The 324 Report (1/13/17 v. Orlando)

Summary of the match: The Blazers, fresh off a blowout victory over the defending champions of the world, completely face planted in a 115-109 loss that saw them fall behind 20-3 in the first quarter. Portland did take a 5-point lead midway through the third quarter and then totally faceplanted the rest of the way, sputtering when good shots were needed and missing good shots when makes were needed. I mean, I guess they were supposed to go 1-1 in these last two games anyway…

Man of the match: Nikola “Pronounce His Last Name However You Want” Vucevic. Portland really had no answer for a guy who generally has their number. He finished with 30 points on 13-18 shooting, but it felt so much worse because he made Mason Plumlee look like, well, one of the lesser Plumlees, I honestly don’t know which is which. They basically got Vucevic the ball in two ways: deep pindown post-up and pick-and-pop. He easily beat double-teams when he posted up, which shouldn’t really happen because Orlando entered the game tied for 26th in the league in 3-point shooting, but went 10-18 tonight. Maybe it’s not exactly a coincidence that teams overperform from the perimeter against the Blazers. Anyway, Vucevic bossed the game and that was ultimately the story.

How could you be so Hark-less?: Indeed, the Blazers were without Moe Harkless, who missed the game with a strained calf, making me question what I was even doing there. Allen Crabbe started in his place, which is great and everything but it killed Portland’s depth. Ultimately, Pat Connaughton had to play 13 minutes. Not great. And Crabbe didn’t even play that well (3-10 from the field). Connaughton and Meyers Leonard combined 2-12 from the field filling Crabbe’s shoes as perimeter bench scoring. This all just went to prove what we all know: Moe Harkless is indispensable.

Dame and CJ did their part: They combined for 60 points on 22-48 from the field, each contributing when the other struggled (Dame in the first half, CJ in the second half). But when rubber hit the road late, and with no other players having established themselves during the course of the game, Dame and CJ were pretty handcuffed by a good defensive team. Without anybody else providing a threat off the ball (it really should be you every night, Allen Crabbe), crunch time can get pretty ugly with Dame and CJ going it alone.

Other observations:

  • Another great crowd given the absurdly bad road conditions and dangerous/unpredictable public transportation (https://twitter.com/Oregonian/status/819955478029594624). Also, another opportunity for the Rose Quarter to drastically understaff the arena. It’s like Wednesday night never happened.
  • Aaron Gordon is impressive in dunk contests, but he’s pretty low-impact in actual games. His lack of any shooting kind of eliminates any threat he poses.
  • Jeff Green plays for Orlando, continuing his quest to play for all 30 teams.
  • A performance so bad for Meyers Leonard that it actually elicited booes from a usually forgiving Blazer crowd. He was 1-8, 1-4 from the field, including a blown layup late in the game that kind of set the crowd over the edge.
  • If ever there was a game for Noah Vonleh to reinsert himself into some meaningful minutes, this was it. But he didn’t. RIP Noah Vonleh.
  • The Blazers followed up their two best defensive performances of the year by giving up 115 points to the 27th ranked offense in the league.
  • Taking the bus to the game from Lake Oswego is pretty time-consuming and maybe not worth saving the $5 to park but it’s a great opportunity to get in a solid and possibly redundant pre-bedtime nap.

Whoopty do, what does it all mean, Basil?:Well it means the Blazers are a bad team and they should feel bad for being bad. Given their last two performances, I would have expected better, especially defensively. But it wasn’t to be, and another opportunity to build some momentum off some good wins goes away as quickly as it arrived. Oh well. Oregon hired Mario Cristobal today.

Next home game: 1/25/17 v. Lakers

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