I’m still not totally sure what to think of this game. On one hand, the Blazers lost by three to a pretty good Hawks team on the road. It’s also always a bad idea to read all that much into a single game or even a relatively long stretch of good or bad play. Those caveats are only necessary because the Blazers played an atrocious game of basketball last night, and it’s nearly impossible not to overreact after a game like that. As usual, my recaps skip game flow (go read the play by play for that) and skip right to the conclusions).
There is a difference between playing fast and playing sloppy
The box score says the Blazers only had 9 turnovers, so this must have been a clean game for their offense with a ton of missed shots. The box score is wrong. Portland consistently failed to establish anything resembling organized offensive sets, with Raymond Felton and Wesley Matthews particularly looking sloppy and basically aimless executing the offense. The hustle board kept the Blazers in the game (nearly doubling up the Hawks on the offensive glass), but the inability to consistently create high quality looks was brutal at times.
Offensive organization has to start with running the game through LaMarcus Aldridge. Any team that relies on the hot hand of Jamal Crawford (34+ usage last night) is seriously limiting itself. Crawford wasn’t bad last night, his horrible start and fast finish balanced out to a respectable 104 offensive rating. But when Crawford gets the ball, that’s the end of the offense. That’s fine in a bail-out situation, but it’s disastrous for a whole half-court set.
That was a classic bad LaMarcus game
LaMarcus Aldridge is the one mismatch the Blazers possess over almost every team on a nightly basis. When other guys can’t get their own shot efficiently, or the fast break game isn’t working, he needs to be the focal point of the offense, and he needs to score until he gets doubled so others can get involved. Last night he let tweener four Josh Smith cover him one on one, and settled largely for jump shots. Getting to the line only once, and shooting all but 4 shots as jumpers in this situation is really, really bad. LaMarcus has made great strides over the last calendar year, but last night showed that maybe abusing physical mismatches isn’t quite ingrained for him yet. Either that, or it was just a bad night.
Wanted: perimeter defense
With Marcus Camby hurt we got a chance to see how Nate McMillan’s defense would operate without its flyswatter. The results were ugly. Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams are fairly average players, but they lived in the lane tonight (8 free throw attempts). Again each of Portland’s guards was culpable of allowing blow-bys that put Kurt Thomas in foul trouble. I would think if the players liked each other so much, they’d show it with snappy and talkative man and help defense. Tonight’s effort on that end was as sloppy as the offense mentioned above.
All in all, an ugly performance on both ends of the court. The hustle was there, and the Blazers somehow managed to keep the turnovers down. The game was lost with bad offensive execution and poor rotations on defensive which let the Hawks get better looks and more free throws. Jamal Crawford’s late solo attempt to get Portland back in the game was academic.