Media Row Report

The eye-witness view from Ben Golliver, our offical representative at games:

If anyone out there needed further proof that one should never, ever, ever leave a Blazers game early, I enter tonight's game as Exhibit A.  If any NBA coaches and national media members (also known as iRoy recipients) were still hedging as to who should be included on this year's Western Conference All Star reserves, go ahead and download the last 2:30 of this game and put that sucker on repeat.    

Really, what more could you ask of one player?  Brandon Roy's 4th quarter performance was simply amazing, perhaps the best of his career.  His coach, "Sarge" as he has been called, used the less-than-military term "beautiful" to describe his star player's astounding down-the-stretch domination.  I believe the sequence went something like...

-- Brandon Roy makes a stop on defense.
-- Brandon Roy converts a layup.
-- Brandon Roy makes a stop on defense.
-- Brandon Roy converts a layup.
-- Brandon Roy forces a turnover.
-- Brandon Roy makes a layup.
-- Brandon Roy makes a stop on defense.
-- With 2 seconds left, Brandon Roy draws a foul and makes 1 of 2 free throws, giving his team its first lead since early, early in the first quarter.
--Joe Johnson finally comes to the realization that he has just become another victim of the brilliance of Brandon Roy and air balls a 3 pointer at the buzzer.
-- Blazers win.

Maybe that's not precisely how the stretch played out, but it wasn't far off.  It was Brandon Roy's gym tonight and everyone else was just there visiting.  On one end, Joe Johnson was locked up tighter than Damon Stoudamire going through airport security.  I almost felt bad for the guy.  On the other end, Brandon's mental strength, focus, and the determination to win brought the win home against all odds.

And it's those traits--those superstar traits--that Brandon has shown over and over that have created the Blazers' gaudy home record.  Those traits sold out the Rose Garden today.  Those traits caused so much joy that fans were literally making out in the stands during the fourth quarter run.

If carrying a team on your back while battling a vicious cold and inspiring 20,000 fans to cheer, stomp, shout and, finally, French Kiss doesn't make you an all star in the NBA, then they might as well cancel the game.  Brandon Roy is an All Star; he rested his case tonight.

Postgame Quotes:

Nate on his postgame reaction: "It was shock! It was relief! It was `how do we do it?' It was, `Where did it come from?' Unbelievable second-half performance by those guys. The `no quit' in them. And not giving in.  We were down 19 and just didn't look like we had anything.  Unbelievable."

Nate on Brandon's health: "Brandon basically was doubtful for the game, we didn't say that [prior to the game], but he was running a fever, his eyes were watering, [trainer] Jay [Jensen] was trying to take care of him before the game."

Nate on the magnitude of the victory: "Definitely the biggest game. This was very similar to a game we gave away in Philly. A team had control, [and for the other team] there was no life, and all of a sudden they rally back, our guys tonight we talked about both groups needing to play, and our second group came out and gave us something. Sergio and Frye and Travis and then Brandon down the stretch.

Nate on Brandon's defense down the stretch: "That defensive hold he had on Joe was as beautiful a thing I have seen. Really it was beautiful to see. Joe couldn't go anywhere! [Brandon] kept him in front of him. He didn't give him space to get the shot off. He contested the shot. I think he might have gotten a hand on it. Just a beautiful defensive possession."

Nate on the adjustments he's making to the way teams are now playing Brandon: "Teams are starting to try to take him out, by trapping and double-teaming.  The play that we ran today, and got 2 or 3 buckets off of it, [was taking] the five man --Frye or Lamarcus--[and having him slip off of the pick and roll]. Teams have been very hot on trying to trap [Brandon], and we have talked about that play. [Brandon] talked to the bigs about slipping, [saying] there's nobody behind you and make a play... it's part of these guys growing and learning."

Nate on recent strategy with Brandon: "He and I had a film session yesterday, and we went over getting the ball out of the double team quick, directing people when guys are not where they are supposed to be. We talked about that in the meeting: he needs to put them in a position where they can be productive. He gave it to Frye, he gave it to Lamarcus, where all they had to do was catch it and shoot it. But it's really up to him to get them to that position.  Where he runs the pick and roll set at, a couple of times we were running the pick and roll so far out they were shooting threes, so we talked about taking it deeper, so that when they catch they are taking an 18 footer instead of a 20 footer."

Brandon on Joe Johnson: "With his pace and his rhythm, he's hard to stop. I tried to reach a little bit, then back off of him, give him different looks. I was able to strip the ball a couple of times and take him out of his rhythm and force some tough shots."

Brandon on the magnitude of the game: "We came back from 19, we showed a lot of hard and this win goes up with the top few wins [of the year]"

Brandon on how he felt postgame: "I didn't even want to know my temperature... I'm a go play.  [Jay Jensen] laughed and said, `you have some of your best games when you're sick.' I said, I hope it's one of those nights. I didn't play a great game but I had a good fourth quarter... Tonight was just a little fever, a head cold, when you're sick, you're sick but you just try to lock in and focus, I was really focused in that fourth quarter.

Jarrett on Brandon: "He's unbelievable to watch someone take over a game like that, it's Jordanesque in a way, he's done it on countless nights this season."

Jarrett on the comeback: "We just knew if we kept chipping away, chipping away, we could kind of make our move, that's what we did to close out the third quarter, we had it to about 10, and in the fourth quarter we kept chipping, chipping, chipping, and at the four minute mark we made our move and pulled out the [win].

Random Game Notes:

Prior to the game, KXL announcer Antonio Harvey made a bold prediction (not sure if he was on air or off air): the New Orleans Hornets are his team to beat this year for the NBA title... Also before the game, Travis put in some extended work at the free throw line. Not sure if this was a product of Friday night or not... Anthony Johnson's game introduction dance is a particularly bad rendition of the robot. Not sure if that made the telecast or not but it was awful... Josh Smith is a complete freak of nature.  Taller, lankier and more athletic in person--which is saying something.  He starts the game by jumping for the opening tip, proceeds to bound around all over the gym, pumping in athletic finishes on one end and making a vicious block on the other end... Al Horford had 12 boards and was an active presence all night.  He has all star potential (you can say that about half the players on the Hawks roster... Marvin Williams included.  They've got something good going)... Sergio got some real run for once and had a number of nice plays in both the first and second half... Speaking of Sergio, I saw a grade-school aged fan with his hair in a "fauxhawk" just like Sergio's... During one of the timeouts, the big screen had a feature that asked each of the Blazers, "What's your all-time favorite dunk?"  A number of players, including Channing Frye, said Tom Chambers' famous landing pad dunk. If you haven't seen that one, do yourself a favor and Youtube it. The replay got oohs and aahs from the spectators.  The other popular response was Vince Carter's dunk in the Olympics where he hurdled over the 7-footer to stuff it home.  Of course, Michael Jordan and Dr. J were also mentioned... James Jones had a particularly brutal flagrant foul on Marvin Williams that looked a lot like the horsecollar tackles that the NFL recently outlawed.  Glad to see Marvin get up ok after that one.... Marvin has a nice demeanor about him. He was playing with a smile on his face for much of the game and offered his hand to help both teammates and Blazers up off of the deck. I've got to believe it's that homegrown Northwest kindness exuding itself...  One young fan sitting courtside had a huge sign that said, "This is my first Blazers game."  They showed him on the scoreboard and he got a huge cheer... Down the stretch the public address announcer played an audio clip of Schonely going "It's Rip City, Baby" accompanied by Blaze the Trail Cat waving a huge white "Rip City" flag and running around the court.  This stirred up quite the commotion in all levels and sections of the arena...  Last but not least: Kevin Pritchard finally broke his normal businessman character when the buzzer sounded and was really whooping it up with the team.  He offered enthusiastic handshakes and hugs to every player as they left the floor and looked on with a huge smile as Maurice Lucas whispered some words to Brandon as he left the court.  15 minutes later Pritchard still had that smile on his face.

--Ben Golliver

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