Friday, January 13, 2012

Game #11 Preview: Blazers vs. Spurs — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1) First Real Test: Tonight starts the beginning of the Blazers' first legitimate test: a six game road trip in nine days!  Portland has proven they can protect their home court (save the blunder on Wednesday night where they trailed by 23 and still almost won despite horrific defense).  Starting tonight, the Blazers will tell us whether they are an actual contender this season.  Not only is this road trip a lot of games, but a lot of games in a very short period of time, with two Texas games and a visit to the Eastern contending Hawks.  If Portland can finish this trip 4-2 or better, they will have proven they should be considered contenders in the West this season.  If Portland goes .500 or worse, we are likely witnessing another Blazer team that will crush our hearts with a first round playoff exit.

2) Defense, Defense, Defense:  Maybe I jinxed Portland on Wednesday with my proclamation of 48 minutes of quality basketball.  Instead of 48 quality minutes, the Blazers mustered maybe 8 minutes (and still almost pulled it out).  I'm going to lower my standards tonight and ask for 40 quality defensive minutes of basketball.  If Portland can do that, they win.  They have shown over and over again this season how much more effective and dynamic they can be when they play smothering team defense.  They just can't wait until the fourth quarter to do it.  Against a veteran Pop coached team, if Portland can't sustain their defensive energy, they lose.

3) Luke Babbitt:  If he plays tonight we know we're in trouble.  Let's hope Crash, Batum, and Matthews can hold down the small forward position tonight.  A nine man rotation with a smattering of Old Man Thomas and the Rhino should suffice.  Look for Gerald Wallace to come out aggressive tonight and establish the tone for the game.

Go Blazers!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blazer-Magic Post Game Facts*

*Facts are not opinions.  They are facts.

By Josh Sidis
  • Blazers Win!!!
  • Damn.  From the very first minute thirty of this game the Blazers were down by a sizable deficit.  It's as though they issued a personal challenge to themselves and spotted the Magic eight points right off the bat.  Whoops.  It's hard enough to play a team with one good three point shooter and possibly the most agile big man in the game, but when there are four three- point-shooters (who were all ON FIRE) it becomes downright impossible to win.  
  • The Blazers made a solid run at the end of the game but 23 points is a worthy adversary.  
  • I love that we still boo Hedo Turkeglu.  
  • Ref Check:  that was a well called game.  We now have the respect of the officials so when we play a big market opponent or an opponent with a big star we will get equal treatment.  I like that.  
  • Kudos to Nate or letting Batum finish the game.  
  • When Raymond Felton figures out where everyone is or is going to be on the court he's going to be tough to stop.  
  • J Crossover. Enough said.  
  • Blazers Win!!! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Game #10 Preview: Blazers vs. Magic — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  Finding Kryptonite: Dwight Howard is not human.  He is a physical specimen that makes me lose motivation to go to the gym because I know I will never get that ripped.  I kind of feel sorry for his mother, because I can only image how difficult the birthing process must have been.  He is HUGE.  To win tonight's game against the Orlando Magic, Portland must figure out how to neutralize Howard.  A smaller, less skilled, dominant big man came to town last week when Portland popooed the Lakers; and how did they control Andrew Bynum?  Kurt Thomas.  Kurt Thomas will be Howard's kryptonite tonight.  Thomas, as savvy as vets come, realized he could front Bynum to play deny-defense, and he relied on great help defense to trap Bynum when he did get the ball.  Portland needs to install similar defensive packages tonight to stop Howard. Quite simply, if the Blazers control Howard, they win.  If Howard goes off, game over.

2)  Batum's Role in the Rotation:  Much is being written throughout the media about the lack of playing time  the smooth and long Nicolas Batum is receiving.  Last night's game was a great example of how Batum was under-utilized.  Batum was an impact player in the first half, playing aggressive, smart offense (9 points) and savvy defense (drawing some of the questionable calls Josh eluded to in the recap).  And Batum's reward for that solid play?  A cozy seat from courtside to watch the Blazers pull out a good win.  Batum deserves to play at least 25-30 minutes a game.  He can play the 2 or 3.  He is a lock-down defender, a solid outside shooter, and he is quickly improving his game in terms of creating his own shot.  That being said, Nate McMillan has a luxury this season.  He has a deep, talented roster.  When that is the case, McMillan should use the personnel, on that given day, that will help the Blazers win.  The only players that must play a minimum of 30 minutes each night are Aldridge and Wallace.  Yes, Batum has earned more minutes, and in order to continue his development, he needs more minutes; but this may not be the year to demand a certain number of minutes for each player.  This year is about becoming a unit...a team that can beat any team on any night.  A team that can make a legit run in the playoffs.

3)  48 Minutes (or more if overtime):  It is time for Portland to play an entire game.  McMillan keeps harping on this point and he is right.  Portland has yet to play a complete game from tip to final buzzer.  For the most part, it has been the first quarter the Blazers have overlooked and the fourth quarter has been a time they decide to play 100%.  If you're going to only play part of a game, that's the way to do it; the Blazers' 7-2 start illustrates this point.  Tonight, my gut tells me we will see our first 48 minute game.  Playing the second of a back-to-back while our opponent got a day of rest, odds are Portland loses without 48 minutes of effort.

4)  Josh's Prediction:  Blazers 97, Magic 92.  His promise: "Every time I get the score correct I will donate $100 to a charity of your choosing."

Go Blazers! 

Blazer-Clippers Post Game Facts*

*Facts are not opinions.  They are facts. 

By Josh Sidis

  • Blazers Win!! 105-97!!
  • Last night the Blazers beat a very talented LA Clippers team.  This game could have gone the other way very easily but all the Blazers came to play.  Including Marcus Camby.  
  • This brings me to my next point.  The Blazers are soft at the five.  Luckily for us the Clips are even softer.  But that scoring presence is missed.  What he lacks in field goals he certainly makes up for in savvy.   Camby provides something that is advantageous off the court and a nice presence on but he is not a double double guy anymore.  He is however the glue for this Blazers team.  He is the first guy up on the bench when a team hits a big three or hustles for a loose ball.  He is a bit of a player coach in his on the court demeanor.  Chipping at the refs so his teammates don't get a tech.  
  •  Also.  That was the worst refereed game I have seen in a long time.  Both ways.  The Clippers were victims of the most egregious calls last night.  One really nice thing about having a veteran team is that they all know how to flop.  I have never seem so much acting by a Blazer team I  all my years as a fan.  I don't know what to make of it.  I don't like flopping, it always reminds me of Vlade Divac and Vlade Divac reminds me of the Lakers.  Great.  Now I have that sick feeling in my stomach.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Game #9 Preview: Blazers vs. Clippers — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  Lob City?  Really?: In case people have missed it, the Los Angeles Clippers have played six NBA games this season.  That’s 83 less than the OKC Thunder and LA Lakers.  So, how is it the media has already latched onto a nickname at this early a junction in the season?  If I am not mistaken, I am pretty sure Marcus Camby has more lobs to Aldridge than Chris Paul has to Mr. I jumped over the bumper of a Kia.  Just saying.  Let’s see how this season plays out before anointing the Clippers as Lob City.  I know they need their own identity after sharing the same arena with a team who has had a bit more success than them.  But, come on.  Lob City?  We’ll see at the end of the year.

2)  Payback: The Blazers have the opportunity tonight to prove to themselves, the Clippers, and the league that they are a superior team.  Anyone who watched the previous tilt knows that the Clippers did not win the game; rather, Portland lost it.  How else can you explain 38 minutes of atrocious play and still having a chance to win it in the final minute?  If Portland can get out of their first half slumber, this should be a dominant performance.  Portland needs to bully the clippers and take Blake Griffin out of the game.  They need to control the boards and clog the paint on defense; make them try to beat us from beyond the arc.  When Portland accomplishes these tasks, they will get their payback.  Let’s hope this payback is with a little interest.

3)  The Real All-Star versus the Faux All-Star: Tonight LaMarcus Aldridge has the opportunity to illustrate once again why he is a better player than Blake Griffin.  Don’t misconstrue that statement; Griffin is a phenomenal athlete and basketball player.  However, at this juncture in his career, he is nowhere near the complete player Aldridge is.  Aldridge can play inside with a plethora of post moves or drag his defender outside to hit a soft floater in his face.  He can man up on defense, denying the passing lanes while furiously swatting away weak attempts at the hoop.  He is also a much improved rebounder.  Griffin is tough inside and improving outside.  He is a better rebounder than Aldridge, but he cannot take control of a game on both sides of the court in the same way Aldridge can.  I’m sure facing Griffin (who took his spot in Dallas last year) will be a little extra motivation for our beloved Texan.

4)  Well Rested versus Partially Fatigued:  This should be an unfair matchup of sorts.  Coming into the game, the Clippers have played the least number of games in the NBA and had multiple days to rest before tonight’s game.  Portland has played two more games and only received one night of rest before having to play a back-to-back.  Therefore, the Clippers are WELL rested.  However, the disadvantage to only playing six games thus far is that the Clippers still don’t know their identity.  They don’t know how to most effectively play together.  They are, basically, still finishing their pre-season.  On the other hand, Portland has worked out many of its kinks.  Tonight should illustrate that Portland is a better prepared, more cohesive unit.

Go Blazers!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Game #8 Recap: Blazers vs. Cavs— Belated Five Bullets or Less

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

**Sorry for the delay.  This author was busy theorizing (literally) about deep, sociological issues.  Now that that is done, here is an abbreviated recap of last night's game.
  • Low Energy:  Portland came out sloppy, unmotivated, and just plain ugly.  Fortunately for them, they were playing the Cavs.  Despite arguably their worst half of the year, they still led at half time.  Once they put forth an ounce of energy, they pull away in the second half and win by 20.
  • Wesley Matthews:  Mr. First Quarter.  Matthews has kept Portland in games early when the rest of the team is getting up the motivation to play competitive basketball.  Let's hope this energy continues and rubs off on his teammates so we can finally start a game strong.
  • Home Court:  Thus far, Portland has held court. The Blazers will have tougher contests tomorrow and Wednesday.  I have faith that they can win two more times, taking our home record to 7-0.  
  • Revenge Tomorrow Night:  This is probably what was on the minds of the Blazers last night against the Cavs.  Many Blazers probably forgot they had a game, save for the fact that #1 pick Mr. Irving (not Dr. J) was in town to play against his former back court buddy, and left bench stalwart, Nolan Smith.  Luckily, the Blazers didn't need to show up to win last night, but they will have to show up to win tomorrow night.  The Blazers must channel their inner Andre Miller and slam Blake Griffin and the other Clippers to the floor and show them they have no right to beat us.
Go Blazers!


*in no way should these facts be construed as opinions

  • Most important thing to keep in mind:  Blazers win!! 98-78.  
  • This game started out as quarters 5 and 6 from the Phoenix game.  Blazers came out flat, I mean, F-L-A-T.  it was ugly.  So many missed lay-ups.  So many unwarranted threes.  So much awful individual play.  Nate McMillan teams do not play one-on-one basketball.  The offense runs through one player and there are four other moving parts that make the team run efficiently.  When there are shimmiers and shakers and errant three-point shooters the Blazers are going to shoot sub 30% and turn the ball over at a higher than average rate.  
  • Blazers finish the game by a margin they should have started it with.  As long as I have been a Blazers fan they have done one thing consistently and that is play at the level of there opponent.  We can beat OKC and the Lakers while looking like a playoff ready team and then a couple of nights later we can shoot 28% against a team I would start on.   
  • Is there any chance Nicolas Batum can start?  Am I asking to much?  I do like our starting five but that is one talented guy to not start.  There were a few instances last night in which Batum hustled to get in position only to be overlooked or not seen at all, and each one of those times he physicalized his frustration.  I don't blame him.  
  • I am about to make a very unBlazer-fan statement:  The Blazers are actually getting some calls this year.  its remarkable.  Any coincidence that Steve Javie retires and we can finally get a decent game called?  
  • Mike and Mike: still the best play-by-play guys in the game.   
  • Blazers Win!!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Game #8 Preview: Blazers vs. Cavs — Pre-Game Facts

By Josh Sidis

  • The Blazers shake off a rough and meaningless road loss tonight.  The team that has been assembled is a tough veteran team that knows when a poor performance has nothing to do with skill as a team and more to do with fatigue.  
  • The only thing to look for, and I think this will be a constant for another 20 games or so, will be the Blazers not playing as a team.  Right now there is a ton of skill and a lot of basketball knowledge on the court and on the coaching staff, but they just don't seem to be playing the same game.  They are all playing their own games.  I am not concerned though.  Nate is a hell of a coach and will get this underway before it gets too late.
  • Blazers win 107-92.  Every time I get the score correct I will donate $100 to a charity of your choosing.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Game #7 Recap: Blazers vs. Suns — Five Bullets or Less

By Jonathan Ryan Davis
  • Trap Game:  This game is the perfect example of a trap game.  The Blazers are playing well, having just defeated their bitter rivals in a nationally televised game.  They fly late at night to play a team that is a shell of itself, a team they should pummel.  They know they should win with ease; so what do they do?  They show up expecting to win instead of to earn it.  In the NBA, even when playing an inferior team, if you never play to win, you won't.
  • Bad, Bad, Defense:  Portland continued their trend of playing lackluster defense in the first quarter again Phoenix.  They sagged on their men, they half-heartedly went for rebounds, and they were content to run up and down the floor without getting back on defense.  The only difference between last night and the previous games was that last night, Portland continued that poor defense for the rest of the game.  Portland has the personnel to be a scary defensive team.  They have shown it in spurts in most games.  Hopefully they watch the tape of last night so they can see what happens when they decide to take the night off.  If these Blazers fully embrace the defensive mindset that McMillan has been teaching them, Portland will remain near the top of the Western Conference.  If they have consistent lapses like last night, Portland will be simply a decent playoff team.
  • The Benefit of Such Losses:  In a way, I'm happy Portland lost last night.  In a truncated season, they need reminders of how they need to improve.  The Blazers will now have a day to watch tape, learn from last night, and get better.  I wish a few of the games this week were on the road to see their improvement away from the Rose Garden; however, we will see how they do against some quality teams this week, beginning with Cleveland (not great), then the Clippers, and Magic.
  • Consistency of Gerald Wallace:  In our two losses, Gerald Wallace has a total of ONE point.  I think the formula for winning is pretty clear.  Wallace needs to play well.  He doesn't need to score 30, but he needs to be himself.  Last night he wasn't, and the Blazers lost.
  • Keep the Faith:  It's early; the Blazers will be fine.
Go Blazers!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Game #6 Recap: Blazers vs. Lakers — Five Bullets or Less

By Jonathan Ryan Davis
  • Beat L.A.:  BEAT L.A.  BEAT L.A.  BEAT L.A...enough said.
  • Defending Bynum:  After getting manhandled by Lakers center Andrew Bynum in the first half (even though everyone outside of the Rose Garden was unable to witness it because of the stellar coverage by TNT), Portland went to Kurt Thomas in the second half to control the 285 pound center.  Thomas, who is shorter, but stockier than Camby, fronted Bynum to prevent him from gain good post position.  And when Bynyum did get the ball deep, the Blazers did a great job of collapsing on him, forcing Bynum to take a tough, contested shot or to kick the ball out.  After perfect shooting in the first half, Bynum was only 2 of 9 in the second half, mostly because of the Old Man.
  • Poor First Quarter Defense:  The Blazers have started a routine of playing terrible first quarter defense.  Tonight, every Blazers defender sagged on its player, leaving the Lakers with WIDE open jumpers.  There were a few jumpers by Gasol where there wasn't a Blazer within five feet of him.  It's not surprising then that the Lakers started the game 13 of 15.  If it wasn't for Wesley Matthews matching the Lakers shot for shot, L.A. might have demoralized the Blazers and pulled the game out.  Portland needs to watch tape and realize they must start to play four quarters of defense.  They may win games now by playing 3 quarters of defense, but that won't be acceptable come playoff time.
  • Ball Control:  After showing the league that we can win while turning the ball over 25 times against a good team, tonight, we won in the traditional way by securing the ball.  A game after reducing our turnovers to single digits, Portland only turned the ball over 4 times tonight, twice each half.  The Lakers out-rebounded us and out-shot us; however, we forced 14 turnovers only only coughed up 4.  That's the game.
  • Gerald Wallace/LMA:  Crash and the L-Train were a dynamic combination tonight, driving hard to the basket, cutting with precision and power, and knocking down shot after shot.  Add in some phenomenal defense on Kobe and controlling the defensive glass, and these two Blazers earned the game ball tonight.  Against the best teams, our stars must rise, which is exactly what they did.  BEAT L.A.
Go Blazers!

Game #6 Preview: Blazers vs. Lakers — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  Lakers:  That's really all you need to say when it comes to the Lakers visiting the Rose City.  Our storied history with this bunch is more colorful than Joseph's technicolored dream coat.  Some Blazers fans would call the season a success if we sweep the Lakers, even if we miss the playoffs.  However, tonight's game has special significance: this is the first time in years where we come into the game as a higher seed in the western conference.  More than any match-up with LA in the last decade, Portland needs to defend their home court tonight to show the league that Portland wasn't a first week fluke.  The Blazers need to bring the same flare that enabled them to beat a very good Thunder team in OKC; but they already know that.  It's the Lakers.  Everyone gets up for the Lakers.

2)  LMA:  LaMarcus Aldridge was the player Tuesday night that the Blazers need him to be if Portland is to be a legitimate contender out West.  He provided a great balance of inside dominance and outside pureness.  He attacked the rim and generated space for his jumper.  He controlled his man on defense and clogged the paint.  He was the difference in that game.  The Lakers bring a potent front court to the Rose Garden tonight with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.  Odds are, LMA will end up guarding both of these players on occasion, and he needs to bring the same anger he showed when battling with Kendrick Perkins in OKC.

3)  Lights:  This is the first game where Portland will be under the national spotlight.  If they win, the national media will report Portland as a feel good story who has a real chance to compete for a championship.  If they lose, Portland will be a good team that made a good run, but is not yet great.  Tonight is the night for Portland to make a statement.  Not for the national media.  Not for the fans in Portland.  For themselves.  These Blazers deserve some respect (though not getting it sure seems to fire them up).

Go Blazers!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Game #5 Recap: Blazers vs. Thunder— Post Game Bullet Points

By Josh Sidis

  • Blazers win!! And look pretty damn good against a pretty damn good team.  This is a win where Nate McMillan's coaching style proves true.  The Blazers fell behind early because of a run-and-gun approach that Nate is letting them play.  And we did get to the rim and we did get fouled and we did get 73 first quarter free throws because of it.  But we all know that is not sustainable for one game let alone and entire (albeit 66 game) NBA season.  When we slowed down late in the second quarter and ran our offense through LaMarcus we made a sincere attempt to be a basketball team.  Running the offense through LMA brings me to my second Bullet Point...
  • LaMarcus Aldredge is a BEAST!!  This is not a surprise statement but one of exhausted exultation.  Finally.  Not only does he have consistent footwork and strength but he has added handwork as well.  Multiple occasions last night he was able to get separation by removing a hand check or subtely hooking his elbow around his defender then relying on his footwork to get him to the rim.  He's not Hakeem...yet... but if you consider he is solid from 20' you've got one hell of a complete player.  He finished with 30 and 8.  
  • ALSO... He should have socked Kendrick Perkins in his samurai mask face.  We here at TANY do not condone violence... with few exceptions.  Some of those exceptions being Kendrick Perkins, the Birdman and Rick Fox.  Do not mess with LaMarcus Aldridge.  Period. The End. 
  • Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton are really really good. But they become better players when they play within Nate's system.  
  • The Thunder crowd is as flat as the state itself.
  • Oden is injured. 
  • MB and Mike Rice is the best crew in TV.  At least on the local level. 
That is my assessment.  Blazers are playing well.  Let's hope they can hold on to this level.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Game #5 Preview: Blazers vs. Thunder — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  LA Hangover?:  Portland played a terrible game on Sunday in Los Angeles.  Gerald Wallace was taken out of the game, Portland failed to create any motion or consistency on offense, and the Blazers' defense looked more like the defense of an All-Star game than a team who was ranked third in the league in defensive efficiency.  Save the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, Portland had no positive takeaways from the Clippers game.  It will be interesting to see which team shows up tonight against the Thunder.  Will it be the scrapping, energetic team that emerged in the 4th quarter on Sunday and almost pulled off an improbable (and unworthy) victory?  Or will it be the team who looked lost and stagnant on offense?  Here's hoping Portland realizes they can also play their uptempo offense and smothering defense away from the Rose Garden.

2)  Kevin Durant:  Kevin Durant, the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, taken behind that one guy...what's his name...he leads a Thunder team that is poised to control the Western Conference.  The Thunder have become the media darlings and are picked by most to be the elite Western Conference team of the future.  Why is that the case?  Quite simply, because they have Kevin Durant, one of the most complete offensive weapons the NBA has seen in some time.  For Portland to be victorious tonight, they must contain KD and force Russell Westbrook to beat them, a dynamic player himself, but a more erratic player.  The Blazers should use a combination of Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Gerald Wallace to shadow Durant and force him to defer to his teammates. 

3)  Defense Creates Offense:  We saw on Sunday night what happens when the Blazers play aggressive, deny defense: their offense gains speed and fluidity.  Tonight, Portland must create turnovers, control the defensive glass, and keep the Thunder to a low shooting percentage.  In doing so, the Blazers can push the pace and convert easier baskets on the other end.  Portland, without Roy, does not have the personnel at this point to run an effective slow-day, half court offense.  That is not to say they will not develop an efficient half court offense over the course of the season; however, for their current personnel to thrive, Portland needs to run, cut, drive, and dish.  Let's hope they get back to that style of basketball tonight.  Aside from being entertaining for the fans, it has shown to be a winning formula for Portland this year.

Go Blazers!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Game #4 Preview: Blazers vs. Clippers — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  One the Road Again:  The Blazers have looked solid at home, going undefeated in their short three game homestand.  After defeating Denver in a tough divisional matchup, Portland heads south to take on the kings of LA, the Los Angeles Clippers.  With a revamped lineup, the Blazers will be tested for the first time away from the Rose Garden.  Last season, the Blazers maintained their home court advantage but struggled on the road.  The Blazers appear (based on their performance thus far at home) to be legitimate contenders; however, if they fail to bring that same energy and grit to the court away from home, Portland will be the borderline playoff team the pundits predicted Portland to be.  I am optimistic that we will show the league tonight that Portland can compete on any court against any team.

2)  Consistency:  Can the Blazers' guards show up for more than one game?  Tonight we will see if Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, and Wesley Matthews can excel in back to back games.  If they are able to do so, and Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge can produce at their normal levels, Portland should handily control a Clippers team that is talented, but lacks the chemistry to be an elite team.

3)  Heavy Legs:  For a couple games now, Blazers like LMA have complained of heavy legs during their post-game interviews.  Portland needs to get into playing shape soon to stay competitive with the Thunder in the Northwest division.  The Blazers were lucky enough to have a few days off between the Denver game and their tilt tonight; let's hope they used that time to get some spring back in their legs to play the uptempo game McMillan has promised.

Go Blazers!