Sports

Blazers Play Poorly, Crushed by Suns in Game 5

| by Dwight Jaynes

Normally, it’s a good thing when your team opens a big game by making a bunch of shots. But when it’s the Trail Blazers, and they’re hitting outside shots — and those shots are being made by Jerryd Bayless and Andre Miller — it may not be a great sign of things to come. In fact, it might be a warning sign. It’s just not going to keep happening. And it’s fool’s gold. The Blazers weren’t really playing as well as it looked when it was 9-0 and 21-7 — it was just some long jumpers going in, and that’s never likely to continue with this team.

The Blazers just keep trying to swim upstream in the playoffs. Isolation games just don’t work so well when teams have the opportunity to prepare. Don’t think the problems Brandon Roy had Monday night were only because he’s still fighting the residue of that knee injury. Oh no. This is stuff we’ve seen before when teams have had a chance to truly prepare for the Blazers. Most nights, Portland doesn’t move the ball and move bodies well enough to get Roy enough open space to take his man. Which of course leads to a big stall in the Blazer offense.

But there were so many other things that went off the tracks in that game, too. I mean, I’ve been critical in the past of Nate McMillan’s two-foul rule in the first quarter. This was another time when I think it would have been wise to stick with Marcus Camby even though he drew his second foul. Hell, he’s not going to foul out of that game. He knows how to play with foul problems. But at the same time, the flood of bodies off the Portland bench in this game astounded me.

Man, teams that win a Game 5 in a 2-2 series win 83 percent of the series. If there’s ever a time to shorten the rotation, this was it. Particularly in a road game and particularly in a game where there’s a full two days rest after the game. I don’t know I’d have run all these guys out there in the second quarter — like a JV coach trying to make sure guys get their letter at the end of the season.

And really, Rudy Fernandez plays more minutes than Martell Webster? Rudy plays 15 minutes and takes one shot? One shot? I cannot even imagine why he’s still in the rotation for this game. At all. Makes no sense. What does he have to do to be benched? How bad does he have to play? And fewer than 20 minutes for Nic Batum? Seriously? That makes no sense at all. And oh by the way, while he’s out there, might be a fresh idea to actually run some sort of play for him, don’t you think? He might be the most reliable outside shooter the team has.

And even though Portland had a great start in this game, I’m going to ask why Brandon Roy was not in the starting lineup? I think it’s tough enough for him to get back into the swing of things without playing an unfamiliar role. That off-the-bench deal can be difficult for a lifetime starter and he appeared to never really get into the flow. Start him or don’t bother.

All in all, it was just one more example of how tough it’s going to be for Portland to win in the playoffs in the future with this kind of offensive attack. Brandon Roy needs help getting shots. He needs to have a system in place that just might help him get open. He needs not to have to wear two or three players on his back. This means ball movement and player movement. Damn, I get sick of writing that. But when I keep seeing what I saw out of them Monday night, I just scratch my head.

Same with the Portland defense. Man, they actually started the game by trying not to switch that pick-and-roll. That lasted just a few minutes. Then it was back to Camby on Steve Nash. To the point that Mike Fratello said, “Portland wants to switch its bigs on to Nash on the pick and roll…” Actually, Mike, according to McMillan they DON’T want to switch. But he can’t seem to figure out how not to make it happen.

You know, there are so many excuses available for this team but I’m not sure any of them apply. Injuries? Plug Greg Oden in for Marcus Camby and that’s your team moving forward. Really, are things going to change much with the way Portland plays? What you see right now is kind of what you’re going to get. Yes, a healthier Roy will make a difference. But how much difference? At some point, somebody is going to have to take a hard look at how this team plays on offense and defense and decide if it makes the best possible use of the talent on hand.

And it’s high time somebody did that.

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