Portland Trail Blazers Game Two Breakdown – What Happened?
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Let’s get right to the five-point breakdown, shall we?
1. Second Halves Are Not Portland’s Friends: At halftime of Game 2, the Clippers led 47-43 after the Blazers engineered a small run. Four points is not by any means an insurmountable lead; a couple stops and a couple scores, and Portland is in command.
So how did the Blazers respond after ending the first half in the right way? They go out and promptly shoot 6-24 in the third quarter, then get outscored by Los Angeles 35-20 in the fourth, turning an ugly, reasonably close game into yet another blowout in an NBA playoffs filled with them.
Among many other factors, I believe that this is happening because the Clippers are running the Blazers ragged. JJ Redick and Austin Rivers are darting all over the place, DeAndre Jordan is making ball handlers work harder to both get a shot off and escape the paint when he comes up, and Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are getting to the spots they want to go. The Blazers’ offense devolved into a stilted mess thanks to the overactive LA defense, as well.
Hopefully going home and playing in front of the Rose Garden (it should be the Rose Garden forever. Unless Moda wants to pay me to call it by the current name.) faithful will revitalize the Blazers, because they looked sluggish in the latter stages of last night’s game.
2. The Troubles of Damian Lillard: Lillard is shooting 13-39 in this series. And it’s not just Paul giving him hell, either. Jordan is swallowing him alive at the rim, blocking his shot on several occasions and altering Lillard’s delivery on several others.
In the name of everything holy, even Cole freakin’ Aldrich is getting in on the act. Aldrich chased down Lillard from 20 feet out and stuffed a layup. I don’t think there’s another universe or alternate dimension where that happens.
Lillard is struggling mightily, no question about it. I guess that answers any doubt about whether Paul was washed up, or had been passed by the likes of Lillard and Kyrie Irving on the NBA’s best point guards list.
3. The Supporting Cast Isn’t Being Very Supportive: True, Mo Harkless had a good game, and Mason Plumlee had a great second quarter, but that was pretty much all the help Lillard got tonight.
CJ McCollum was almost as inefficient as Lillard, shooting 6-17. Chris Kaman had a few rebounds and a few fouls in 10 minutes. Allen Crabbe played solid defense on Jamal Crawford, but did squat on offense again. Ed Davis and Gerald Henderson didn’t make an impact. The team as a whole is shooting just 15-56 on threes, or 27%.
And for the love of God, can someone un-voodoo Al-Farouq Aminu’s three-point jumper? Please? Or ask him to drive it to the rim more often; I know the Clips are packing the paint, but Aminu had a sweet drive-and-kick assist to McCollum for an open three. Maybe more of that could work.
The Clippers have thrown a wrench into the Blazers’ offense, and they might not have the personnel to get the machinery working again.
4. The Point God: Chris Paul has been the best player in this series, and it isn’t close at all. In two games, Paul’s shot 48%, scored 53 points, dished out 16 assists, and made life hell for Lillard on defense.
They played Aminu and Harkless on Paul defensively, but it made no difference this game. When Paul gets going, there’s no real way to slow him down, not with the players around him. If Paul can’t get a shot (or doesn’t want to), he can just as easily manufacture a lob to Jordan, or maneuver into a Griffin post-up on Harkless, or find Redick darting off a double screen.
That’s one of the differences between Paul and Lillard. Lillard may not have the kind of talent surrounding him that Paul does, but he’s also not the kind of point guard that can use people the way Paul can. Dame’s generation grew up mostly scoring the ball; even Stephen Curry is a shooter first and foremost, and a playmaker second.
Paul’s a part of an almost-dead breed in the NBA, and if he weren’t dissecting my favorite team like a dead frog in biology, I’d be stoked to see him play as well as he is right now.
5. The NBA Playoffs So Far Have Been Very Boring: The only competitive series are the Cleveland-Detroit and Toronto-Indiana tilts, and the first one is only that because of the Cavs’ issues.
Golden State and San Antonio marching along is not surprising, but seeing the lack of competition in the rest of the first round is disheartening, especially in the West. I know the Dallas Mavericks just stole one from the Oklahoma City Thunder, but I seriously doubt OKC shoots that poorly again; they also still had a chance to win, and came literally a fingertip short.
This usually is my favorite time of the year, but with the league being especially top-heavy, things won’t really get interesting for at least another week. For a basketball junkie like yours truly, it’s a damn shame.
Game 3 is Saturday night, at 7:30.
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