In a Nutshell
Indiana pounded the Blazers in the paint at both ends of the court, taking the foundation out of Portland's game and cruising to a win.
As the game opened the Blazers employed a couple of smart tactics to exploit Indiana's weaknesses. They crashed the offensive boards. They also attacked off the dribble to draw fouls. Those foul shots--10 in the period--were the only things keeping the Blazers from disaster. They hit only 2 of 15 field goal attempts in the quarter. Fortunately the Pacers struggled themselves from the field early. Danny Granger and Paul George both got into foul trouble and took their scoring to the bench with them. Towards the end of the first, though, the Pacers got the bright idea to go inside. Their decision was abetted by Marcus Camby leaving the game due to a shoulder injury. Roy Hibbert started the parade. When the Pacers figured out how soft Portland's middle was in Camby's absence, they had a field day that would last through the entire half. Indiana led 19-15 after one.
The parade of Pacer paint points continued in the second period. Plus Indiana's bench out-hustled Portland's. Coach McMillan went with Nolan Smith at the point and the Pacers pressured him into a dreadful outing. He could barely dribble, let alone see his way to a clear pass. Only when the Blazers hit LaMarcus Aldridge for repeated attempts midway through the quarter did the Blazers make any dent in the scoreboard. Other than that it was busted plays for long shots. The Pacers ended up with a 26-6 advantage in points in the paint for the half and a 48-38 lead at intermission.
The Blazers began the second half doing the right thing, packing the paint on defense and wrestling down defensive rebounds. That lasted up until the Pacers hit a couple of threes. Once they were spread out again the Blazers were toast on the defensive end. Nor did they shoot any better on offense...worse, in fact. And those nice offensive rebounds we mentioned above, beginning the game? Forget it. The Blazers got none at all in the middle quarters. At the 1:35 point of the third period two Darren Collison free throws put Portland down by 20. Once upon a time that would have been the signal for the Big Rally. Now it's a sign for all Trail Blazers faithful to hit fast forward on their DVR's. Indiana led 75-52 after three and won 92-75.
One look at the shot charts for this game will tell you all you need to know. In the first quarter the Blazers ATTEMPTED only 3 shots in the paint. In the second that number fell to 2. Granted, foul shots on drives made up for many of the missing attempts, but no matter how many fouls were committed 5 attempts in the paint in a half is pathetic. The Blazers have been better than expected overall at scoring in the paint. It's a big, red flag about effort. It's not like the entire team bailed. Everybody had moments of effort. But nobody sustained it. Against a good defensive team like Indiana that ends you up with a 31% shooting rate, a 19-3 fast break point deficit, and only 6 offensive rebounds on 44 misses. It's not like the Pacers were an offensive powerhouse. Portland just didn't do enough to get a leg up on them. Right now the Blazers need the other team to hand them a game in order to win it.
It's going to be easier to just list the players who did something good, or at least interesting. Check the boxscore if you want to run the gamut of futility.
Gerald Wallace rebounded pretty well and was one of the few guys giving obvious effort at different points in the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge only shot 5-15 but he was doing what he could. He just had no help.
I think I've figured out Raymond Felton's defense. I actually like him when he's stuck one-on-one on somebody. He had a couple great moments against Collison tonight. But the team aspects--dealing with screens, helping and recovering, closing out--I wouldn't give a dime for. I'm not entirely sure that's good defense, as that definition is supposed to include being free of leaks. It's more defensive ability not shown.
Nolan Smith looked really good in garbage time, really bad otherwise.
Joel Przybilla rebounded well.
Chris Johnson rolled his ankle.
Fun With Numbers
We've mentioned most of these already, but you need to seem them together, in focus, to understand this game.
- First off, the Blazers took only 64 shot attempts tonight. Part of that was offset by free throws, but their average on the year is 82.5. That's in addition to whatever free throws they take. And keep in mind 82.5 is just average.
- Indiana 50 points in the paint, Portland 16. You read that right. 16. Portland's average: 40.
- Indiana 19 fast break points, Portland 3.
- Portland 6 offensive rebounds.
- Portland 31% from the field, 23% from the arc.
- The Blazers did go 30-38 from the foul line.
- Blazers 5 assists...one per quarter and an extra for luck.
- No Pacer scored more than 11 points except for Louis Amundson, who had 21.
- No Blazer had more than 6 rebounds.
So much for a respectable 3-4 record on this trip, unless a miracle happens. (I'm looking at you, Oklahoma City.) The Knicks should be beatable as they're on as bad of a streak as the Blazers are and have a less solid foundation. But if Portland doesn't win tomorrow night...ouch. Excuse me...it's already ouch. If Portland doesn't win tomorrow night...AAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!
Boxscore is above. Indy Cornrows will remind you what it's like to have a cohesive team.