Saturday, March 7, 2009

Nuggets Recap and T'Puppies Preview

Nuggets Recap

Thursday night was a difficult pill to swallow for the Blazers who were flying high after erasing a double digit comeback win to defeat the Pacers on Wednesday night (this was Portland's 14th win when trailing by double digits, most in the NBA). The game was at Denver which is always a tough place to play when you take into account the fans and the altitude.

Outlaw was the standout on the offensive end accounting for 15 points and 6 boards in just 27 minutes of play. Roy and Aldridge had decent games scoring wise going for a combined 41 points, but if you add up the total assists and rebounds from both players the number is only ten.

Bottom line from the nuggets game was the excellence of Denvers offense. It appeared that the Nuggets could score at will even when faced to take a somewhat difficult shot (this point proved when Roy sprinted out on a wide open Mello to scare him off a 3 point shot who then passed it to Kleiza who hit a fadeaway deep 2 with a hand in the face). Denver ended the game with four players over 15 points including Mello’s game high 38 (who had sat out one game earlier against the pistons for behavioral issues. K, enough dwelling on the past, its time to look to the future, like Mike does everytime he stares into Keysha’s eyes (kids, white picket fence, dogfighting pit in the basement, right mike?), and take a look at tonights game against Minnesota.

T’Wolves Preview
Tonight the Blazers will try and finish a season sweep of the lottery bound Timberwolves. The first two games were close wins for the Blazers, but with the out for the year injury of Al Jefferson (which makes the opposing teams now sell tickets by saying now coming to your town Kevin Love and the T’Wolves, ew, anyone going to that game outside of his homestate?), last game was a 20 point blowout. Minnesota has lost nine out of their last 10 and 8 straight. Not to mention the game is in Portland (being attended by mama and papa goose, shoutout) where the Blazers are a remarkable 25-5. On to the Keys of the game.

1. Have Nate go remind the T’Wolves of something…
Nate needs to go whisper in Kevin Mchale’s ear the names of Greg Monroe, Ricky Rubio, Hasheem Thabeet, and Stephan Curry to see if we can get them to take a good old fashion dive to try and lock up a top lottery spot.

2. Keep Foye and Telfair out of the paint
Make Minnesota shoot jumpers to beat you, Telfair and Foye are both solid at getting to the hoop, but neither have stellar J’s.

3. Don’t look to the next game too soon
Although Minnesota is the “St. Helens” of the NBA, we cannot take them too lightly and still need to come out and set the tone early. Put this game away and don’t let them hang around.

Gamblers Corner
The spread is 14 and the O/U is 199....I feel this is a really tough call for both the spread and the O/U, but if I were to have to pick, I would take the Blazers and the Under.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Roy Love & Nuggets Preview

Gambler’s Corner Winner

The winner for February’s Gambler’s corner is a tie between Matt and Kiel! Good work fellas, and thanks for taking the time to read the blog and post. If you guys would like to submit a post to me, I will get it up on the blog. For everyone else, keep your eyes open for these posts!

Oh and if you are looking for a recap from last night’s game, check the Blog Archive on the right hand side.

Blazer News

ESPN’s John Hollinger has taken notice to Roy’s excellence late in games with an article today, for the entire article click here.

Brandon Roy needs a nickname, so let me boldly propose one: The Magnificent Seven.
For starters, he wears No. 7, which is helpful. But this season, he's the magnificent No. 7 in more ways than one.
Take a look at the NBA this season. Six players have been a cut above the rest -- LeBron James, Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade. But who has been the seventh-best? Search around, and you won't find anyone with a better case than Roy.

He is seventh in the league in player efficiency rating for a team that, coincidentally, has the league's seventh-best record after Wednesday's 107-105 win over Indiana -- one in which he scored 10 points in the final two minutes and 24 in the second half. Check the Power Rankings this morning; guess which team is No. 7?


So why aren't we hearing more about this guy? He might be seventh on my stat charts, but he's nowhere close in terms of name recognition yet. Sure, he's a two-time All-Star, but the perception of him is more as a nice player than as a superstar.


His game is pure craftiness -- changes of pace and direction, subtle fakes, midrange jumpers and cleanly executed finishes around the rim with either hand. It's jarring to see a player who is 24 years old play with such polish, something Roy credits to his older brother.


And the other reason Roy's exploits don't get more attention, I must say, is numbers. Roy isn't a guy who excels in one category, so there's nothing to make you go, "Wow." Even the advanced metrics agree on this -- he's not among the top three shooting guards in any category except PER.

But here's the thing -- he's good at everything. Roy might not lead his position in any category, but he's in the top third in all of them.


"If you let him get to the basket, he's so strong and shoots with either hand so well," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said prior to Wednesday's game. "He shoots an extraordinary percentage inside 5 feet."

High praise for Roy, and the entire article is good, so if you have some time go check it out.

Game Preview

I know I have said this a couple times already this season, but tonight’s game is the biggest of the season. It is for first place in the NW division, and although it may be short lived by either team with the way Utah has been playing, it would still be a nice feather in our cap.

Eff the Chest Bump Bro, That's Gay. Let's Do the Wiener Bump

Denver has hit somewhat of a slide as of late, going 5-5 in their last 10. That includes loses to Milwaukee, Indiana, and Detroit. Carmelo Anthony was out for their last game against he Pistons for violating team policy, by refusing to come out of the game when head coach George Karl attempted to take him out. Let’s hope that their locker room is still out of sorts for tonight’s game.

Denver has no key injuries for tonight’s game. As most of you know Greg Oden is out for tonights game. Man wouldn’t it be nice to have him tonight? He would be matching up Nene and Johan Petro. I have a feeling Oden would’ve had a very nice offensive night if he would be playing. However he is not, and we will go to war with the Przy. So how can the Blazers snatch up the division crown tonight? Here is what I think they need to do.

Keys to the Game
1. Crash the Offensive Boards
Denver is 24th in the league at defensive rebounding rate (rebounds per 100 possessions), and the Blazers are 1st in offensive rebounding rate. This is a huge edge, and we need to take advantage of it.

2. Make Some 3’s
We need to shoot a decent percentage from 3. Denver is not an especially good 3 point shooting team outside of JR Smith and Chauncy Billups, so we can gain some ground in this department.

3. Control the Pace
This will be hard to do because Denver plays at the 6th fastest pace in the league where Portland is 29th. They will have the advantage because a lot of the times the PG dictates pace, and Denver has one of the best. Remember though, it is ok for us to get out and run, but we cannot compromise on defense and give up easy baskets too.

4. Help and Rotate Sharply
We must be ready to help on Billups off the dribble and in the post, but then everyone else’s rotations need to be crisp as well. Think San Antonio.

How big would a win be tonight? With a relatively easy scheudale left, compared to Denver and Utah, this could mark the night the Blazers rise to the top of the NW division and don’t look back for the next 8 years.

Gambler’s Corner

Blazers +7
Over/Under 199.5

I am going with the Blazers and the Over. I think that they understand the importance of this game, and will come out and give it a good fight, if not win outright. I would not have been so confident, if I had not seen the Blazer team that came out inspired and sharp versus the Spurs only 4 days ago. Look for the Blazers to push the tempo, just like that game, and get over the 199.5 mark.

Pacers Recap

What is the mark of a good team? Most coaches, players, and analysts will tell you that the mark of a good team is pulling out a win even when you don’t play your best game. Well that is exactly what the Blazers did last night versus the Pacers. While being badly outrebounded for most of the first 3 quarters, the Blazers seemed to pull it together just enough to muster a win to break their streak of 9 consecutive losses to the Pacers.

What I found most baffling is the stark contrast between our play on Sunday versus the Spurs and our play last night. Portland was not doing any of the things they did so well against the Spurs. They were not getting out on the Pacers 3 points shooters, and that lead to the Pacers shooting a blistering 7-8 from 3 long line in the first half. It seemed like every time the Blazers began to make a run, it would be killed by giving up an offensive board, or leaving one of their shooters open.

It’s a good thing we are a 4th quarter team, because I can’t count the number of times that has saved our butts this year. After being held to only 4 points in the first half, Roy exploded for 24 in the 2nd half, and 13 of those in the 4th quarter and 10 in the last 2 minutes of the game. It also helped the Pacers finally cooled off from deep, and let us crawl back into the game. With that win we are now only ½ a game behind Denver for the lead of the northwest division. With a win tonight, we would be in first place, and my, oh my, wouldn’t that be nice.

Individual Performances

Brandon Roy – Is there any question who the most valuable player on this team is? Roy Wonder does it again, and saves us in the 2nd half. Brandon ended with 28 (10-19 FG), 6 boards, and 3 assists. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot in the 4th quarter, scoring 10 points in the last 2 minutes of the game. Roy is turning into one of the top closers in the NBA.

LaMarcus Aldridge – LA had another good game, and continues his streak of solid play with Oden out. LA ended with 21 (8-17 FG) and 7 boards. He had somewhat of a difficult time scoring on the more physical players on Indiana’s front line like Foster, and Murphy. It was nice to have big games from our two best players.

Travis Outlaw – Outlaw was the only one who kept us in the game in the first half, where he scored 17 of his 21 (9-15 FG). He also added 6 boards, a steal and a block. Good game from Travis, and he did exactly what we need/expect him to do when our starters are sputtering on offense.

Steve Blake – Blake wasn’t every effective against the quickness of TJ Ford, but managed for force him into a difficult shot late in the game when it mattered. Blake ended with 9 points (2-9 FG) and only 2 assists. We’ve definitely seen better from Blake, let’s hope he matches up better with Billups tonight.

Rudy Fernandez – Rudy continued his streak of average play with 8 points (2-6 FG) and 4 assists. He wasn’t much of a factor either way, you can really see him hitting that rookie wall.

Joel Przybilla – Przy played through some flu like symptoms and ended with 12 boards (8 offensive), and 10 points. Solid game for Przy, despite feeling below average physically.

Nicolas Batum – Batum continues to look for his shot more then in the past, and although he only ended with 5 points, it is good to see him gain some confidence to take the ball to the hoop.

Bayless/Sergio – Together they only played 18 minutes and ended with 5 points and 2 assists. Not much of a factor, and I expect it to continue this way through the playoffs.

Game Summary in One Sentence – Out-worked, out-hustled, and out-played for 3 quarters, but the Blazers pull one out of their ass in the 4th again.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pacers Preview

Tonight’s game versus the Pacers is a lot bigger then it seems. First, the Blazers have not beaten the Pacers in 5 years. They are winless in the teams last 9 matchups. No one on the current Blazer roster has defeated the Pacers in a Blazers uniform. That is a hurdle that would nice to jump. Secondly, after a Denver loss last night, if the Blazers win tonight, they will be ½ a game behind Denver for the lead in the Northwest Division. That means when we meet Denver tomorrow night at Denver on TNT, it could be for the lead in the NW Division. So not too add too much pressure, but the importance of tonight’s game cannot be understated.

Danny Granger will be out for tonight’s game as he continues to sit out with strained ligaments in his foot. Injuries will also ruin a quasi homecoming for Mike Dunlevey Jr. He is out with bone spurs in his knee and is most likely going to be out for the rest of the year. However, that does not mean that the Pacers are just going to roll over and quit. With Granger out, Jarrett Jack has stepped up in a big way. Last week Jarrett had the highest point total average of his career at 24.2 points. I always liked Jack as a person, but his on court performance made it difficult for him to stay. It is good to see him doing well and I look forward to welcoming him back tonight.

Another threat for the Pacers is Troy Murphy, who has been crushing. How do I know this? Well, he is on my fantasy team, so I get the pleasure of seeing his output every game, and the guy is a beast. He can shoot and he boards like crazy. Przy will have a hard time getting out to him on the three point line, but he is going to have to. Maybe Nate will go small with Aldridge at the 5 and Outlaw at the 4. Either way it will be interesting to see how they neutralize Murphy’s shooting ability.

Keys to the Game

1. Control the Paint
Much like we did against the Spurs, we need to keep guys out of the lane. TJ Ford and Jack are both good at getting to the rim, so we need to make sure to keep them out of there and force them to shoot.
2. Play Our Game
Indiana ranks pretty much in the middle of the pack in just about everything, so what we need for a win, is to do what we do best. Get good looks, and rebound. If we play to our strengths we will walk away with a win.
3. Get Out Front Early
This is one of those games that we can put away early if we get out in front by a lot and make the Pacers believe they have no chance. This will go along way in determining if it’s a close game down the stretch or a blowout.
Gambler’s Corner

Blazers -10
Over/Under 208

I am going to go with the Pacers and the Under. I think the Blazers will win, but I think it is going to be closer then 10 points. Also I see Portland trying to run early, but unless we shoot 61% in the first half like we did on Sunday against San Antonio, it will be hard for us to get over 208.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Signing Vets and Stat Geeks

With the latest buzz around the NBA centered around contenders acquiring recently waived veterans, I began to think. Why couldn’t Portland sign one of those guys? Granted, we wouldn’t want most of them, but what do you think about adding Joe Smith? Smith is known around the league for his solid locker room presence.

Adding Smith could conceivably be the difference between a first round exit in the playoffs and seeing the 2nd round. A player that can show our young, inexperienced team how to play the right way when it matters the most. Heck, wouldn’t it be worth it even if it helped insure we got into the playoffs in the first place? With Oden’s health in question, wouldn’t it be nice to have a backup PF that we could lean on instead of Channing Frye?

Joe Smith has always been a thorn in the Blazer’s collective side. Wouldn’t it be nice to have him hitting those 18 ft. jump shots for us? Showing the guys how you anticipate on defense and rotate before it’s too late. All for a small price. And if he doesn’t fit, then let him walk this summer, nothing hurt. The Blazers have their full mid-level exception left, which essentially allows the Blazers to sign a free agent up to $4.8 mil for the season. Granted, because of the Darius Miles incident, we are over the luxury tax this season, and whatever we decided to pay Joe Smith, we would have to double because of the luxury tax. But if we could get him for $2-$2.5 mil, pro-rated for the rest of the season, wouldn’t it be worth it?

What do you guys think? Is Joe Smith worth taking a flyer on? I do.

Stat Geek

In other news, there is a great article over at Blazer’s Edge about some advanced defensive stats about the Blazers. It essentially asks the question, are the Blazer’s ahead of or behind where they should be defensively with respect to their age? The findings are pretty awesome, and as a fellow stat geek, I found myself envious of my inability to perform these calculations. If only I had paid more attention in Stats……..Anyways, here is the summary if you don’t feel like reading the whole thing.

They found that defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) and age do have a direct relationship. They also calculated that age accounts for 18.8% of the factors that go into determining defensive efficiency. The others being, coaching, defensive mentality, and the rest of the team.

So they then took every teams weighted mean age (age multiplied minutes played so to make sure guys like Raef Lafrentz don’t skew the results) since 2000-2001, and plotted them on a scatterplot. What they found was not only are the Blazer’s ahead of where they should be given their weighted age, but they are significantly outperforming the average. So to ask more of them is almost expecting too much given their experience. I thought this was very interesting, check it out and let me know what you think.

I am excited for tomorrow’s game, it will be good to see Jarrett Jack again, especially when he’s turning the ball over for our opponents rather then us.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Spurs Recap

Last night’s deflowering of the Spurs might have been Portland’s most impressive win of the year. That’s not to take anything away from Roy’s miracle 3 with 0.8 left to help us beat Houston in OT, or our home win versus Boston, but I think it was the best win of the year. It was easily our most complete game offensively and defensively all year. On offense, we introduced a running attack that we have not seen sans the Clippers game two weeks ago. Could this be a new wrinkle to a team that already boasts the 2nd most efficient offense in the league? It’s kind of scary to think about. But enough about offense, what really impressed me was the defensive effort put forth. The Blazers played great D for all 48 minutes, which allowed them to get out and run and get easy baskets. That is why you hear a lot of basketball coaches say defense starts your offense. Well that is exactly what happened last night. If this Blazer team could put that kind of effort together for an entire playoff series, we could maybe see them in the 2nd round sooner then you think.

What else impresses me about this game was the realization of how good this team could be. I mean we can be scary good. We have the YOUNGEST PLAYING ROTATION IN THE NBA and they just shellacked the Spurs and handed them their worst loss of the year. What’s also a note, is we are not talking about the November, we are just warming up Spurs. We are talking the, Let’s rev things up for the playoffs Spurs. All I know is that I would be nervous if I was any other Western Conference GM right now.

Individual Performances

Brandon Roy – Roy led the charge early, and had an amazing 26 points in 27 minutes. He shot 11-17 from the field and basically did whatever he wanted in the first quarter. The last two games Roy has only averaged 29 minutes per game. Nice to see him get some rest during this crucial part of the season.

LaMarcus Aldridge – LA was a beast tonight. I have mentioned this a few times while watching games, but never published it. Can you imagine how good LA would be on a running team like the Suns, Warriors, or Knicks? The guy consistently beats his guy down the court, and even opposing guards sometimes. I am convinced if he was on the Knicks this year, he would have been an all-star. Back to this game, LA ended with 26 points (10-14 FG), 7 boards, 4 assists, and 3 steals. GREAT game for Aldridge.

Steve Blake – It was nice that Blake was able to find his shot after going 0-9 against San Antonio last week. Blake ended with 15 points and was 3-3 from beyond the long line. He also threw 6 dimes and only had to play 30 minutes.

Joel Przybilla – Przy played great D on Tim Duncan and set the tone early for the Blazers on defense. It is always hard to measure the effectiveness of guys like Joel, and tonight was another one of those nights. He still ended with 10 boards and 2 blocks though.

Travis Outlaw – Troutlaw could not get his shot going, but luckily we didn’t need it tonight. He was 1-6 from the field and ended with 5 points. It was nice to see him end with 6 boards though.

Rudy Fernandez – Rudy continued his inconsistency with a 2-10 outing on Sunday. I wish he would get to the rim more and get himself some easy shots so he can get in a rhythm before chucking up 7 three pointers, but who am I to second guess Rude?

Channing Frye – Frye continued his streak of solid play and ended with 12 points and 4 boards on 5-6 shooting. I commend Channing for being ready despite being banished to the end of the bench for the last few months. It can’t be easy staying mentally prepared in a situation like that.

Sergio/Bayless – Not much action from these two guys. They combined for 5 points and 4 assists in 18 minutes of playing time.

Nicolas Batum – Batum played another solid game, and easily had the play of the game when he posterized Matt Bonner with a baseline tomahawk jam. It was sick, if you didn’t see it you might want to try to you tube it.

Game Summary in One Sentence – Arguably the most impressive win of the year, but lets not get fat and happy.