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Game 24 Recap: Blazers 88, Jazz 97

Yeah, that was pretty much a loss from the opening tip.




And speaking of opening tip…


Hello, TNT.  I’d like to talk to you about something, TNT.  And I want you to see this TNT so it needs to be pretty high up the search engine when someone types “TNT”, TNT.  So if this starts to sound like a Hulk Hogan interview with TNT replacing “brother” you’ll know why, TNT.


I wanted to let you know that I hate it when my team plays on your network, TNT.  We’re a Western Conference team, TNT, which means we’re usually in the second game of the TNT doubleheader, TNT.  Now I want you to ask yourself, TNT, has your coverage of the second game of the doubleheader EVER started on time, TNT?  Ever?  I’ve not seen it, TNT.  Not once.  It’s bad enough when the early game is close or goes into overtime, TNT, but in this case the Boston-Washington game ended up 122-88, TNT.  At the very least there needs to be a mercy rule, TNT.  Nobody, TNT, is watching that game anymore even in Boston and D.C., let alone the rest of the country, TNT.  If you cut away from a 30-point deficit and, by gosh TNT, it looks like a miracle comeback is occurring nobody will blame you for switching back for a while.  But the way you do it now is garbage, TNT, and I cringe every time I see the Blazers are playing on Thursday nights because of you, TNT.


The best solution, TNT, is just to ask that the second game be delayed until the first one finishes, TNT.  That way you could avoid the aggravation of us having to watch dwindling, meaningless seconds and then hear TNT announcers Ernie, Kenny, and Charles say something, then watch TNT commercials, and only then get to the game in progress.  That stinks, TNT.  There can’t be an NBA policy on this, TNT, because whenever ESPN has a doubleheader the second game always shows from the tip, even if that tip is delayed.  ESPN good, TNT bad.


You have a monopoly on (national) NBA coverage on Thursday nights, TNT.  Local stations can’t cover the games because of you, TNT.  (Edit:  Apparently that has changed, TNT.  Point for you, TNT.  A lot of us are still stuck out in the cold, though, TNT.)  You need to be more responsible with that coverage, TNT.  You need to give credence to the Western Conference and its fans, TNT.  We deserve to see as much of our games as anyone in Miami or Chicago gets to see, TNT.


There, I’ve said it.  I would encourage any fellow bloggers out there who agree with the point to also bring this to the attention of the public, their readership, and also TNT, of course.


(OK, how many of you secretly did that in a Hulk Hogan voice and threw in the “brothers” anyway?  Try it!  It's fun!)


So…on to the game…


General Observations


The Blazers were flat.  That’s pretty much the only observation you need.


You could tell they were flat because:


--Utah spent most of the game getting great shots off of penetration in the lane.  There was no primary defense, no secondary defense, no last-line desperation defense.  Just, “Ooops!  Don’t let my waving arms bother you.  BOOGA BOOGA!”  That tactic didn’t work, probably because the Jazz are professional NBA players and not two year olds walking by the couch.


--When they weren’t penetrating they were whipping it around for open jumpers.


--Sometimes they didn’t need to do either of those because Portland was late in transition again.  This has become a disturbing trend lately.  The Blazers hustled back on “D” for their first 20 games or so…no worries at all.  Lately though…ugh.  Portland cannot defend well enough under normal circumstances to also be giving up easy shots.


--Utah got far too many offensive rebounds.


--The Blazers committed too many turnovers.  I know 13 total doesn’t seem bad, but these weren’t three in the key or traveling.  We’re talking cough the ball up, dribble off your foot, painful-type turnovers.


--The Blazers looked generally discombobulated on offense.  Great passing, effective picks, and easy buckets were the exception, not the rule.  Individuals worked to score but the team didn’t as a whole.  We didn’t deal with the zone well and we didn’t set good screens against man-to-man defense.


Total that all up and the Blazers were not going to win.  You have to factor in the burden of a 30-19 free throw deficit too, which was wholly appropriate given each team’s offensive style and defensive energy.


Add in that the second unit, usually our stalwarts, shot a combined 6-21 and had 19 points. I’m pretty comfortable saying the Blazers will never win when that happens.


This all happened on a night when Brandon Roy scored 33 and Lamarcus Aldridge 22.  That goes to show you that the main guys scoring is not enough to lift Portland in the absence of team effort in other aspects.  I don’t fault Roy and Aldridge for taking over the scoring either.  Somebody had to.  If you look down the list nobody else but Greg Oden was hitting at all tonight and Oden’s shots were scantier than Bettie Page’s underwear (R.I.P).  You cannot keep passing to guys who aren’t hitting, especially when your team is drowning because guys aren’t moving their feet on defense, recognizing opposing plays, taking care of the ball, or rebounding either.


And that is that.  Comparing this type of game to the Orlando loss perhaps you’ll understand when I say that this kind of effort is much more disappointing and “ARRGH!”-worthy than what happened Tuesday night.


Individual Notes


--Brandon Roy was six kinds of hot tonight, shooting 12-22 and scoring 33 with 8 rebounds.  This is the first time all season he has gone without an assist.  I don’t expect that to be the norm.  It does tell us, however, that just because he doesn’t normally play and score like Kobe doesn’t mean that he couldn’t.  Well, at least he could do a reasonable impression, if not exactly total those kind of stats.  Roy was definitely an off-guard tonight, not a quasi-point.


--Lamarcus Aldridge also went off again.  He shot 10-18 for 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.  He was out on the perimeter against whatever big man Utah sent outside, which helps explain the relative lack of rebounds.  His energy was high.  Hopefully he’s found his place again.


--Greg Oden played 32 minutes but was huffing and puffing after the first 12.  He scored 8 points on 4-6 shooting and grabbed 9 rebounds.  He also committed 3 turnovers of the now-familiar variety.  Worse, though, he could not stay in front of anyone.  At times he might as well have not been defending the paint.  When I isolated on his play I had to double-check to make sure my Tivo wasn’t playing back frame-by-frame.  OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but not much.  He seemed slower than usual tonight.  Also it really looks like he’s committing the rookie mistake of running from designated spot to designated spot without watching and reacting to what’s going on around him.  That’s not unusual, but when you’re depending on the guy to watch your rim and your perimeter players are letting people through left and right, it becomes a glaring problem.


--Steve Blake had 5 assists but his shot was off, which is never a good thing for the Blazers.


--Joel Przybilla had 6 rebounds in 18 minutes but wasn’t that much more effective than Greg at stopping the Jazz from getting to the hole.  He had a great stand at the cup in the fourth quarter but he never got a chance to affect the game that much because too many other things were going wrong around him.


--Sergio Rodriguez had a tough night, coughing up the ball like he was my grandma on a midnight phlegm spree.  0 assists and 4 turnovers isn’t typical Sergio.  Nate still left him in for 18 minutes, which is a testament to the credit Sergio has earned so far this season.  To be fair, Sergio might have had a better night if anybody on the second unit had been able to convert a bucket.  He did score 7 points but Utah was leaving him open and pretty much daring him to hit a jumper and he couldn’t.


--Rudy Fernandez at least penetrated on offense, which was more than you could say for most of the other Blazer guards and forwards.  As a result he got to the free throw line 6 times, hitting 5 shots.  He had 5 boards too.  But he couldn’t hit any more than the rest of the bench.  He finished with 10.


--Oh…Travis.  0-4, 0 points in 14 minutes.  The 5 rebounds were good, but this was a night when we needed Super Trout and we got Clark Can’t instead.


--Channing Frye had one bucket and one pretty hard foul on Matt Harpring.  You can’t accuse Channing of picking on smaller guys because Harpring is built like a brick.  Still, you wish the timing and the target had been better if we were going to get a flagrant.


--Batum: 10 minutes, non-factor.


Final Thoughts


First of all, don’t worry too much about this.  This was probably going to be a loss no matter what.  However the Blazers are going to bounce back and beat the Clippers tomorrow night, probably by a large margin.


This feels like a tired team to me.  They’ve been pushing it since the start of the season.  They did great early but eventually it catches up to you, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.  The team hasn’t been really sharp for a week or more.  They really, really need some time to recoup and get a fresh start.


Keep in mind, folks, that this is part of what that great early start was good for.  We’ll not be winning championships this year, so don’t worry about being on pace for 60 or anything.  The more important thought is that the Blazers have played so well in this tough early schedule that they could lose every game remaining in December and still end the month only 2 games under .500.  That won’t happen, of course.  But remember when the season began we said that if we could enter the new year anywhere near .500 this team was going to be able to build up an impressive record.  That’s guaranteed now, and probably better.  I don’t like games like this, but we played our butts off in November in part so we could absorb games like this without sinking the ship.


Check out the Jazz celebration at SLCDunk.


See the Jersey Contest scores for this game and enter tomorrow’s form here.


Also note that Bonesbarry won our initial CD contest with a correct guess of 185 for the combined score of both teams plus Utah leading after the first quarter.  I didn’t even have to check past his entry.  Congratulations!


--Dave (