"Hi, we're the Portland Trailblazers."
Hi Portland Trailblazers!
"We, uh...don't know where to begin. I guess it started at the beginning of the season. We started to win a little bit. At first we were only winning socially, you know...to impress our friends. I mean, yeah, we'd go out and win three or four in a row but it was no big deal. We could quit whenever we wanted. Sure people accused of winning in times and places where we shouldn't, but it was just harmless fun, you know?"
We understand. Go on.
"Well, lately...I don't know how to say it."
It's OK. Just tell the truth.
"OK...OK. Lately we've been winning. A lot. We get up in the morning and we win. Before we go to bed at night we win. We've been winning on the road, at home, everywhere. We can't step on the court without winning. Milwaukee, Miami, Memphis, New Orleans, Golden State, Utah twice, Denver twice...we're winning all the time. It's starting to affect people's perceptions of us."
MY GOD, THESE GUYS DO HAVE A PROBLEM.
Yeah. I thought I was bad winning five of six once, but I never won ten in a row.
Now, now people. We're here to support, not judge. Portland Trailblazers, it's time to face the truth. You're...winaholics.
The best thing about this game was that just about everybody who stepped on the floor contributed in a meaningful way. This was probably the truest team effort we've seen. It seems like the Blazers just keep inventing new ways to win.
At first this game looked like it could be scary. Denver figured out pretty quickly how to solve that pesky zone defense of ours. They got up shots before we could get set. If they weren't fast breaking they shot within the first few seconds of the possession. And it worked. We had a very hard time defending in the beginning stages of the game. Fortunately the Nuggets don't really rebound consistently enough to make that strategy work but you may expect it to be employed by several teams now. Our transition defense game is the next thing to be tested this year. If we fail that test it won't matter how decent a zone we can throw.
We led most of the first half until Denver took a lead right at the end of the second quarter. They held, then expanded that lead in the third as Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony basically ripped us a new one. It looked like it might be a streak-snapping night. But then all hell broke loose in the fourth. Travis Outlaw came in and did his Super Trout routine again, pulling us even almost instantly. After that it was a ten minute back-and-forth slugfest that could not have been scripted better if this were the WWE. Each side threw haymakers at the other and connected. Finally it came down to a couple of memorable defensive plays that every game summary will chronicle. The first one came as Carmelo Anthony backed Brandon Roy down in the lane with the Nuggets desperately needing a score. Every reasonably savvy person seeing the play develop probably thought, "Uh oh...that's not good." Anthony got Roy in position, spun, jumped in the air and...BLOCKED SHOT. Roy blocked his freakin' shot. The look on Carmelo's face was priceless. That was the definitive moment of the game to me...the rallying point where we said, "We ain't losing this." The second play was Travis Outlaw's swat of Linas Kleiza's last-second, game-tying three attempt. Both plays were memorable and heartening. It looked like we were trying to win this game by outshooting the Nuggets, which is our custom. That we ended up winning by manning up, defending, and rebounding should not be discounted. That's what good teams do.
Obviously to win on a night where both Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson scored 34 a lot of things had to go right, and a lot of things did. The most obvious were Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin not playing. Their absence left the middle open for us and several of our players--Lamarcus and Brandon particularly--took advantage. It also left us a clear advantage on the boards. I'm not sure we exploited that fully but we did win the rebounding battle. Serious, SERIOUS props go to the guards and forwards late in the game, as their energy kept us tight on the boards. Steve Blake deserves special mention, as he was busting it out there. We took decent care of the ball and got more free throws than they did, both keys to the game. We were unselfish as usual. Five players scored in double figures. We attacked the rim reasonably well for a jump-shooting team also. Plus we hit our threes. In the end we had enough bonus points to pull it out.
Even in the absence of the Denver big men this was a major league game and it was a major league win. What we did in the fourth quarter was amazing for a team this young and darn good for any professional club.
A Special Note
The crowd tonight deserved MAJOR props. This was the first true Portland crowd I've heard in years. The spontaneous chants were particularly great. They put those canned scoreboard chants completely to shame. I know some folks from the organization visit this site and I'd like to put a proposal out there. Tonight you saw what a Blazer crowd can do, given the chance. Those prepared chants over the loudspeakers really can't compare and don't do the crowd justice. Plus they really don't work all that well. If the crowd isn't into it those chants don't get them up. If they are into it they can give you better. If space is made...if you trust us...we can give you a crowd reaction that won't be equaled anywhere in the league. It will be the talk of the league too, as it's unique and completely from the heart. But it's really difficult to do that while being prompted by artificial cheers and music and distractions all game long. So how about it? Could we scale back on the artificial noise a little bit and make room for some real noise? You could pump up the volume at certain points but not all the time. And maybe you could lose those pre-taped chants completely on nights when the crowd is live? If you gave it a try and stuck with it I guarantee you Portland fans would step up.
--Lamarcus Aldridge has a strong game tonight, shooting 50%, scoring 18, and collecting 8 rebounds and 5 assists. He could pretty much have his way on offense when he was on the court and he took advantage. I liked that he didn't settle for jumpers all night either. There was no reason to when he was unopposed. This was one of his better games in recent memory.
--Brandon was the heart and soul again. Also part of the liver and at least one kidney. He endured a difficult shooting night but made up for it with 12 free throw attempts and that manly block we talked about earlier. Again he never let the team think it was going to lose. It was SUCH a good call to make space for him to be a leader this year.
--Martell Webster must have gone to TreyMart before the game as he brought a few long balls to the table tonight. He was the Blazers' leading scorer with 19. He also drove the ball a couple times, by the way. It was good to see his energy back.
--Besides the major rebounding props we just gave him Steve Blake also deserves kudos for his 7 assists and a well-managed game. A guy who only shoots the ball twice usually doesn't make that much of a difference. The Blazers didn't take many bad shots tonight though and Blake is a big reason why.
--Channing Frye ought to be allowed to play the Nuggets every night. Once again he couldn't miss, shooting 4-6. Even better he took advantage of the Denver doughnut to grab himself 10 shiny, new rebounds. This was probably his best all-around game of the season.
--We haven't even gotten to the fourth-quarter hero yet. Brandon Roy was the heart of the team but Travis was the arms and legs late in the game. He couldn't hit a darn thing early but the switch just flipped when the game was on the line. He hit a blizzard of semi-spectacular shots and just demoralized the Denver defense. How many games can this guy put away for us?
--Jarrett Jack had a more modest game but did hit a halfcourt shot to end the first quarter, brining the entire arena and probably most of the television viewing audience to its feet. Given that the final margin was three I'm glad Jarrett took a chance. That shot just underscored how everybody gave something tonight.
--James Jones was a semi-quiet assassin, hitting shots when we needed them and getting around the floor otherwise. I'm sure glad we have this guy.
--Joel Przybilla collected 4 rebounds and 4 fouls in 13 minutes but it was a small-ball type of game, which is not his strength.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
Hey Nuggets...wanna go again?