In a Nutshell
We rubbed the lotion on our skin, then they put the starters in. But at least Brandon Roy had 27 points and looked good as the team was getting sliced up.
This game started in exciting fashion, with Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Brandon Roy all making inroads on offense and the team as a whole (anchored by Marcus Camby) forcing turnovers and defending the rim on defense. Both teams shot a high percentage in the first quarter but the Hornets were working for their points. The Blazers had assists on nearly every made field goal and it didn't look like the Hornets could keep up with Portland's screens and passes. The Blazers led 33-26 after one.
The second unit couldn't quite keep up in the second period. The continuity wasn't there. Both Wesley Matthews and Rudy Fernandez went down with injuries. Wesley hit his head on the ground after leaping, Rudy collided with Brandon Roy. (Matthews would return later. Rudy never got back in the game. His injury was described as a "pelvic contusion".) An already shaky team seemed to get distracted. Though the lead blessedly bloomed to double-digits it soon shrank again as the Blazers traded crisp passing, movement, and screening for turnovers, treys, touch fouls, and timeouts. Two Blazers excelled in the period: Brandon Roy and Sean Marks. After 33 in the first Portland managed but 15 in the second. New Orleans scored 28. The Blazers trailed by 6 at the half.
The Hornets smelled blood in the water in the third. They started executing on both ends like a team that has owned the conference. The Blazers had a brief glimmer of promise when they forced back-to-back Hornet airballs and converted on a couple of easy shots but that was the last breath of air before the drowning commenced. Marcus Camby collected his fourth foul at the 7 minute mark in the period. Marks, one of the few guys playing inspired ball, was rewarded by the basketball gods with a nasty ankle turn soon after and limped off the court, making him the third Blazer down in the game. At that point even Mike Rice was mentioning curses. And cursing was all that was left to Blazer fans for the rest of the game. New Orleans contested every shot with a reasonable chance of going in. The only open looks the Blazers got were 20-footers on the move and the occasional clear three-point attempt. None of them went in. Brandon Roy was the only Blazer who could connect. LaMarcus Aldridge was largely ignored in the offense and when he wasn't ignored he was double-teamed or forced to put the ball on the ground. The ball didn't move well enough to facilitate Nicolas Batum's offense. Andre Miller got off a couple shots but this was Roy's game and not his. Wesley Matthews couldn't hit the broad side of a blimp. And because the Hornets are good defensive rebounders the Blazers couldn't get any second-chance points to make up for the missed buckets. A once-60+% field goal percentage faded to 39.5% by the end of the game. As the offense faded the defense lost focus. The game got easier and easier for New Orleans, harder and harder for Portland. Hornets win in desultory fashion, topping the Blazers by 19.
Brandon Roy looked good at least, shooting 10-20, getting into the lane, scoring 27 in 34 minutes including 3-6 from the arc. That was one of the main stories of the game and it's the only one that went Portland's way.
As for the rest of it, the Blazers actually did a decent job stopping some of the familiar New Orleans attack routines. Their problem--and this is becoming another of the storylines of the season--is that in order to do so they exhausted their defensive repertoire. Though Chris Paul and David West got few good looks until the game got out of hand, the Hornets...
- got offensive rebounds even though they're a bad offensive rebounding team
- hit three-pointers even though they're mediocre at shooting them
- feasted on foul shots even though they don't draw that many
Covering some basics left the Blazers vulnerable to others. They didn't have enough functional bodies, continuity, or focus to convert their decent play into winning play. New Orleans had the latter two in abundance.
Brandon Roy scored about 35% of Portland's points tonight. He didn't account for that much on defense.
LaMarcus Aldridge looked butter-smooth with a silky shot until he got pressured. Then he looked less like an NBA player putting moves on an opponent and more like Steve Urkel putting the moves on Laura. But the Blazers weren't hitting enough shots to draw pressure off of him. Aldridge did have 9 rebounds and 4 assists...one of the few guys to come through in either of those categories. He was also in the middle of some of Portland's best defensive stands when they did have them.
Nicolas Batum played some inspired ball early. He was a stealing, passing machine for about 4 minutes. Then he couldn't hit a shot and disappeared.
Marcus Camby played great defensively but got into foul trouble and never became a factor after that. Instead of his usual 14 rebounds he managed 5.
Andre Miller came through with a solid game, managing Chris Paul and also posting 6 assists and 5 rebounds...the second guy to come through. He hit 3 of 9 shots but they weren't bad ones.
Speaking of bad shots, that head-ringing blow must have thrown off Wesley Matthews' targeting system because he ended the game 1-6 and they weren't even close shots. It was an ugly night for him.
Armon Johnson had 3 assists in 15 minutes but couldn't set the offense. The Blazers were bailing out around the perimeter left and right when he was in except when he drove it himself. He went 1-4.
Dante Cunningham is brilliant when he's playing his regular spot in the rotation. He suffers when called upon to step into a more significant role.
Rudy hit a nice three before he bruised his Elvis Bone.
Sean Marks played an inspired game, including a straight-up MANLY block he got robbed of by the refs, before that ankle thing.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers shoot 39.5%, Hornets 51.5%
- New Orleans 30 free throws, Portland 14
- Portland only 28 points in the paint
- New Orleans 48 rebounds, Blazers 27
- New Orleans 57% from the arc
Odd Notes and Links
The Blazers are still looking for that elusive first win against a non-Denver good team.
Visit At the Hive to feel what it's like to follow a team on a roll. On a good roll, that is.