Plays like this are great ways to dissuade double teaming the ball but the Blazers just did not make enough of them. Al-Farouq Aminu was one of the culprits. He started the game 1-9 from the field and 0-5 on threes, with some of those misses being open shots after an on-ball trap. He was clearly uncomfortable and indecisive on his drives and shots and although they were good looks, as soon as he hesitates, they become bad shots.
Aminu has never been a great shooter or anything close to it before this season, but he has had a good year shooting the three at 36 percent. The Clippers obviously are not buying into it and left him open all game, daring him to shoot. He is the only Blazer interior player capable of spreading the floor with his shooting, so it is imperative that he is able to find his stroke in this series.
Defensively for Portland, the Blazers really struggled with screens of all types. This has been a constant theme lately for them. Watching Redick get wide open jumpers on a simple weakside down screen and watching pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul become an automatic 2-on-1 advantage against the helpless Portland bigs are best case scenarios for Los Angeles.
Griffin drew a foul under the basket after his defender, Aminu, was back-picked on the opposite block and Griffin was able to flash ball-side for an easy entry into the key. All of these situations are strategically dealt with in different ways, but the best strategy to defeat any screen is to be aware, have good communication between players, and quickly avoid contact on the screen, making the screen irrelevant. To be good NBA defender, you have to be able to avoid getting screened. Screens are vital to the high-power Clipper offense and the Clippers do deserve credit for their effectiveness. But if the Blazers keep getting blown up on screens, the rest may not matter.
The negatives are easy to point out when analyzing Game 1. Portland was not ready for the physicality of L.A. They did not handle the pressure well, looked to draw fouls that were not called, and got bullied for post position. They were overwhelmed and overall just played inferior. It was a good learning experience for the young Blazer team and there are always silver linings.
Although the contest ended in a 20-point blowout, Portland had a 40-39 lead with four minutes left in the first half. A devastating 11-2 Clipper run to end the half changed the game. Another 9-0 run in the early third and a 11-2 run later in the third made the lead seem insurmountable. What was a close first half turned out to be too daunting for even the most blatant of "Hack-a-Jordans." (For the record, I vote we get rid the term "Hack-a." It was clever when it was Hack-a-Shaq, but it never worked for other players. Can we just call it "intentionally fouling" until either someone comes up with something more clever, or Shelvin Mack or Jarrett Jack become horrendous free throw shooters?)
The intentional fouling of Jordan did little to help Portland recover from the Los Angeles runs. However, aside from those runs, Portland played the Clippers very well. Portland just needs to keep focused and eliminate those letdowns.
Game 1 was imperative to the Clippers and a win would've been a luxury for the Blazers. Portland did not look up for the challenge Sunday, but the Blazers now have a game of experience under their belts and have had an opportunity to re-examine their gameplan, which is how the playoffs work.
McCollum will not average 8 points per game this series, he is much too good for that (although his defense on Redick is a valid concern) and even with the newly appointed NBA Sixth-Man-of-the-Year award winner, Jamal Crawford, Portland still can claim the superior bench. If the Blazers can steal game 2 of this series, all of the momentum switches to Portland and the pressure falls on LA. (See Dallas Mavericks vs OKC Thunder). This series has only just begun.