Listen folks, nobody should be sad or complain too much about last night's loss. That was a fine, fine game with plenty of signs of life from the team. Losing all 82 like that would be better than winning with some of the efforts we saw on the road trip. (Not that winning is an issue when we play like that...)
--Just a couple general observations first. The team showed a lot of hustle, worked hard, and most importantly of all trusted and helped each other. Of course there were a few glaring breakdowns. But for the most part everybody was watching out for each other on defense and sharing the ball on offense. And it was smart sharing too. Too often we've seen players pass up decent looks to get a worse one for someone else. Against the Nets we were smart in how and where we distributed it.
--We played a Nets team with Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, and a returning Vince Carter pretty evenly the whole way. The difference was their defense was a shade better than ours, maybe a lot better in the final, critical moments. We allowed them to shoot 54% from the field and 50% on mostly unguarded threes. Against a Jersey team that couldn't score at a rave with a Ferrari and a Hefty bag of "E" that's not good. We were really, really good on offense ourselves which masked our difficulties somewhat but in the final two minutes you saw them turn it up and clamp down whereas we pretty much played at the same level. Someone asked in a diary what exactly the symptoms of being a "young team" are. I'm going to write a post on that eventually but for right now this is one of them...not knowing how or when to dial it up that extra notch.
--We outrebounded them, kept even with assists (keep in mind that Jason Kidd is on that team), and for the most part got back in transition and kept them out of the paint on offense. We're going to win games doing that.
--I have two "Tivo Moments" for the game. The team one is with 7:10 left in the 3rd quarter. If you have the game recorded, look back at the defense in that set. Mike Rice mentioned it so you may have noticed it as it happened. It's a classic example of how we can cover small breakdowns with hustle and energy. There was no hesitation and there was nobody loafing. It was just five guys throwing their bodies into it to get a stop. Beautiful stuff.
--There ought to be a rule from now on. As long as this starting lineup takes the floor the guys who shoot early are Brandon, Lamarcus, and Webster. No Blake, no Frye unless it's layups or dunks. It's not that the latter two are bad. It's just that we need the jump early and we need to establish confidence in our scorers. Three people ought to be enough options. I love the unselfishness of this team overall but at the opening tip the offense should be more concentrated.
--I loved me some Martell Webster this game. It's hard for me to believe he took only 8 shots all game long. This is part of what makes him valuable...he can score big points off of minimal attempts. Even more than the shooting I loved how he was hustling on defense and going for rebounds. My second Tivo Moment comes at 7:35 in the 3rd. Martell got rubbed off on a pick high on the right hand side of the court. In past years for any Blazer small that would have meant standing and giving up on the play. Instead Martell dove down the lane to help shut off the man that just broke free, then immediately ran to the other side of the court to challenge a little bit on the jump shooter. I'm not saying it was the most effective defensive stand in the world, but it showed great anticipation and heart.
--I loved me some Jarrett Jack just as much. His strength allows him to get in the lane and get fouled and that will be a solid niche for him forever. He was beautiful on offense in this game.
--Brandon had an amazing first quarter and a strong game overall until the very end where he broke down a little. But you can't complain about a guy who can score like that.
--Frye and Przy did OK, Channing on the offensive end and Joel on the defensive. Joel seemed to pep us up a little bit.
--Outlaw had what was for him a great game...lots of energy. Two things annoyed me somewhat. One was that he made bonehead plays alongside his great ones at a ratio of about 2:3. (Examples: letting Nachbar dunk to end the 3rd, letting Jefferson dunk in the 4th, not getting the rebound on New Jersey's penultimate possession). Also he is old enough now that I feel like calling "B.S." every time I see one of these high energy efforts, wondering where this is the rest of the time. You get wins in the NBA when people bring it every night, not one night in four. The biggest difference for him is effort which should be possible to duplicate.
--Steve Blake had another solid game but I still want him to be more of a threat. The game flow was probably better when he was in but the real damage came with Jack and Roy at the point.
--Lamarcus contributed well on a night when his shot wasn't falling. We need to see more of that from him and from all the Blazers really.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
Best loss of the season.