We apologize for the site being offline in spurts tonight. It was a network-wide problem that we now hope is fixed. On to the recap...
In a Nutshell
Behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Raymond Felton the Blazers play an inspired, physical first half only to fall prey to their old bugaboo, losing steam as the game progresses. They leave themselves in need of a three to tie at the end but having forced an impressive last-possession turnover to get their chance, they can't make either of their long attempts.
This game was the classic Tale of Two Halves. In the first half the Blazers could do no wrong. As he has in several games lately, Raymond Felton came out attacking the rim aggressively, either scoring or creating passing opportunities by collapsing the defense through his penetration. The difference between tonight and many for Felton was his jumper was also falling, making him a constant threat. It didn't take the Kings turning their heads that way for long before LaMarcus Aldridge took advantage to the tune of 6-7 shooting in the first quarter. Portland's shots were almost universally high quality, usually coming off of timely passes. The Sacramento defense just didn't know which way to lean. Add in some sparkling defensive energy from Gerald Wallace, a couple Marcus Camby blocks, some run-outs, and solid rebounding and you had a recipe for smashing the Kings. The second quarter pretty much continued the story, with Kurt Thomas now the outlet for easy points. Portland ended up shooting over 60% for the first half and took a 56-47 lead into the break.
And then the Blazers played their second half game. This featured a slow migration to the outside, one-on-one offense, and a general lack of energy. Where the Blazers played above the rim in the first half, their shots were low and easily disturbed in the second. Once-true jumpers fell short on the rim. Transition defense fell apart completely. When the Kings didn't score on the break outright their quick attack would catch Portland defenders out of position. Forced turnovers evaporated. Now Sacramento was playing Portland's physical game at the cup and the Blazers were looking like they didn't know how to stop it. To top it all off, their jumpers now started falling. Portland's 60%+ clip in the first half became a 25% shooting nightmare in the third period.
The fourth quarter wouldn't improve much, unless rising to 35% from 25% counts as an improvement. The Kings simply doubled LaMarcus Aldridge every time he put the ball on the floor. It was a sound strategy. If you come with the immediate double Aldridge will pass around it or simply make his move before it gets there. But once he dribbles he's normally committed to the shot, if nothing else because his handles aren't great and he doesn't see the floor well on the move. With Aldridge unable to get any clear shot attempts Portland's offense just crumbled. Felton was the only Blazer who retained his first half mojo, and that was only offensively. For the second straight game Wesley Matthews got his fast break layup blocked by a smaller man. Wallace missed rebounds and shots. Crawford scored occasionally but not enough. In the end the Blazers had a chance to tie, the product of temporarily re-energized defense, but the desperation three-pointers went askew twice and came after the buzzer the third time. Kings win 95-92.
The game flow says it all. This contest was all about energy and momentum. The Blazers had it first. The Kings had it last. Last won out. Read especially carefully the part about playing below the rim. When you watch these guys go up for any kind of layup or even for a jumper you can see their legs are not under them. The lateral movement isn't there on defense as the game progresses. The lack of a travel day and the emotional crowd at home no doubt helps the team get over the phenomenon. But Portland's getting Rope-a-Doped on the road time after time. They punch themselves out and the opponent comes back strong for the victory.
LaMarcus Aldridge was nothing short of brilliant in this game. 28 points and 14 rebounds on 12 of 19 shooting says it all. Well...except the help on the defensive interior. That was nice too, at least until the whole team collapsed.
Raymond Felton had a strong game early then slid with the rest of the team late. He ended up with 15 points and 10 assists on 7-17 shooting with 3 steals to boot. The three-point shot has completely deserted him now. He went 1-7 on the night. That and the late defensive crumble are the black marks on the record tonight.
Gerald Wallace played 40 minutes. Insert comment about decline as the game went along here. He did some great stuff early but 8 points and 3 rebounds isn't a lot to show for 40 minutes on a night when every opposing wing got off.
Marcus Camby was brilliant blocking shots, so-so on the boards, good in the meta-game. He single-handedly sent DeMarcus Cousins to the woodshed twice on the same play, blocking his shot and asking who his mama was before Cousins eventually got it back and lofted a significantly-arced shot off of the backboard. Respect these years AND the blocked shots I just pinned on you. 5 blocks, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals.
Wesley Matthews had a Bad Wes night, going 4-12 from the field, 1-4 from the arc, for 9 points in 38 minutes. He did have 3 steals but that doesn't make up for not hitting shots, slipping defense, and general nondescript play.
Jamal Crawford had some nice scores and some misses but in general played one of his good games, netting 17 points on 6-17 shooting with 2 steals and a smattering of other stats besides. His glaring fault came from the arc where he was 1-5. Missing them is not a crime but why the Blazers have to take so many...particularly a Blazer with good handles against a permissive defense.
Who put the nickel in Kurt Thomas tonight? Dude scored 10 points on 5-7 shooting with 5 boards and a block in 18 minutes and actually keyed a Blazer run. That man was hot. Have you noticed that he's the only guy outside of LMA that we can talk about positively almost every night?
Craig Smith got 5 rebounds in 13 minutes. He went 0-3 from the field but 5 rebounds > 3 shot attempts. Good game.
Elliot Williams got the call off the deep bench tonight for 6 minutes and a 3-pointer hit. That made him 1-2 on threes for the night, by far the best percentage on all the team. The young man was smart, quitting while he was ahead.
Fun With Numbers
- Blazers 4-18 from distance, 22.2%. When your shooting percentage is lower than your tax bracket, you have problems.
- Kings 29 foul shots, Blazers 16. The Blazers run a 14-point deficit at the charity stripe in a game they lost by 3.
If imposing your will is critical to NBA success the Blazers have a long way to go before they've achieved it.
You can read about the win at Sactown Royalty