The Portland Trail Blazers photographed playing transition defense. Photo: Craig Mitchelldyer-US PRESSWIRE
In a Nutshell
The Blazers got killed by 30 at home by the Bucks. It's about what you'd expect.
The Blazers started this game by letting the Bucks score easy on the run and in the lane. Those issues were masked a little by Portland's hot start combining layups, long shots, and a little offensive rebounding. Milwaukee's guards didn't want to play defense and neither did Portland's. Both teams prospered and the Blazers actually went up 5 when the Bucks lost their heads and started shooting from the perimeter. That lead would go down the tube when Portland's second unit entered and began shooting deep, turning over the ball, and playing mixed-up defense. Drew Gooden was on fire throughout the first half and he was more than capable of pushing the Bucks to a narrow 25-23 lead in this sloppy first period.
Portland's bench woes continued early in the second quarter. The reserves calmed down a little and stopped bombing threes every possession but they continued with the turnovers. Players would run nice screens and motion on the weak side but it hardly mattered as the person with the ball usually just dribbled and tried to score. The "tried" should be underlined because the production was literally non-existent. Coach Canales sent the starters back in with 7:30 remaining and Portland down 10. At least the first unit put the ball in the bucket but the defensive disinterest of the backcourt had now spread across the entire team. Rotations, transition, interior play...everything fell apart. Milwaukee led by 11 at the half, 54-43. It would have been more if Wesley Matthews had not gotten hot from the arc for a short stretch. In any case, the Blazers once again put their opponent on easy pace to break 100.
As it turns out, not only did Milwaukee break 100, they sent it to the hospital. I hear doctors are still trying to patch it up. The Blazers' defense in the second half was nothing short of putrid. I can't remember easier scoring in transition than Milwaukee had tonight. Sure there were Blazers in the vicinity but they weren't doing anything. They looked like wingmen on the play instead of defenders. On offense Portland went one-on-one or didn't get any shot to speak of. As has been their wont the last couple games, the farther the game got out of reach the more the guards took it upon themselves to dominate ball and touches. Some of them scored, but without corresponding defensive effort--and remember that guards are usually the first line of transition defense--it hardly mattered. Add in some stretches of poor rebounding and this turned into a massacre in the third. Portland trailed 82-64 when the horn sounded after three.
Portland's bench futility and guard-dominated play continued in a laughable fourth period. Portland began the quarter shooting deep and late against the clock. Raymond Felton had some drives in the middle minutes but Portland lost ground instead of gaining. Canales putting in the deep bench players late in the period didn't bring about a sigh of surrender, but relief. At least those guys are supposed to look that bad. The Blazers lose by 29, 116-87.
I can't even describe to you how horrible the guard/wing defense was in this game from moment one. It was like LaMarcus Aldridge and Joel Przybilla were watching a flood break all around them. Joel couldn't watch Gooden well but at least that was honest. The guards just didn't move. That made them taking over the game later on just laughable. Like we're supposed to applaud that? LaMarcus Aldridge took 11 shots, attempting 8 free throws tonight. Milwaukee watched him well but none of his small guys helped him. They didn't get him the ball, they didn't get him open, they didn't move for him at all.
Portland's bench play was insipid tonight. They shot 2-29 from the field. For the math-challenged among us, that's just under 7%. No, we're not misplacing a decimal there. You read that right. And if you think they made up for it with heady play, energy, heart, guts, or whatever you want to call it, read the game flow again. All you could say was, "Wow."
I could go on but that would be like frosting the cheesecake.
LaMarcus Aldridge went 7-11 for 21 points with 12 rebounds. Bravo. He tried to get the ball to the hoop against double-teams and packed lanes. You felt for him. It'd be nice if somebody could catch and shoot on this team to take the pressure off.
Wesley Matthews had a good game compared to nearly everyone else, scoring 21 on 6-13 shooting, 5-7 from distance. He also had 9 rebounds. I wish his defense showed more.
Nicolas Batum shot 4-14, barely registering a strong attempt at scoring, and added 5 rebounds. When's the last time you saw him get one of those famous chase-down blocks? He had about 92 opportunities tonight. Not a peep. And his defense just fell apart on a couple of occasions. This wasn't a game to remember for him.
Joel Przybilla played 16 minutes with 4 rebounds and 6 points. He appeared to jam a finger in the second half, perhaps limiting his minutes. Plus he had nobody to guard, seeing as how the Bucks play a herd of mobile forwards.
Raymond Felton scored 18 points on 7-11 shooting off of a bevy of drives. He added 9 assists and 6 turnovers. I'm not going to say much about that other than it looked good statistically.
Not so good looking? Jamal Crawford's 1-8 shooting clip, 0-3 from distance for 3 points in 25 minutes. He did get 3 steals.
Kurt Thomas at least knew what he was on the floor for, grabbing 8 rebounds in 15 minutes. He went 0-4 but that was only a minor part of the bench woes.
Craig Smith missed 2 shots and got only 1 rebound in 10 minutes of play.
That's light years better than Nolan Smith did. He went 1-9 for 3 points, 1 rebound, and 0 assists in 16 minutes. He played on-ball for a little while but then shifted to his more familiar off-ball duties. He looks more comfortable with the latter. When he's not playing straight-up point 9 shots in 16 minutes seems better. But it appears the Blazers are content to get him comfortable on the floor even if that means not being so point-guard-ish at this juncture.
Really good three point shooters have releases resembling master artists caressing a canvass. Luke Babbitt looks like he's painting a house with a roller. 0-3 from distance, 0-3 overall, 0 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 15 minutes. He has shooting form in there somewhere. He needs to move inside on the jumper until he rediscovers it.
Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet each played 4 minutes in their Portland debut. Flynn hit a free throw. Thabeet grabbed a rebound. They tried to connect on an alley-oop but got rim-checked on the jam.
Fun With Numbers
- Milwaukee a hair shy of 58% shooting. Portland finished around 35.5%. The Bucks also shot 52% from the arc.
- Milwaukee 21 fast break points. Ouch.
- Blazers commit 20 turnovers. Ouch ouch.
- Milwaukee 35 assists, Portland 14. The Blazers might as well have played rock-paper-scissors in the huddle to see who would go one-on-whomever for the next few shots. Aldridge needs to quit choosing paper.
- At least the Blazers shot 22-26 from the line and got 17 offensive rebounds.
- Portland's bench scored 9 points tonight. The vast majority (if you can have a vast majority of 9) came during garbage time. Portland was working on 1 bench point total midway through the fourth. Did we mention the 7% shooting? We did. OK.
Still feel like this was a coach's fault, no matter who the coach is or was? Still think these deep bench guys are getting held down?
Brew Hoop will talk about a nifty win.
Just about the only positive development of the evening? Brandon Roy dropped by to say hello.