Wow, what a game. Of course it would have been better had we won, but still. We were somewhat shorthanded, certainly tired and bruised, a couple of our steady players were way off, and we still pulled THAT out! It was pretty amazing. Could anything beat that Travis four-point play? Even Lenny Suckerpunch, as jaded as he is, hadn't seen anything like that.
I think I was most impressed by the fact that we duked it out, toe-to-toe, with a playoff-level team on a day when we were not anywhere near our best. The game went hot and cold, inside and out. It was like a wrestling match where neither competitor could shake the other. It started with some stiff punches, went to the mat work in the middle stages, and then everybody was coming off turnbuckles left and right to finish. This was a show of guts and fortitude. It would have been so easy to surrender and get blown away. In past years we would have seen exactly that. There was no quit today.
This was an unusual game for us. We actually rebounded pretty well. We took it inside a lot more than we usually do. We had 107 shots, 14 more than the opposition. All of those are rarities. On the other hand we hesitated left and right taking jumpers. Especially down the stretch in regulation nobody but Roy looked comfortable shooting the ball on a consistent basis. We gave up 9 more free throws than we took. We shot a low percentage and allowed the opponent to shoot high. All of these are rarities also. It was like we entered Bizarro world for a day.
The thing that bothered me most was the hesitation. We moved the ball well but when you get a guy an open, reasonable look and he doesn't take it, it just kills your offense. We win when we're confident and in the flow. We don't have to make every shot. Missing is better than not firing at all.
Some folks are questioning the decision to play Joel only 20 minutes. He was having a hard time handling Bosh, but so was everybody else. Perhaps he could have helped shut down the middle. Then again our big guys seemed to be drawn out to the perimeter a lot in that switching defense we were playing (necessary to prevent open jumpers) and Joel outside of the paint is not a good bet defending.
While watching football with a friend of mine once I saw the referees deny a first down on the basis of a spot that was an inch short. I turned to my friend (who was rooting for the team that got denied) and said, "They should just give it to them. How can you eyeball a spot within an inch like that? It doesn't seem fair." He replied, "True, but if it's not that accurate how do you know the ref didn't already give them an inch or two extra on the spot and that's what made it so close?" It was a good point, and one I'm reminded of in times like this. People want to say, "If Nate had just done this or that we would have gotten the extra point we needed and won." But what if Nate's moves were what got us that close in the first place? Maybe Joel coming in means less time for Channing Frye and his 7-10, 16 point performance. Do the Blazers come out ahead in that exchange? How do you know?
--As was mentioned here we haven't seen a performance like Brandon Roy put on today from anyone outside of Kobe or Lebron. Brandon isn't either of those two and isn't going to be, but when he wants to he can sure take over a game. I just kept saying over and over again, "That was SICK!" And it was. My goodness. It was like watching Bobby Fischer play in a middle school chess tournament. THIS is an NBA player...a guy who averages 19 and fills up the stat line every night and then occasionally busts out for 30-something. This is light years ahead of guys who tally 8 per night and then get 22 every once in a while. 33 points, 10 assists. Wow.
--On the other end of the spectrum this was probably the worst game I've seen Lamarcus Aldridge play as a pro. He got pulled in the fourth for Frye at one point, and it didn't look like a regular rotation substitution. Every time he got in the post it looked like Tom Cruise french kissing the Pope...uncomfortable beyond belief. His release is just...off. He was a tad slow to rebound and defend too. I'm not bagging on the guy. He's give us a ton this season. I'm just saying this isn't the Lamarcus we're accustomed to seeing. This wasn't even his slower, more awkward cousin. It was Lamarcus' body combined with Olive Oyl's court presence.
--Channing Frye had a darn good game. He hit his shots and grabbed 7 boards. He wasn't a ton of help inside on defense but at least he moved his feet. 16 points in 24 minutes? As Paris Hilton would say, "That's hot!"
--Had we won the game Travis Outlaw's shot would have gone down in history. In fact over time most people would have thought that was the shot that won it. Trout started slow but really seemed to come alive when the game mattered. Sometimes it helps having a guy who can just go one-on-one and score. 3 blocks and 2 assists aren't too shabby for him either. 6 rebounds too.
--Jarrett Jack's offensive night was a disaster. He couldn't hit anything and served up blocks like he was the waiter and the Raptors were huge tippers. He did play hard-nosed and never stopped moving or trying. It was still pretty tough to watch.
--Joel Przybilla showed us some of his best dunking and got 9 rebounds and 8 points in only 20 minutes. It was a good game from him.
--Martell also had a really tough offensive game outside of a three-minute stretch when he couldn't miss. Unlike Jarrett he didn't seem to contribute so much otherwise. I would log this game as somewhat of a disappointment because we needed him.
--For the first time in forever James Jones didn't hit a shot. Toronto had evidently read the boxscores because they dogged him tighter than anyone outside of Roy. We really get crippled when our outside shooters aren't hitting.
--Sergio...I don't know. Didn't hurt us, didn't help us much either. I was expecting a little more from him with Blake out.
--We ended up playing a nine-man rotation in a double-overtime game on the first of back-to-backs at the beginning of a seven-game road trip. Hope the guys are eating their Wheaties.
One-Sentence Game Summary
You can't win them all, but at least we fought hard.
P.S. Due to a day-job emergency my trip to Boise to cover the D-League showcase unfortunately is cancelled. I am bummed because we had some great coverage planned. However I will still bring you some interviews with Blazer personnel and D-League officials. I probably won't get a chance to sit down with Josh McRoberts though. Bummer.