From the Rose Garden:
Can James Jones work miracles? You might truly appreciate his play tonight but still stop short of saying that. However, after seeing a fan seated in a wheelchair attempting to stand up to celebrate one of Jones' clutch jumpers down the stretch, I began to wonder if JJ had some higher power other than a sweet stroke. It wasn't a LeBron James billboard but we were all witnesses tonight.
Witness to a quality win; witness to more clutch foul shooting down the stretch; witness to more superb team defense, witness to a shared offensive load which demonstrated that a number of role players are willing and able to step up if Brandon isn't carrying the entire burden on his own shoulders.
You can absolutely see it in this team's eyes: happy to be winning, happy to be home for the holidays, happy to be playing in front of a full, appreciative audience, happy to be playing together. Leaving the stadium tonight, the Oregonian's Ryan White recalled previous years, describing the Rose Garden as a perverse alternate universe where nothing was fun, nobody was enjoying himself and the city could not care less. The contrast couldn't have been greater: that was then, this is now. Show up on Tuesday ready to witness Christmas miracles.
Nate on his post-game feelings: "I'm just taking a deep breath."
Nate on halftime: "I thought the guys were reading the press clippings... [I told them] they can't rely on flipping a switch in the fourth quarter."
Nate on the 4th quarter run: "We got stops... you need the second unit to come in and fire up the team, and they did."
Nate on the team's offensive awareness development: "We are starting to pick up mismatches. Carter was on Travis, we have a play, but stop the play, and run Travis to the block. We did that, it worked."
Nate on the Nuggets: "No Martin, No Camby, it was a different game, they went small. Just a different game."
Nate on the Rose Garden: "Best crowd of the year. It was LOUD. We are trying to make the Rose Garden a special place. Electrifying."
Brandon on the 10 game winning streak (longest in the NBA this year: "Who would have thought Portland would do it? [chuckles] I would have thought Phoenix or Dallas."
Brandon on Outlaw: "It looked like nobody could guard him, man..."
Brandon on the Rose Garden: "I've never been to the playoffs but this was close to a playoff type atmosphere."
Random Game Notes:
If I ever get a Playboy mansion invite, I'm going to wear the Nuggets powder-blue warmup ensemble. Probably the best way to fit in... The cheers in section 207 were led by a boisterous man named Harlan, who took it upon himself to run up and down the aisle pumping everyone up. He was met not with the usual Portland miffed look but with several resounding high-fives and chants of "de-fense." Good work, Harlan... You've read about Pritchard's superstition with wearing pink during the winning streak, sure enough he had a nice pink tie on tonight... Amazingly long lines for the Sergio bobbleheads... File this under the "things I didn't know department": You can schedule Blaze the Trail Cat for your own personal, private function. Anybody know Henry Abbot's birthday? ... Rap heads: James Jones picked the warm-up music this evening and it was Lil Wayne, who had a nice write-up in the most recent Rolling Stone... Mike Rice should wear a Santa hat 365 days a year, ya dig?... Major props to the Blazers video editing team, the warmup video includes Brandon's Jordanesque shot from Wednesday night. Great way to fire everyone up... The Blazer Dancers were rocking "modified" Santa outfits tonight. I'll let your mind run with that one... Steve Blake gave George Karl a pre-game hug... Martell couldn't miss tonight. When he is on, he is ON... Iverson and Melo are worth the price of admission. The rest of the Nuggets tonight weren't worth the price of parking... Jarrett Jack's quarter closing three was ricola-ridiculous...A double foul was called tonight. Whenever there's a double foul I picture my younger brother and I being separated by our parents and sent to different corners for timeout, all of this circa 1992... A gentleman in a Rastafarian get-up was holding a "Smoke the Nuggets" sign, not exactly the most family-friendly thing to show on the scoreboard but it drew a lot of laughs... Speaking of signs, another guy had a "Let's rock the `insert sponsor here' Rose Garden!" sign. Hilarious, he made the big screen too... On the walk from my seat to the locker room, 12 separate people told me "what a game!". Simply awesome...