Well...this game was the worst we've played since the beginning of the season. I'm not that excited or worried about that fact. This team has shown that they're capable of bouncing back from sub-par efforts before. This was just a little more "sub" than usual.
How did we lose this game? Let me count the ways.
--From the outset Orlando made a concerted effort to score in the paint. This wasn't only Howard getting deep position, this was guys like Lewis and Turkoglu (!) choosing to put the ball on the floor rather than shoot over the top. We, on the other hand, made a concerted effort not to stop them. Technically speaking this is the elephant in the Blazers' corner: we are not a very good interior defensive team. You can talk about Joel but Joel isn't capable of doing it on his own. He's good but he's not the kind of guy who will bend a game to his own will. In the rush of the regular season teams have been more than willing to engage in jumper duels with us but as the playoffs approach and every game matters you may expect that more and more teams will take the Utah (when they're good) and Orlando approach and try to beat us inside. I wonder what our response will be. The upshot this game was the Magic firing at a 50% clip. They had 40 points in the paint to our 26.
--We missed a ton of shots ourselves. In fact I saw more really bad Blazer shots in the first half than I had seen in a long time. It actually shocked me and certainly hearkened back to the start of the season. The only thing we shot besides jumpers were well-covered and far-too-distant turn-arounds in the post. When you get 11 more attempts than your opponent and they still outscore you by 7 something is wrong with your offense.
--More salt in the wounds: 14-2 advantage for Orlando in fast break points.
--We didn't move our feet for squat, leading to the Magic more than doubling us in free throw attempts.
--With the disparity in misses it's no surprise they outrebounded us as well.
--With the exception of a couple runs everything looked out of synch, strained, and just plain slow. Whether it was fatigue or just lack of focus it killed us.
--I'd say we did a good job on Dwight Howard, holding him to 10 points on 7 shots, but I suspect it was as much a matter of Orlando not needing him to score big tonight as it was us shutting him down. Plus he got 14 rebounds.
--Brandon Roy looked like the only guy who came to play on offense. He was his usual unflappable self with 25 points and 7 assists (plus 5 rebounds and 3 steals). The Blazers aren't at their best when they have to rely on him so heavily though.
--The team didn't plan to rely on Brandon so much. They actually came out trying to feature Lamarcus. He took 21 shots on the evening. The problem was they were all shorter than your ex-wife's temper. He hit only six and drew ZERO free throws (which tells you all you need to know about where and how he was taking them) and ended up with only 12 points to show for those 21 shots. 7 rebounds was fine, but the help defense could have been better for all of our interior players.
--The other guy Portland tried to feature early was Martell Webster. He ended up scoring some later in the game but overall his 4-10 shooting was unimpressive. We wanted to ride him and just couldn't. 6 rebounds is a good night for him.
--Joel had his usual 8 rebounds in 20 minutes but once again he was just killing the offense with his inability to catch passes and score. The rim might as well be 18 feet high for all he can do with it in there. He got a dunk attempt blocked by Rashard Lewis...from behind. I know he doesn't want to bulk up per se but it would really help him to add a little strength.
--Steve Blake had 5 assists but seemed flat once again. The whole backcourt had problems defending (even Roy) and he was no exception.
--Jarrett Jack, despite only scoring 6 points, was one of the guys who actually looked like he came to play. He had 6 assists and a fair amount of energy.
--Travis Outlaw scored 22 points on 20 shots and also had 6 rebounds. He scored a bunch late when the Blazers needed someone to pull them back in it. He and Roy were definitely the dependable offensive players tonight.
--James Jones found his three point stroke again, hitting 3-6.
--Sergio and Channing have regressed some. I think it's a chicken and egg problem with the rest of the team. If the guys around them are playing well these two also find opportunities. If the team sucks they can't find a way out of it.
--If the individual analysis seems short tonight it's for two reasons:
- Nobody should really get a ton of credit from a game like this.
- Games like this should be forgotten as soon as possible. Erase! Erase! Erase!