Well, that first game was a dud. After getting blown out and shut down by the Clippers, the Blazers will look to come up with any sort of answer for both their offense and defensive woes tonight. They sure as hell couldn’t find any on Sunday night. I mean, Chris Kaman played eight non-garbage time minutes, and if Chris Kaman is the answer you are definitely asking the wrong question.
So what happened? How did the Clippers so thoroughly flummox Portland on both sides of the ball? Apart from Al-Farouq Aminu and Mason Plumlee getting Thunderstruck, the Los Angeles attack was simple—blitz Damian Lillard on every pick and roll and force anyone else to beat them, and take advantage of Portland’s conservative pick and roll coverage by firing away from the mid-range.
Easy. So what can Portland do to counter that attack? Coach of the year candidate Terry Stotts is going to have his work cut out for him.
First, the Clippers are likely to keep up the aggressive blitzing on all pick and rolls from Dame. He had zero room to breath the first game—he couldn’t split the double team, couldn’t get the edge on the quick DeAndre Jordan, and even had trouble getting the ball out of his hands to the open screener. Look for him to spend more time off the ball—maybe Brian Roberts gets dusted off for some minutes at point guard?—and for Stotts to run some double screens to try and free him up. Dame needs to get going. The Blazers can win with Dame having a bad game, but they’ll need to be nearly flawless elsewhere.
Unfortunately, the role players for Portland were a hot mess on Sunday night. Plumlee didn’t record a single assist despite having all of the room to work with. Aminu went approximately 2-45 from three. Moe Harkless picked up a couple of early fouls and never found a decent rhythm despite some early success from the post.
Portland is also in a weird spot in terms of their lineup—they desperately need more shooting to help open up the floor, but with the Clippers succeeding with two traditional bigs, they might not be able to go small for long stretches. Blake Griffin looked beyond healthy and did some serious damage in the post. The Blazers should probably try Ed Davis and Mason Plumlee together at some point, but that means even less space for Dame to work with. Where have you gone, Meyers Leonard, our city turns its lonely eyes to you.
As for defense, well, there’s not much to be said. The Blazers probably aren’t going to switch up their pick and roll coverage much, and will keep dropping their big men back. Chris Paul and JJ Redick will have their fair share of open shots, and the Blazers just have to hope said shots don’t fall. Good luck.
It’s a long series. One game does not a playoffs make. It’s going to be an uphill climb, but the Blazers are still in this thing. I mean, if Dallas can steal one from Oklahoma City? Take it away Kevin Garnett.