Long Story Short: Ouch.
I promised myself about halfway through an awful first half that I was only going to put as much effort into recapping this game as the Blazers put into playing it. The problem is I've already broken my promise.
This game felt like a hayseed-toting farm boy who just beat his older brother at billiards for the first time sauntering into the pool hall to get a game. Some grizzled old guy in the corner said, "Sure, kid. I'll play ya. But I can't see so well anymore, so take it easy on me. How about we play $20 a ball to make it interesting?" Except in this case the hustler not only ran the table three times, he broke his pool cue over the yokel's head, jammed the remaining half into his gut, broke dude's nose with a knee strike while he was doubled over in pain, and stole his wallet.
The Celtics went off early, spreading the ball around to Pierce, KG, and Rondo. The Blazers didn't seem interested in stopping any of them, as time after time Boston scored on easy drives or wide-open mid-range jumpers. The deep-seeded fear for the Blazers tonight (justified, as it turned out) was pointed towards Boston's defense. But Portland allowed them 32 points in the first period. Considering it would take the Blazers two full quarters to tally 32 for the rest of the evening, that wasn't good.
The bottom fell out of the Portland offense completely in the second period. Credit Boston here. The Blazers got no uncontested shots save the rare, occasional look from three-point range which they missed anyway. Everything they took was rushed. Portland never got out on the break and couldn't convert offensive rebounds into buckets. They notched three field goals in the quarter. As would be the story all night long, the only thing that kept them alive was free throws. ("Alive" being a relative term here. They were plugged into a machine and the free throws were breathing for them.) Even in cruise control, scoring 24 points in the period, Boston widened the lead by 11.
Portland showed a little aggression in the second half. They started bumping and pushing the Celtics. Had they not been down 20 at the time it would have been more effective but it was still nice to see the yokel take a swing at least. The point was typified on one third-quarter possession in which LaMarcus Aldridge set a backcourt screen which leveled Rajon Rondo, whose teammates had left him alone and thus oblivious to LMA's bad intentions. While Rondo writhed in pain on the floor Portland had a 5-on-4 offensive advantage. So what did they do with it? They ran an isolation play for LaMarcus in the left corner wherein four guys stood around and watched him work against the same defender he would have faced had Boston been full-force. Every smart play or energetic drive on Portland's part was balanced by turnovers or (frustratingly) missing rebounds off of opposing free throws. It was like watching an Olympic ski jumper come down the ramp with skis sideways. There was momentum but not much, and towards what? You knew this wasn't going to end well. All it took was a few threes by Ray Allen in the final period and the Blazers were done. Well done, really. 96-76, Boston.
The stat of the night was Boston netting 27 assists while the Blazers had but 7. Normally I don't put much stock in assists but in this case they told the story exactly. The Celtics had it free and easy, the Blazers never connected. Boston shot 53.4% from the field. The Blazers shot 33.8%, including 2-12 (16.7%) from distance. In addition Boston had 44 points in the paint to Portland's 28, but that's hardly a revelation to anyone who's been watching the Blazers since the centers went down. You can only imagine how horrible the game would have been had Portland not gone 30-40 from the foul line compared to 12-23 for Boston. That's +18 points for the Blazers in free throws. And we still lost by 20.
I'm going to save you some time on the individual observations. LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller, and Jerryd Bayless brought energy to this game. Everyone else looked slow, passive, or slow and passive. Unfortunately for the Blazers 2 of those 3 players play the same position. Bayless and Miller were responsible for 19 of Portland's 40 free throws. The drives were available, Portland just couldn't capitalize on them. Basically the Blazers wasted a great effort from Aldridge and that's the end of it.
I'll make mention of Brandon Roy here. He played but anyone who has seen him regularly knows that he was passing up moves and shots that he normally attacks with gusto. The Celtics knew it to. They didn't bother watching him with extra men. That seriously hampered Portland's offensive attack.
People will want to know how Marcus Camby looked in his first game. Lost would be the best descriptor. It almost looked like the Blazers themselves expected Marcus to turn into some sort of superhero, erasing all of their defensive shortcomings with 80-foot arms and corralling every rebound within that radius. His teammates didn't give him much opportunity to show anything. Their men got by so quickly that they had scored by the time Camby noticed he should rotate to help. He did have 7 rebounds and 3 blocks in 29 minutes. He also had 5 turnovers. Obviously he needs more time to integrate. But he also needs support.
And that's about it. This game is best forgotten. Sunday night's is the crucial one anyway. The Blazers owe the Jazz big time. If they let Utah waltz out with another uncontested victory they'll have to wonder whether their hearts will be enough to carry them through to the post-season.
Check out the victory parade at CelticsBlog.
You can see your Jersey Contest scores from tonight here and enter Sunday's game here.