I was bummed when Coach Nate McMillan switched his line-up, inserting ace sixth-man Travis Outlaw in the Small Forward slot instead of Rookie Nicolas Batum. I like what Outlaw does for Portland on the second unit, and with Lamar Odom coming off the bench for the Lakers, it did not seem it would hurt. Besides, McMillan is a phenomenal coach and his moves usually work out.
In retrospect, it did not really matter who started at Small Forward. On this night, the Lakers were stronger, faster, more aggressive, better shooters, better free throw shooters, better three point shooters, better rebounders...
I was not surprised to see the Lakers win. I was, however, surprised to see Portland forget to show up for the game. They failed to run the offense, failed to identify who was having a reasonable night, failed to use their teammates...this game was a flat-out train wreck.
With that said, we did learn some things about the Blazers.
But there were some positive signs. First, the good:
-Brandon Roy never lost his poise, even after starting the game 0 for 9.
- Rudy Fernandez had a spectacular game and showed he will be a force to reckon with.
- Joel Przybilla is still a good rebounder and defender
- Jerryd Bayless and Nicolas Batum have some things they can bring to the table.
Second, the bad: Everything else that Portland normally will do well.
- Missed opportunities:
* Portland had them, but rained brick after brick after brick when wide open. Even though his final line looked good, Steve Blake missed several open threes at points Portland needed them desperately and might have made it a game.
* Aldridge struggled against players he normally scorches.
* Travis Outlaw scored well but was essentially no help on the boards, did not pass well, and stopped fewer people than a yield sign.
* Sergio Rodriguez got only 5 minutes. Has Nate lost confidence in him already?
* The defense. At one point they switched to a zone. It has been years since I saw such a porous zone; at one point there was 1 Blazer defending 3 Lakers. When a well-coached, veteran team with an offense like the triple post sees holes in a zone, bad things happen for the zone.
Overall, this was a disappointing night, not because they lost but because of HOW they lost. There is no shame in losing to the Lakers in L.A., but to not show up was hard to watch.
Fortunately, another game is just around the corner. There is plenty of season left and Portland will right the ship. Roy and Aldridge will shoot better, the team will pass better, and they will be just fine.
And now for the controversial portion of the show.
Yes, Greg Oden's injury is worrisome. The Blazers have been counting on him. BUT...I am not as sure it is as bad for the team as it will be portrayed. Hopefully it will just be the mid-foot sprain as preliminary x-rays show, we will know more soon. But even if it is more serious, Portland will be fine.
Joel Przybilla is still a good fit for this team in the starting line-up. He defends, he rebounds, he sets picks and he doesn't need the ball. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy are comfortable with him in the starting line-up.
Portland's second unit will still be fine with Channing Frye, the Spanish Fly back court, and Travis Outlaw.
They will have to work harder to win games but they will still win games. Lots of them. And some against good teams.
Naturally, the best-case scenario is to have Oden back and healthy soon. You never want to see an important player go down with injury. But there is no need to panic either way.
So now that game 1 is in the books, let's look forward to game 2 and let the chips fall where they may.