Click here for the Brandon Roy injury post. Updates will be posted as we get them.
I'm not going to do a full recap on this game because there's really not much to know. The Blazers started the game with back-to-back turnovers and flat-footed defense and that's where the dial was tuned most of the night. Portland looked like they were in the second of back-to-back games, having expended all their energy in the first one. The Hornets weren't perfect but they weren't nearly bad enough to let this become a game. When the Hornets started grabbing offensive rebounds from the Blazers early in this game--keeping in mind that O-Rebs are as rare as hen's teeth for them--you knew where this game was going.
When either team reversed the ball or got motion in the offense they scored. The Hornets did it more than the Blazers did. The Hornets also had the advantage in the stale, single-sided offense with Brandon Roy first ineffective and then exiting the game with a sore knee. The Blazers were actually in the middle of their only run of the game when Roy went down, having cut the lead down from 15 to 6 behind the play of Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum. The air went out of the sails with Roy's departure though. After that the Hornets simply swarmed LaMarcus Aldridge and dared anyone else to score enough to beat them. Nobody did. If Roy remains out (as yet no prognosis is forthcoming) expect to see multiple teams riff on that theme, as happened last season under similar circumstances.
The guys worth mentioning tonight:
- Andre Miller was the only Blazer with consistent energy and drive throughout the game. Say what you want about Andre (and I have) but he comes to play every night. They should have given him an award for being the only Blazer whose feet touched paint on offense in the first half.
- Sean Marks, of all people, also provided first-half energy in his limited minutes. He got more aggressive on both ends than we've seen him.
- Nicolas Batum had a limp first half but came out burning in the third. The Blazers surged behind his production.
- Wesley Matthews and Armon Johnson both hit buckets in this game but they didn't register high marks apart from their scoring.
Give the Hornets credit. They played their style of basketball and they played it well. They were more active, more consistent, and more driven than the Blazers tonight.
Now that we've covered that...
Keep in mind that the Blazers have gone through stretches like this multiple times in the Roy-Aldridge-McMillan era. Every year it seems like a six-game stretch causes Blazer fans to abandon hope. Those are invariably followed by a ten-game stretch that makes those same fans forget all about the previous losses and declare the team contenders again. Somewhere along the line the switch flips. I suspect it will happen in Memphis. In actuality I won't be surprised if the Blazers win 5 of their next 6. But whether it's sooner or later it always happens for this team, just as the short, dismal losing jags happen.
There's an argument to be made that this was the year Portland was supposed to overcome all of that. Obviously for whatever reason--health, maturity, commitment, insert argument here--they're not yet ready to do that. Even so, that doesn't spell 30-win season. The Blazers will be around 50 wins again at worst and have a shot in the playoffs. The real damage from these early losses comes not from what they'll do to the Blazers but to what they contribute to the confidence of Western foes like Oklahoma City and New Orleans whom the Blazers would very much like to beat down and rob of their surety. Round 1 has gone against Portland in that fight. But the fight's not over.
The best thing to do right now is to take a break on the angst until Tuesday's game.
Feel free to congratulate the Hornets on playing some really nice basketball over at At the Hive.