To my eyes the first half of this game was one of the most professional the Blazers have played in a while. By "professional" I mean this: It wasn't an emotional, or even a frenzied effort. This wasn't a rivalry game that amps players up from the opening tip. Neither was this an aberration like the All-Star level defensive game (hint: that's not praise) that we saw in New York. It was a tough game against a tough opponent and for the first 22 minutes or so the Blazers took care of business. The biggest surprise of the half was how the Blazers dominated the Cavaliers on the boards. Cleveland is one of the best rebounding teams in the league and we were handling them comfortably. We got a little preview of how dangerous this team could be once rebounding becomes part of our regular diet. We defended decently and generated enough offense to stay afloat. With the exception of a couple of runs we gifted to the Cavs--the last one coming at the end of the first half just in time to give them confidence--you couldn't have asked for much more.
Unfortunately Cleveland came out of the locker room like a veteran-manned playoff team. They never got on track entirely offensively but they didn't have to. They redoubled their rebounding efforts and throttled down on us defensively. They opted to concede the open three-point shot and our shooters couldn't hit them. They forced the ball inside on offense and drew fouls. Simply put, they did what they had to. We could still have won it with a few more shots but that would have been like hitting an 8-outer on the turn and river. The percentages said Cleveland would win and they did.
At this point in the season it's no use dwelling on things the Blazers are not. You'd think we would have been able to continue our fight on the boards, especially with Ben Wallace out for the second half. We didn't. It would have been nice not to run a 12-point deficit in points in the paint and a free-throw-attempt deficit of 15 as well. That's pretty much who the Blazers are right now though. We gave up 8 more fast break points that we scored. That actually looks like a reasonable number for us. I could go all year without seeing another one of those 90-second, 4-8 point lapses in concentration. We'll see them again though. We shouldn't be in close contests with every single team we get ahead on by double digits, but everybody knew that's what would happen.
Like the preview said, we managed 10 more attempts than our opponents and if we didn't exactly shut down LeBron's supporting cast at least we kept the Cavs from dropping 105 on us. We gave ourselves a chance to win. We just didn't put enough shots down to actually do it. And that's what it amounts to with us against good teams like this.
--Lamarcus Aldridge has caught his second wind, an apparently it's a hurricane. He scored 25 tonight on 11-19 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds. He's looking very good as a featured offensive player right now. His entire arsenal was again on display tonight and he was the most unstoppable Blazer.
--I'm going to bump Martell up the scale a little bit. He's the main culprit in the "missing open threes" department and this game would have looked a lot different if he could have done his job. (Let's face it, his job is to hit those long shots. That's his primary skill.) However he did get 10 rebounds and at least stayed active on defense, even while committing a mistake or two. The ups and downs of youth don't seem nearly as bad when you're fulfilling some of the basics out there.
--Brandon had another one of those "good, not great" outings. 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, no turnovers is nothing to sneeze at. But after watching him take over in overtime against New York you were waiting for something here. The Cavs were watching him so tight that became near impossible.
--Joel also had a good night, though not as spectacular as we've seen the last week or so. He ended up with 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 fouls.
--Steve Blake was really aggressive with his shooting early on. Unfortunately he was aggressively missing. He did get a nice 8 assist to 1 turnover ratio to go along with his 7 points. Methinks all of the starting guards were a little preoccupied with LeBron James tonight.
--The bench fizzled once again tonight. Channing Frye was the most productive reserve with 6 points and 3 rebounds in 17 minutes. Travis played 16 minutes and managed to get 10 shots up, hitting only 4 for 8 points. No free throws, 2 rebounds. When Martell was missing those threes I was wishing for James Jones. He only shot 1-7 himself though, for 3 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. Jarrett Jack had 4 assists, 2 off of nifty, almost Sergio-like drives and passes to the baseline. He only had 1 turnover BUT he missed all five of his shots and you just can't do that. We need more than 3 points in 22 minutes.
Total Bench Minutes: 73
Total Bench Production: 20 pts, 8 rebs, 5 asst, 3 stls, 3 to's, 9 personal fouls
By comparison Joe Smith had 18 points and 5 rebounds in 26 minutes.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
At least it wasn't a last-second heart-breaker again.