The Blazers have recently found themselves in a funk. Their scoring is down, the schedule has gotten harder, and the starters seem to be wearing down. Based on their play lately, here are some adjustments that should be made.
Hide Damian Lillard on defense as much as possible.
While Lillard has improved defensively, he still is very weak on defense against the pick and roll. His individual defense is not bad, but he fails to anticipate screens or gets sold on the pick every team. As a result the Blazers will be better off hiding Lillard on the opponent’s weakest player whenever possible. We saw this against Oklahoma City, it will probably be happen more often as the season progresses.
Do not over use LaMarcus Aldridge Isolation sets.
The Blazers go-to play on offense is an isolation set with Aldridge on the left block. The play is effective against most match-ups Aldridge faces, but also can cause his teammates to stand around on the perimeter with no movement at all. The Blazers also insist on using Aldridge in isolation even when he is struggling from the field. The solution should be involving more pick and pop and pick and roll sets with Aldridge so Aldridge can catch and shoot, or roll to the basket.
Attack the basket more often.
Notice that the goal isn’t to score more points around the basket. While opponents dare most teams to shoot jumpers and three pointers off the dribble, opponents are daring the Blazers to drive to the basket by crowding the Blazers at the three point line and running them off it as well. The Blazers need to take advantage of what opponents are giving the Blazers and drive to the basket more, forcing the opposing defensive to collapse on the drive. With shooters on the perimeter the drive and kick-out should be a staple of the Blazer offense, but it doesn't happen enough. Also of note: A player is more likely to make a three pointer if the pass is coming from the hoop.
Adjust the defense based on opponent match-ups.
The Blazers currently have been playing a conservative defense with little changing game to game. That would be fine if every opponent played exactly the same way. The Blazers should not be afraid to send a double-team against certain star players. The Blazers currently go over every screen, even if the opposing player is not a good jump shooter. Big men who are good jump shooters are often left uncontested because the Blazers sag into the paint. Defensive adjustments game-to-game can be the difference between winning and losing.
Exploit Mismatches more often.
The Blazers have one of the most balanced starting 5 in the whole league, yet often get stuck offensively trying to force shots when there is a mismatch on the floor. Too often Matthews will be guarded by a smaller opponent and the Blazers fail to exploit the match-up. We know Batum can post up smaller opponents and hit fade away, yet it rarely happens. One of the most common mismatches occurs when Robin Lopez is guarded by a smaller opponent because the opposing center is guarding Aldridge. The Blazers need to recognize those mismatches and use it to their advantage until the opposing team is forced to make a change.