Blazers sweep the Jazz in Utah for the first time since 2000-2001 season

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I don’t know about you, but seeing a Jazz team coached by anyone other than Jerry Sloan in front of a half empty Energy Solutions Arena just felt…weird.  Regardless, the Blazers leave Utah victorious, winning 98-87.  I will keep this recap simple and plain because the game was never really in jeopardy and because I have a day job.

First and foremost, give a hand to Gerald Wallace.  The man does not have two speeds.  He moves at full speed at all times and wreaks havoc on both ends of the floor for 48 minutes.  29 points on 10-18 shooting, 4-6 from three point range, to go along with 8 rebounds and an assist and steal.

Nicolas Batum continued his stellar play as of late by contributing 21 points on 9-13 shooting.  Batum came out looking for his offense early, slashing and cutting to the rim and finishing at the rim with relative ease.  It was another example of how important he is to this team when he is used as more than a corner three point threat on offense.

It seems as if all Brandon Roy needs to do to play inspired basketball now a days is Have a Talk with Jason Quick.  Roy came out aggressive looking for his shot and made his first 4-5 shots, including two pterodactyl screaming “and-1”conversions. Just to state the obvious one more time—this team needs Brandon Roy in the playoffs.  If Roy plays a passive, decoy role settling only for jump shots, the Blazers don’t stand a chance.  Roy needs to continue to penetrate, even at half speed, to keep defenses honest and off of Blazer shooters.

Speaking of Trailblazers that need to show up in the Playoffs, Lamarcus Aldridge, stop it.  I know it’s the second game against a non-playoff team, but Aldridge has been almost invisible the last two games—finishing with 12 points on 6-19 shooting.  It is ok to shrug off Lamarcus’ production tailing off a little in anticipation of the playoffs, but it doesn’t do any good when he still plays 43 minutes a game.  I get the feeling he will play a little more aggressively tomorrow against potential playoff opponent Los Angeles.

Wesley Matthews had a solid night tonight, getting most of his points from the free throw line and three point opportunities.  It is always great to see Wes’ shot looking smooth and the three point goggles raised.

Andre Miller and Rudy Fernandez both played forgettable games.  Consider the dead horse beaten, but Rudy needs to find his jump shot and fast.  0-4 for 0 points and 0-3 from three, yeesh.  Miller shot a less embarrassing 1-9, but contributed 12 assists and never needed to be called on for his shot making, which is generally a good thing.

Now, the Blazers travel back to Portland to take on the Lakers in a pivotal game that will determine just how quickly they will see each other again.    



Time to Start Setting the Playoff Tone

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“The Roses are out Timmy, not the Daisies”

With the pathetic, arguments for league contraction, Cavaliers and Wizards in the rearview, it’s time for the Blazers to face front—there’s a semi truck of playoff-bound teams barreling straight towards them.

Five of Portland’s next six games come against the top four seeds in the Western Conference. And if the Blazers hope to snatch the fifth seed from the scorching-hot Denver Nuggets, they must channel their inner Butler Bulldog and win some games as an underdog. To be precise, the upcoming schedule is as follows: at home versus the Spurs, at the Thunder, at the Spurs, at the Hornets and then back home to face the Thunder and Mavs. Yikes.

Well, as they say, just take it one game at a time. The gauntlet begins at home, and perhaps the Blazers can build some momentum against the injury-ridden. Tim Duncan will miss his second game in a row, the result of left ankle sprain. Without Duncan on Wednesday, the Spurs fell to the Nuggets in Denver 115-112, bringing spurs league-best record to 57-14.

One of those 14 losses?  Against the Blazers in Portland—where the Blazers. If the Blazers are to make it happen a second time they will have to start with getting Lamarcus Aldridge involved early and often. I know, not a new concept, but the Blazers offense works best going through Aldridge and lessing their need for jacked up jump shots to roll in. After all, in their last victory over the Spurs, Aldridge scored a career high 40.

With Duncan out, Aldridge should be able to have a field day going against 6’7” Dejuan Blair, Matt Bonner and Tiago Splitter. (Editor’s note: standing in front of Dejuan Blair at All-Star Weekend I was taken aback by his size. He’s bigger than the stats would suggest—supremely wide, thick and muscular.

Depending on how the Spurs guard the other Blazer forwards, Gerald Wallace and Nic Batum, either one or both players will need to continue their recent style of play to keep the pressure on the Spurs. Wallace is coming of his best scoring output as a Blazer (28) and Nicolas Batum is riding back-to-back 20-point games, a feat the young forward has accomplished only once before.

Of course, the Blazers have their hands full defending Ginobli, Parker and three point shooter “X”, but if the Blazers want to start off the final push before the playoffs right, they will have to play with inspiration.

And aside from the fight for seeding, games against the Spurs, Mavericks and Thunder are incredibly important, as the Blazers could meet any of them in the first round. Establishing a tone coming into the playoffs with a few regular season wins can go a long way.

TIP-OFF: 7:00PM

TV: KGW Channel 8

RADIO: 95.5FM

VEGAS LINE: Portland -1

Blazers let Fa-TEAGUE get the best of them, Lose to Atlanta 91-82

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What is it about the Atlanta Hawks that the Blazers can’t figure out?  The Hawks blow out the Blazers for the second time in two weeks, this time without All-star forward Al Horford.  The Hawks, also playing in a back-to-back take advantage of the tired Blazers squad, beating them 91-82. 

From the tipoff this game had a sloppy vibe. It turned ugly fast and became hard to watch for anyone other than the Collins parents, I’m sure. The Blazers and Hawks both had enough trouble holding on to, let alone scoring, the ball. Baskets weren’t falling early for the Blazers, yet they held an 18-11 lead with 14 seconds left to play in the quarter, and then “it” happened.

For the first time this season I sat watching the Blazers, who usually are very good with the ball, cough it up 3 times in a row—to one player. Of course, Jeff Teague, who I don’t remember watching in the All-Star game this year… but he had to have played, right? Both Jarron Collins and Gerald Wallace threw inbounds passes to the Hawk player and Patty Mills was stripped by Teague at half court, allowing the hawks to end the quarter on an 8-0 run and take a 19-18 lead into the second quarter.

The second quarter wasn’t much to write home about either for the Blazers, yet they took a 38-35 point lead into halftime.  However, I remember thinking at the time that I would be more comfortable letting Charlie Sheen housesit for the weekend than I was with the Blazers “lead’.

Of course the second half started out with painfully sloppy basketball again, and it became a game of which team doesn’t want to lose more, and it turns out the home team didn’t.  The Hawks went on to outscore the Blazers 27-16 in the quarter and never looked back. 

Behind the stellar three point shooting of Jamaal Crawford, who must save his best games for the Blazers, and Jeff frickin’ Teague, the Hawks cruised to victory in the fourth.  

The Blazers were tired and played like a team on the last game of a four game roadtrip. Aside from a solid performance from Lamarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Brandon Roy, the rest of the team was just flat.  Andre Miller, who was supposed to destroy his matchup with JEFF TEAGUE played his worsrt game of the season, shooting 0-8 and finishing with on point and four assists. 

Nicolas Batum, who appeared to suffer an ankle injury late, played an unspectacular 17 minutes and finished with five point.  Camby also scored in single figures (two). 

When three of a teams’s five starters finish with a combined eight points, they’re in trouble no matter the opponent.

The Blazers played some of the sloppiest 48 minutes of basketball as they have all season, and in the end finish their a four game roadtrip—one that that began splendidly—a rather regrettable, forgettable 2-2. 

I hate hyperbole, but if I were to tell you the Blazers would lose two games during this trip, no one would have picked the combination of Atlanta and Charlotte. So much for the best road-winning streak in two decades. The Blazers caughed it up against inferior teams. Maybe they started believing the hype. It’s happened before. And just like every other time, they’ll start from scratch once again.

Or maybe coach McMillan (and Charles Barkley) is right—you’ve just got to make shots.

Hawks Preview—Forget the Oscars, Crash already won best Picture

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The Blazers host the Atlanta Hawks (35-23) tonight in their second straight ESPN national broadcast.  The Blazers, of course, will debut their new athletic, high flying, defensive minded small forward—Gerald Wallace. Every eye on the Rose Garden will be rested on him and I hope it isn’t too overwhelming for him to play in front of a home crowd of more than 2,000.  

The Blazers should have their hands full with an athletic Hawks roster that has a new addition of their own—point guard Kirk Hinrich, whose slight upgrade(?) at the point guard position is a lesser addition than that of Gerald Walaces, but nonetheless it will be intriguing to see how both players adapt to their new teams.  Aside from Hinrich the rest of the lineup is similar to the Hawks of the past.  They still have two very athletic post players in Al Horford and Josh Smith, who will score on a team in bunches if they don’t have two athletic posts to defend them with.

The Oregonian is reporting that Marcus Camby will be back and start tonight so his addition is vital in the Blazers defensive efforts to stop the duo.  Of course, you can’t talk about the Hawks without mentioning joe Johnson.  Johnson’s production is down from last year but still  he is an all world scorer and it will be up to Wesley Matthews and most likely Nic Batum to try and slow him down. 

The Hawks come in having lost 6 of their last eight games and trying to hold onto the fifth seed in the competitive East.  This game is going to be a great opening test for the new look Blazers and as long as they play in control and get out on the fast breaks when possible, they’ve got a great shot at starting the post all star break 2-1. 

Tip Off: 7:30

TV: CSN and ESPN3.com

Radio: 95.5 FM

Vegas Line: Por -5

 



Pick and Scroll, Expect “Championship Basketball” to be played tonight

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

  • The Blazers take on the Boston Celtics tonight in a nationally televised game on TNT, and as Joe Freeman of The Oregonian points out if the Blazers start off slow again, its game over.  Helping the Blazers’ chances tonight is LaMarcus Aldridge who coach McMillan said will start and play.  Aldridge often plays well against the Celtics, and will try to get over the poor game he played on Monday against Sacramento.
  • Matt Calkins of The Columbian expects tonight’s game to get physical and Wesley Matthews thinks the Blazers can win the battle.  Matthews, who was seen after practice Wednesday using a different kind of three point goggles looks to have a big game against the Celtics.
  • Forbes magazine came out with its annual NBA Franchise Evaluations and is reporting that the Blazers are worth $356 Million and are valued as the 14th best NBA team out of 30.  John Canzano of The Oregonian believes that Paul Allen should celebrate by taking advantage of the teams position by going after weaker teams in hopes to win a championship now.  In any event, it is great news to see that the Blazers are among the top half of NBA teams financially.
  • Chad Ford of ESPN (Insider) lists his top 10 impact players most likely to be moved before the deadline, and Andre Miller ranks second on the list.  Ford goes on to say:

Miller’s contract is also not guaranteed next season, making the 34-year-old an attractive target for a veteran team trying to shore up its backcourt. The Blazers have been hunting for help just about everywhere, and if they can get a young player or an asset for him, they’ll pull the trigger.

  • Also from ESPN Insider, John Hollinger considers the Blazers as “Sticking” rather than “Kicking” as the trade deadline continues to grow closer.
  • Sekou Smith of Hangtime blog, which believe it or not is not a blog devoted to my favorite video game, debates whether Aldridge or David West should make the Western Conference All-Star team.  Unfortunately, this debate may turn out to be moot, as both players seem likely to be shafted in favor of Blake Griffin and Kevin Love.  For what it’s worth, Aldridge did receive 83% of the votes at the time I wrote this.
  • Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat has an interesting article about newly acquired Blazer Chris Johnson and the lessons he learned during his time on the Celtics.  Johnson, who is essentially the Blazers sixteenth man, reminisces about his time with the Celtics during training camp and the advice Danny Ainge and Shaquille O’Neal bestowed upon him.
  • TrueHoop Network sister site, Celtics Hub, is reporting that Bill Walton will be providing color commentary for the Celtics tonight on their CSN broadcast.  This is now the second time this season a Blazers opponent has had Walton join their broadcasting team for a game.  Although, this time Walton makes a lot more sense as a commentator than when he announced for the Kings last week. 

Pick and Scroll, Blazers catch a break so to speak

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

  • Congratulations LaMarcus Aldridge, you are the first Blazer this season to successfully receive good news on an injury.  Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that Aldridge is probable for tomorrow’s game.  As I am sure all of you realize, if Aldridge had been out for an extended period of time he would have become the SEVENTH Blazer to miss substantial time due to injury this season. 
  • Speaking of injured Blazer big men, Mitch Lawrence of The New York Daily News is reporting that Donnie Walsh of the New York Knicks has a wish list and Joel Przybilla is on it.  The Knicks are looking for a backup center, and have been openly interested in both Marcus Camby and Przybilla.  The fact that the Blazers are also open to the possibility of acquiring Anthony Randolph from the Knicks makes me believe that a deal between these two teams is very likely to happen before the deadline.
  • Nicolas Batum is now blogging.  Sean Meagher discovered the post on the French basketball site, http://www.basketsession.com and Tim Brown of The Oregonian roughly translates it.  One of my favorite quotes:

Now, I’m seeing less space and less open shots, so that would be super interesting to the team if I could develop a shot from 4-5 meters out from the basket off of the screen

Any time something has the potential to be super interesting to the team, I am onboard.

  • Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat is reporting that executive director of the NBAPA, Billy Hunter met with the Kings team two weeks ago and warned them that “The lockout would last all of next season” if an agreement isn’t reached by June 30th.  Meetings are reportedly scheduled to take place during All-Star weekend between owners and the NBA Players Association in hopes to put to rest the uncertainty of next years NBA season. 
  • If you find yourself wondering what Kevin Pritchard is up to these days, Chad Ford gives us an update in his chat:

Lance (Pdx)

Hey Chad, KP was invited to spend some Quality time with Larry Legend, big changes coming in Indy?

Chad Ford

(1:31 PM)

From what I can gather, Kevin Pritchard approached Bird, an old teammate, looking for some side work. Pacers asked him to scout some NBA players. No official relationship. Doesn’t appear to be anything. While I’m sure Pritchard is on the hunt for a new GM gig (and I think he deserves one) I don’t think there’s anything going on in Indy. The owner is a big Bird and David Morway fan I’m told.

Pick and Scroll, Blazers escape Sac-Town Letdown

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

  • The Blazers did everything they could last night to lose, but in the end it just wasn’t enough. The Blazers won 94-90 in overtime. Joe Freeman of The Oregonian alerts Blazer fans that they should get used to these types of games for the foreseeable future.
  • Speaking of the future, it seems as if Nate McMillan’s is in his hands. John Canzano of The Oregonian believes that Coach McMillan has all the power when contract negotiations take place this summer. Canzano also believes McMillan is a wanted coach, and wouldn’t fault him one bit if he decided to jump ship this offseason for a team with healthier meniscuses. Menisci? Healthier knees.
  • Chris Haynes of SLAM online, echoes Canzano’s opinion. However, in the piece there are some puzzling quotes from Coach McMillan, one of which has him reminiscing about a dream lineup of Blake and Oden starting with Marcus Camby and Andre Miller coming off of the bench. If I am not mistaken, wasn’t Blake (and Outlaw) traded for Camby because Oden was already injured? It doesn’t make sense to me.
  • In another potential offseason departure, everybody’s favorite intimidator Joel Przybilla, has apparently mulled over the thought of retirement. Telling Portland Tribune writer, Kerry Eggers that:

“Retirement is a possibility,” says Przybilla, 31. “My wife (Noelle) and I have talked about it a lot. Between the knee and the ankle, there’s still some pain there,” he says. “I’m not 100 percent, and I don’t know if (the knee) will ever be 100 percent. My biggest thing this year was to just get through the season, then have a good summer. I don’t want to get injured again and have to go through the rehab process again.”

  • Are you sick of all the Carmelo Anthony non-news yet? Well, Dwight Jaynes wants to make sure that you are. In his commentary, Jaynes suggests that the Blazers try to trade for Carmelo Anthony regardless if he will sign with the team after the season. I guess that’s one way to start the rebuilding process.
  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian brings us up to speed on the All-Star campaigning of Lamarcus Aldridge. Tonight will obviously be a big litmus test for Aldridge’s candidacy.
  • Tonight the Blazers take on the Los Angeles Clippers on a nationally broadcasted game on TNT. Make sure to check out our TrueHoop Network sister site, ClipperBlog, to try and figure out how to stop Blake Griffin.

Pick and Scroll: The Sky is Falling, or Business as Usual

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

  • At first, results of an MRI test showed negative results to the injury suffered by Marcus Camby on Monday night, but I think everybody knew that news was too good to be true: Marcus Camby has a partial tear of meniscus in his left knee.  Surgery is expected later this week, and there is no timetable for his return. Add one more knee injury to the already ridiculous amount for one roster to suffer in just two years, and people are beginning to point fingers. 
  • Regardless of the current state this Blazer team is in, Jason Quick of The Oregonian harps the importance of the next several games for the Trail Blazer playoff hopes.  With games coming up against Sacramento (twice), the Clippers and Pacers—the Blazers should expect to separate themselves from the .500 record they currently hover around.
  • Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat is taking an optimistic approach to the Camby injury.  Maxey believes that Camby’s knee surgery could speed up trade talks
  • Mike Tokito of The Oregonian breaks down The numbers involved with the injury to Marcus Camby.  The big one, of course, is the number five—an unbelievable fifth knee surgery will take place this season, and it isn’t even the All-Star break yet.
  •  Chad Ford of ESPN addresses the current Blazers situation in his Chat:

TWS (Portland)

Time to blow up the Blazers and start over? Or at least hire a gypsy to remove the curse?

Chad Ford

(1:39 PM)

Who would’ve thought that Kevin Pritchard ended up getting out just in time. Wonder if the curse is Karma. Paul Allen and company were pretty shameful in how they treated the guy who built the team … fired him the day of the draft … and now the team he built is crumbling right in front of them. The Blazers have so many injuries in issues, I’m not sure exactly what Rich Cho can do about it. They are hoping Andre Miller is a trade chip at the deadline. Believe it or not, they think Greg Oden might be able to get them something too. The two guys they don’t want to move — LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum — happen to be the two guys with the most trade value. It’s a mess.

  • Despite another setback, there is still a game to be played tonight, and as Tonry mentioned in his preview—the Blazers should win tonight no matter who is healthy.  Make sure to check out our TrueHoop Sister site The Cowbell Kingdom for some insight on the Kings.



Suns Preview

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I’d party with Steve

Tonight the Portland Trail Blazers (20-19) visit Phoenix in an attempt to sweep the season series from the 16-21 Suns.   Remember those Suns that defeated the Blazers in six games in the first round of the playoffs last year?  Well, these aren’t them.  Don’t be alarmed though, these Suns still don’t defend.  In fact, they allow the most points in the league at almost 109 a game.  These Suns do, however, still score, third most in the NBA at 106 points a game. 

I know what you’re thinking, “didn’t we just play an offensive machine not known for defense and lose?”  Yes, but the Suns are 0-3 against the Blazers this season, and those games were all before the swap of Blazer killer Jason Richardson for Vince Carter.  Steve Nash is frustrated, his supporting cast is a shell of what it once was, and although the Blazers find themselves reeling after two losses to the Heat and Knicks, this game is theirs for the taking. 

The Suns have lost 8 of their last 11, with their sole wins coming against Detroit, Cleveland and New Jersey (in overtime).  Steve Nash is still producing, currently second in the league in assists, but the supporting cast is barren.  If the Blazers can defend the dribble penetration of Nash and Carter and hold Channing Frye and Grant Hill to pedestrian stats, this game is theirs.  As we saw with the Knicks, if the Blazers try to outscore and outshoot this Suns team without playing any defense, this game will turn ugly. 

Tonight the Blazers must force the Suns to shoot contested jumpers, rebound, their misses, and get into the middle of their soft defense with Lamarcus Aldridge. Do those things and this game is done.  Although, if the Blazers shoot 35% from the field again, this game won’t even be close. 

Tip-Off: 7:30pm

TV: KGW, ESPN & ESPN3.com

Radio: 95.5 FM

Vegas Line:  Phoenix -1.5

Pick and Scroll, Broad side of the barn unscathed after last night’s shooting performance

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

  • Joe Freeman of The Oregonian breaks down the Blazers zombie like performance last night. Following the loss, Coach McMillan decided to give his players the day off today. I hope they spend it playing “horse” against one another.
  • Also from The Oregonian, Mike Tokito believes that the Knicks’ defensive output and not their usual prolific offense, keyed the victory against the Blazers. The Knicks only allowed one offensive rebound in the second half and forced the Blazers to shoot only 35% from the field.
  • Also from Tokito, his breakdown of upcoming opponents the Phoenix Suns and New Jersey Nets. Tokito also shares some thoughts on the recent rumors of Devin Harris becoming a Blazer.
  • Ben Golliver of Blazersedge, provides his Media Row Report from last night. In his notes he mentions that Ronny Turiaf referred to himself as a “chameleon”, most likely because of his willingness to change shape and do anything for the team. But after reading that, all I could think about was this.
  • Mike Barrett mentioned it last night at the end of the game and again today in his blog, The Miami Heat beat the Blazers twice. Describing last night as a “trap game”, Barrett believes the mental hangover from Sunday night’s loss to the Heat is only partly to blame for the loss last night (see: 35% shooting).
  • Henry Abbott of TrueHoop Motherblog breaks down some possible scenarios in ESPN’s trade machine regarding Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks. One trade Abbott Tinkers with involves a third team, The Blazers.
  • Jonathan Abrams of The New York Times hints at the Knicks’ desire to trade for Marcus Camby. Rich Cho will have none of that.