Game 66 Recap: Blazers 82, Hawks 91

The Short Version

The Blazers walk into Philips Arena and lay an egg live on the court. The Horford-less Hawks keep it close by playing poorly through the first half, but when their offense gets dialed in, the Blazers have a courtside seat to watch the blowout. Atlanta proceeds to run them off the court and nearly to the airport. Nicolas Batum played limited minutes, and limped off the court at the end. His status is unknown.

The Long Version

You never know what kind of start to expect these days. Inspired? Good execution? Sloppy? If you guessed sloppy, good call. Marcus Camby gets the ball for three plays to the hoop, none being productive. Altanta gets two quick fast breaks for layups. The Hawks seem to have Portland's number of defense as well. On an attempted Batum dunk, Smith gets a clean block, then saves the ball from out of bounds. But despite the early fast breaks, Atlanta can't get their offense started. After 8 minutes, Portland has shot 3-14, but ATL is 3-9 and the score is tied. By the end of the quarter, Atlanta is getting 24 second violations, and Portland is opening a comfortable lead. Gerald Wallace hits one of two free throws, for a 7 point lead with 18 seconds left. Things are looking good.

Then it all falls apart, in one of the worst sequences seen all season by the Blazers.

Joe Johnson hits an elbow jumper to cut the lead to 5. Wallace then leads Patty with the inbound pass, but Patty isn't moving, and it lands directly into the hands of Jeff Teague, who is fouled at the hoop by Roy with 9 seconds left. He misses the first, and makes the second. Patty Mills grabs the inbound pass, and promptly dribbles it off his thigh, directly to Teague, who dunks with three seconds left. Well, at least that's over. But wait! Patty runs toward Collins for the inbound pass, but inexplicably stops, letting Teague run by him, steal the ball, and (of course) nail a three at the buzzer.

18 seconds ago, Portland led by 7. As the horn sounds, they're losing by 1. The Atlanta fans actually can be heard on TV finally. The Blazers looked like the Hawks kicked their puppy.

Patty stays in the game, and promptly gets a layup blocked. Meanwhile, after being in a daze with 30 seconds left in the first, the Hawks come out inspired. Blocked shots, steals, fast breaks. The Hawks hit a few easy layups, and Nate needs a timeout after 3 minutes. Atlanta settles back into missing jumpers, and Portland goes to their bench: Numbers three and seven. Brandon Roy hits 6 quick points to keep the Blazers close. By the time Rudy nails a three (his tenth point of the half), the Blazers are back in the lead. Atlanta reverts to their first quarter offense, struggling to find good shots against the Blazers' D, bruising the rim mercilessly. But despite all efforts, the Blazers can't take advantage, and lead by three in a low scoring half, 38-35.

Halftime stats: ATL leads in FG%, 44% to 36%. Both teams have 19 rebounds. Atlanta's 5 blocks have been huge, including three on layup or dunk attemps. But Portland has reached the charity stripe 13 times (making 10), while Atlanta is 2-4. This is a side effect of Atlanta's aggressive D, and the fact that Portland can't foul when Atlanta is scoring alone on a fast break.

In the third, the Blazers attempted to push their lead, realizing Atlanta only scored 35 points by halftime. They push the lead to 7, but that's the last time any Blazer fans smiled. Atlanta attempts to run, every chance they get. A rebound or a steal? PUSH THE BALL. The Blazers were not going to go down quietly; on one sequence, consecutive fast breaks are stopped by Andre (steal) and Batum (block). Add a few Hawks three's, and it's down to a 1 point Blazer lead. Then Portland fell apart. It's no secret that missed three's lead to long rebounds, which can lead to fast breaks, which Atlanta enjoys. It's a lethal combination, but Portland forgot. A few Hawks dunks, layups and three pointers later, Atlanta leads by 8, and has somehow brought the silent crowd into the game. Atlanta looks confident, relaxed, and the Blazers look tired and shaken after being quickly outscored by 15 after holding a 7 point lead. They now have one quarter to recover, and finish with a winning road trip. But when you only score 54 points after 3, that's tough.

The fourth quarter opens with... well more of the same, as Atlanta builds the lead to 16 despite a Blazer timeout. Shots are rimming out, execution isn't sharp, and at the other end, even Marvin Williams makes a jumper. That's obviously bad news. The Hawks take control and never look back. The Blazers look tired, uninspired, and the Hawks are suddenly hitting everything they shoot. At one point, the Hawks had outscored the Blazers 46-19 after Portland took a 7 point lead. Portland makes their patented last-ditch run, but it's far too late, and Atlanta easily holds on.

Game Thoughts

There is no need to place blame here. This isn't just Roy's fault, or Rudy's fault, or Aldridge's fault, or Nate's fault. This loss is a team loss, and they all share the blame. The first half lead was an illusion, as Atlanta played poorly enough to let the Blazers stay close. As soon as Atlanta made a run, the Blazers had nothing in the tank. Is this simply fatigue at the end of a road trip? Has Atlanta exposed the Blazers after blowing them out twice in two weeks? Is this a sign that Portland will struggle against tough competition down the stretch? Or is Atlanta just a tough matchup? We won't know until they play the games. But the back-to-back victories over the Heat and Magic feel like decades ago, as the Blazers look like the lethargic, borderline playoff team we saw for a few games after the All Star break.

Individual performances

This won't be any more fun to read than it was to write, I promise.

LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 22 points (7-16 shooting), 6 rebounds and 6 assists. It looks like a good line, but is deceptive. Aldridge shied away from the paint, had rebounds stolen, and at one point, just stared upward as a Hawk laid the ball in over his head. This is a game when we needed a star, and Aldridge was not up for the challenge.

Brandon Roy took a lot of heat after the game, but he's not the main problem. In fact, if he was the problem, it would be an improvement. He ended with 16 points (on 5-11 shooting), 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal in 17 minutes. It's no secret he doesn't look like, well, Brandon Roy anymore. Time will tell if this is a knee limitation, or if he's working himself into better shape.

Wesley Matthews hit 7 of 12 for 19 points, with 3 rebounds and 3 turnovers. In a win, it looks like a solid effort. In a loss, it doesn't stand out.

Marcus Camby and Andre Miller were irrelevant. Andre will not place this in his highlight reel. 1 point (on a technical FT), 4 assists. Atlanta did a nice job shutting down the Blazer PG's in general. Camby started slow and went downhill from there, finishing with 2 points and 3 rebounds.

Nicolas Batum played 13 minutes, scoring 5 points on 2-8 shooting (he scored all five in the first two minutes), then vanished. Right near the end of the broadcast, he was seen limping, but there is no official word on the cause, or his status. Update: Batum sprained his left ankle, according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian, but his status for Tuesday night is not yet known.

Gerald Wallace is still struggling to integrate with the team. His hustle and individual effort stats are great (12 rebounds!), but he had 5 points and 2 assists in 32 minutes.

Rudy Fernandez scored 10 points, all in the first half, with 2 steals, 1 block(!), and a turnover. He was again a tale of two halves, effective in the first half, missing in the second.

Patty Mills. Patty. Oh, Patty. You smile, you hug teammates, you're like a goofy mascot. But I'm fine if I don't see you on the court again anytime soon. His official turnover total is "one", and that needs to be in quotes. If there was a "turnover assist" stat, he'd be the leader tonight. His 8 minutes were absolutely not the cause of this loss. But those last 18 seconds of the first quarter sure didn't help. Sorry, Patty fans.

Jarron Collins scored his first two Blazer points in his six minutes, and may have successfully played himself off the team when his second 10-day contract ends.

Armon Johnson played capable basketball in garbage time, ending with 1 assist.

For the Hawks, Jeff Teague absolutely torched the Blazers with 24 points, 4 rebounds, 5 steals (career high), and 3 blocks. Jamal Crawford loves to play the Blazers, who left him open to a tune of 20 points, including a few huge three's.

Key stats

The PG battle was huge tonight. Teague alone scored 24 points to Andre Miller and Patty Mills' combined total of 1. The Blazers point guards looked outclassed all night.

Fast break points: Atlanta 27, Portland 5. Ouch.

Points in the paint: Atlanta 56, Portland 28. Despite that, Atlanta was called for more personal fouls, 22-14. This wasn't a night where you can stare at the ref and shake your fist, while feeling assured Portland would have won a "fair" game. Portland had every opportunity to win this, and fell far short.

Rebounds: Atlanta 40, Portland 34. Portland ended with one more offensive rebound, but even without Horford, Atlanta grabbed any rebound they really wanted. Without Gerald Wallace, this stat would have been uglier.

Field Goal Percentage: Atlanta 52% (40-77), Portland 35% (27-77). This was partially a side effect of the clearly-tired legs of the players. Atlanta's aggressive D certainly helped force off-balance shots too.

What's next

A long flight, then a few nights off to sleep in their own beds. But the schedule doesn't get any easier; the Dallas Mavericks will be visiting the Rose Garden Tuesday.

The box score is here, but I wouldn't have read it if I wasn't writing a recap.

Stop by Peachtree Hoops to congratulate them on a well-earned season sweep.

Check out the jersey contest scoreboard here, and watch for Dave's game preview for a link to the next one.

Parting thought

If the worst thing that happens to us is watching the Blazers suffer through a slump, we're having a relatively good week compared to many others. I'm feeling pretty lucky today that I can relax at the house, have a snack, watch a game, and enjoy all my creature comforts. So, the Blazers stunk up the court and lost. Things could be worse.

-- Tim

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