The Blazers and the Rockets are both playoff teams that have their share of obvious flaws. In fact, neither one of them have any business getting out of the first round this season. But thanks to the way the seedings shook out, one of them will advance by default.
Unfortunately for Portland fans, that team is going to be the Rockets, and the reason is rather simple: This Blazers team is just not built for the playoffs.
The Rockets took a commanding three games to one lead over the Blazers on Sunday, but it wasn't necessarily because of any stellar play on the part of the individuals wearing those ugly white jerseys for Houston. No sir. It was largely due to the fact that the Blazers can't take advantage of the talent they have on the floor, and don't run offensive sets that are conducive to getting their best players the ball in the best positions to score easy baskets.
And that's precisely what you need to do to be successful in the post-season.
Too many times, Portland had maybe one pass in a half-court set on the offensive end of the floor, after which someone like LaMarcus Aldridge or Travis Outlaw would force a long shot, a tough shot off the dribble, or a weak fade away attempt over someone like Yao Ming.
That crap might work in the regular season over less defensive-minded teams, but it certainly isn't going to fly in the playoffs against a team like the Rockets.
Now granted, the three players most likely to score for the Blazers had the most shot attempts: Brandon Roy had 17 (same as Aldrigde), and Outlaw had 14. But only Roy was smart enough to get to the free throw line 13 times, while the other two settled for jumpers and combined to shoot only three foul shots.
The bottom line is, though, that the Blazers start three players that are pretty much incapable of scoring on their own: Steve Blake, Joel Przybilla, and Nicolas Batum. Sure, Blake might hit some shots if he's open, and Przybilla might clean up some garbage inside for some buckets. But Batum is simply a placeholder for Outlaw, who the team saves to provide that ever-elusive spark off the bench.
I get that to a certain extent, but the lack of fluidity to the Blazers' offense is why they can't get better shots against a Rockets' team that prides itself on defense.
Portland trotted out its most potent lineup near the end of the third quarter, when they had Roy, Aldridge, Outlaw, Rudy Fernandez, and Greg Oden on the floor at the same time. The Blazers turned a six point deficit into a six-point lead, and did so in just the final 3:21 of the third period. Przybilla subbed back in for Oden with a minute left, but the idea was the same: let Roy run the point and create on the offensive end, and let the size on the floor cause havoc for the Rockets on defense.
It worked well, but Portland's success was short-lived.
The Blazers' offensive deficiencies aside, they still haven't figured out -- four games in to this series -- that Luis Scola and Carl Landry will hit mid-range jumpers all day, and that Shane Battier and Von Wafer will hit threes if you leave them open.
Until they do, and until they realize that Roy (much like a Kobe Bryant or a LeBron James) needs to be the beginning and ending point of that offense, the Blazers will be nothing more than a playoff team that loses in the first round.
Where do we begin? Obviously, with the Celtics and the Bulls.The battle between Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose has been something special, and Game 4 was no exception. Rondo notched his second triple-double of the series with a 25 point, 11 rebound, 11 assist effort -- in 55 (!) minutes with just one turnover. Rose played 49 minutes and put up a line of 23-11-9, but also had seven turnovers. (Rookie.)
The Pistons packed it in while getting swept on Sunday, and honestly, it was tough to see them go out like that. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince combined to go 3-of-17 from the field for eight points, and Rasheed Wallace couldn't have cared less what happened, which was quite obvious by his 0-for-7, zero-point performance in what might have been his last 29 minutes as a Piston.
Yes, that was Hedo Turkoglu's game-winning three-pointer that tied the series between the Magic and the Sixers at two games apiece. But I'm showing it under protest.
I'm sorry, but with the game tied and 14 seconds left, it's unconscionable for Stan Van Gundy to let Turkoglu simply dribble down the game clock and jack up a three-pointer virtually at the buzzer to try to get the win. Really? With all that time and with Dwight Howard on the inside, that's the best play you can come up with?
Even Mike Brown realized that wasn't necessarily the best way to accomplish things in the NBA, and he has LeBron F. James on his team! It's nice that the shot went down and all, but had it missed, SVG would be under a heck of a lot of scrutiny right about now for not bothering to run a play with all that time left and the game -- likely the series -- on the line in that situation.
On the Blockquote
By The Horns:
After the game Rondo said: "It's 2-2 and we're in a fight. Give them a lot of credit. They stuck with it. They fought back. They executed down the stretch very well and we didn't." Think about that. Despite those missed free throws, Chicago out-executed the Celtics in cruch time. Vinny Del Negro didn't run himself out of timeouts. The Bulls made the big plays every time they had to. And they won, extending The Series of this year's first round to at least six games. Oh man, what a feeling.Third Quarter Collapse:
The game never should have come down to one shot, and the feeling the Magic and their fans should have is one of relief, not of exuberance. Feel good that the team played its most complete game of the series, but worry that it nearly blew a big lead late yet again. Each time the 76ers have made a comeback against Orlando, it's come during a stretch in which Orlando has stopped looking to get the ball to Dwight Howard inside. Orlando can't afford to lose sight of its franchise center on offense.Cavs: The Blog:
This game felt more like an execution than a coronation; there's a strange lack of pleasure in taking this team that was once a juggernaut, that handed LeBron his first playoff loss and bore witness to his greatest triumph (so far.) Ben Wallace was wearing our colors. Chauncey is on fire a thousand miles away.Random Pic of the Day
The once-raucious Detroit crowd was chanting "M-V-P" for LeBron instead of "DEE-TROIT BASKET-BALL," the tale of how the Pistons leading the league in attendance but having to send e-mails to Cavalier season ticket holders to fill their seats for the playoffs, a stark reminder of how Detroit's infastructure has crumbled around it while Allen Iverson and his $13 million dollars can't be bothered to be in the building. Those facts, tossed off in the third quarter, stirred up more emotions than anything happening on the court.