What's wrong with the Blazers? It's the question that everyone has been pondering the past few weeks, but nobody has been able to come up with any discernable answers. But the team's current draught—six losses in a row, including a brutal four game trip back East that saw the Blazers lose fourth quarter leads to the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets, three bottom dwellers in the lowly Eastern Conference—has the whole city wondering if the team is doomed to head back to the lottery. Still, we're only 19 games in the season, and there's still time for the Blazers to turn things around: They just need to do it now, at home against the 4-16 Los Angeles Clippers, or risk falling even further behind in a stacked Western Conference. Let's dig a little deeper and look at my genius pre-game predictions.
Reason Why I Think The Blazers Will Win:
Almost a year after he went down with an awful knee injury, Joel Przybilla—the beloved blue-collar center who's not afraid to knock a driving point guard on his ass—is returning to the Rose Garden in his first home game of 2010. The emotional lift should be enough to get past the Clippers, who outside of stud rookie Blake Griffin and shooting guard Eric Gordon, post a team that would finish in the lower half of the Pac-10.
Reason Why I Think The Blazers Will Lose:
Have you seen Griffin's numbers recently? Dude is like a cross between Charles Barkley and tasmanian devil. And he's a ginger. He will drop at least a 30-15, posterize LaMarcus Aldridge, and eat Sean Marks. The game is close until the 4th quarter when Blazers suddenly go cold for outside and lose by double digits.
Awe, screw it: It's Paddy Time! Let's party like it's 2007 and Jarret Jack is still running the show. Five minutes before tip and the Rose Garden is still half-empty. This can't be good.
11:49 - ....and we have our first foul on DeAndre Jordan. What's the chance he pulls a Sean Marks and almost fouls out before halftime?
10:00 - Wesley Matthews—the only Blazer who seems to be shooting well these days—hits the first three of the game. Matthews' numbers have been great since McMillan moved him into the starting lineup last week. But I'm not sure it's worth sacrificing an asset like Nicolas Batum, a natural small forward with length and shooting touch and a great future. Matthews has the same skill set as Roy and seems like a better fit as the sixth man.
7:53 - I'ma put this out here early: Brandon Roy should be coming off the bench. Or not playing at all. This is the first time I've seen him play live in a while, and I just spent the last few minutes watching him run (hobble?) down the court. It isn't pretty. Right now he's got no explosiveness, no quickness, and no desire to even attempt driving to the basket, which means he's basically a glorified jump shooter. It's painful to watch someone go throw so much pain for so little gain. I know the Blazers bench is pencil-thin at the moment, but I don't see a problem with Roy shutting it down for a few weeks, resting his knees, and trying to come back when he's closer to 100 percent. Right now I say he's at like 70, and that might be pushing it.
6:35 - Oh yeah, the score! Blazers up 14 - 4 and looking good on both ends of the court.
5:12 - Blake Griffin is very good at the game of basketball. His rebound dunk gets the entire crowd of, what, 15,000 (another sellout!) to collectively gasp and press row to yell things I can't print on this blog.
3:28 - BATUM WATCH.
Nic enters the game with less than four minutes left in the quarter. Let's see if he can light a spark off the bench. So far this is looking like a blowout (22-9 Blazers, and the Ghost of Baron Davis just checked in) but the Clips are bound to show life sometime.
2:02 - Marcus Camby already has 9 rebounds. Maybe Marks won't get much run tonight. Przybilla checks into the game to a huge ovation and a serious of JOEL PRZYBILLA (clap clap clap-clap-clap) chants.
1:26 - 36 seconds into his homecoming and Przy is already taking down Griffin. This man is just relentless.
Dirtiest sign of the night: "I have a banana for my Przybilla the Gorilla." I'll let my grandma explain that one. Blazers up 30-15 at the end of a lonnnnngggggg first quarter.
11:05 - Baron Davis actually looks kind of skinny. So, umm, why isn't he starting? I know it's easy to knock the guy and his eating habits, but just four years ago he was one of the best point guards in the entire league, a fearless gunner with a super-quick first step and great court vision. Clippers coach Vinny Del Nego doesn't like him—just watching the two interact is more awkward than my first middle school dance—but he looks like he's relatively healthy again. And don't even try to tell Eric Bledsoe is a better player.
9:17 - Przy picks up three fouls in four minutes. Still nice to have him around trying to defend the rim.
8:54 - BATUM WATCH
Three pointer, four rebounds, more energy that we've seen since the losing streak started. Gotta like the effort out of Nic tonight.
8:03 - When the Blazers run, the Blazers win. It's pretty simple, actually. The way this team is configured post-Oden, they desperately need easy baskets. It's the way to survive those nights when you shoot 42 percent without a legitimate post threat and still pull out a W. Batum and Rudy score on back-to-back fast breaks that are just a thing of pure athletic beauty. Blazers lead 39-22 and looking to build the lead with Griffin on the bench.
6:29 - Rudy hits a three, and an entire row of reporters are off his back for five minutes. In all seriousness, though, the bench looks good tonight. Lots of hustle from Rudy, Batum's got 7 points, and even Patty Mills hit an open corner three.
5:52 - During the timeout, Patty Mills confused George Michael's "Faith" for the Scissor Sisters. Awe Patty, always so adorable.
5:03 - The Blazers are essentially playing four guards (Roy, Miller, Matthews and Batum) with Camby right now, hiding Roy in the corner and playing a zone defense. And it's sort of working. I like that McMillan is willing to experiment with his lineup. He's like a sane, defensive-minded, less drunk Don Nelson. I'm just waiting till Batum gets to run the point.
3:24 - BATUM WATCH
9 points, 10 rebounds, and a few highlight real drives to the basket. He's out Blake Griffin-ing Blake Griffin tonight. Still think he should be starting, though.
2:08 - Camby with a steal and fantastic outlet pass to a streaking Matthews. The Clips need some serious energy or this thing might be over soon. Blazers up 54-33 and adding to it.
0:33 - Patty Mills from down under! The Blazers actually get a 2-for-1 at the end of the quarter.
0:00 - Looking like blowout city tonight, the Clips are a no-show outside of Griffin, Gordon (13 points) and a few solid minutes from Baron. 59-37 at half.
11:46 - Starting the second half for the Clippers, that one guy from the Cool Kids:
9:27 - The Blazers are KILLING the Clips on the glass. Camby has 14 boards. The entire Clippers team has 17. That tells me two things: 1) The Clippers (or "Paperclips" as Charles Barkley used to call 'em) are really bad and 2) Camby should not be in this game if the lead holds. Can't risk your only healthy center in a meaningless game like this.
7:13 - I was talking with Casey the other day and he made a good point: All those drives that Bayless, and Outlaw, and Webster made only to miss the shot close at the rim? Matthews finishes those. It always seems like the team misses a ton of easy layups, but Matthews is so good at finishing in traffic.
6:42 - The fans have spoken: Matisyahu's "One Day" is chosen over songs by Blink-182, T.I., and the Sugar Hill Gang to play during the timeout. Maybe Jay-Z was right about us.
6:28 - Uh oh, here comes the second half choke. Suddenly the Clips are down just 14 points and the Blazers are cold from the field. Admit it, you knew it was coming.
5:13 - The isolations for Roy just aren't working tonight, Nate. Maybe time to get Batum and his near first half double-double back into the game?
3:59 - Here comes Griffin. I don't think I've ever seen anybody leap so quickly to tap in a missed shot. Gives me hope coming back from a knee injury!
3:27 - Ryan Gomes—who was a Blazer for all of 10 minutes this summer in the Martell Webster trade—hits a wide open three to cut the lead to 10 points. The Blazers have 8 points this quarter. I don't like this trend.
2:30 - BATUM WATCH
Uh, he's in the game. That's a good thing. The Blazers still can't hit a shot. If Griffin could make more than half his free throws this would be a close game.
0:55 - Big basket for Patty Mills, who has 8 points (!) off the bench.
0:04- Oh ma, we almost just saw a career end. Przybilla, in his second game back from two knee surgeries in the last 12 months, just got DECKED by Brian Cook. Wow. They're calling it a flagrant +2, and I haven't seen a foul that hard in years. It looks like he's OK, but Joel and the rest of the Blazers have some pretty stern words for the Clips. Surprised a fight didn't break out. The refs are still reviewing the play to see about any technical fouls for the benches that cleared.
OK, here's what we got: Cook is ejected, techs for Batum, Baron Davis, Przy, and Craig Smith. Joel gets two free throws.
A long, wild third quarter ends with the Blazers up 76-64. I think the team made 5-22 shots. Ouch.
10:24 - Rudy is quietly having his best game in a month: 9 points, two 3s, and only one awful pass. Feels like it's been forever since he's had a decent outing.
9:13 - Ugh, tough game for LaMarc. Even though Griffin can't hit a free throw to save his life, he's dominating inside, and LaMarc can't keep up. He just has an extra level of athleticism that no on else on the court can come close to matching.
8:17 - And we have our second ejection of the game! Craig Smith is tossed for looking angry. I knew this game would be more fun than staying home and watching the season finale of The Walking Dead
7:02 - Blake Griffin is not perfect. In fact, he's playing like Shaq tonight. 15 points, 13 boards, and 5-15 shooting fro the line.
6:18 - Another terrible quarter, and the Blazers are only up by five points. The Clippers would actually be leading if Griffin was making 60 percent of his free throws.
Blaze is dead. He's been replaced by The Rat King from The Nutcracker
. Frankly he's a much better mascot.
4:53 - Griffin hits two more from the line, and it's 84-81 Blazers. You can tell the Clips really want this game, and I'm impressed by their fight. The Blazers look like they are playing to lose. 25 points in the second half now, and another sub-40 percent shooting game. Yikes.
4:35- LarMarcus fouls out with 4 points and 5 rebounds. Just throwing that out there.
4:19 - Big time steal and assist for Andre Miller. Haven't heard his name much. Rasual Butler responds with a three and the Clips won't quit.
2:22 - Well whaddaya know, Roy is still alive. He hits a three from the top of the key that might seal the game if Butler wasn't shooting the lights out from beyond the arc.
1:15 - McMillan has cut Roy's minutes down tonight, and it looks like it's working. He looks better the last few minutes than he has all game, blowing by Gomes and hitting the trey with Butler right in his grill. Maybe I'm wrong about benching him.
0:37 - In the end the Blazers might be saved by a missed call. In one of the weirder plays in a really weird game, the Clippers turned a steal and 3-on-1 fast break into a turnover because....well I'm not really sure why. Griffin was in the middle and passed it instead of exploding to the bakset like he usually does. Maybe he was afraid of getting fouled? Anyway Andre Miller saves the game with a steal, but the reply shows he got more wrist than ball.
0:24 - This game is just out of control. A Clippers turnover turns into a fast break attempt for Batum, who gets tackled by Baron Davis, and the refs don't call a flagrant foul. Anyone who complains about the officiating in the NBA is having a field day tonight. Not sure what game they're watching, but how is that not a flagrant and Marcus Camby breathing on Griffin is? Anyway, big win for the Blazers, who end a six game losing streak with an ugly but hard-fought 100-91 victory. Next up is Phoenix on Tuesday. Stop by to see who Casey draws next!