As a long season winds down, Blazers' offense attempt a last-minute change

TUALATIN, Ore. — Out of all the revelations that emerged during the Portland Trail Blazers’ rough-and-tumble defeat to Dallas on Friday night, the biggest one initially drew little notice.

While Portland’s fans focused their discontent on questionable calls made by referees, several Blazers spent a funeral-like postgame interview session discussing the ramifications of the contest’s playoff-like atmosphere.

But it was an under-the-radar observation by Portland guard Brandon Roy that carried the most weight.

Roy said that the manner in which the Mavericks’ defense attacked Portland’s offense was eerily similar to the way Houston bullied and bruised the Blazers last season in the playoffs. The Rockets won a first-round series against Portland, 4-2. Houston used muscle and bulk to bury the Blazers, and the Rockets went after Roy hard and often with double teams. By the end of the series, Portland’s Roy-first offense had been methodically disassembled, and its weaknesses were clearly exposed.

Thus, an alarm was rung when Roy said his team received the same Houston-like treatment during the loss to the Mavericks on Friday, adding that it felt like Dallas had “game planned for some of our offense.”

The Mavericks employed pressure-heavy double-team defensive sets that either kept the ball out of Roy’s hands or disrupted any rhythm he was able to build. Dallas’ focus paid off in lopsided numbers: Roy was just 4 of 14 from the floor, while the Blazers shot 36.4 percent (28 of 77) from the field.

“I was like, ‘Everything we do, they seem to know it,’ ” Roy said Friday. “You could tell they pay attention to detail. … We have to get better if we want to win a playoff series.”

Portland coach Nate McMillan said Saturday that Portland will face more of the same during its final three regular-season games. And once the playoffs begin, the Blazers will undoubtedly be forced to handle an even stronger attack.

To answer — and to get better — Portland must improve its floor spacing and ball movement, as well as streamline its overall offensive execution. Roy and his teammates were slow to react to double teams against the Mavericks, allowing Dallas to trap the ballhandler and flood the lane.

McMillan acknowledged that it did not aid his team’s chances that starters Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby combined to shoot 6 of 25. But even if missed open shots had fallen, Portland will still be facing the same Roy-centered defense for at least two more weeks.

The only effective counter, McMillan said, will be for the Blazers to move the ball like “clockwork.” If Roy is double-teamed, he must immediately attack and create space, or pass the ball to an open teammate on the weak side.

“What you have got to be able to do is react to what teams are doing,” said McMillan, following a workout at the team’s practice facility. “The game becomes simple in the playoffs. You’re going to get it to your best guy. If they double team, you get to the spots, make your shots; if they don’t, your best player has got to
make plays.”

That did not happen Friday, as Portland’s offense flattened out and the team lost its composure several times.

By Saturday, Roy said he had already processed the defeat and taken its lesson to heart. The Blazers have overcome significant odds this season during their fight to make the playoffs. Now, the team must continue to adapt and evolve if it hopes to extend its season past the first round.

“I’m still learning this year, and my teammates are trying to figure it out, too,” Roy said.

Roy said that his back tightened up during the loss to Dallas. At one point, Roy felt considerable pain. But he played through it, and said he will take the court today against the Lakers.
Roy missed two practices this week due to a sore back. But he said the pain is less of a worry than the fact that he has been unable to get in his normal practice repetitions, which has affected his playing rhythm.

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Today’s Game
Blazers vs. Lakers, 12:30 p.m. at Staples Center
TV: ABC (2)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Probable Starters
Blazers (48-31)
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 14.0
G Brandon Roy 6-6 21.8
F Nicolas Batum 6-8 10.2
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 17.8
C Marcus Camby 6-11 5.8
Lakers (56-23)
G Derek Fisher 6-1 7.4
G Shannon Brown 6-4 7.8
F Ron Artest 6-7 11.3
F Lamar Odom 6-10 10.6
C Pau Gasol 7-0 18.1

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