Escape from New York, Blazers beat Knicks 100-95

|

For the first eight minutes of the game, Portland picked New York’s defense apart by pressing offensive advantages and utilizing excellent floor spacing. The Trail Blazers quickly identified offensive mismatches — Nicolas Batum on Rey Felton, Brandon Roy or Andre Miller in the post — and positioned a second player as a release valve in the mid-range area. As soon as the double team came, the ball was passed out quickly to a player waiting in the appropriate space and then whipped inside for a shot at the rim to a Blazer cutting back door as the Knick defenders attempted to scramble to cover the mid-range shot.

Then, Danilo Gallinari and his hair took a seat on the bench and Wilson Chandler checked into the game. Chandler and Landry Fields turned up the “scrap,” out-hustling the Trail Blazers perimeter players on their way to a combined 24 rebounds, eight of which on the offensive end. Meanwhile, Portland went ice cold from the field for four minutes and 16 excruciating seconds, missing seven straight field goal attempts and three straight free throws as the Knicks went on a 13-1 run.

Roy couldn’t repeat his end-of-quarters magic vs. the Clippers, and Portland ends the half tied at 44 apiece.

Even though things looked a bit bleak, the Trail Blazers remained the epitome of a veteran team, looking poised and patient as the young Knicks made their runs. Brandon Roy switched into “Kill” mode in the third quarter, pouring in 15 points. However, the duo of Fields and Chandler combined to match Roy with 15 points of their own as each team scored 30 in the period and went into the fourth quarter tied at 74.

The Knicks got out to a quick start in the fourth quarter, jumping to a nine point lead with 5:31 left in the game. Andre Miller brought the Trail Blazers storming back, dishing five assists and scoring 10 points in the quarter, including a rare three pointer giving Portland a one point lead with 2:06 to play.

New York tied things up at 95 after a Felton free throw with 1:23 to go and then Ronny Turiaf fouled LaMarcus Aldridge, sending him to the free throw line where he hit one of two. Back the other way, Raymond Felton drove the lane only to have his shot sent back by Nicolas Batum (Note: the boxscore says the block was attributed to Marcus Camby, that is incorrect, it was Nico that got it) and corralled by Aldridge. Portland called time out with 18 seconds left in regulation.

The Knicks worked hard to deny Roy and Miller the ball on the inbound play, but Wesley Matthews got the ball to Aldridge who was again sent to the line and again missed his chance to give Portland a decisive lead by going one-for-two.

Mike D’Antoni took a 20 second time out with 14 seconds left in the fourth, New York trailing by two. With about eight seconds on the clock, Amare’ Stoudamire made his move and drove the lane against a waiting Marcus Camby who despite playing with five fouls, took a gamble and cleanly swatted the ball off Stoudamire’s leg and out of bounds. Trail Blazer’s ball, six seconds left.

After the inbound, Andre Miller was sent to the line and coolly knocked down both his free throws to give Portland a four point lead with 5.9 seconds left. At the other end, Stoudamire missed the 25 foot desperation three and Nicolas Batum snared the defensive rebound and drew a foul with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. Nico went one-for-two and the Blazers beat the Knicks, 100-95, finishing the game on a 17-3 run.   

Notes: 

  • It’s not often that a team can miss 10 free throws and be out rebounded by nine boards on the offensive glass and still win the game. However, as bad as Portland was from the line, (20-30, 66.7% with all four Blazer starters attempting a free throw missing on their first try), New York was worse (14-25, 56%) and the six point made-free-throw differential cost the Knicks the game.
  • Marcus Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Andre Miller all did a great job playing while in foul trouble, kudos to Nate McMillan for trusting his guys.
  • Wesley Matthews struggled handling the ball against pressure from the Knick guards. With that contract and all the expectations, it’s hard to remember that Matthews is basically on the same timeline as Dante Cunningham, a four year college player in his second year in the league. He’ll get better.
  • Speaking of Cunningham, he and Landry Fields engaged in a “scrap-off” where Dante blocked Fields’ jumper, which Fields recovered, only to be blocked by Dante once again. Welcome to the NBA Landry.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge had a tough half, shooting three for ten from the field and one for four from the line. Aldridge’s shot selection was encouraging, even if the shots didn’t fall. Aldridge took the majority of his shots in the paint in the first half and made strong moves to the hoop, but absorbed a lot of contact that didn’t get called and had trouble finishing a few gimmies. Aldridge ended the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it really felt like he should have had 30.
  • Portland is a veteran team now. Watching the Knicks, I had flashbacks to games against San Antonio or Dallas where Portland would make runs, but in the end the veteran team smacked them right back down, doing just enough to win the game.  In the NBA, there is too much parity for regular wire-to-wire victories. The ability to turn it up a notch in the fourth quarter, the way Portland has in each of their three games, is the hallmark of a winning team.

 

Oden Will Officially Become a Restricted Free Agent – Updated with Rudy and Batum Contract News

|

 

Noah, drafted 7th in 2007, just signed a $60 million extension with Chicago

From the AP:

 

NEW YORK — A team spokesman says the Portland Trail Blazers won’t offer a contract extension to former No. 1 pick Greg Oden before the Monday deadline.
Oden will be a restricted free agent next summer and the Blazers will be able to match any offers for him.
The Oregonian reported Friday that the Blazers and Oden’s representatives agreed there would be no extension, making the oft-injured center the first top pick sinceKwame Brown not to get one at the end of his rookie contract. Teams have until Monday to reach deals with first-round picks from the 2007 draft.
But Portland hasn’t seen enough of Oden, who has played in only 82 games since he was picked ahead of Kevin Durant. He has been sidelined since fracturing his left patella last Dec. 5.
Oden will be a restricted free agent next summer and the Blazers will be able to match any offers for him.
So, what do you think? Surprised? Or is this the right call?

Knicks Preview

|

 

Channing Frye!

The Blazers are in New York City today where they will go up against the new look Knicks for Amar’e’s first game at Madison Square Garden. 

First thing’s first: typing “Amar’e’s” is incredibly awkward. 

As Kevin McElroy over at our sister site Knickerblogger has pointed out, only four players from last year’s roster are still on the team, one of those being Eddy Curry. With that in mind, it’s worth noting that the sample size for comparison is tiny, but we’ll take a look anyway.

While the Blazers will have advantages at nearly every position, this game will be decided by the performance of Portland’s backcourt. In Toronto on Wednesday night, the Knicks allowed Jarrett Jack to penetrate the middle and shoot 4 – 7 at the rim, 2 – 3 from less than 10 feet, and get to the line twice. By the law of We Didn’t Even Want That Guy, the Blazers should have no trouble getting the ball inside for some high percentage shots. Despite a poor shooting night, Rajon Rondo had 24(!!) assists (and to be fair, 7 turnovers) in last night’s win for Boston over New York at the TD Garden. With a skilled and willing passer in Miller and Roy’s ability to penetrate the middle and get to the line, the guards will need to lead the effort tonight against the Knicks. In the first two games of the season the Knicks have not established the ability to stop opposing guards all-stars or Jarrett Jacks. If Miller and Roy are able to keep their turnovers low, they should easily win the battle in the backcourt on the offensive end. While Brandon has been hot from outside to start the season, expect to see more  driving and slashing than Roy has demonstrated in the first two games of the year. 

With the guards taking care of the ball and creating high percentage shots, the Blazers will limit opportunities for the Knicks to get out and run, setting themselves up for success on the defensive end. While D’Antoni doesn’t have Nash running the point for him in New York, the Knicks still get out and run when they have the opportunity,  though they are only averaging 14 fast break points per night this season. Even with Raymond Felton and Amar’e still learning to work with each other, Stoudemire is one of the best finishers in the league on the break.  By making smart decisions on the offensive end — limiting turnovers, slowing the pace, and taking high percentage shots the Blazers can increase their chance of success on the other end of the court.

The big question mark for the game (or, The Big Apostrophe) will of course be Stoudemire. In last night’s loss to Boston, Amar’e shot a high percentage (8 – 17) and managed to get to the line frequently (9 – 13). The Blazers will need to know where he is on the break, get back quickly and set up their defense in order to avoid unnecessary fouls. If the Blazers can slow the pace down and force the Knicks into a half court game, they can double Amar’e as the Knicks have limited offensive weapons inside. He’s averaged 20 ppg against the Blazers, but has been able to rely on Steve Nash leading his team’s backcourt. Through December expect to read a lot of speculation about whether Amar’e is an all-star without Nash a question nearly all former Nash teammates have to answer. Based on his performances this week, with the exception of coughing up nine turnovers against Toronto, Amar’e seems to be settling in to New York well so far. Tonight will be his first night at the Garden, and New York fans will be expecting big things. 

Other things to look for tonight:

  • Wilson Chandler against Batum will be fun to watch. Both guys can score, but Chandler isn’t quite the defender Batum is. With Nic’s ability to get out on the break along with penetrate the defense, keep your eyes open for a couple of Wow plays from him when Chandler is in at SF.
  • Gallinari has only played in three games against the Blazers. He had a terrible game against Boston last night, but this guy can shoot. 

 

  

 

 

Tip off is 4:30 PDT on CSN

Chris Dudley Shows Dedication to Supporters by Missing 400 Straight Free Throws

|

Portland, OR – In a final push to sway voters, ex-Trail Blazer Chris Dudley capped off his candidacy for Oregon Governor yesterday by pledging to miss 400 straight free throws. The former Blazer center met with over two hundred supporters at the gym in the Multnomah Athletic Club. With each miss, Dudley made a bold statement to the crowd.

“I want Oregonians to MISS higher taxes,” said Dudley after missing his 45th straight free throw. “I want Oregonians to MISS unemployment. If I’m elected governor, Oregon businesses will MISS unfair government regulations,” he stated after another miss.

With each miss, the crowd roared a little louder. By the time Dudley missed his 350th free throw, people were in a frenzy. Many of the misses were impressive. A few hit the rim 3 or 4 times and bounced out. Some hit the backboard, then hit the rim and then hit the backboard again.

“A couple shots were dangerously close to going in,” observed one man. “I don’t know how he did it.”

Others were not impressed by the GOP candidate’s feat. Some argued that Dudley was one of the worst free throw shooters in NBA history and it would have meant more if he would have tried to make them instead.

“He took the easy way out,” murmured a man with glasses and a fake beard resembling John Kitzhaber. “Anyone could do that. I’d like to see him to talk about balancing the budget while balancing on a balance beam.”

When Dudley reached 399 missed free throws, the raucous crowd was on its feet, stomping and clapping like mad. Dudley easily missed the 400th shot. The ball hit the back iron and bounced high in the air. Dudley then leaped up off two feet and grabbed the ball with his massive hands. He brought it down to his chest with his elbows out and showing perfect rebounding form.

“Oregon WILL Rebound!” Yelled Dudley as the remaining supporters rushed the court. About half of the crowd had left to return to work as it takes a long time to miss 400 free throws.

The $250 a ticket event raised nearly $50,000 for Surrogate Fatherz, Dudley’s non-profit that takes inner city children camping and brings rural children to the inner city. Asked if he would try to beat the record with 500 missed free throws, Dudley replied “I don’t know…that’s a crazy thought. I’m just going to enjoy this with my family for a while. You never know though, dreams do come true.”

(Editor’s note: Jokes aside, The Portland Roundball Society feverishly endorse John Kitzhaber for governor.)

Pick and Scroll, in which a man who cannot shoot pontificates on shooting.

|

Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

Say what you will, but confidence matters to shooters. The reason confidence matters is that when a shooter is relaxed and steps into the shooting motion, form is more likely to be followed correctly and the shot is more likely to go down. In contrast, it only takes a bit of hesitation to throw a shooter’s form off, that momentary freeze where the shooter locks in on his target and that little shoulder-angel whispers “You missed the last three, you’re off tonight, you should have passed” boom, form broken. The ball caroms of the back iron and into the waiting hands of the opposition. The prophesy fulfils and reinforces itself.

There has been much study on the “hot hand theory,” however, I wonder if there is a “cold hand theory”? Ray Allen might know something about cold hands after his 0-13 performance in the finals. One of the great shooters of our generation could not make a shot in 13 attempts, what are the odds of that?

It is important to distinguish “one-off” events like a coin flip from events where history has an impact, like in poker. Flip a coin 13 times and it could come up tails 13 times based on chance, the odds of that coin coming up heads on the next flip are not impacted at all. In contrast, if you’re holding an ace in your hand during a poker game, the fact that there is an ace in your hand reduces the odds that another ace will come up. History (the fact that you were dealt an ace) has a direct impact on an event that is still governed by chance (what the next card will be).

I would submit that shooting is an event where history can have an impact, and that confidence is the explanation. Unfortunately, since confidence is a subjective element that can be affected by a myriad of different things, I don’t believe there is much that can be done about it, except for to follow the examples of the great shooters themselves and follow a routine. The previously mentioned Ray Allen has a very precise pre-game routine, down to the food he eats. Just about every NBA fan can do a quick “Nash at the free throw line” impression. I can still see Jeff Hornacek touching his pasty, sweaty face before nailing another gimme at the charity stripe. These routines allow a shooter to eliminate confidence from the equation by following deeply channeled and very familiar neuro-muscular paths. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s automatic, it’s consistent, it’s inherently confident, it’s a made bucket.

  • Over at Bust a Bucket, Sophia Brugato brings an article from the Indianapolis Business Journal to attention. Apparently, Anthony Schoettle thinks Greg Oden should not mention his contract status a’ la’ Payton Manning, as if this would “endear” Greg Oden to the Trail Blazers and… what exactly? Schoettle fails to provide any compelling reason whatsoever for Oden to follow his advice. Does Schoettle believe that somehow Oden will make more money if he’s been patient and agreeable? The Trail Blazers and Oden’s agent have been preparing for extension negotiations for a long time and, while I could see this article being written if Greg Oden were in the media talking about wanting a contract every week, since that hasn’t occurred, I’m not really sure why this article was written.

As for Schoettle’s suggestion that Oden should expect:

an NBA-minimum contract laden with enough incentives to fill the back of a three-quarter-ton pickup truck. I know, the NBA isn’t big on incentive-laden contracts. It should be.

First off, I’d direct Schoettle to question 64 of Larry Coon’s salary cap FAQ for all the reasons his suggestion won’t happen. Secondly, if the author knows that the NBA is not big on incentive-laden contracts, why should Oden expect one?

What I Learned From A Computer, Game 2

|

Some nuggets gleaned from the game 2 advanced box score for your digestion:

  • Here’s the breakdown of where the Blazers shots came from on the floor again, starting with distance, what percentage of the total field goal attempts shots in this range comprised, and finally the eFG% for that range:
    Shot distance % of total shots eFG % for range
    At Rim 23% 55%
    < 10 Feet 21.5% 47.4%
    10 – 15 Feet 11% 20%
    16 – 23 Feet 21.5% 31.6%
    Threes 23% 60%

    My pleas for more shots closer to the bucket were heard? Shots from beyond 16 feet represented 44.5% of our offense in this game, down from 57% against the Suns. That change came primarily from an increase in shots from less than 10 feet, and a corresponding decrease in shots from 16 to 23 feet. Attempts at the rim were actually down from the first game (by 6%), but that can probably be explained by the Clippers front line vs. the Suns. Three point attempts made up essentially the same percentage of our offense. It’ll be fun to watch that number over the course of the season.

  • After having 6 assisted field goals in game one, Roy had 0 in game 2. There’s the ISO we’re used to.
  • More Roy. He’s currently averaging six three point attempts a game, which is twice his career average. The good news is he’s hitting at 50%. Odds are that will not continue so as some have called for, he might want to attack the rim a bit more.
  • The +/- picture for the Blazers broke down pretty easily in game 2. Starters = plus, bench = minus. Miller (+19) and Camby (+15) led all players.
  • On the other side of the fence, only two Clippers finished in the black, Rasual Butler and the indomitable Jarron Collins (or was it the insuperable Jason, they look so similar). We can probably blame Griffin’s -9 on the Clippers organizational +/- rating of -9329320932.
  • As has been mentioned, through 2 games the Blazers have outscored their opponents 59-28 in the 4th quarter. I like it. Maybe they could clean up the 3rd quarter performances a bit though, where we’ve given up 57 points?
  • Batum’s advanced metrics are off the charts through two games. His true shooting is at about 71% and his PER is above 30. That’s what 6 for 7 from the field, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc, will do for you with a 2 game sample size. One nit-picky thing of note, all but 2 of his 24 shots have come either at the rim or from the three point line. Thus far, rather than showing off any expansion of his offensive game, he appears to just be doing the things he did before, but even better. The one area I will say he seems to be showing improvement is rebounding, on both ends of the court. Regardless, whatever he’s doing, I don’t care, it’s awesome and I hope it continues.

Again, thanks to Hoopdata for their advanced box scores.
Unrelated to the above, here’s a quote from an interview with Bob Bellotti, a/the Wizards stat geek, regarding the future of the game (as it relates to analytics):

One of the things that I’ve heard is that in the future, there might be sensors on the court, implanted in the floor, implanted in a player’s sneaker, so that you can track where a player goes on the court and which of those patterns are typically more successful. So. I think as technology advances, the analytical side of the business will advance also.

This would be fascinating. Roy’s patterns: super efficient. Anderson Varejao’s: a mouse in a maze on amphetamines. Sheed’s: erratic and unpredictable until you consider the ref’s placement on the court.
Kudos on 2-0, kudos. Now bring on the Knickerbockers.

Brandon Roy Wants the Ball More and the Blazer Hippie to Dance Less

|

Brandon Roy has been in the demanding mood lately. A couple of weeks ago, he stated he would like to see the ball in his hands more. This week, he went on to add that he would like to see the iconic Blazer Hippie fan dance less.



“Right now, I see the Blazer hippie dancing on the JumboTron 7, maybe 10 times a game,” said Roy shaking his head. “I’d like to see that number down to 2 or 3.”



The Blazer Hippie has been a staple of home games since the Drexler era. He is easily identified by his tie-dyed garb, long hair, nappy beard and crazed Daniel Stern-esq blank stare. Roy cited the general lack of quality dance moves as the main reason for wanting the Blazer Hippie to receive less exposure.



“He does three things well: the twirl, the groovy shoulder shrug and the hard hand-to-knee clap during Taking Care of Business,” stated Roy. “After that, it starts to get pretty repetitive.”



Brandon Roy is not the only one in the Blazer organization wanting to taper down the hippie’s antics. General Manager Rich Cho says the hippie fan is an unfair stereotype of Oregonians and that he gives the false impression to visitors that Portland is a liberal city tolerant of others. He also agreed with Roy regarding his apathetic dance moves.



“The hippie has become a lazy entertainer. He still raises the roof. Who even does that any more?” asked Cho. “During a timeout last year, he even attempted to do the robot. Hippies shouldn’t do the robot, that doesn’t make any sense.”



The Blazer Hippie was not immediately available for comment as he has no phone.



Pick and Scroll, two down, eighty to go.

|

Your daily (Mon-Fri) roundup of links from around the blogosphere, typically Trail Blazers related.

Blazers Spoil Griffin’s Debut, Defeat Clippers 98-88

|

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

First off:  Blake Griffin is a beast.  Get ready to hear a lot of people excitedly talk about how much of a beast he is.  Spending the entire first half somewhere between the top of the backboard and the Lakers’ championship banners, he hammered down dunk after dunk and gobbled up what seemed to be every single rebound in sight.  It took a concerted effort from both the Blazer defense and Vinny Del Negro’s tepid offense to slow him down—which, he did eventually slow down—but there were a few highlight reel moments that really showed why he is going to be a very good basketball player.  If you forget to box him out, Griffin will make you pay.

And, early on in the first half, the Blazer bigs did look a little lost trying to pry Griffin loose from the air, picking up a number of fouls that lead to eleven minutes of playing time for Fabricio Oberto. Something tells me that wasn’t in the initial game plan.  Had Chris Kaman had any sort of impact in the frontcourt (4-18 shooting does not equal impact), the Clippers had a real shot at pulling this one out.  

Which is why the Blazers owe Donald Sterling—the owner of the Clippers—a few bottles of scotch.  Without last year’s Marcus Camby trade, Portland would have never won this game. Camby came up huge with 11 points, 14 rebounds (7 of those coming on the offensive glass), and 3 key blocks, but aside from the stats he absolutely dominated the paint. The guards for the Clippers were able to find their way to the basket seemingly at will, and while Camby couldn’t stop every single play, he definitely altered more than a few.  More importantly, though, was the fact that Camby and Aldridge shut down LA’s frontcourt in the second-half:  Kaman looked lost and Griffin spent most of the half with two feet planted firmly on the court.  The only bright spot for the Clippers, really, was the continued gold medal play of Eric Gordon.  He notched a team-high 22 points by leaking out in transition and using his speed to get to the rim with ease.

As for Portland, Roy had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds.  Despite some third quarter misses, his offense looked great, mixing it up with outside shots, penetration, and he generally kept the Clippers guards guessing.  Or, you know, he was Brandon Roy.  Whereas Roy had his shot working for him early and often, LaMarcus looked absolutely horrific on offense in the first half.  He couldn’t beat his defender off the dribble, couldn’t get any separation, and his shot was completely out of rhythm. And his misses were ugly. Like Chris Kaman with a red beard ugly.  Thankfully, he found his range later in the game and finished with 19 points on 7-18 shooting, with three of those points coming from a desperation heave to beat the shot clock buzzer.  

And now, a thing of absolute beauty:

Nicolas Batum — 6-7 FGM-A, 3-4 3PM-A, 6 REB, 3 AST, 2 STL, 2 BLK, 0 TO

Isn’t that just chill-inducing?  If Batum continues to put in work like this, the Blazers are going to be a very difficult team to beat in the West. 

Much like the Phoenix game last night, the Blazers turned it on when it mattered most, outscoring the Clippers by eleven in the fourth quarter to get the victory. With this being LA’s home opener, and the second game of a back to back for Portland, this win was somewhat impresive. Notice I said somewhat, because even though on paper they are much improved this year, we’re still talking about the Clippers here.  

If I Were an Advanced Box Score…

|

I’d tell you things, kind of like the magic 8 ball. Things like, in last nights game vs. Phoenix:

  • 6 of Roy’s 9 made field goals were assisted. ISO offense what?
  • Roy’s usage was at 29.2%, which is slightly up from his averages the last 2 years.
  • Phoenix had 5 and-1’s, but I swear, watching the game it felt like 20.
  • As Kevin Pelton pointed out right after the game, Matthews led all players in +/- with a +22. This will be an interesting stat of Matthews to keep track of as the sample size gets larger. It’s a good metric for unearthing strong team contributors that may be otherwise hard to measure with a traditional box score (think Battier). That said, Matthews standard box score looked pretty decent last night too.
  • Roy and ‘Dre were second in +/- for the Blazers with +14.
  • And because I know you are curious, Oberta had a +/- of exactly 0. His hair scored a -1 but his playing through a wicked hangover scored a +1.
  • Here’s a breakdown of where the Blazers shots came from on the floor, starting with distance, what percentage of the total field goal attempts shots in this range comprised, and finally the eFG% for that range:
    Shot distance % of total shots eFG % for range
    At Rim 29% 63%
    < 10 Feet 9% 50%
    10 – 15 Feet 5% 20%
    16 – 23 Feet 35% 33.4%
    Threes 22% 75%

    In other words, 57% of the Blazers shots came from beyond 16 feet. I’m sure this will vary to a degree depending on opponent, but its something else that warrants watching as we get more data.

  • For the game, Nash had a usage rate of 44%. For reference, that’s nearly twice his career average. Only 10% of his field goals were assisted as well. Some early evidence Stoudemire’s departure is really going to put the pressure on Nash.

Of course this was the first game of the year, so small sample size warning applies. All the information above was gleaned from Hoopdata’s real world magic 8 ball (A.K.A. their advanced box scores, which can be seen here). Well done on the victory in game 1. As for game 2, personally I hope the Blazers offense shifts a little more inside.