a lot of the off-ball guys didn't react to the play developing.  The offense was flat and the dribbler had few options.  When those passing lanes aren't there it makes any double team devastating.  That's just what the Warriors did.  Portland made a lot of shots but they were tough.  Whenever the Blazers went to Plan B and tried to move the ball instead of score the Warriors either picked it off or got a couple guys there right when the ball arrived to foil the recipient.  Except for Brandon Roy and a few moves by Lamarcus Aldridge in the lane the Blazers scored on jumpers or offensive boards...or they didn't score at all.

On defense you generally want to space yourselves out so you can cover your man but also find avenues to navigate in case help is needed.  You never want to get so committed to a certain spot that you can't recover anywhere else.  The Blazers not only committed tonight, they got married, signed the license in blood, bronzed it, and encased it in bulletproof glass with a museum-quality security system around it.  Mind you, this was in a good cause.  The Blazers were willing help defenders tonight.  You didn't see guys getting beat on the perimeter and Golden State getting unopposed buckets.  What you did see was a bunch of Blazers bunched around the ball without actually stopping the ball.  When you have two or three guys sold on a play but you don't trap the ball it becomes easy for the opponent to either flip a pass for an open shot or get the offensive rebound off of the tough shot you forced.  Both happened tonight, especially the latter.  Portland's young players were phased by the aggressive Warrior double-teaming.  The Warrior double-teaming was also planned.  The Golden State vets took advantage of the double teams as many times as they were hurt by them.  Also Portland's doubles looked less planned and more along the lines of, "Oh crap!  That guy's loose!  Get him!"

When you combine all of that stuff with some good, old-fashioned Golden State one-on-one firepower you'll usually come up with a loss, which is what the Blazers did.

Other contributing factors:

--The Blazers committed a season-high 23 turnovers (beating the old season high of 21 I believe, also acquired against the Warriors).  Everybody who played except for Channing Frye (2 minutes) had one.  Almost all of our major players had crooked numbers' worth.  You are just asking...nay, begging...the Warriors to beat you when you do that.  The actual net loss off of turnovers was only -2 but there were still 6-8 points the Warriors shouldn't have had in there, not to mention the scoring opportunities the Blazers gave up.

--The Warriors came within 2 offensive rebounds of the Blazers (13 to 15) and last I heard they beat us in second-chance points.  I said "second chance points" there, not fast break (though they did that as well, of course).  That's like getting beaten by Manute Bol in a limbo contest.  Ronny Turiaf had 7 all by himself.  Don't blame the centers, blame the spacing and the difficulty our smaller perimeter players had holding their own against vets like Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette.    

--The Blazers missed a ton of layups early.  That helped dig the hole.

--The foul shot deficit was enormous.  Portland was 14-17 for the game.  Golden State was 39-43.  It's tough to make up 25 points.  The refs had a bad, bad night too.  I'm not saying they were biased against Portland even, though there were a couple of weird calls that you don't usually see made the way they were.  Rather they'd blow a call, realize it, and then blow a call the other way to make up for it.  They just seemed shaken out there.  Again, though, Portland didn't give them a ton of reasons to make calls their way.  The basketball wasn't that pretty or effective.

Put those all together and you see why the Blazers never could come back in this game.  There were just too many leaks in the boat.  The defining moment of the game to me came with 6:55 left in the third quarter.  The Blazers were shooting 4-6 in the period, the Warriors 1-10.  Yet Portland had only made up 3 points out of the 12-point deficit they owned at the half.   You knew at that point we were going to lose.  We made a game try of it at the end of the fourth quarter but too many things had to go right to make that work.  Without rebounding and taking care of the ball better earlier in the game we left ourselves too much ground to make up.

Give credit to the Warriors too.  They started the game hotter than Golden State beat writer Janny Hu.  (You're just going to have to trust me on that one.  Yowza!  I love Quick and Freeman but I'd trade them and the prospect we stashed away writing obituaries until he develops to get her on the Blazer beat.)  Portland slowed them down after that but they kept coming up with great individual efforts from Jackson, Ellis, Maggette, and Turiaf to bail them out of trouble.

Individual Observations

--This game wasted a smooth-as-butter 37 points from Brandon Roy.  Whenever the Warriors sent extra men to confuse him he just went to the well and scored.  Simple, but effective.  His defense wasn't that special until the closing run when he really turned it up.  14-21 shooting, 3-5 from distance, 6-8 from the line, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 3 turnovers.  Those low numbers in the assist and rebound department show you what an individualistic game this became.

--Lamarcus Aldridge also had a fine offensive effort, getting into the paint and scoring 20 points on 8-13 shooting.  He spent the game chasing around smaller guys on defense which led to 3 rebounds and 5 fouls.  That's similar to his last game in Oakland.  This matchup hasn't favored us as much as it could have.  Lamarcus did do an OK job when he was forced into single coverage on some of those scorers.  He couldn't catch or keep the ball and was credited with 5 turnovers.

--Greg Oden dominated when he could actually play.  He was 4-5 tonight, most of them dunks, and had 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.  He also had 5 fouls.  He had to move too much on defense.

--Sergio Rodriguez had some nice offensive moves in the lane and dished 7 assists.  He was the only guy who could get a pass off consistently.  He accumulated 4 turnovers while making those passes but that's the way the game went.  He got 3 steals as well.

--Nicolas Batum had the usual effort but he wasn't effective at stopping anybody.

--None of the bench players had great nights except for Travis Outlaw's 12 rebounds (YAAAAAY!) and Rudy Fernandez getting 5 assists and 2 steals in 25 minutes.  Joel didn't play poorly.  This was just not a good opponent for him.  Bayless didn't have a real impact except for turning the ball over just like everybody else.  The bench combined for only 23 points which wasn't enough against this team.

Final Thoughts

Time to rest, regroup, and come back refocused for a playoff run...the first one Portland has seen in ages.  Every game from here on gets tougher and takes on new meaning.  Let's hope the week off cures this mini-slump we've been having.  Otherwise this team is going to get blindsided something fierce.

Check out the celebration at GoldenStateofMind.

Also check out your Jersey Contest scores and enter the next game here. 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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