Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 30, 2008

Rose Garden Report: vs. Boston

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:42 pm

Boston 23, Portland 13 (end first quarter) – Hello from Portland, where the Trail Blazers are hosting the Boston Celtics. A little bit of the luster was lost from this matchup when the Blazers announced before the game that Brandon Roy would sit out after straining his right hamstring in Saturday’s win over Toronto.

Portland clearly missed Roy on offense during the first quarter, a situation exacerbated by the fact that the Celtics are pretty good defensively (this is the kind of unique insight you get only at Basketball Prospectus). The Blazers shot 33.3 percent from the field and had six turnovers, meaning they scored at a rate of 59.1 points per 100 possessions. Yikes. At the other end, Boston took advantage of Portland switching the pick-and-roll to create mismatches with Steve Blake defending Paul Pierce. Pierce’s eight points lead all scorers.

Boston 45, Portland 40 (halftime): The Blazers have found an offense the Celtics simply cannot stop: 6-on-5. They came out of the huddle with 9.0 seconds left in the half with six players on the court and officials missed the violation. Naturally, Greg Oden was wide open in the paint, touch passing to Travis Outlaw for a dunk. Because the referees did not make the call until after the bucket, they were forced to let it stand. Boston was still awarded a technical foul shot.

That aside, the Blazers got going on offense in the second quarter, scoring 27 points on 22 possessions–more than double their first-quarter Offensive Rating. Steve Blake is the team’s leading scorer at the half with 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting (3-of-4 from downtown). Besides Blake, Portland isn’t shooting particularly well, but second-chance points and free throws have helped make up for it. The turnover battle reversed itself completely in the second quarter, the Celtics coughing it up eight times and the Blazers just once. Boston’s focus wasn’t there in the period, and even without Roy Portland is deep enough to make the Celtics pay for those lapses.

Portland 64, Boston 64 (end third quarter): This is a game. The Blazers are feeling good about life without Brandon Roy right now and believe they can compete with the Celtics–rightfully so. Portland has done an excellent job defensively, limiting Boston to 41 points over the last two quarters. The Celtics are shooting 41.5 percent from the field and have gotten virtually no production from anyone outside the Big Four (now including Rajon Rondo).

The Blazers ended the third quarter with a twin 7-footer lineup of Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla together up front. I was thinking about that possibility the other day, but didn’t think it would have enough quickness to survive, especially in transition defense. For this brief stretch–against an opposing front line of Big Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins–it not only survived but thrived. Przybilla and Oden had three-point plays on consecutive possessions as Portland took a short-lived lead before settling for a tie going to the fourth.

Portland 83, Boston 80 (2:08 4th): Another game for me at the Rose Garden, another exciting finish. The Blazers are clinging to a three-point line here with Paul Pierce headed to the free-throw line. Down the stretch, Portland is really feeling the absence of Brandon Roy. Without him, there is no clear option for the Blazers on offense. They’ve had success going to both Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge in the post, but isolation plays have not worked. Boston, conversely, knows exactly where to go on offense. It’s to Pierce, frequently using a screen to try to force a switch and create a mismatch. Pierce has a game-high 22 points. Nicolas Batum would be the best option defensively against Pierce, but the Blazers need Travis Outlaw’s offense right now, so Batum is on the bench.

Portland 91, Boston 86 (final): Now that is a big-time victory. The Blazers got a remarkable play from Travis Outlaw, who took the ball to the bucket with the shot clock running down and dunked over reigning Defensive Player of the Year Kevin Garnett to make it a four-point game. From there, despite a Paul Pierce three-point play, Portland making its free throws was enough to secure a victory.

What you wouldn’t have expected to say going into this game was that the Blazers won it with defense. Boston was limited to 86 points in about as many possessions and could get nothing going from beyond the arc (3-of-14, including an Eddie House airball with a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds) while shooting 40.3 percent from the field. We saw tonight what this team is capable of defensively anchored by a long, athletic frontcourt.

It’s good to see Greg Oden contributing and looking like he’s enjoying himself on the court. Oden had 13 points, 11 rebounds and three assists tonight; Portland was +12 with Oden on the floor. He’s put together back-to-back strong games and is making progress in his development.

Boston closes out its West Coast swing at 1-3, dampening the talk of a 70-win season. As much as the Celtics were locked in during their lengthy winning streak, losses to Golden State and a Blazers squad minus its star player have to be considered disappointments. These aren’t major concerns, mind you, but they do serve as a reminder that the Lakers aren’t the only elite team whose concentration slips from time to time.

Barring a stunning trade tomorrow, that’s it for me in 2008. Hope you’ve enjoyed the last year as readers and we’ll continue to offer the same kind of unique analysis in 2009. Happy New Year everyone and stay safe.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress