In a Nutshell
Oh how long ago and far away that glorious San Antonio game seems now, as the Blazers turn in one of their worst efforts of the season, never really challenging a Pacers squad that shook off its scoring-challenged label to fast break, offensive rebound, and free throw the Blazers into oblivion.
Here's a recipe for how not to play the Pacers: let them score. The Blazers followed that fatal recipe from the opening tip of this game, failing to get back on defense, fouling indiscriminately, and letting the Pacers feast on offensive rebounds. Most all of those are glaring weaknesses for Indiana on a normal night. This wasn't a normal night. This was a "Blazers weren't playing" night.
The game flow is pretty simple, then. The Pacers scored 32 points in the first period (about a quarter and a half for them normally) and never looked back. Except for a brief run last in the second quarter Portland seldom challenged inside and even more seldom disturbed Indiana out of its offense. Portland got a slap-away or two but 43 free throws from not moving feat outweigh 8 steals from busy hands. When the Blazers did challenge their runs came primarily from drained jumpers. That's not going to last, and it didn't.
The only thing you can say for Portland tonight is that the bench, despite dismal statistical performances almost across the board, actually came with energy, tempo, and some defensive inspiration. They at least looked like they were trying to do something. The starters, not so much.
Hopefully there weren't any. If this becomes a trend the final 32 games of the season will seem like 82.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 10 rebounds, 4 blocks, and shot 8 free throws, all admirable stats. He at least looked like he was into the game. Indy's big men frustrated his inside efforts on offense. He shot 4-12 on the evening for 14 points. All together now: Stop LaMarcus and you stop the Blazers.
Andre Miller had 14 points on 6-12 shooting but drew early foul trouble and never really seemed to get in the game. He had 3 assists but 5 personal fouls. He just looked slow and nondescript when he wasn't connecting with his shot.
Wesley Matthews had brief moments on offense and defense but never really put the full game together. This is becoming something of a trend for him. 5-13 for 12 points.
Nicolas Batum played 37 minutes, shot 4-10, and had an eminently forgettable night. When he and Matthews disappear at the same time Portland is lost. Say what you will about Brandon Roy but he always found a way to affect the game in the end. Batum could use some of that.
Joel Przybilla played 19 minutes on a night when Portland needed at least 49 from him. You can really see where the lack of bigs hurts the Blazers against opponents like this.
Rudy Fernandez led the Blazers in scoring with 19 points. He came in early when Andre Miller got two fouls and had one of his better games of the year. He spearheaded the reserves with his energy. He shot 7-16 with the major blemish being his 2-7 three-point shooting rate. He also had 5 assists, 2 steals, and a block. Following up on the Batum comments: Rudy may not always be effective. He may not even be good some nights. But he goes after the game...or at least he has since last year's massive funk.
Patty Mills shot 2-10 and made several point-guardy blunders in his 14 minutes. He did have 3 assists.
Dante Cunningham played 17. Not his best effort with 2-7 shooting, 3 rebounds, and 5 personal fouls. He was outsized and/or outquicked depending on where he found himself. The Pacers didn't let him free for those lane shots he favors either.
Sean Marks played 11 Marksian minutes. That means he gave a decent effort but his presence usually means something is going wrong that he can't fix.
Luke Babbitt had 4 rebounds in 7 minutes.
Stats of the Night
- Indiana 33-43 from the foul line. Usual number of free throw attempts for them: 22.3, 27th in the league.
- Pacers 14 offensive rebounds, Blazers 8. The raw numbers aren't as important as the effort indicated by them.
- Blazers 18 fast break points but Indiana 25. Their average on the season: 13.1.
- Pacers only 14 threes attempted. That's really low for them, indicating that they didn't need them because better shots were always available. The Blazers, meanwhile, attempted 20.
Odd Notes and Links
I know it's hard to find things to talk about during a loss but did anyone else find the "LaMarcus Aldridge should be an All-Star" protestations ringing fairly hollow during a game when the Blazers' performance was so dismal?
Indy Cornrows will seem more upbeat about this game. Blazersedge will be straight up enough to give the Pacers massive credit for their defense and rebounding while lamenting that Portland allowed them to look just as good on offense.