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Game 19 Recap: Trail Blazers 79, Wizards 83

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In a Nutshell

After building a double-digit lead against a Wizards team that seemed to have no clue how to win the Blazers snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by tossing, fumbling, gagging, and sometimes just handing the ball away while simultaneously missing nearly every shot they attempted.

Game Flow

This was a basketball game in the sense that there were two baskets and a round, orange-ish ball. But calling it basketball would be like calling a rendezvous between Sarah Palin and Ralph Nader a "date". Even if they're in booths across from each other its awkward looking and the chemistry ain't right.

The Blazers came out flat-footed at the beginning of the game. The Wizards came out as...the Wizards. They ran when they could but otherwise sprayed shots from everywhere. Portland didn't look much better, seemingly clueless about getting good looks against a generally disinterested defense. Screen setting was poor, decisive passing non-existent, energy sporadic. The only time either team showed life was when they played "lookie here!" with a rebound and just dashed up the court. Since transition defense was as spotty as everything else those dashes occasionally resulted in points. Coach Nate McMillan, apparently displeased with the intermittent play on both ends, pulled center Marcus Camby after four minutes. He would use liberal doses of the bench for the rest of the game. Because Brandon Roy and Wesley Matthews got hot late in the first (just a little before they themselves got pulled from the game) the Blazers ended up with 24 points in the period. Washington had 18.

Nicolas Batum started hot in the second period. After a rough first couple of minutes point guard Patty Mills got the offense chugging with a little help from some stellar screens (finally!) from returning center Joel Przybilla. Any decent pick freed a Blazer for a wide-open--and made--jumper. This was the lesson for the evening, sadly not learned. Still, the second quarter offense was fool's gold. The only thing the Blazers did consistently was reverse the ball across the floor. This was important because they often forget to do it. However those reversals were mainly for long jumpers. They weren't getting reliable shots. At some point you kind of knew that offense was going to abandon them. But in the second period ignorance was still blissful. Some Wizards turnovers helped the Blazers add to their lead, again besting Washington by 6 in the period and heading into the break up 12.

The second half began as the first had, with a mundane Portland effort. Sadly whatever momentum the Blazers had found in the opening quarters deserted them entirely in the latter two. Portland's starters showed little energy. Liberal minutes for the bench players brought more drive but less cohesion. The result was a host of weird shot attempts and more turnovers than a cactus mattress. By the time the game mercifully ended the Blazers had committed as many second-half T.O.'s as they had made field goals...11 apiece. Washington scored off of those turnovers, naturally. Portland's defense was no more cohesive than their offense. They covered most of the floor but seemed to leave a different Wizard open each possession. Washington didn't make every shot but they made enough. The final horn saw a dejected Blazers squad leave the floor with a 79-83 loss around their shoulders, possibly the worst of the season, completing a road trip as bad as any in the last decade.

Notable Developments

It's hard to know whether the actual game or the big picture merits more lamenting. How horrible was this outing? If you read the preview for this game you know that Washington sports one of the worst--if not the worst overall--defense in the league. They allow near 49% field goal shooting per game. The Blazers shot 33% tonight. They give up 26.5 foul shots per game. Portland attempted 12 tonight. They allow 45.5 points in the paint per game. Portland notched 30. They give up 106 points per game. Portland scored 79. That the Wizards scored 83 and won? That's a disaster.

In addition I cannot remember a lower on-court, non-injury-related moment since the 2000 team fell apart in 2001 and 2002. There have been worse Blazer teams, surely, but not ones of which decent things were expected that looked this empty internally and as a unit. The eyes of the Portland players as they left the court...well, remember when you were 16 and in loooooooove and then that person who had stolen your heart told you it wouldn't work out? That would be the look. I don't know where the Blazers go from here. More worrisome, I'm not sure they do either.

Individual Notes

We're going to keep this brief.

Marcus Camby played 11 minutes. The Blazers don't work without him right now and they didn't.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 15 rebounds. Nice. (Although some of those were off of a multi-tip sequence late in the game.)

Both Aldridge and Roy had their usual mid-teens-but-Portland-loses offense going.

Neither Wesley Matthews nor Andre Miller could hit a shot tonight. Miller at least drove for 8 foul shots. Matthews got 7 rebounds.

This game was all about the bench. They played a combined 106 minutes, an enormous amount comparatively.

Joel Przybilla was the best of the bunch, putting his body in the right place on both ends and helping his teammates without flagging. He had 7 rebounds in 20 minutes.

Nicolas Batum had one hot streak and shot 3-7 from distance but went 4-10 overall in 25 minutes. He had 6 rebounds.

Rudy Fernandez was a no-show in 11 minutes.

Dante Cunningham and Sean Marks tried hard. Neither one is fully effective when the team is in chaos.

Announcers in the arena and studio were trumpeting Patty Mills' game early on. He did have 6 assists and 7 points in 18 minutes, so credit there. He also had 3 steals. He shot 3-10 and 3 turnovers. I'd go as far as to say that, for the limited amount we've seen him, he's looked the most point-guard-ish of anyone who's tried to back up Andre Miller, at least in the halfcourt. But it's not like the Blazers had great sets with him at the helm. In fact the offense looked just about as awkward either way. The difference was that in the first half Portland hit a few threes and in the second they didn't. Those made shots disguised the fact that the ball wasn't going anywhere...which WASN'T Mills' fault. He's not supposed to be able to bring order out of chaos. This is just to say that even the supposed bright spot tonight wasn't all that bright. To lift you back up, Mills did play pretty good defense.

Stats of the Night

Take your pick. They're all pretty sad.

Odd Notes and Links

You'll get a more positive view of this game at BulletsForever.

See tonight's Jersey Contest scoreboard here and enter Sunday's game here.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)