Watching a basketball game you know the result of is an unusual experience. When your team loses, it’s even tougher because with each missed opportunity there’s a penchant to sit back point at what just occurred and think, “See, if they’d have just gotten THAT play to work, it would’ve all been different!”
In a game where Missouri lost with a chance to win the game on its final possession, all those little things add up. If only one or two of them swing...
But that’s sports most of the time. You’ll torture yourself if you live and die with the little events of the game. On Thursday afternoon, there were plenty of little things that went against the Tigers, and enough of them came early that I thought it was going to take a big turn of events for Missouri to come back and win the game. They never quite got the turn of events they needed.
In the first matchup between these two teams, the Tigers bounced off a 13-2 run early in the second half of a close game, which gave them the distance they needed. They had the benefit of a very loose whistle, which allowed them to be the aggressors and force Georgia to play out of sorts.
in game 2, the whistle was tight, and Yante Maten adjusted quickly to get the Tigers into all kinds of foul trouble (even if several of the calls were at best questionable). And each time Mizzou was able to string together a few bucks, Georgia answered. Neither team was good, but Georgia was good enough and got production from guys when Mizzou’s upperclassmen faltered. In the end, that’s a recipe for a loss.
Of all the scenarios you could envision for Michael Porter Jr. heading into this game, this one was probably the most likely.
There were moments where he looked like MPJ, streaking down the middle of the floor past defenders and breaking open towards the rim. Then there were moments where he looked rusty, like when he received the ball and squeaked the ball over the rim instead of dunking it.
Porter was bound to have some rust. He admitted as much in the post game comments:
Mizzou’s Michael Porter Jr.: “I knew I wasn’t 100%. I’m about 65, 70. The last thing to come back with this injury is your explosiveness, your pop. That’s just not there yet.”— Brian Hamilton (@_Brian_Hamilton) March 8, 2018
And why wouldn’t he be rusty?
Porter still demands attention, and if you leave him alone he can make you pay. He did several times against Georgia. But the burst and explosiveness which made MPJ a truly special player aren’t quite back yet.
Porter had a usage of 32%, which is a fair amount higher than I thought he’d be. Seventeen shots in 23 minutes in a game without a torrid pace sounds like a guy hunting for shots. But I could really only point to one or two of his shots where I thought he could’ve moved the ball for a better look.
Overall I thought the offense flowed pretty well despite the ball not going, you know, into the basket very often. That was kind of the problem, though. In the first game against Georgia, Mizzou had four players score 50 points with Jontay Porter and Kassius Robertson leading the way.
Jontay was great this time, but Robertson and Jordan Barnett struggled.
When you account for one-third of the offense and have an ORtg of 159, as Jontay did, you’re having a good night. But the rest of the team scored 40 points on 35% shooting from inside the arc and 21% from outside the arc.
If Jontay hadn’t shown up to the game, this isn’t a contest.
In his last three games the younger Porter has figured something out and is playing great basketball. So this is where Mizzou fatalism steps in and assumes he’s going pro, right?
Let’s hope he doesn’t and we get to enjoy Jontay as The Man next year.
Kash and Barnett were off, though. This team is at its best when they’re able to hit 3-pointers at a reasonable rate ... and 21% is not a reasonable rate. Robertson is 45% on the season and hit just one of four as he had trouble shaking Georgia defenders loose for open looks. Barnett was scoreless from the floor if not for an early 3-pointer he made on the first possession Porter Jr. after checked into the game.
So you get horrible shooting nights from your two leading scorers, you’ve got a bunch of rust to shake off from your top recruit and future lottery pick forward, and on top of that you get into foul trouble?
It says at least a little something that Missouri was in this game (it also says something about Georgia’s offense as well).
It’s disappointing because it means fewer games in which we get to see what Michael Porter Jr. can do. It’s one fewer game for this team. But it’s also going to give this team a little more time off, giving both seniors some rest after playing a ton of minutes this season. And give them more practices to get Porter Jr. as close to 100% as he can get.