In a Nutshell
The Blazers led for most of this slop-happy game in which defense was at a premium and three-point shooting ran wild. In the end their flaws--jump-shooting, poor transition defense, poor rebounding, lack of coordination, and turnovers--caught up with them one too many times and Sacramento walked away with the win.
I wasn't able to get to this game until the evening so I'm going to cut short my recap time and refer you to Timmay's excellent description of the game flow in this one. It was pretty typical recent Blazers, except they went TOTALLY three-point-happy and abandoned the paint. Both gentlemen and scholars will note that this is a poor idea against the Kings who allow more points in the paint than anyone in the league except for Charlotte (and they're only a tenth of a point ahead of the Bobcats). Yet there it is, staring you in the face: Blazers 30 points in the paint, 18 below Sacramento's usual allowance of 48. The Kings had 58 points in the paint, 10 above their usual prodigious rate. Meanwhile the Blazers hoisted 32 treys. Yes they hit 16 for an amazing 50% shooting rate, but they needed that miraculous performance just to stay even with--actually a single point below--the Kings. You know something is wrong when you're shooting that well from distance and not blowing out the opponent. Also Portland allowed 14 offensive rebounds, 18 fast break points, and committed 17 turnovers while only forcing 6.
There are two morals to this story that I see...really not even this story but to the end-of-season revelations in general:
1. Even when these guards are hot...HOT, hot....SUPER BLAZING HOT and free as birds to hoop it up there are plenty of things not to like. Look at the lines tonight: Felton 8-17 for 19 points, Matthews 10-16 and 8-10 from distance for 31, Smith 3-4, Flynn 4-9 and at best the Blazers are playing even, letting people leak all over the place, not getting back, and barfing up the ball. At their best you tolerate them, feeling free to award them with scattered applause for their good plays. At worse you despise them. At no point do you end up ahead with this group. This is even more pronounced when you consider that the one guy who came out ready to tear up the court all over was J.J. Hickson and they just squandered his drive and inside presence.
2. Raymond Felton committed yet another late-game turnover and missed 3 of Portland's final 5 shots in a tight game, making a 4th...all long jumpers. He couldn't get his team into any coherent offense. Has he been putting up nice numbers? Yeah. Is he playing better, quicker, and more consistently than he did earlier this year? Yup. Is he still the best point guard the Blazers have right now? By far. But one question keeps reverberating in my head, a question that's critical when evaluating your floor general: Do you trust him? Set aside the numbers now and lack thereof earlier. Set aside the vitriol against him and the praise as well. Set aside emotion and expectations, skills and reputation, salary and free agency possibilities. Just answer that one question. Do you trust him with the ball for your team? If the answer is no--and I don't see how it could be different at this point--then you need to let him go no matter what the boxscores and momentum bring.
- I like the look in Luke Babbitt's eyes right now. Earlier in the year it was all bewilderment. Now when the camera gets a close-up of his face it's like, "Screw it, I'm a professional. I'm just going to do what I do."
- Jonny Flynn hit one three and a fast-break jumper early in this game and it ruined him for the night. He started shooting like he was a star. He wasn't.
- Nolan Smith looked better tonight than he had in a while but you still have to get the basics right to play.
- J.J. Hickson 13 rebounds, 10 points. Dude should be playing with guys who care more about that.
- Nicolas Batum had a couple nifty passes tonight.
- Jamal Crawford didn't play as the Blazers are alternating him and Felton in this back-to-back.
Fun With Numbers
Did all the heavy lifting on this in the Game Flow.
If the Blazers can't finish Sacramento it's hard to imagine them beating Phoenix tomorrow.
Sactown Royalty will talk about their first win in ages.