The 324 Report (11/25/16 v. New Orleans)

Summary of the match: Coming of a mostly abysmal 1-4 road trip, the Blazers beat a bad team they were supposed to beat in a harder-than-it-looked 119-104 victory in front of a pretty boisterous sellout crowd that was apparently impervious to tryptophan. New Orleans took their biggest lead of the game (9) in the second quarter before a nice 29-12 stretch from Portland basically put the game away. It was a desperately needed win for a desperate team still trying to figure out if it’s any good.

How great was Moe Harkless?: Very. In fact it was probably Hark’s best game of the year. He made an impact during each of his shifts and was occasionally the only Blazer playing sustained coherent defense. He went 8-13 from the field for 19 points. Of those 8 makes, 7 came in the restricted area, all off of either dives to the rim or crashing the boards. The one non-interior bucket was a corner 3, making this is 13th game out of the last 14 where Hark has hit a 3. This is a tremendously important factor in an Aminu-less stretch where two other starters (Plumlee and Davis) are not threats at all from distance. His rotations were disruptive and led to a number of steals or deflections, and his 11 rebounds included 5 on the offensive end, including a huge hustle-down in the corner off a missed CJ jumper that helped ice the game. MOTM-level performance from Moe.

Was Evan Turner butt?: Oh my, yes. Keep in mind, this was a game Portland won by 15, with all starters posting a +13 or above, with their most effective bench performer (Meyers Legend) posting a +9. Turner posted a -11 in 25 minutes (the most minutes off the bench of any player). He was 1-5 from 3 and three of those misses were “not even Evan Turner can screw this up” degrees of open. Several questionable passes really torpedoed some important second quarter possessions when the Blazers were making a run. One of his bad misses was compounded by a terrible closeout on the other end which left the interior hopelessly exposed and resulted in a shooting foul on Allen Crabbe. On the bright side, 4 assists and zero turnovers. When ET decides he’s going to be a facilitator and not an instant-scoring guy of the bench, he’s effective. Just bummed we paid $80 million for that though.

Other observations:

  • The most promising performance of the night was from Meyers Leonard. He had 15 points on 6-11, 3-6. It was predictable that his shot would come back, but even more promising was his work on the glass (9 rebounds). He seems less tentative coming off his shoulder injury than he did earlier in the season. If his confidence continues to build and his upper-body gets closer to game shape, the Blazer bench issues really start to disappear.
  • Portland went with the Working Class lineup of Leonard, Mason Plumlee, and Jake Layman for a stretch in the second quarter. That lineup went +9 in less than 4 minutes. That’s how you win the Rust Belt, folks.
  • Really nice all around performance from Mason Plumlee (12-14-8 in 33 minutes for a +16). Starting center remains the spot most likely to get upgraded if the Blazers ever want to take the “next step,” but if teams are going to blitz PnRs and force the ball out of Dame and CJ’s hands, Mason in the center of the floor making decisions isn’t a bad option to have when they get a 4-on-3 from the FT line down after the blitz.
  • Solid, controlled performance from Dame on a night when his PG adversary was a little off his rocker (more on that in a minute).
  • New Orleans was 13-23 (57%) from 3. For the season, they’re 28th in the league at 32%. E-Twaun Moore is 33% for the year. He was 3-3 tonight, all somewhat contested. As bad as the Blazers have been defensively the last few weeks, I’m prepared to chalk this up to a fluky performance from New Orleans, who were fortunate to keep themselves in the game on some unsustainable numbers.
  • Allen Crabbe was mostly invisible. He’s in the game to make jumpers, and he didn’t do that tonight (2-6, 0-3).
  • Tim Frazier really needs to chill the hell out. The former Blazer PG (signed from the D-League two years ago, cut at the trade deadline last year) was playing with something to prove I guess. But he was waaaaay too amped and hurt his team on several occasions with overzealous defending that resulted in fouls, ill-advised drives that led to bad shots or turnovers, and unnecessary confrontations, one of which led to a technical foul. And all of this is unnecessary because he’s starting on another NBA team. Relax. And he’s the sort of guy who will likely bounce around the league a bit, so five years from now he’ll have to play this way against half the league.
  • It was Civil War Night (the football game, not the upcoming call-to-arms that will decide the fate of the country), which was exactly as insufferable as you’d expect. Fitting occasion, given that the only thing less relevant than an NBA regular season game in November is this year’s Oregon-Oregon State pillow fight.
  • Portland’s transition defense is ghastly. Lots of cross-matches and miscommunication, and one occasion where literally nobody picked up Terrance Jones (he of a previous homeless stomping incident in Portland), who was standing under the basket and not even stomping on homeless people. Portland’s halfcourt defense is bad enough. No need to give up easy stuff in transition also.

Whoopty do, what does it all mean, Basil?: Not much, tbh. This was a win the Blazers had to have. And they got it. It wasn’t altogether impressive. They let New Orleans back into the game a bit in the fourth before Lillard re-entered and put pedal to floor. This team still might suck, but winning is better than losing, so…

Next home game: Houston on 11/27/16.

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