Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 9, 2008

Rose Garden Report: Portland-Orlando

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 11:39 pm

Hello from Portland, where the Trail Blazers and the Magic are set to tip off momentarily. The big story before tonight’s game is that Portland swingman Martell Webster experienced “acute pain” in his left foot during his return to the lineup Sunday in Toronto and will be sidelined. Webster had missed the first month-plus of the season after surgery to repair a stress fracture in the foot on Oct. 9. Webster is expected to miss another four weeks.

The news isn’t terrible for the Blazers, who have hardly missed Webster with rookie Nicolas Batum playing very well as a starter. You definitely feel for Webster, who was excited to get back on the floor and now faces another long rehab process. We’ll see if this proves a setback to his development.

As for the game, the big story is Greg Oden’s first matchup with Dwight Howard. Portland won 106-99 in Orlando earlier this season while Oden was still sidelined. We’ll keep an eye on that matchup as well as the league’s second-best offense (the Blazers) against its fourth-best defense (the Magic).

Orlando 29, Portland 25 (end first): Ragged start for the Blazers tonight. Greg Oden struggled with the matchup against Dwight Howard and hampered Portland at both ends before being replaced by Joel Przybilla. Howard has nine points and is finishing with his left hand. I don’t think I’ve seen that from him before. The Magic has gotten a lift from Tony Battie, who has seven points off the bench.

I was half-watching Minnesota and Utah on League Pass, with Mehmet Okur’s late runner handing the Timberwolves yet another devastating loss. These kinds of tough defeats may even out in the end, but they do a number psychologically. Kevin McHale did some good things with his rotation, but his end-game work left much to be desired. Minnesota wasn’t able to get the ball inbounds down one with 1.7 seconds left on the clock. Ouch.

Orlando 49, Minnesota 48 (halftime): I observed late in the first half that the Blazers hadn’t gotten a run yet. It came just before halftime, briefly giving Portland its first lead before Hedo Turkoglu finished the half with a score that gives the Magic a one-point advantage at the midway mark. It’s probably less than a coincidence that the run came after Dwight Howard headed to the locker room. No word yet as to why.

This has been a slowdown affair with about 44 possessions apiece. Both of these teams like to execute in the half court. As a result, the defenses haven’t been quite as stout as it would appear from the score. Still, the Magic has done a good job of running the Blazers off the free-throw line and forcing them to take virtually nothing but twos.

Orlando 81, Portland 80 (end third): That the Blazers are in this game defies logic. This is the first game back after a long road trip for Portland, and it seems to be playing out along the lines of the old NBA adage that this situation is basically like the last game of the trip. The Blazers look sluggish and a beat off tonight. For example, the usually-reliable Brandon Roy missed three of his six free-throw attempts in the third. At the other end, the Magic knocked down six of 10 three-point attempts in the period. Yet somehow, the Blazers are within the same one-point margin as halftime on the strength of a 7-0 quarter-ending run. The crowd has been waiting all night for something to cheer, and now they have gotten it.

The stereotypical plotline for this kind of game has the Blazers pulling away behind the home crowd. However, Orlando has been one of the league’s best road teams the last two years, so don’t expect the Magic to go away.

Orlando 109, Portland 108 (final): A game that defied expectations at pretty much every turn did not fail to do so at the finish. The Blazers appeared to have things well in hand, leading 108-100 with a couple minutes left on the strength of great fourth quarters from Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. But Portland failed to execute down the stretch and the Magic’s sharpshooting did the Blazers in. Orlando hit three threes for a 9-0 game-ending run. The last was Hedo Turkoglu dribbling into the game-winner off glass with 0.3 seconds left on the clock as the Magic played for the win on the road.

Orlando finished with 14 three-pointers, and in a low-possession game like this those are absolute daggers. The Blazers were phenomenally efficient on offense in the second half, yet couldn’t keep up because they were trading twos for threes. The Magic isn’t at the level of the East’s elite duo of Cleveland and Boston, but no one is going to want to play them in the playoffs because of their style and Dwight Howard.

This occurred to me on the long drive home: This has to be the first night in NBA history where two guys from Turkey (Turkoglu and Mehmet Okur) hit game-winners.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress