Game 4 Recap: Blazers 98, Bulls 110

In a Nutshell

The Blazers combined a perimeter-oriented offense and spotty defense to earn their first loss of the season.  LaMarcus Aldridge explodes for 33 but Luol Deng trumps him with a career-high 40.

Notable Developments

If the Blazers followed the University of Oregon's play-calling scheme tonight their placard for their defensive sets would have featured pictures of Homer Simpson, a hammock, some valium, and a large question mark.  They actually did a decent job shadowing Derrick Rose on the dribble.  He only scored 16, but he did shoot 6-11from the field.  You can speculate whether he didn't score more because of the extra defensive attention or just because he didn't need to.  Maybe his 13 assists will tip the scale one way or the other.   Either way, having one eye on Rose all night kept the Blazers from defending anyone else well.  Rotations, traps, covering for thy neighbor...nothing went well.  In the Game Preview we said that Rose's points wouldn't win or lose this game for the Bulls.  Joakim Noah and Luol Deng would swing this game.  Noah had 10 points and 10 rebounds, below his season averages by far, but he put constant pressure on the Blazers beyond what the stats indicate.  For stretches it seemed he was getting every rebound and hitting every shot he put up.   Maybe that was an optical illusion caused by the dazzling performance of Deng.  He went 14-19, 3-5 from the arc, and 9-11 from the foul line for 40 points.  The Blazers couldn't stop him in single coverage and couldn't get enough men over to help without setting Rose and Noah free.  Stretched too far, the defense simply broke.  The most obvious indicator of the abject failure was Chicago's 60.6% shooting rate.  It's hard to win against that kind of success.

The offensive placard would be simpler:  the Sunday comics, a commode, and a plunger.   The exception was LaMarcus Aldridge, who continues to make the Bulls pay for their Tyrus Thomasity by ringing up career nights against them.  The coaching staff should just tell him he's playing the Bulls every night.  He went 12-19, 9-9 from the line en route to his 33 points and 9 rebounds.  The downside, as happens in so many Blazers games, is that when he was scoring Brandon Roy wasn't.  When Roy started taking over in the third period the faucet of Aldridge points shut off.  Scoring on the same court as someone isn't scoring together and the Blazers have yet to learn the difference.  That wouldn't have been so bad had the rest of the team been able to muster any kind of shot other than 1-on-2 or a contested jumper.  A couple of games ago I said that the Blazers have gotten beyond their bad shot habits.  If tonight is any indication they need to check back into the clinic because they lofted a season's worth.  Part of that was the Chicago defense, which should be credited.  But mostly it was a lot of give-up and very little man-up.  Except for brief periods of rebounding and running and some very nice passing early on, it was one, long game of "Whose turn is it to shoot next?" 

The one area where the Blazers did come to play (after the first four minutes anyway) was rebounding.  They managed to equal the mighty Bull boarders tonight.  Of course rebounds are de-emphasized when the opponent shoots 60%, but we've got to have some ray of sunshine, right?

Game Flow

All of the other Blazer games this year have started with lax defense--lane-ceding, pass-chasing, transition jogging--which gradually tightened into a noose around the opponent's neck.  This game was inverted.  The first couple minutes of the game I thought we were in for a heck of a night as the Blazers moved and covered every pass.  A couple of Deng jumpers were enough to kill that buzz though.  Once they couldn't stop one guy the Blazers seemed to give up on stopping anyone.  The Bulls ran, rebounded, penetrated, and shot their way to an early lead and never looked back.  In the first period they even got to the foul line repeatedly.  The result was a 32-21 edge.

The second unit suffered in the second period.  Nobody kept the Bulls out of the lane.  The reserve big men had trouble rotating.  The reserve guards let their men past so quickly that point was moot.  Even when the bench players went to the zone the Bulls were getting layups.  That's bad execution.  Other than a couple of nice Armon Johnson (solo) drives the Blazers couldn't find an adequate replacement for Andre Miller either.  The offense stalled. The saving grace for Portland was getting Chicago in the penalty early.  Free throws don't require foot movement.  The starters returned a little more than halfway through the period and showed the whippersnappers how to zone up.  They actually kept the Bulls away from the rim, rebounded misses, and ran.  Between that and the foul shots they closed the gap and posted 26 points to Chicago's 24, leaving the Blazers down 9 at the half.

The zone returned in the third period but the Bulls had taken a refresher course in the locker room at halftime.  They hit both the seams and their jumpers and the rout was back on.  As mentioned above, Brandon Roy attempted to take over the offense in this period but his shots weren't falling, as he was trying to dominate from the perimeter. Chicago's were.  32-26 Bulls in the period and this one was in the bag.

The bad defense continued in the fourth.  A garbage-time rally closed the lead to single digits again but the threat was never serious.  110-98 Bulls.  Wipe this one from the memory banks.

Individual Notes

The two big stars were mentioned already.

Andre Miller had a couple impressive moments on offense and didn't get over-exposed against Rose on defense.  He had 6 assists and 2 steals but it was a forgettable night.

Marcus Camby had 11 boards and hit 5-5 free throws but he had an annoying habit of chucking a baseline jumper off of every offensive rebound instead of either going up strong or just re-setting the offense. 

Nicolas Batum got blown out of the water in this game.  He couldn't guard Deng or Rose, which really is not a horrible black mark against him.  But his lack of success on "D" seemed to take him halfway out of the game.  Every other player in the starting lineup trying to get their own ejected him the rest of the way.  1-5 shots, 3 points in 18 minutes.

Wesley Matthews was supposed to be the savior in situations like this but he couldn't guard anyone tonight either.  He had 5 personal fouls in 18 minutes, missed 3 of 4 shots, and didn't register a single rebound, assist, or steal.

Rudy Fernandez got his offense into overdrive, attempting 10 shots.  Unfortunately he hit 3.  He went 0-6 from the arc, missing open jumpers as if they were contested.  The only thing he ever got going was a little baseline fade-away.  He did have 3 steals.  He also had 4 turnovers and 5 fouls.

Dante Cunningham rebounded well and tried hard but what are you going to do when the building is burning around you?

The same can be said of Armon Johnson, who at least knew to try and get in the lane.  He went 4-8 with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 10 points in 12 minutes.  He looked smooth and confident.  On the other hand this was a night where getting his own was enough to make him look good.  It wasn't a sterling display of point-guardishness.  But it was fun to watch.

Chicago made Fabrico Oberto look slow.

Luke Babbitt scored his first points off of a driving, diagonal bank shot.  He also got a turnover trying to make a move off the dribble.  We'll probably see more of both in the future.  

Stats of the Night

  • Blazers 0-14 from three-point range.  The offense can't open up when that happens.  But they brought it on themselves with the shot selection and lack of movement.  Cue the failure-sound trumpet.
  • Blazers 15 assists on 33 made shots.  Not good enough.
  • Blazers 41 free throws...a bright spot.
  • Bulls 27 fast break points for the game...not a bright spot at all.
  • Once again, Bulls 60.6% shooting.  That's about 20% over their season average.  'Nuff said.

Odd Notes and Links

Boxscore

Hear the din at BlogaBull.

See the Jersey Contest results here.  Note that Luke Babbitt scored the final Portland points of the game.  Since he wasn't an available option EVERYBODY got full credit for that question.  No matter what you put, you were right.

Enter tomorrow night's game form here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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