WTF Is Up With Portland?
Posted by hiphopmama on April 10, 2009
LA Lakers 98, Portland 106
Even more importantly, what is up with Phil? He just didn’t feel like traveling to the Pacific Northwest this weekend? He needed a little breather before the playoffs? I’ve never heard of a coach missing a game for a foot injury, but I am not yet of that venerable age so maybe I just don’t get it. Whatever the case, we were coach-less tonight, with Kurt Rambis filling in for the beardless one, and I can’t believe I’m saying this but it actually mattered. Not an excuse, just something to note. Believe me – we don’t need any excuses for losses in the Rose Garden. Not at this point anyway.
I won’t go into the whole game much. It was a good one, with both teams sparring and feeling each other out, taking what the opponent had to offer and then counter-punching with the best of them. The teams traded leads a few times, but a Portland surge gave the Blazers a small lead late and forced us to play catch-up down the stretch. Kobe and Brandon Roy squared off in a battle of two of the game’s best closers, and Kobe was not the victor tonight. Granted, it’s easier to play as the front-runner in that situation, but Roy was tough as nails and aggressive in the clutch. It takes cojones to want to take those meaningful shots late in games, and Roy was sporting a Sam Cassell pair in this one. After Kobe and Wade, he’s the best I’ve seen this year. As with Dwyane, I can’t even be mad about it because I like the dude.
I’m baffled as to how this can be, but I actually like this Blazers team as a whole. It’s quite a change from their old toker persona, when Sheed and Stoudemire were passing blunts rather than basketballs, and their youngsters are a likable bunch. LaMarcus Aldridge, despite a relatively quiet 16 tonight, has an impressive all-around game to complement his size and strength on the block. Steve Blake is one of those hard-nosed utility guys at the point, and he proved he can hit key shots tonight as well. Travis Outlaw is another fun player to watch and is explosive off the bench. And Brandon Roy is a superstar in the making who I fully expect to be a perennial all-star in the league. To top it off, none of them has the A-hole attitude that the old Blazers possessed in spades. Batum has his moments, but nothing that approaches Rasheed levels of impertinence. I wish them well, although I wouldn’t be sad to see them go out in the first round. I’ll be damned if I want to see us head up to Portland again this year.
And now to swagger-jack one of my favorite soccer blogs, Ole Ole’s Chelsea blog, with the following segment: the good, the bad, and the ugly. First off the good:
- Shannon Brown. He has been by far my favorite Laker over the past week. He comes in and just does his job with the requisite hustle. Shooting 4-for-4 with two 3-pointers doesn’t hurt, either, and his contributions were much appreciated tonight, as evidenced by his 20 minutes on the floor. Farmar has slipped way down the bench, playing just 5 minutes tonight and going 0-for-2, but I’m not particularly sad about it. Brown even proved that he can fill in at the point a little, paired with Sasha in the backcourt, which gives us lots more options in there. For a throw-in on a cap-saving trade deal, he’s been quite an addition.
- Brandon Roy. Gotta give credit where it’s due, and Roy certainly earned it tonight. He didn’t have the most amazing shooting night, but just like Kobe, he found a way to get it done when it counted and his team reaped the benefits. Keep an eye on this one. (Not “that one,” as per McCain. Just saying.)
- Kobe Bryant. I suppose you have to put him in here for scoring 32 points and carrying us down the stretch, but it wasn’t a stellar performance from him in general. He was in foul trouble from jump, picked up a technical foul, and spent more time pouting than defending at times. Wait, this is the “good” section…
- Lamar Odom. 17 points off the bench, plus 10 boards for the double-double. That is one helluva sixth man. Bynum is still a step – or maybe two or three – slow, but the ability to bring a player like Odom off the bench is a huge luxury that we should use to our advantage from here on out.
And the bad:
- Derek Fisher. 1-for-7 and 2 points in 23 minutes. Is he getting tired? He definitely had to carry a heavy load this season when Farmar went out, so maybe it’s catching up with him. Maybe he’s just coasting to the finish line before the postseason push. Don’t want to be too harsh on him because he’s always come through for us when we needed him, but I’m hoping he can pick it up in the playoffs. We need his leadership out there, but not without any kind of production.
- Trevor Ariza. He came out with a bang when he was first inserted into the starting line-up, but his effectiveness has waned since then. Even his defense hasn’t been as sparkling as usual, so I wonder whether a move back to the bench might not be in order. He seems to thrive there anyway.
- Team defense. Okay, that’s not entirely true, but at the same time it is. We held the Blazers to 42.7% shooting and took them out of their offense at times, but we got all of 2 steals for the whole game. What happened to the old swarming team that forced double-digit turnovers in a half? I understand that a more settled D is helping us hold down opponent shooting percentages, but the drop-off can’t be this huge. We just looked tired tonight, which makes sense since it was the second of a home-away back-to-back. We also had just one block to Portland’s 6 and were out-rebounded 44-39.
- Pau Gasol. This one may seem unmerited, but even at 6-of-9 from the floor it was an off night for Pau. He only had 12 points and, despite the score sheet listing him as just 1 turnover, made a number of iffy plays that hurt our possession chances. Ticky-tack fouls, followed by plenty of whining, and little of the aggression he’s shown this year. Again, I’m attributing it to end of season lethargy. Please prove me right.
And finally, the ugly:
- Game management. Kurt, you may have designed a good defensive strategy for this team, but you, sir, are no Phil Jackson. Big surprise, I know, but Phil’s absence was palpable tonight, much to my own shock. PJ is usually barely sentient on the sidelines, sporting the same expression in good times and bad, but he at least has the team prepared. Kurt didn’t do that tonight. As the game wound down and we were playing catch-up, he just didn’t have the guys ready to make the necessary plays. He called time-outs that Phil wouldn’t, because apparently he hadn’t thought ahead to call the next play as PJ would have, and even our veteran point guard committed an ill-advised foul when we just needed to play tough D. Kobe was furious, and some of the blame must lie with Fish, but the coach should have drilled the plan into the players’ heads before that point. We were like an orchestra without our maestro tonight. And I thought he was just a figurehead.
So there you have it. An over-long run-down of that one, but I felt it was needed following another disappointing loss in Portland. Thank god we at least have home court against these fools come playoff time, although I won’t be rooting for that match-up. Two more home games and then we’re off. And home court throughout is looking less and less likely.