Media Row Report: Blazers 76, Wizards 74

A secret meeting was held roughly two hours before the tip of tonight's game against the Washington Wizards.  Location: a dark locker room crevice.  Attending parties: every Blazers' shooting stroke.  The discussion topic: How to properly honor the Tom Penn era.  

It started as a simple chat. LaMarcus Aldridge's shooting stroke suggested the team take part in a moment of silence before the tip.  Andre Miller's shooting stroke argued forcefully for a black tape tribute on the jerseys. But the conversation took a sudden turn when Brandon Roy's shooting stroke suggested the unthinkable: a one-night group boycott to honor one of the men responsible for bringing them all together in the same locker room in the first place.  

What played out over the next few hours was nothing short of a remarkable solidarity movement.  All five Blazers starters managed to individually shoot far, far, far below 50%. And as a group: below 30%.  Rudy Fernandez's shooting stroke was happy to help Nicolas Batum's shooting stroke make this an international protest, going 0-4. Check this stat: Marcus Camby had more rebounds (19) than Camby, Batum, Aldridge, Roy, Miller and Fernandez combined on made field goals (18). 

The good news for Nate McMillan and the Blazers, however, was that Brandon Roy's indomitable competitive spirit and Brandon Roy's cold blooded finishing skills finally tag-teamed Brandon Roy's boycotting shooting stroke into submission.  It took 14 consecutive misses that stretched over more than 40 minutes of gameplay but, with less than 1 second to play, Roy stepped up to knock down the deciding bucket in a 76-74 home win that I'm pouring bleach into my eardrums in an attempt to forget.

My will to write has just informed me that it will belatedly join the team's shooting stroke boycott.  Great, that means I won't be able to finish this senten.............................................................................................

Random Game Notes

  • Rudy Fernandez left the game with a left quad strain.  No timeline from the team yet.
  • There's not a player in the league who is more casually letting his NBA career slip by him than Nick Young.  Someone needs to scare this guy straight, for his own good.  At Summer League a few years back Young was more concerned with the women in attendance than the games and last year I wrote about his pregame hijinks. This year he was back with that same "Why bother putting real work into my game if I'm not going to play?" attitude that suggests his coaching staff gave up on babysitting him at some point over the last 12 months. I can't blame them. Tonight, when asked to complete a simple dribbling exercise (one ball in each hand, varying the height of the dribble based upon a coach's instruction) Young mostly ignored the instructions as his attention was otherwise occupied with an NCAA tournament being shown on the big screen.  As three of his fellow guards worked hard through the drill, Young repeatedly messed up, losing his dribble and smirking at his own remedial failure.  As the touch drills progressed, he simply checked out. He hoisted some jumpers and called it good.  What a mess.  0 for 2 in 7 minutes.  1 foul, no points. A shame.  Made worse by the fact that his snap jumper off the bounce can be a thing of beauty.  
  • The Wizards should have given serious consideration to signing assistant coach Sam Cassell to a 10 day contract at some point this season.  He was killing everyone during warmup 1 on 1 matches, showing off his Dream Shake, turnaround, up-and-under and, of course, whoofing about the entire episode.  Cassell worked harder and smarter than just about every development assistant coach that has come through Portland this season.
  • The center of Cassell's attention was point guard Shaun Livingston.  Cassell walked Livingston, a recent Washington signee who is getting his best shot at some run since he set the bar for catastrophic knee injuries, through some pick and pip variations and offered tweaks to Livingston's hesitation move.  Cassell's main advice was for Livingston to avoid leaving his shot short, to step in and shoot it authoritatively and follow through without fading back. Unfortunately, Livingston was 3 of 10 for the night with all 3 makes coming from inside 5 feet.  Both his balance and footwork seemed good but certainly the explosiveness and the total sell-out trust is not what it was pre-injury. He listened intently and absorbed the coaching.  Easy kid to root for.  That's been said before but I'm happy to say it again. 
  • Not the most reassuring sight: In the wake of Tom Penn's firing, neither Paul Allen nor Kevin Pritchard were sitting in their customary courtside seats. Instead, Blazers President Larry Miller was flanked by Vulcan Flunky (and Paul Allen's college roommate), Bert Kolde.     
  • Well, we've found a roster that is worse than Indiana's. 

Nate McMillan's Post Game Comments

Was that just great Washington defense?

No, we missed shots. I thought we missed shots. It's as simple as that. Shooting 30%. We had open looks. Sometimes you anticipate this happening. That's what we talked about in the four days off. Not having your rhythm. It's hard to simulate a game, game speed, game conditions, through practice. We talked, last time we played Phoenix they had 4 days off, they took 2 days off, they looked the same way. This was something we were trying to avoid. We got the game. And hopefully we get that rhythm. We missed shots tonight.

Emotions right now

We got this game. It was a game we needed to get. And we got it. It wasn't pretty but it would have been bad to lose this game. We didn't have our rhythm. We didn't make some shots. We had guys who normally knock down their shoots when they're shooting the ball well. We have to get our rhythm.

Problems defending the pick and role late

Yeah, they were, they couldn't hear each other. They got caught, not hearing each other, not controlling the ball and he was wide open. You miss that assignment like that both times he nailed that pick and roll. Make some adjustments after that, but it was about controlling the ball.

Plan on the last play

Basically to get the last shot. You're talking about Brandon? We got the stop, tie ball game. We want to Brandon in the pick and roll if they were going to play him straight up, spread the floor, put the shooters out there and let him go. He hit an unbelievable shot. We want to make sure that we got the last shot. 

He had missed 14 in a row. Any hesitation going back to him on the last look?

No. That's the reason why... that's your guy who you're going to live with and he's very capable of making that shot. And he plays in that situation a lot.

Big exhale afterwards?

Things like that happen. You want to be sharp, you prepare yourself to come out and be aggressive and attack and we had this team at 30 points at half. So they weren't scoring. We just wasn't making shots ourselves.  Those are shots that we normally make. It was a nailbiter for 47 minutes and some seconds and we was able to get this win. We build from this. We know we've got to be better our next game out.

Andre and Jerryd were able to get you going

Well Rudy went out. Rudy went out and we needed to get Andre back in the game. Both he and Bayless... Bayless was attacking and we wanted to attack this team. We just wasn't making shots. Right now what I look at is the fact that we had open looks, we didn't knock down our shots, one of the things we didn't do was really rebound the ball. Other than not knocking down shots we gave them second and third opportunities. They had 10 offensive rebounds in that first half. And then we had some missed assignments late, with Randy and the pick and roll defense. We made the plays we had to. We had to step up and make some free throws when we needed to. Our guys stepped up and did that. And we get out of here... we're lucky tonight. And sometimes you need that.

Washington's zone

Well we knew they played a lot of zone. He basically held the zone until the fourth quarter and tried to catch us. Again we had shots against that zone. We missed those shots or was able to get a few rebounds, enough boards to get some put backs and get some free throws. All of that kept it close. But the end result we got the W, which is the big key.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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