In the five games since my last post, Portland has gone 3-2, playing all its games a slow pace. The Blazers havecontinued to score with mind-boggling efficiency in the recent months, averaging 109.5 points per game* since Joel Przybilla went down for the season at Dallas on December 22nd. The offensive explosion has come primarily from two things: a scorching 50.3% field goal percentage in the month of January, and an average of just 11 turnovers per game since Joel’s injury.
It’s not hard to pinpoint the reason for these drastic changes in offensive efficiency. The Blazer’s three-point percentage has remained fairly constant at about 35-36%, so the damage is being done inside the arc, starting with Juwan Howard, Przybilla’s replacement. Howard has averaged 10.5 points per game in January, shooting 55% from the floor. In addition to Howard’s offensive boost, Brandon Roy is shooting 60% this month, and even backup power forward, Jeff Pendergraph, is finding the bottom of the net 77% of the time in limited minutes. It’s very possible that Roy is enjoying some extra space in the middle to operate, getting easier looks for himself with hulking centers out of the way.
In addition to increased shooting percentages, the Blazers are taking better care of the ball. Throughout the season, Portland has turned it over just 13.8 times a game—good for 8th in the league—but as mentioned before, that figure has dropped to less than 11 giveaways in the last fifteen games. Those extra 3 possessions that Portland has earned itself likely made the difference in three separate wins by just 4 points over that same span. So a potential 7-8 record in the last fifteen games jumped to 10-5, thanks in large part to limiting turnovers.
While the loss of Przybilla—who has offensive skills rivaling those of a large white gorilla—seems to have had a positive impact on the team’s scoring efficiency, his absence has been felt on the defensive end where the Blazers have become one of the worst teams in the league at stopping opponents from scoring. That being said, Portland’s explosive offensive attack has covered the spread, and given the Blazers the 10th best scoring margin (difference between points for and points against) in the league over the last fifteen games.
It will be interesting to see how these offensive and defensive numbers change when Nicolas Batum and Travis Outlaw are reintroduced to the court—Outlaw being more known for his offense, while Batum is more known for his defensive prowess.
*All per-game statistics, unless otherwise noted, are prorated for a medium-paced game. Since the Blazers play at a very slow tempo, I adjust statistics to match the league average pace so that more accurate comparisons can be made.