The Short Version:
A lethargic Portland Trail Blazers team stumbled out of the gate, and quickly lost Wesley Matthews to injury. A refreshed New Orleans Hornets played hard, smart defense, shot well, and simply dominated the entire game, eventually winning by a score of 99-63. This was the worst Blazer game since... I'll get back to you on that. I may be looking for a while.
Both teams looked... well, discombobulated to start the game. Shots missing. Sketchy possessions. And before anyone could settle in, Matthews landed awkwardly on his ankle and had to be helped from the game. The Hornets' defense was solid, preventing many easy buckets for the tired Blazers. New Orleans maintained a small lead by working inside to get a few easy buckets. Even worse, LaMarcus Aldridge came down awkwardly on his already-sore wrist, and headed to the locker room, leaving the Blazers undermanned. Ronnie Price airballed a three-pointer as the clock mercifully ran down, and the Blazers finished with 14 points in the first quarter. But they were only behind by 5.
Have you ever seen a dog take a poop in your front yard? It was like that, but lasted 12 minutes.
As the Blazer bench continued to struggle against the New Orleans defense, one thing changed: The Hornets started hitting shots. Price headed to the bench after a second airballed three-pointer. When Damian Lillard rushed back in, New Orleans zeroed in on him, attempting to shut him down. It worked. The Blazers called timeout, having scored 2 points in the first six minutes of the quarter. The good news? New Orleans had only scored 7 points. This wasn't ugly, this was a double-bagger. Woof.
Out of the timeout, the Blazers turned it over again, and the Hornets lead reached 14, as they continued to double-team Lillard to create transition buckets. The Blazer starters (plus Claver) tried to make a run, but it became increasingly obvious that only two starters were healthy: the perennially double-teamed Lillard, and JJ Hickson. With 19 seconds left in the half, Portland finally reached the 25 point barrier (and I do mean "barrier"). Barely. New Orleans led by an eye-bleeding score of 38-26 at halftime.
I just wasted an hour of my life.
As the third quarter opened, the Blazer starters found their adrenaline, ready to make a push. But while their shots weren't falling, the Hornets had no such problems. Portland called another timeout, down 18 and watching the game get away. The problem was firepower and chemistry. The starters were out of sync without Matthews, and even when they were presented with opportunities, the shots simply weren't falling. At one point, a Lillard layup attempt hit the bottom of the rim. Ryan Anderson's three-pointer gave the Hornets a 25 point lead. They led by 23 after three.
This has been the ugliest 3 quarters of basketball I've ever personally seen.
Within minutes, Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts pulled all the starters in the fourth quarter. The game was over with 10 minutes left. Though you could argue it was over in the first quarter.
Ignore the stats, this was Damian Lillard's worst game as a pro. New Orleans singled him out with the "let anyone beat us but him" defense. And it was successful. Damian couldn't get a solid shot off, he struggled to break the double-team, he couldn't set up teammates. The clearly-injured Batum had more assists and less turnovers. It was a dreadful night, and one he'll try to forget as he flies to Houston for a busy weekend. 12 points on 4-15 shooting, 4 assists.
LaMarcus Aldridge's wrist injury seemed to bother him as much as the Hornets defense. His recently-unstoppable jumper vanished, and the Hornets took care of the rest. He'll get the gift of one exhibition game over the next week to heal. 6 points on 2-11 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 blocks.
Nicolas Batum, sit down until your wrist is healed. We'll be ok, I promise. 3 points on 1-10 shooting, 6 assists.
I'd say JJ Hickson had a quiet night, but that describes everyone. It was the usual JJ: Fought hard for rebounds, got a few dunks, struggled to lock down the middle. He did a better job tonight of passing instead of taking a bad shot. 10 points on 4-5 shooting, 5 rebounds.
Victor Claver was one of three Blazers to reach double-figures in scoring. He did his best to cover for the departed Matthews. Of all the Blazers tonight, he's the one least likely to draw complaints. 11 points on 5-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists.
- The Blazers shot 12% from three-point-land, and 32% overall.
- The Hornets dominated the boards 52-35, including 15-6 offensive, but somehow spread them out across the team. Only Anthony Davis reached double-figures.
- The Hornets doubled up the Blazers in the paint, 52-26, and creamed the Blazers in points off turnovers (20-6).
- Mark it down, it happened: The Blazer bench outscored the starters, 32-31.
There were simply no good stats tonight. This is the game to which we'll compare all future games. "Sure this game is bad. But is it worse than that game in New Orleans before the All-Star Break?"
Dave, I owe you one for giving me this stinker.
Enjoy the All-Star Break everyone. The Blazers are back in action next Tuesday, but we'll have lots of All-Star Weekend coverage right here. -- Tim