Portland Trail Blazers 89 – Atlanta Hawks 92

Poor shooting continued to haunt the Blazers as they lost another close one in Atlanta with a score of 89-92. The Blazers shot only 38 percent from the field, 26 percent from the three-point line, and only 70 percent from the free throw line in the loss. Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, but he also took the same amount of shots, the most on the team. LaMarcus Aldridge played well with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Compounding the loss for the Trail Blazers was Nicolas Batum being taken to the hospital after being accidentally poked in his left eye by Tracy McGrady. (He will be alright however)

With the loss, the Blazers are 8-6 on the season and only 1-3 on their six-game road trip. Portland will travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors on Friday and to Detroit to play the Pistons the next day.

Blazers – Hawks Recap

The Blazers let another one go and find themselves losers of four out of five. Despite not having Marcus Camby again (sprained ankle) and losing Nicolas Batum to an eye injury early on, they managed to stay relatively even in one of their major concern areas, rebounding. In fact they pulled a double digit lead in offensive rebounding helping them to lots of extra opportunities.

However, as has been the problem for, let’s face it, the majority of the season, extra shots don’t help when you can’t hit anything.  The Blazers shot a dismal 38%, but don’t let that fool you, it took another late rally to get it up to that level.  The wallowed in near 30% shooting for large portion of the evening. Raymond Felton’s 3 of 9 continues his shooting woes, though 8 assists on only 1 turnover is an improvement.  Wesley Matthews 2 for 13 was even more damaging with Batum not returning to the game after being poked in the eye. Wallace gives you 4 or 12 and Crawford 8 of 22.

Despite the shooting the Blazers had this game in multiple spots. Atlanta would take a lead, but Portland would go on a run and regain it. Much like every other loss aside from the Phoenix game, Portland had the lead in the fourth quarter. Nine rebounds and two monster blocks from Wallace, 9 rebounds and more solid shooting from Kurt Thomas, 5 steals from Matthews and 20 pts with 11 rebounds for LaMarcus gave the team every opportunity to win.

But as crunch time approaches the team goes cold and doesn’t get good shots. And, more perturbing they commit some big mental mistakes.  Aldridge missing a set of free throws in crunch time cannot happen. All-Stars have to makes those.  The key moment of the game came as the Blazers made a last comeback attempt.  Wes Matthews steals a half-court pass and begins his awkward dribble up court.  Nearly immediately the Hawks player he stole the ball from comes from behind and steals it right back.  That is completely on Matthews who should have been aware; it was the obvious play. He seemed to be looking to teammates to call out for help, which they should have, but that’s still his responsibility.

There are two big problems, injuries and mistakes aside, that contributed to this loss.  The first is that LaMarcus must take more shots.  He was 11 of 20, one of the only players shooting a positive percentage yet he deferred shots, especially down the stretch. If he is going to be the man, he has to command the game in the closing moments and take those shots, win or lose. The second major issue is Nate trusting his bench. Strike that, it doesn’t matter if he trusts them. Tiredness, conditioning these appear to be problems that are going to persist, so play more of your players as you’ve said you would, Nate!

Nolan Smith got some decent burn, apart from some forced jumpshots, but was taken out and replaced by a struggling Felton who immediately missed a wide open three. Chris Johnson’s length, shot-blocking, rebounding and energy could have helped keep players fresh. LaMarcus and Wallace get 43 minutes a piece again, after the Blazers skipped practice due to tiredness and LaMarcus stating he was ready to pass out on the court during the Hornets game.

An article came out today talking about how shooting percentages are down and point averages have followed league-wide.  Poor shooting is not unique to this team. However everyone can’t be cold at the same time, particularly if the team continues to be out-rebounded. Not that long ago the Blazers were the talk of the town, and now everyone saying it was an early season fluke.  The Blazers need gather themselves, execute and hit their open shoots, even at 42% clip would be nice at this point.  This season is too short and home court to precious to get losing streaks going. Negative momentum will carry over to home games at some point in this abbreviated season.  Again, with the exception of the Phoenix game and a debatable San Antonio game each game was not only winnable but within their grasp late in the contests.

Thanks to two very weak opponents, the Blazers can still pull off a predicted 3-3 split of this trip with wins at Toronto and Detroit on Friday and Saturday. The four games following that are also against sub .500 squads. The Blazers must dispatch these lower-tier opponents, by comfortable margins as well, in order to rest players and right the ship.

Written by James Schumacher

James Schumacher aka JamesInDigital is a freelance writer & digital artist. His website covers Films, Television, Gaming and Music, including news and reviews. His background is in game art and design & digital media. Pacific Northwest native and rabid Blazers fan! Media Reviews & more. Check him out on Twitter @JamesInDigital.

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