I’ve Moved!

Alright, the blog portion of my website has been constructed, albeit crudely. I’ll be updating that with game recaps and progress of the projects that I’m working on. Check it out!

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I’M MOVING!

Thack’s Blazer Blog is moving to Thacknet.  Please check back in a few days to see the new and improved setup!

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Roy’s Back; How’s Our Dependence?

We had 4 games without Brandon Roy, during which we 2-2 against four great teams.  The question of whether we needed Brandon Roy to win was answered; we can put up a pretty good fight without him.  But there is the concern that we may go back to depending on him for offense now that he’s back.  So far, it doesn’t look like that will be the case.

In these last 6 games, we’re 4-2 despite Brandon Roy scoring 20+ only twice.  In Brandon’s first game back (Golden State), he scored 19 while LaMarcus led us with 26 and Travis added 19.  In the next game (Chicago), Outlaw and Oden took the lead with 33 and 17 respectively.  Roy had 11 on 3-13 shooting in that game.

We seemed to relapse breifly against Philadelphia; Roy burst for 27, but got no other help in our 79-100 loss.  Bayless chucked up 10 misses in 11 shots, and nobody other than LaMarcus even scored in double digits.  Bayless would redeem himself with his “announcement” against New Jersey, though, adding 23 points to Roy’s 29 and LaMarcus’s 20.

Against Charlotte (a game in which we lost by 5 despite shooting 16/31 = 51.6% from the freethrow line), we had 6 players score in double digits.  One could argue that Roy actually cost us that game (3/10 FT) – forget our dependence on him.

And finally we have last night; Roy scores 9 on 4/13 shooting, yet we destroy Milwaukee by 17.  Roy was 5th in scoring for the Blazers, following Rudy’s 13, Outlaw’s 18, Aldridge’s 22, and Greg’s 24.

I was excited for the team to benefit from the experience of playing without Roy, but I was not expecting to see these types of results so immediately.  2 of the last 6 games have given us rookie showcases (thank you Jerryd and Greg), while LaMarcus has quietly shot 50+% from the field in four straight games (20+ points in three of those).  For the most part, we really haven’t needed Roy since we lost him to the hammy.  If the other guys can continue to take offensive pressure off of Roy, the end of our season will look dramatically different.  We can finally begin to scale Brandon’s minutes back, which urgently needs to happen – he shouldn’t be on the floor for 37 min/game.

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Blazers vs. Bulls 2.0

Of course, tonight’s discussion begins with Travis Outlaw.  #25 fans are celebrating all over Portland after a stellar performance by their boy.  At times, he can score at will, and tonight was one of those nights: 33 points on 9/14 shooting (4/5 3PT, 11/13 FT).  He makes it hard to hate him with that kind of efficiency, and his 3 blocks only make it worse.  It seems to me like we should be able to figure out the matchups that allow him to put on shows like tonight.  If the defense allows him to set up for open jumpers and 1-on-1 situations, exploit it.  If he looks confused by the defense, get him out.

G.O. was another hero tonight.  In only 25 minutes, he had 17 points and 13 rebounds.  Drew Gooden is certainly no Superman, but he’s a seasoned veteran, and Oden man-handled him.  Everything in Greg’s game seems to be improving.  Every game he’s quicker both physically and mentally than he was the game before.  Tonight, he started an offensive move before the pass even got to him – that’s a first.  The result was a quick and easy two-handed flush.  Defensively, he tried to keep his arms up tonight.  He was supurb, but if nothing else it was very apparent that he was being concious of his arms – a victory as far as I’m concerned.

In the only period of offensive stagnation of the second half, Jerryd Bayless decided to create himself some fans.  If you’re not on the bandwagon yet, go ahead and hop on.  It’s going be a fun ride.  Bayless provided the Blazers with some serious offensive punch off of the bench, going for 7 points in only 9 minutes on 3/4 shooting.  This was his 6th straight game with minutes, which is significant because it doubles his previous record.  It seems that McMillan is determined to get Jerryd some playing time each game, even if it’s not in the double digits.  We’ll see if that lasts when Martell starts his comback (in which case Batum loses minutes?).

Joel Przybilla was a total no-show in the game, which should astonish us all.  2 points and 2 rebounds is not what we have come to expect of #10 after his incredible start to the season.  5 fouls in 9 minutes will happen to a big man every once in a while, though.

LaMarcus Aldridge also had a surprisingly quiet night.  While he also had 5 fouls, he did it in 40 minutes on the floor.  In those minutes, he only scored 8 points.  It looked like a pretty good game to me, though – we just didn’t need him tonight.  He only took 8 shots, so I really wouldn’t call it a “bad” night for L.A.; just quiet.  Enough of the other guys stepped up that he really didn’t have to do much.

Roy struggled with his shot tonight (3 of 13).  The hamstring may have been a factor, though after the alley-oop dunk off of the inbound on Saturday, I’m not that concerned about it.  He’ll be back.

Overall, the Blazers got a lot of great play from guys that we really needed it from.  If the role players can carry us through games against these kinds of teams, guys like Roy and Aldridge will be fresher for the really important ones.

P.S.

We shot 30/34 from the freethrow line as a team, which is AWESOME (88%).

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Pre-game: Blazer Backcourt vs. Rose

It has always been my understanding that Steve Blake was a pretty good defender.  I’m not entirely sure of the origin of this conclusion (“origin of this conclusion” – how Zen), but I’ve always thought that his scouting report had him as better-than-average at defense.  Since he has joined the Blazers, I’ve noticed that he indeed has the ability to defend good point guards.  Chris Paul, for one, averages 20.4 points and 11.3 assists on 50% shooting this season.  Against Blake, he averages 16.6 points and 8.6 assists on 41% shooting.  Blake has also had a lot of success against Nash, Rondo, and others.  I’m not about to crown him a lockdown defender, but having a PG with the ability bring the big boys off of their game is nice.  If he can do it consistently, then we’re in great shape.  I don’t think a few broken ankles should held against him too much…

Tonight is a great test for Blake.  Rose is insanely quick and, at first thought, should be more than Blake can handle.  However, it’s not possible to be much quicker than CP3, so Blake’s success in that department gives me hope.  Sergio had 3 steals in only 9 minutes last game, but his defense has been very inconsistent all season.  He will undoubtedly check Rose many times throughout the game, and I’m sure Nate McMillan will be watching.  A test like the one that Serg will be put through tonight is exactly what Nate wants to see.  Bayless, on the other hand, can keep up with anybody.  He’ll most likely pick up a bunch of fouls, but those are worth burning if it makes Chicago’s offense feel immobile.  It’s also possible that Bayless doesn’t check Rose that often in the game (if he plays 2-guard) IF he plays at all.  They are the same height (6’3) and Bayless has some bulk on Rose (200 vs 190 lbs), though,  so they’re a great physical matchup that I’d like to see.

All of these guys have one general goal tonight: don’t let Derrick Rose get to the basket.  If he shoots the jumper well, so be it, but you CAN’T let him attack the rim the way he wants to.  He’s too big and strong; he will shoot a high percentage and draw fouls on our big men all day.  They may have to go underneath screens more than they’d like, but any penetration by Derrick Rose is bad penetration (enjoy).

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Link: Justin Slow

The Final Straw, by Justin Slow as posted on Blazers Edge.

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The “Fundamental” Statistics

I was watching SportsCenter tonight, and I saw some very interesting statistics after the Celtics/Bobcats highlights: I saw a breakup of certain team statistics during their first 29 games (27-2) and their last 7 (2-5).  The two notable ones for me were their field goal percentages (FG%) and their opponents’ field goal percentages.

But before I get into that, I have to say that it was timely.  I consider two statistics the most fundamental: FG% and +/-, and I had a discussion this evening about the latter (shoutout: Matt, Rob…not Jebner).

No boxscore statistic displays the game in a more raw form than the +/-.  At its simplest, basketball is a team-game of trying to put a ball in your hoop more times than the other team puts it in theirs – the clock will tell you when to stop.  The +/- statistic shows how well the team did at that while you were on the court.

Not so poetically, the boxscore begins at the point totals – the tally of how many times you were able to put the ba… well, you get it.  From the team’s point total, you could consider the point totals of the individual players as the next breakdown, but that doesn’t really say anything about defense.  Similarly, steals and blocks obviously don’t say much about offense.  The +/-, however, quite literally encompasses all of the other statistics by showing the difference in points scored by the team while the player was on the floor.

Now, what’s beautiful about it is also what’s ugly about it: it’s a vague statistic.  The +/- is really no good for use in analyzing a single player in a single game.  It is not expressly indicative of the player’s success or failure; it is that of the team while he was on the court.  It’s much more accurate to look at the statistic as how the TEAM did while he was playing.  A player’s teammates may not have played well, or maybe the other team was hot; there are an infinite amount of reasons why the +/- can send a very different message than the other statistics.  Over time, though, it goes back to the basics.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter many points a player scores or how many blocks they get; the 5 guys on the floor have to score more points than the other 5 guys.

The exact value of the +/- is almost never relevant.  In order for the statistic to accurately reflect its fundamentals, you have to take the limit as n–>infinity (thereby negating the relevance of all other variables), find the gold at the end of the rainbow, and do the Hokey Pokey.  It’s terrifying, so I’ll save you the trouble.  The brilliance of the +/- only comes out when it is considered in trends and over long periods of time.  It’s also very important that the values on one team almost never be compared to those of players on other teams.  This would (and has) result(ed) in seeing most of the starting fives from Boston, L.A., Cleveland, etc. at the top of the list.  Instead, it’s much better for observing how well one team does with certain players in the game.

Field goal percentage is a similarly fundamental statistic to me.  We develop strategies to maximize efficiency on offense and effectiveness on defense; the percentages give us the most general idea of how well those strategies are working.  Of course, fouls, offensive rebounds, and turnovers (among others) can radically change the landscape of the game by providing additional chances for points (I think the fact that the Blazers are stellar in the latter two is a direct reflection of good coaching).  Still, over time, FG% will paint a very clear picture about the strength of an offense or a defense.

So back to Boston…

While Boston was 27-2, they had a FG% of 48.6%.  During that time, their opponents shot 41.4%.  Over the last 7 games (5 losses), the Celtics shot a lower 46.6%, but their opponents shot a similar 41.7%.

I couldn’t help but be amazed that their defense held up so well in a 2 and 5 stretch.  41.7% is something that we can only dream of doing consistently.  It’s that stamp, though – the one that the dynasties have.  Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio, Boston.  I’m a Duck football fan, so I love me some offense.  But defense wins championships.

This drought has only taken the Celtics to back-with-the-pack (their winning percentage is nearly equal to L.A. and Cleveland).  I’m sure that Doc Rivers isn’t sweating much – he’ll just go in to work tomorrow spend some extra time on offense.  I can’t imagine he’d have them doing drills on how to put a hand in a guy’s face when they’re still holding teams to 41% shooting – none that they wouldn’t be doing otherwise, that is.  It must help the soreness of losing that offensive drills are way more fun.

That’s what I want for the Blazers.  We have the slowest offense in the NBA; we get ‘er done with offensive rebounding and taking care of the ball.  We’re clearly trying to play smart, slow basketball.  Right now we’re trying to figure out how to be effective on offense without Roy, but we’re ALWAYS trying to be more effective on defense.  And you can’t love the Blazers without appreciating what the others have done before us!  Kevin Pritchard came out of my favorite one – I’m not ashamed.  I hated Manu because he flopped, but now everybody flops.  I digress…

I look forward to the days where we go 2-5 even though the other teams struggle to efficiently put the ball in the basket.  None of those teams will outlast us in a 7-game series…

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