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Media Row Report: Jazz 103, Blazers 94

Despite playing on the second night of a home-and-away back-to-back, despite getting a subpar effort from all star point guard Deron Williams and despite conceding 24 offensive rebounds, the Utah Jazz ran past the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter to pull out a 103-94 win in the Rose Garden on Saturday night.

The ugly, grind-it-out nature of the first half favored Portland, especially considering some of the runaway drubbings the Jazz has handed the Blazers in winning five straight meetings between the teams, but the Portland lead never felt all that sustainable tonight. This was due to Portland's overall inefficiency from the field (particularly from deep), to uncharacteristic problems with turnovers, to Utah's comfort playing from behind, and to continued questions about who Portland will turn to down the stretch in Brandon Roy's absence. 

It's still less than a month into the 2010-2011 NBA season but another huge factor in tonight's loss, according to Portland's big men, is playing time. After getting beaten 38-20 in the fourth quarter, with all five Portland starters logging 32+ minutes and with coach Nate McMillan running a strict eight-man rotation once again in Brandon Roy's absence, center Marcus Camby brought up the playing time issue multiple times after the game. 

"We've been playing a lot of minutes, these next couple of days guys can get healed up and get ready to go after Thanksgiving break.... Me, I like to play. But we have some guys that are banged up and probably need the rest. We definitely need our best player out there whenever he's available, but he has to take care of his body."

Camby said that power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, in particular, is carrying too much playing time burden. "He's logging minutes. We've got to find time to get him some rest, we have to help him out as much as possible. We're asking him to do a lot and I don't think that's fair. We all have to chip in."

Aldridge finished with 24 points and 11 rebounds tonight, but committed 8 turnovers. He shot just 2-6 and committed 3 turnovers in the final period. Asked whether he agreed with Camby's comment about him logging too many minutes, Aldridge chuckled, paused to think for a second and then told me, "That's a good question. I did get kind of tired tonight. I got to keep trying to push through it. That's what the team needs right now. I need to be better at taking care of the ball, just find energy to keep going."

Asked later about the potential return of center Joel Przybilla from injury, Aldridge said, "It's going to big. Then I can go back to 35 minutes, 34. Just having another big out there will be huge for us as far as rotations go."

35 minutes. Sounds familiar.

The Blazers as a team shot 7-23 during the fourth quarter, including 2-9 from three point land, and Aldridge believed the shot selection as well as the poor shooting was a product of fatigue.

"Fatigue, and I think guys are just used to taking open shots. I think we have to know that they're going to give us jump shots in the fourth quarter but we have to force the issue going to the basket. I was trying to force the issue but I was turning it over."

The Blazers are running more and more plays, especially late, through Aldridge and he had a number of fine offensive moves in the paint tonight, including a vicious putback dunk of a Armon Johnson missed layup and a power move into the key with his right hand.

I asked Aldridge if he was looking to take on a more active leadership role now that his touches are increasing, given Nate McMillan's call for great mental leadership in Roy and Greg Oden's absences. "I've been trying to do more," Aldridge told me. "I think I've done more, I think that's why my turnovers are up. I'm trying to make things happen for myself and my teammates. I'm comfortable with it. I just have to take care of the ball more. Last game I had 6 turnovers and tonight I had 8. I have to do better at picking my spots."

As Camby noted, Aldridge did more than his fair share tonight and some careless, thoughtless perimeter defense proved to be Portland's undoing. Jazz forward C.J. Miles lit it up from downtown, connecting on 7-10 three-pointers, including a perfect 5-5 from deep in the fourth quarter. Unforgivably, a number came on wide open looks. 

"He can shoot," Wesley Matthews said flatly of his former Jazz teammate afterwards. "He can shoot."

Matthews, who got in early foul trouble, never seemed to get a feel for the game, finishing 6-16 from the field and 0-6 from deep, a steep drop off from consecutive impressive performances earlier in the week. Bad news got worse for Portland due to a cold night from Nicolas Batum (1-6 from deep) and an absurdly passive night from Rudy Fernandez, who shot 3-10 from the field and didn't attempt a field goal inside the arc. Add it up: 4-22 combined from distance. The coroner pronounces the Blazers dead by settling for jump shots.

It wasn't lost on a weary locker room that the team now has five days off before its next home game, against the New Orleans Hornets. "Rest," said Aldridge of his plans for the upcoming week. "My body is pretty beat up right now, I'm pretty tired. I'm going to rest and recover."

Random Game Notes
  • McMillan reacted pretty quickly when Roy called for a minutes reduction last week but the knee injury forced his hand. It will be very interesting to monitor where Aldridge and Camby end up playing time wise when Przybilla returns.  
  • Rose Garden fan with a custom "It's T-Shirt Time" hat
  • Blazers owner Paul Allen and GM Rich Cho were not seated in their courtside seats for the second home game in a row.
  • Marcus Camby on whether Portland's abnormal number of misses at the rim tonight was a product of bad luck: "We just got to make them. It's no bad luck. When they go in, we don't say it's good luck. We just have to convert them."
  • The Blazers tried to double Jazz center Al Jefferson down the stretch, as he finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds. They did so with varying degrees of success. Let's just say that doubling the low block against a pure five is not one of Rudy Fernandez's strengths.
  • Well before tip, Armon Johnson got in some laptop video analysis time with assistant coach Kaleb Canales. Johnson seemed to be calling his own number a bit more tonight rather than deferring first. Perhaps it was in symbolic honor of former Blazers point guards Jerryd Bayless and Jarrett Jack, who were traded for each other again today.
  • Blazers fans began streaming out of the Rose Garden during the game's final minute, with the Blazers down seven. 
  • Camby, Matthews, Terry Porter, Buck Williams and multiple Blazers scouts all attended Friday night's game between the University of Kentucky and the University of Portland at the Rose Garden.
  • Cheers to the very rowdy Blazersedge-reading fans in the suite behind media row tonight.

Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments

Initial thoughts

Well, you've got to make plays. We say this every night. They get off to a huge start in that fourth quarter. We gave up 38 points in that fourth quarter. You've got to get stops defensively. Offensively I thought we settled for jump shots and turning the ball over. Tonight we lose a lead, we miss shots and we turn the ball over.

C.J. Miles

We lost him in transition. We lost him a lot tonight. He just let it fly. When we had that lead, as I recall, a couple of times he came down early in the first half, knocked down two threes in transition and then in the second half we just lost him. He spotted up and knocked down those shots. You've got to defend the paint and you've got to get out and close out to shooters.

Lost him?

That's just communication. Transition, a guy who certainly has knocked down a few j's. You've got to know where he's at. There were times where we just didn't communicate, didn't match up in transitions, he knocked down some jump shots. I think off some of the double teams. Jefferson, we were trying to double him, I think he got loose off of a couple of those.

24 offensive rebounds

You're aggressive going to the glass. We need to rebound on the defensive end of the floor. When you're settling for jumpshots as we did tonight and you're turning the ball over you're going to shoot yourself in the foot. You can't have turnovers against this team, give them extra bullets. We're 4-22 from the three and we only shoot 38% from the floor so jumpshots, you're going to get those. You're going to have to knock them down. We needed to get to the basket, simply attack the basket. We had more turnovers than assists. It's a lot of pounding and not a lot of ball movement.

LaMarcus had 8 turnovers

It's a part of your two players who are going to play with the ball in Andre and LaMarcus, between the two it was thirteen turnovers. It's not going to him a lot, it's a guy we're going to play off of and he's got to make decisions.

-- Ben Golliver | | Twitter