Game 7 Recap
--There was no shame in losing this game. We just got beat by a better (read: more veteran) team. We didn't give up and we managed to hang pretty close even on a night that wasn't our best. I am not unhappy.
--We started off not doubling Dirk and he ate our lunch. We picked up the double teams in the second half and he calmed down.
--We had some magnificent moments on offense tonight. The inside-out game was beautiful to watch, as we'd get it to a post player, pass the ball out of the double, then whip it around the horn for an open look on the weak side. Here's a major difference between this year's team and those of the past two seasons: this year we have guys who will pass the ball as more than a last resort when all of their individual options have failed. I got so sick of seeing guys (and it wasn't just Zach) hold the ball for 4-5 seconds trying every shot imaginable in their heads then dumping it off to someone else who was just as covered as they were. Seeing that ball movement is really encouraging. The penetrate and dish is also becoming a strong part of our arsenal.
--We also had some less than stellar moments on offense. In particular when they hard-doubled Zach our offense went to hell. In the first half there was a little too much standing around and watching Zach work, which led to some of those passing turnovers you saw.
--Although we had some nice individual defensive efforts our help defense needed...well...some help. This was the first time we've thrown consistent, concerted double-teams and we weren't sharp. We rotated slowly or randomly or sometimes not at all. You also saw some of those horrible triple-teams that left every other player on the court open. This isn't surprising with so many young guys, new guys, and injured guys, but it still hurt us. I imagine there will be some more drilling on that come practice time. We will need to double sometimes and we've got to stay in focus when we do.
--I'm going to sound like a broken record, but we still have so much trouble dealing with opposing picks. It's not just the young guys either. Dixon and Dickau just get murdered out there. My kingdom for some coordinated effort to defend opposing screens!
--With these defensive problems we allowed Dallas to shoot 55%. We're going to win zero games when that happens.
--We didn't abuse their guards as much as we needed to early on. Jack ended up having a nice night but the rest of the cast could have done more.
--We hung in this game through the early quarters because of free throws. That's a fantastic safety net and something all good teams rely on.
--Anyone else surprised by the lineup that went much of the 4th? Zach, Jack, Aldridge, Dixon, and either Outlaw or Udoka. I suppose it's not that odd with the injuries, but who would have called that lineup at the beginning of the season? They did an OK job though, so I guess Nate knows what he's doing.
--The Mavs went after Martell early and they went after him often. He got burned multiple times off the drive in the first five minutes and then got burned some more off back picks, front picks, and any old picks in his second stint. That's why he only played 18 minutes. He better learn that when Nate takes a guy out, he doesn't necessarily put him back in to make up for his mistakes. There's some semi-painful education going on early in the season for young Mr. Webster.
--By contrast Jarrett Jack did a pretty good job holding his own on defense. In addition he had his best offensive game of the season, mostly by going 12-for-12 from the free throw line. His pump fakes and drives are starting to make opposing defenders look foolish. The kid is picking up a little more every game. You can see a clear upward trend for him.
--Travis Outlaw, though not compiling stats tonight, had some pretty good moves in the post. He's just a matchup nightmare when they guard him with anyone shorter. He also had a couple of fine 1-on-1 defensive moments but he was one of the confused folks in the rotating defense.
--Magloire got pulled for the same reasons as Martell: not matching up on defense, not doing the little things. 2 points and 1 board won't get it done, and he doesn't even have the excuse of youth.
--Zach had a really tough night dealing with constant double teams from the opening tip. He shot 8-for-22 and had 5 turnovers, a few of them really brutal. He only had four free throw attempts too. But as we said above, his teammates kind of left him out to dry. It was almost as if they expected the New Orleans bail-out to continue. He still managed 20 points and 9 boards and many of those rebounds were hard fought. I'd get down on a few other people for this game before I'd point to Zach.
--Aldridge looked like an eager puppy out there. It was almost funny to see him play. He got really lost during his first stint but he played a lot better in the second half and Nate showed a lot of confidence in the kid. He must really believe in his conditioning and practice skills. 5-9, 10 points, 6 offensive boards, 8 total rebounds, and only 2 fouls in 19 minutes, at least half of which was spent guarding Dirk Nowitzki. That's not a bad line for your very first game. I am really interested to see whether the Blazers start mixing in a full-court press when he's in the game. He'd be an ideal big man to do it with. Throw in Outlaw and play Roy and Przybilla with the second unit and you might have a darn good pressing team.
--The refs won't let non-post players do anything resembling a spin move or stutter-step anymore. It's almost like they're saying, "If it happened too fast for me to see it, it must have been traveling." It has evened out the game some. I actually kind of like it. (They still let stars take steps though. Dirk did it a couple times, but so did Zach.)
--Speaking of, Nate got a "T" tonight even though it seems to be missing from the box score. I haven't mentioned this yet, but I am really impressed with how the Blazers are handling calls this year. They're not reacting much at all, which is fantastic. They're also getting a lot more calls than they used to.