The Portland Trail Blazers didn't show up for their rare Sunday night home game, losing to the Atlanta Hawks in a game that was much less competitive than the 90-83 final score indicates.
This one was so ugly that Blazers coach Nate McMillan started his explanatory post-game remarks by simply saying: "You saw it." In other words, it was so bad in so many ways that providing even the bare specifics felt like overkill.
Portland shot poorly (4-21 from deep), stood around a lot, didn't get back on defense, (17 Hawks fast break points) didn't rebound the basketball (49-34 rebounding advantage for Atlanta), didn't take away Atlanta's primary scoring options (45 combined points for Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford) and didn't capitalize on the momentum boost provided by forward Gerald Wallace's debut in Portland. They got worked on both ends. You saw it.
There were a lot of moving parts tonight. On top of Wallace's debut, center Marcus Camby returned from injury to make his first appearance since January 17. Camby didn't score and grabbed six rebounds in 20 minutes, sitting for much of the second half. Meanwhile, guard Brandon Roy played for the second time in three nights, but wasn't much of a factor, shooting 3-9 for 6 points, 1 rebound and 0 assists in nearly 18 minutes.
While McMillan stuck fairly carefully to Camby's established 20 minutes playing time limit, he went over Roy's 15 minute limit, just as he did when Roy played 24 minutes against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. The circumstances in the Denver game helped gloss over that fact: Everyone on a short-handed team played extra minutes in the overtime game, plus Roy helped lead the dramatic comeback in the fourth quarter. Tonight, however, Roy surpassed his minute limit early in the fourth quarter before getting pulled with the Blazers trailing big. One wonders how many minutes he would have played had the game been tighter.
I guess we're left to view this as a "minutes membrane" rather than a "minutes limit," as the publicly presented medical advice is not being rigidly followed and is instead apparently being approached on a case-by-case basis. McMillan said afterwards that he didn't believe the extra minutes on Friday influenced Roy's limited effectiveness tonight. "I think [it was] the rhythm of the game," McMillan said. "He was playing off the ball, or playing with the ball and reversing the ball, as opposed to us calling plays for him tonight."
McMillan also said that it wasn't Roy's play tonight that won or lost the game, and certainly that is true. There was plenty of blame to go around, and Roy's struggles were no worse than Rudy Fernandez's (1-7 for 5 points), Wesley Matthews (4-10 for 12 points) or Wallace's (4-12 for 9 points).
But repeatedly exceeding Roy's minutes limit so quickly after his return from dual knee surgeries is not in anyone's best interest, and it's out of step with the organization's repeated defenses of its medical staff. Time and again we've heard coaches and management officials stand behind the team's doctors and trainers. Those words of support start to ring hollow if the actual advice and plans are not being followed, especially when it's regarding a player who is as key as Roy.
The Blazers play 16 games during the first 30 days of March, so this issue isn't going away. I believe we're looking at two options. 1) There's not a medical need for a strict minutes restriction and we can put an end to the dog and pony show. Or, 2) There is a reason for a minutes limit and it should be followed to the letter. In a situation where there is no meniscus there should be no middle ground. Roy said on Friday night that he was set for a reevaluation this week. Let's hope that process includes a clearer public picture of what the medical advisors believe is safe at this point, and let's hope that their word sticks completely.
Random Game Notes
- Live video of the Rose Garden welcoming Gerald Wallace to Portland. Goosebumps moment. Those thundersticks are going crazy.
- Now for some good news on the knee front. Here's Camby on his knee: "It feels OK. Normal soreness after the game. Normal soreness. It just felt a little weird being out there, not being out there for a long time. Just trying to get my timing and my bearings back to where it was before I got hurt. Today was a good step for me and now I can just build from here." Camby did say he was "surprised" to play almost 17 of his 20 minutes in the first half.
- Gerald Wallace on his debut: "I was nervous and jittery. I don't really know. The whole night was kind of shaky for me."
- Gerald Wallace on playing without a head band: "I tried it but I don't think that's going to work. I didn't even feel like myself out there. We're going to have to have a meeting about that. I felt like I was missing something."
- LaMarcus Aldridge wore a knee wrap during the second half after suffering what the team called "left knee discomfort" early in the game. It's not believed to be anything serious.
- Sean Marks Highlight of the Night: Turns out, he didn't actually get waived. "You can't keep a good man down." - Sizzla.
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
How would you describe that game?
You saw it. First of all we didn't shoot the ball worth for nothing. 39% and 19% from three. I thought we missed some open shots but they packed it in.They tried to take away LA and made other guys shoot the ball. We've seen that with some of our guys on the floor they're not going to allow LaMarcus play. They're going to clog, and they're going to force you to make perimeter jump shots which is what that team did tonight. Defensively, Joe was good. It's an iso game, they're going to go at match-ups. They're playing with, almost, five guards. Horford is pretty good handling the ball, passing and scoring. It's difficult to trap them or ... you're going to have to guard.
Anticipated night. Did it catch up to you?
This doesn't surprise me. We're talking about trying to fit in three guys. You're bringing Camby back tonight. Wallace -- it's his first game. Brandon is still -- we're trying to work him back. It doesn't surprise me that you're out of rhythm, out of sync your first game. Like I said it's going to take some time to get a rotation. We may have to look at changing our rotation, our starting unit as well as the unit we have coming off the bench. I thought tonight, we've gone without Patty, I thought we needed to get Patty in there to try to allow Brandon and Rudy to play. When those guys are playing the point it takes away from what they do. Having a point guard out there to allow them to move and play as opposed to those guys initiating the offense takes away from what they are capable of doing. It didn't surprise me that you could your rhythm.
He's trying. We put him in the post, he had some post ups, was aggressive. That will come, as far as sets we can run for him. But we didn't shoot the ball well at all tonight.
Reason for concern with LaMarcus's knee?
I don't know. I didn't hear what happened. I know he left for a few minutes and came back. I haven't heard anything from Jay as far as what happened. Or, really, what the injury was.
Getting back in the game late
We went with a smaller lineup to try to get Rudy and the combination of guys, Rudy, Nicolas, Wesley, in the game to give us some spacing on the floor. Started to trap. I thought they started to try to play the clock, and we force turnovers and were able to score and get to the free throw line.
Brandon over his minutes limit -- impact on his game and the team?
No. I don't think. It wasn't Brandon. As a unit I don't think we played well tonight.
Brandon's minutes on Friday caught up to him?
No. I think the rhythm of the game. He was playing off the ball, or playing with the ball and reversing the ball as opposed to us calling plays for him tonight.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter