Outmanned and outsized Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, it was the perfect time for the Trail Blazers to shift gears into the new-school NBA:
Spread the floor and fire up a load of three-point field goals. I mean, just bring out the long-range artillery. From high school through college and the NBA, the way smaller teams with lesser talent deal with their situation is to shoot from long range and try to make most of their shots count for three points instead of two.
It's effective if you can make the threes.
But it didn’t work out that way for the Trail Blazers in Moda Center. The idea was fine, but the execution was lacking. Portland hit four of its first seven three-point attempts and then finished out the first quarter missing its next six and went 7-20 in the first half. And as the misses mounted up, the attempts dried up. The Trail Blazers finished 10-36 from long range (27.8 percent) and lost the game 122-101.
“Obviously, we weren’t going to beat them inside,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “I thought we could collapse the defense with some penetration. They were open from three, we wanted to shoot them. I’m glad we took 20 in the first half. I was hoping we would take at least 20 in the second half.”
Damian Lillard, the only Portland starter to make at least half his shots (10-20), knew Milwaukee would be vulnerable from the outside.
“Watching them on film, they give up threes and opportunities were there with the bigs being back, so we took them,” he said. “Those were the shots that were there.”
The Bucks did very little to take advantage of their overall size advantage with Portland center Hassan Whiteside sitting the game out with an upper respiratory illness. Milwaukee took two more threes than the Blazers did and only seven more shots in the paint than Portland. Vulnerable to offensive rebounds in the recent past, the Blazers, with nobody on the floor taller than 6-8, allowed only 10 of them to the visitors.
Milwaukee is 35-6 this season and probably figured it could win the game without making any major adjustments in its style of play, which leans on the three-point shot.
“If we would have shot well, we would have been fine,” said Anthony Tolliver, who, at 6-8, got the starting nod at center vs. a front line that was 7-foot. 6-11 and 6-7. “Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go in for us at the right times. We made a few shots, but not enough. That’s today’s NBA. It’s a spread-out court and you depend on a lot of shooting.
“Most teams who have had so much success with the way they play, just stick to the game plan and play the way that they play.”
The Blazers got only four three-point attempts from their reserves, who made none of those shots.
Portland came into the game shooting only 31.9 percent from three over its previous five games and couldn’t even do that well against the Bucks.