Small Adjustments, same result

Cooper Pawson Sports Editor

What are the big problems:

This season for the Portland Trailblazers has been full of surprises. This is a team that was projected to win anywhere from 23-28 games depending on who you ask but became the No. 5 team in the west conference.

This is a team that all year has overcome adversity after returning just one starter from last years squad, but the biggest surprise of the season has become their seven game series with the clippers. The first two games have been blowouts.

The blazers lost 115-95 and then lost 102-81. Are the clippers really 20 points better than the blazers on any given day? No they aren’t, and no one besides a homer Clipper fan would disagree. To date, the Blazers average 104.7 per game, which puts them sixth in the NBA in points per game. The Clippers however average almost exactly the same, 104.6. A crazy similarity that shows just how much the Clippers have disrupted, what is the norm, for Portland.

Most of the scoring issues stem from the Clippers ability to shut down our backcourt of CJ McCollum and Damian Lilliard, both whom are shooting way under their regular season averages.

McCollum has averaged just 12.5 points per game(PPG) opposed to his regular season average of 20.8 and Lilliard has averaged only 19 compared to his regular season average of 25.1. Although the Clippers are a very good defensive team by nature, allowing just 88 PPG, which is third in the NBA, their offensive style degrades the play of our offense as well. The physicality alone, whether it’s the hard ball screens from DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin, or the game of chase the Blazers must play to keep up with the likes of Chris Paul, J.J. Reddick or the sixth man Jamal Crawford, is tough to say the least. You can truly see the impact of it when you look at the halftime scores compared to the final scores.

The Blazers have been able to keep it close until about midway through the third quarter when we start to see missed open shots and more turnovers, these are all blatant signs of fatigue.

What’s missing:

Contribution from our role and bench players is something the Blazers have relied on at times during the regular season, but when it comes to the postseason, a team’s role and bench players can be and usually are the catalyst that propels them farther into the playoffs. The guys that they absolutely need more production from in order to have a chance on the offensive side are center Ed Davis, small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and, the crustacean sensation, shooting gaurd Allen Crabbe.

All of these guys are crucial pieces of their offense, whether it’s Davis on the offensive boards or its Aminu and Crabbe from the three point line, they all serve a big purpose in this offense and in a lot of ways were major contributors to this successful season.

Aminu more than the rest is essential to the Blazers success. When Aminu is on the floor Portland is a plus 3, which means when he is not on the floor, the Clippers have taken full advantage of it. Aminu has really kept the blazers in games with his defense leading the team in rebounds (11) and steals(1.5) per game in the playoffs, in game 2 he was also appointed to the role of Chris Paul’s shadow. If he could only get his shot back they would be looking a lot better come fourth quarter.

Crabbe as I said, can be and should be a big boost off the bench similar to a Gerald Henderson. He has shown the talent to be.

During the regular season he averaged the third most PPG on the team with 10.3. The Clippers bench has played so well that it’s even more important for him to come through in the clutch when his number is called. Through the first two games Crabbe has averaged an abysmal 3.0 PPG. In the playoffs the first thing your opponent will emphasize on is to shut down what you do best. The Clippers have done that more extensively than the Blazers ever thought was possible.

Moving forward:

Returning home may be just what Portland needs. If head coach Terry Stotts can’t light a fire under the Blazer’s then the home crowd will. Blazer fans will take nothing less than a victory at home and they will be there 21,000 or so strong to keep the adrenaline pumping until the final buzzer. It’s a simple fact all teams play better at home. The thunder of a crowd can literally change the momentum of the game. This will be an optimal chance to counteract the strenuous, and physical play that the Clippers feed off of. Some of the biggest momentum swings in LA were the big dunks and blocks that gave the Clipper’s hometown the name of “Lob City.”

Come Saturday April 23 when Jordan or Griffin go up for a huge dunk, you will hear crickets, well that or boos. None the less the mechanism that drives the majority of Clipper wins will be minimal. Again Blazers must do their part on both sides of the ball but a couple of home games may relight the fire that has got them to this point. Game 3 will tip-off on April 23 at 7:30 p.m. and game 4 is Monday April, 25 at 7:30 p.m. as well, both in the Moda Center.

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