Fri Mar 12 10:00am EST
Offense goes away. You can put as much effort as humanly possible into it, but when it comes down to shooting a ball from great distances into a rim perched 10-feet high, no matter how pure your heart, you're still going to have some rough nights. It happens to everyone. Sure, you return to the mean after a while, but there will be stretches where nothing works.
Defense never goes away. It never, ever, goes away. And if your effort is strong and your mind is active, matched with sound communication, the defense will never go away.
Which is why I'm a little scared about the Portland Trail Blazers.
They started slow in this one, missing shots and turning the ball over, and that's bound to happen no matter how great an offensive team you are. And the Blazers are a great offensive team. The problem is that they've been a great defensive team this season, and a poor defensive team this season, and the result is middling. On Thursday, they were great (in a fourth quarter that saw the Warriors score just nine points), and poor (overall, as they allowed a team that averages 106.7 points per 100 possessions score over 114 per 100).
And that worries me. I mean, it shouldn't be fretting - the Blazers are likely locked into that eighth playoff seed, the team has a somewhat favorable first round matchup with the Lakers coming down the pike (I'm feeling seven games), and the team is really biding its time until everyone returns to full health for 2010-11 - but I do worry about next year. Defensive mindsets have to be established early, and as great a coach as Nate McMillan is, he's never coached defense.
Don't be fooled by the amount of points the team gives up. It's a meaningless number mainly because the Blazers take the air out of the ball on the other end, letting the clock dwindle and giving the opponents fewer chances to score, even if they score with ease at times. The Blazers average the fewest amount of possessions per game, and though the team's points allowed total is the fifth-best in the NBA, normalized per possession, they only come out 17th in the NBA. This is a mediocre defensive team.
That can be a great defensive team, mind you, as we saw for stretches Thursday night. Because they do stretch. Because even with two 7-footers on the injured list, this team is looooong.
Fantastic game from Brandon Roy(notes) in the win. He scored 41 points on 22 shots without even hitting a three-pointer. Just money, from all over, while getting to the line 17 times. Nine offensive rebounds for Marcus Camby(notes), though the Blazers did turn the ball over on 17 percent of their possessions, super-high for them.
Monta Ellis(notes) and Corey Maggette(notes) returned for the Warriors, and that's not always a good thing. Ellis was missed down the stretch though, fouling out with nine minutes to go. Nine-for-27 shooting after building a 16-point lead for the Warriors. Collapse city, as sponsored by the Portland Trail Blazers LLC.
"If both teams were only allowed to use players under 24, the Wizards would have won easily."
So true. And that doesn't include the people you think are 24 and under, like Randy Foye(notes). He's out. I think a lot of Wizards fans wish that guy would be a Cavalier by now, and Mike Miller(notes) a Houston Rocket.
As it's been since the trade deadline - good, interested effort from Washington, but Atlanta just has answers at every position. The Wizards didn't run as much as I would have liked, that's the way to beat the Hawks, and Atlanta made enough shots to keep this a relative in-hand game. Closed out quarters well, too.
Twenty turnovers and 12 missed three-pointers for Washington, which has begun the first back-to-back-to-back stretch since the lockout season. This is going to be interesting.
The Magic are three steps better than the Bulls in any area you can possibly conceive. The Bulls have big forwards who play 26 minutes and pull in just one rebound (Hakim Warrick(notes)), guys that need 12 shots to score 11 points (Jannero Pargo(notes)), six shots to score five points (Flip Murray(notes)), and then there's Kirk Hinrich(notes). The guy who missed five of eight shots, and didn't really hurt his shooting percentage all that much. Though he will cross you over.
Orlando has a championship-caliber team. They defend like mad and they score at an efficient rate, and their players are healthy. Not much more I can say about this game without wasting your time. Happy Friday, cats.