(sigh) What goes up...
Kings 104, Blazers 96
Really this game was less about what the Blazers did wrong than what the Kings did right. You have to give them credit. They did exactly what they needed to in order to win. They played smart, veteran basketball. Nobody tried to go too far outside of their ability. Everybody seemed on the same page. Probably their biggest success was exploiting matchups...something that veteran teams do well. Nobody on our team was quick enough to handle Kevin Martin. At various times we tried Roy, Jack, Fred Jones, and Martell on him to no avail. They knew it and they fed us a steady diet of drives and driving dishes. Similarly we had nobody strong, big, and quick enough to stay with Ron Artest. He just overpowered every small forward we put up against him. Martin ended up with 19 shots and 33 points, Artest with 16 and 23.
--Obviously our relative lack of small-position defense was really exposed tonight. The big guys tried to help out but it was inconsistent and often led to fouls.
--Also disturbing was a lack of what I'd call critical rebounds. We killed them overall on the boards--16-10 offensive, 30-28 defensive--as is right and proper. But it seemed like every time we started making a run and we'd get to a critical juncture and get the stop we needed to bring it within a one-possession game, they'd come up with the ball off the miss.
--As I said in the in-game coverage, we got a little bit outsmarted, a little bit-outsized, a whole lot out-hustled, and all of that together made it easy for the experienced Kings to pick us off like shooting cans on a fence. We made several runs but you never felt like we were focused or cohesive enough to really threaten.
--We did some things well tonight. Besides the overall rebounding we shot 47% on three pointers (most of them open and in the offense), had more free throw attempts than the Kings (no small matter since they're the best in the league at drawing them and we were in a big hole at the half), and generally continued to play unselfishly even when things weren't going great.
--We ran a 17-3 deficit in points off turnovers, which ended up killing our buzz as much as anything.
--Speaking of, the Kings really messed with our heads when they trapped. The press took us out of our comfort zone whenever they applied it and we ended up with poor, late sets or turnovers.
--The one area where I think we really fell down was transition defense. Sacramento was leaking out on us much of the night and we didn't respond until late in the game.
--This wasn't a bad game for Zach. He shot 10-20 and ended up with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists. He wasn't exposed much on defense because the Kings don't threaten with their bigs, so you didn't notice any glaring weakness there. He continued to be willing to pass the ball, which is great to see. He did commit six turnovers but it was a sloppy game. It wasn't like he was just out there chucking randomly. It was hard to see where and when to move the ball.
--Somewhat predictably, Lamarcus Aldridge followed up his 30-point effort Thursday by going 1-12 and tallying three points total. He started out the game shooting jumpers and long turn-arounds, which didn't help his cause. On the up side he did have 10 rebounds, which is great for him. Half of them were offensive (and we really need more defensive ones) but still the effort is appreciated. I wouldn't hang my head about this game if I were he.
--Brandon Roy had a quiet game with 15 points, 7 assists, and 4 turnovers. He didn't seem to look for his shot much until late. Again, though, it's a reminder where we are with this guy that 15 points and 7 assists is sort of "ho hum". He's really good folks.
--Martell Webster was active again! He blew my wish of three consecutive 15-point games by only getting 14, but he was looking for his shot, taking advantage of plays run for him, and ended up with 8 rebounds to boot. He's still unsafe at any speed on the defensive end but I liked his energy! He's got to play to improve and he can't play unless he does what he's best at first. Martell suffered some kind of shoulder injury in the second half and we'll await word on that. If he has to miss games I'm going to be upset because he was just starting to turn it on. Did he and Joel Przybilla go to the same fortune teller during the pre-season?
--Jarrett Jack had a tight game, shooting 5-7, for 13 points and 5 dimes. I would have like to have seen even more shots from him though to expose Bibby on defense.
--Magloire scored with muscle in the post and grabbed a couple of rebounds. He did have three turnovers but he's being aggressive out there.
--Travis Outlaw had a tough night, going 1-7 with only 1 assist and 1 steal in 12 minutes. It seemed that many of the shots he missed could have helped us at critical times too. This was not his best game.
--Fred Jones and Sergio were only marginally better by virtue of not taking quite so many shots. Jones wasn't any more effective defending the Kings backcourt than any of our other guys. Sergio just looked out of sync.
--Ime hit most of the shots he was supposed to. You can't blame him for not being able to stem the Artest tide much. He's too small. No complaints.
--There was a proposal during one of the timeouts tonight. They caught the end of it and played it on replay. Guys...it's time to stop that. It's neither original nor that romantic anymore. In fact I've yet to see a woman on the receiving end of one of those lately who looked anything north of semi-uncomfortable. It's not as egregious of an offense as the chalupa chant but it's gaining ground. If you don't stop I'm going to suggest that Blazer Nation (the community, not the "Zot" dude) begin their own chant to the chalupa rhythm every time this happens from now on. "Ball and Chain! Ball and Chain!" We will keep finding worse and worse three-syllable phrases to put in there. ("Cubic Z" or "Just Say No" come easily to mind. Don't force us down to DefCon 2 or we're bringing out the Doomsday Device, aka "She's Knocked Up".) We will continue until you learn to propose in a more suitably romantic venue and stop taking away our t-shirt catching, dancer ogling, Dot Race rooting time with your uninteresting-yet-inescapable personal life.
We will make an exception, of course, on the night Sergio goes down on one knee in front of a girl holding a sparkly sign. For that we will all cheer. (And I expect an exclusive interview with Mr. Hubby.)