Orlando 85, Portland 74

It took Portland 4 minutes to get LaMarcus Aldridge a shot. He made it. He took 4 shots in the first period. Travis Outlaw was out of his mind, scoring 8. Portland scored 27. They had a ten point lead. They were scoring, defending, rebounding...they looked good.

Then they fell apart. After a 27 point quarter, they only totaled 47 points in the next 3 quarters. How did that happen? Well, for one thing, Roy is still struggling with his shot. He missed from everywhere...3s, drives, mid-range jumpers. Also, Portland forgot about this one guy they have...LaMarcus something or other. Case in point.

Third period:
First possession: Aldridge turn around jump shot. Made.
Second possession: Aldridge turn around fade way: Made.
Third Possession: Aldridge 3 second violation.
Fourth Possession: Aldridge dunk. Time: 10:30.

Next Aldridge shot: the 3:16 mark (he made it). He took and made 4 shots in the quarter. When you score but 16 points in the quarter, how does someone who is 4 for 4 in the quarter and 6 for 8 on the night just 4 shots in the quarter? Webster scored 6, Outlaw 2. It was an ugly quarter. Get Aldridge more shots!

Is it a shock Portland, without Aldridge or Webster in the game for much of the quarter, struggled to score in the 4th?

Defensively, Portland did a great job. Howard struggled all night. The Magic shot just 41% for the game. Offensively, they made a huge error. I am a huge Roy fan, but this was not a strong night for him. On a night when Aldridge shot 8-15, Webster 6-12 and Outlaw 5-13, Roy's 4 -18 is a bad sign. The guy having the worst shooting night should not be taking the most shots. Portland needs to identify their hot shooters and get them the ball more often.

They also need to improve on their abominable free throw shooting. How on earth does an NBA team shoot worse than 54% from the line?

When the season started I had high hopes for this team. They were letting Aldridge get enough touches, Roy was penetrating and finding the open man, Webster was hitting shots, Przybilla was playing defense and rebounding. I genuinely believed they were playoff bound. They should win 42 - 45 games, which I know seems like a lot...but I believe they are that talented. Aldridge could easily be a 24 - 25 point a night guy, Webster 15 - 18 if used better (i.e., don't hide him motionless in the corner and run the play on the far side of the court. Let him drive a bit, get some mid-range jumpers, etc.), and Roy better than 20 a game. There is enough fill in talent with Outlaw, Jack, Blake, and Frye to give them a potent offense.

Defensively they have great potential in Przybilla, Aldridge, Webster and Outlaw. Outlaw in particular can be an All-NBA defender. His length, energy and intensity cause major problems for his opponent. And Portland is holding their opponents to low shooting percentages. But then they give it back on the boards.

They are close to being a very, very good team. If Oden is as advertised then next year might be the Cinderella year. But this year, ever since the Philadelphia game, is looking long.

In that game Portland had a 24 point road lead. They were on the verge of sweeping their road trip. Everything was in place. They were destroying a bad Philadelphia team. They had Washington without Agent Zero and the Bobcats without Morrison in front of them. They would come home riding a 4 game road win streak (what road monkey?) and, their confidence high, beat the injured, tired Nets. They blew that lead, gave up against Washington, and lost a winnable game to make that road monkey into a monster. Suddenly the home court is not as kind. They lost to a New Jersey team they should have beat in a game they had won. They can't score against Orlando. The season is heading for the lottery...but it didn't have to. It was on the edge of surprising goodness.

I still like to watch them. I still like the make-up of the team. They just need to find that missing, undefinable "something" and get themselves righted. Hopefully it happens soon.