The NBA: Blaze of Sorry

Portland coach Kaleb Canales is probably feeling the pinch
after his Blazers have fallen to 12th out West.
*All images are from the Associated Press.

"Our guys competed. I liked the fight. We got beaten badly on the boards, though, and it took its toll." – Portland interim coach Kaleb Canales.

When the Portland Trail Blazers officially fall out of contention for the 2012 NBA Playoffs (it won’t be long now), coach Canales will realize rebounding was the not his biggest problem.

Instead, it’s losing players, whether thru injury or thru boneheaded transactions, that ultimately doomed the chances of this franchise for this season, and maybe even beyond.

But let’s talk about the rebounding first. Greg Oden could’ve definitely helped, but we all know what happened to him (or, more aptly, what has been happening to him for the past few years). Marcus Camby would’ve been able to help, too, but he’s cleaning glass for the Houston Rockets now. Ditto for Gerald Wallace, who’s now playing his trade with Deron Williams in New Jersey.

Oden represents the kind of “curse” the Blazers have suffered in recent history. Brandon Roy has retired as added evidence. Portland just hasn’t seen the friendliest of bounces from the basketball gods.

And yet they also haven’t found a way to maximize the tools they’ve been given, at least not this season. Trading away Camby and Wallace effectively nullified any chance they would’ve had of breaking through the top 8 out West. At 4 games behind 8th place, they still, technically, have a chance, but slowly the reality will set in – the reason they missed this season’s playoff bus is because of their own boneheaded decisions.

In the five games giving away Camby and Wallace, the Blazers have been outrebounded four times, but none as bad as the mauling they took Friday night against LA. This is mainly because Portland has tried playing small-ball, with natural power forward LaMarcus Aldridge at center, small forward Nicolas Batum at power forward and shooting guard Wesley Matthews at small forward. That’s three guys playing out of position. The result is that the Blazers are quicker and potent offensively, but they become more susceptible to being outrebounded. Just imagine Paul Millsap or Kevin Love against Batum on the low block. Yikes.

So one cannot really blame Oregon’s faithful for not expecting much as the season nears its wind-up stage.

With the departure of Wallace and Camby, the firing of Nate McMillan, and eventual waiving of Mehmet Okur, oh and that Oden thing, the Blazers are essentially shells of their former selves.

Wait, they did pick up JJ Hickson, right?

Oh joy.

After all the promise and highlights of the previous season that saw them push eventual champions Dallas to six games in the first round, and the great run off the gates early this season (they were 7-2 till early January), a lot of people felt this could be a special team. Maybe even through the up-and-down in the middle of the season, some still felt Portland had enough to go out on a blaze of glory.

It’s quite sad, however, that all the Blazers will actually do is end their campaign on a blaze of sorry. 

After the JUMP, March 22-23, 2012 stat-stuffers:

March 22, 2012:
IND over WAS, 85-83
Roy Hibbert had 19 points and 9 rebounds and Paul George hit the go-ahead three down the stretch as the Indiana Pacers took down the Washington Wizards. Danny Granger added 16 points for the Pacers, who overcame a 22-point second-quarter deficit. Jordan Crawford poured in 21 points for Washington, which was coming off a 2-4 road trip. 

HOU over GSW, 109-83
Chandler Parsons had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Houston Rockets routed the Golden State Warriors. Luis Scola netted 18 points to go with 7 assists for the Rockets, who have won four of their past six games. Richard Jefferson had 14 points off the bench to lead the Warriors, who have dropped five of their last six contests. 

BOS over MIL, 100-91
Paul Pierce poured in a game-high 25 points and pulled down 9 rebounds to lead the Boston Celtics over the Bucks. Rajon Rondo handed out 14 assists to go with 10 points, helping the Celtics improve to 4-3 on a season-high eight-game road trip. Brandon Jennings led the Bucks with 19 points, but Milwaukee had its six-game win streak snapped. 

NOH over LAC, 97-90
Chris Kaman had 20 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks as the New Orleans Hornets rallied in the second half to down the Los Angeles Clippers. Jason Smith added 17 points and 8 rebounds in the Hornets’ second win in three games. Blake Griffin finished with a game high 21 points to go along with 11 rebounds as the Clippers dropped each game of a back-to-back-to-back road stretch. 

POR over MEM, 97-93
Nicolas Batum knocked down four three-pointers en route to 24 points to help the Portland Trail Blazers hang on to beat Memphis. Wesley Matthews scored 18, Jamal Crawford added 17 and LaMarcus Aldridge tallied 16 for Portland, which had lost two straight entering the game. Marc Gasol paced the Grizzlies with 22 points and 9 rebounds, but Memphis fell to 0-2 on its four-game road trip. 

UTA over SAC, 103-102
Al Jefferson netted 26 points, including the game-winning tip-in within the final second of action, as the Utah Jazz held off a late surge by the Sacramento Kings. Gordon Hayward added 18 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in Utah's fifth straight win. Tyreke Evans paced the Kings with 25 points as Sacramento closed out a franchise record nine-game homestand with a 5-4 record.

March 23, 2012:
MIL over CHA, 112-92
Luc Mbah a Moute scored 20 points off the bench to lead six Milwaukee players in double figures as the Bucks cruised past the Bobcats. Drew Gooden tallied a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Ersan Ilyasova and Mike Dunleavy added 15 points apiece for Milwaukee, which bounced back from Thursday's home loss to Boston. Gerald Henderson led all scorers with 29 points as the Bobcats have dropped four of their last five. 

PHX over IND, 113-111
Steve Nash dished out 17 assists and Marcin Gortat had 23 points and 8 rebounds as the Phoenix Suns edged the Indiana Pacers. Nash added 12 points and Grant Hill netted 22 points for the Suns, who have won five of their last seven games. Danny Granger led all scorers with 28 points for the Pacers, who had won four of their last six contests. 

ORL over CLE, 93-80
Dwight Howard had 16 points and 13 rebounds as the Orlando Magic rolled to over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Ryan Anderson added a game-high 17 points with 8 rebounds while Hedo Turkoglu finished with 15 points in Orlando's second straight win. Antawn Jamison had 16 points to pace the Cavaliers, who suffered their fifth loss in six games.

TOR over NYK, 96-79
DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points as the Raptors earned a win over the Knicks, who suffered their first loss under interim coach Mike Woodson. Toronto had dropped three straight, including a setback at New York on Tuesday, but got 21 points from Andrea Bargnani and 19 from Gary Forbes to halt the slide. Amar’e Stoudemire scored 17 points to pace the Knicks. 

ATL over NJN, 93-84
Josh Smith scored 13 points in the fourth quarter en route to his second straight 30-point performance to help Atlanta to a victory over the Nets. Smith added 12 rebounds, while Jeff Teague tallied 17 points to help the Hawks to their fourth victory in their last five contests. Deron Williams paced the New Jersey attack with 20 points and 8 assists, but the Nets continued to falter as they dropped their fifth straight game.

MIA over DET, 88-73
Dwyane Wade filled the stat sheet with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals as the Miami Heat cruised past the Detroit Pistons. LeBron James added 17 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and four steals for the Heat, who have won seven of their last nine games. Brandon Knight nailed four three-pointers en route to 18 points for the Pistons, who have lost four consecutive contests.

OKC over MIN, 149-140 (2OT)
Russell Westbrook scored nine of his career-high 45 points in the second overtime period to help the Oklahoma City Thunder earn a frantic victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Durant added 40 points, including a couple of big three-pointers late in regulation and in the first overtime, and pulled down 17 rebounds in Oklahoma City's second straight win. Kevin Love netted a franchise-record 51 points to go along with 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost for the fifth time in six games. 

PHI over BOS, 99-86
The 76ers got Doug Collins his 400th NBA coaching win and kept their place atop the Atlantic Division. Elton Brand scored 20 points, Lou Williams had 19 off the bench and the Sixers used a dominant third quarter to take control in a big win over the Boston Celtics. The win extended Philadelphia's lead to 1 1/2 games over Boston atop the Atlantic. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett had 20 points apiece to lead Boston, which to 4-4 at the end of an eight-game road trip.

SAS over DAL, 104-87
Tim Duncan recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Dallas Mavericks. Danny Green added 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists for the Spurs, who have won five of six. Jason Terry ended with 18 points for the Mavericks, who have lost two straight since a four-game winning streak. 

LAL over POR, 103-96
Ramon Sessions is quickly making a name for himself in Los Angeles, as he scored 20 points and handed out 11 assists to lead the Lakers over the Trail Blazers. Andrew Bynum scored a team-high 28 points and pulled down 9 rebounds for the Lakers, who have won seven of their last nine. LaMarcus Aldridge poured in a game-high 29 points to go with 9 rebounds for Portland, which has dropped three of its last four.

UTA over DEN, 121-102
Al Jefferson netted a game-high 23 points to pace seven double-digit scorers for Utah as the Jazz cruised past the Denver Nuggets. Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks had 15 points apiece in the Jazz's sixth straight win. With the victory, Utah now sits tied with Denver and the idle Houston Rockets for the seventh spot in the Western Conference. Al Harrington paced the Nuggets with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Denver continued to alternate wins and losses over its last nine games.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
March 22: Al Jefferson (UTA) – 26
March 23: Kevin Love (MIN) – 51 

Al Jefferson continues to impress at the slot
for the Utah Jazz.

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
March 22: DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) – 18
March 23: Kevin Durant (OKC) – 17 

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
March 22: Rajon Rondo (BOS) – 14
March 23: Rajon Rondo (BOS) & Steve Nash (PHX) – 17 

Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics might be looking at
their last playoff run as an intact unit.

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
March 22: Paul George (IND) & Greg Stiemsma (BOS) – 4 
March 23: Elton Brand (PHI), LeBron James (MIA), & Ben Wallace (DET) – 4 

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
March 22: Greg Sitemsma (BOS) – 5
March 23: Segre Ibaka (OKC) – 5 

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
March 22: Nicolas Batum (POR) & Wesley Matthews (POR) – 4 
March 23: Kevin Love (MIN) – 7 

March 22, 2012 First Five
C – Jason Thompson (SAC) – 19pts, 15rebs, 2stls, 1ast, 1blk
F – Al Jefferson (UTA) – 26pts, 7rebs, 4blks, 1ast
F – Chandler Parsons (HOU) – 20pts, 11rebs, 4asts
G – Paul Pierce (BOS) – 25pts, 9rebs, 3 treys, 2asts, 2blks, 1stl
G – Tyreke Evans (SAC) – 25pts, 5rebs, 3stls, 2asts
Honorable Mention:
Marc Gasol (MEM) – 22pts, 9rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Chris Kaman (NOH) – 20pts, 10rebs, 4blks, 1ast, 1stl
Kevin Garnett (BOS) – 16pts, 10rebs, 6asts, 3blks

Daily Zap:

March 23, 2012 First Five
C – Marcin Gortat (PHX) – 23pts, 8rebs, 2asts, 1stl
F – Kevin Love (MIN) – 51pts, 14rebs, 7 treys, 1stl, 1blk
F – Kevin Durant (OKC) – 38pts, 17rebs, 4asts, 3 treys, 2stls
G – Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 43pts, 6asts, 4rebs, 2stls
G – JJ Barea (MIN) – 23pts, 14asts, 10rebs, 3stls

Kevin Love scorched the Thunder for 51, but
it was still not enough to beat the West's best team.

Honorable Mention:
Josh Smith (ATL) – 30pts, 12rebs, 4asts, 2blks, 1stl
Gerald Henderson (CHA) – 29pts, 6rebs, 3asts, 1stl
Danny Granger (IND) – 28pts, 4 treys, 4rebs, 3asts 1stl, 1blk

Daily Zap:

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.

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