Hooo boy! What a game that was. It's been ages since we've seen double overtime. Neither team exactly played its best but it turned out that our pretty good matched evenly with their pretty good, but in the end we wanted it and hustled for it a little bit more. Happy times in Blazer land!
Let's talk about the big picture for a second first. I said in the GameDay Thread that this game and Saturday's were crucial for the Blazers if they wanted to make a good showing this month. It's going to be hard playing 7 games straight on the road no matter how well we're showing. There was a very real possibility that we could get dumped on our teakettles this game and then fly home needing to beat Utah...who I'm sure doesn't think their vengeance is complete. Now we have some leeway with the Jazz contest. That's huge. Entering a long road trip on a 2-3 game losing jag would not have been pleasant.
Two words describe the reason we won tonight: guts and poise. First the poise. We started the game WAY off of our usual track. The first unit was playing so-so. Lamarcus was missing everything he threw up. Roy was pressing a little. Martell was up and down. That took the heart out of our game. No problem, right? Just bring in the White Unit. The problem was the White Unit played worse than the starters. They started coughing up the ball left and right, they couldn't hit a shot, the Bulls were getting out in transition. It was scary. The guys that usually calm us down screwed us up. It looked for all the world like it was going to be a disaster. We had at least 5, maybe more, turnovers by the end of the first quarter alone.
We turned all that around though. It was slow, but we did it. Our turnover total at the end of two overtimes was 10. It took us three full quarters and two overtime periods to equal our total from the first. We also knuckled down on defense. You didn't see the Bulls running much later in the game. Part of it was fatigue and part of it was the absence of Luol Deng but part of it was also our defense and hustle.
Still we did fall down by 14 at one point, which is where the guts come it. We never gave up on this game. We never put it in cruise control. We ran over a few curbs and garbage cans but our foot stayed on the pedal and our hands on the wheel. In the end this game came down to one thing. Not execution...though that usually decides close games. Not talent. Not luck. When everybody was exhausted, shoulders stooped, and tongues were dragging on the floor, we wanted it more. We made those extra defensive plays that allowed even our flagging offense to pull out the game. It's great that we won the game with defense too, rather than hoisting the last attempt in an all-out shot-fest. We beat Chicago to the spot, kept our hands up higher, moved our feet faster, and finished the job. And from this team, that doesn't surprise me.
The only part of the game where you have a major quibble is rebounding. We actually won the overall battle 51-49. But letting the Bulls or any team grab 18 offensive rebounds makes the game exponentially harder. The step forward we've made this season is that it no longer cost us the game outright. That kind of flaw doesn't make us a bad team when we have other strengths to ride. I think you saw clearly tonight how that kind of flaw can (and does and will) keep us from being a great team. It's like wearing a $5,000 suit but having a piece of toilet paper stuck to your shoe. The individual parts are nice, but the overall effect is ruined. Let's skip over the talk of playoffs for a minute and talk playoff success, which is really what it's all about. We cannot even begin to dream of achieving our goals without patching up the gaping holes of rebounding consistency and team physicality.
Of course--as Doug Collins point out repeatedly tonight--the answer for at least 75% of that issue is sitting over on our bench right now in street clothes. He's not lying either. If Oden is healthy and gets a few months under his belt...scary, scary, scary.
--Who is Brandon Roy? No really, who is he? Are we on Candid Camera or something? Is some guy going to come out and say, "Gotcha! These games were rigged to make you think you had an amazing talent who sees the floor better than any mortal should and who plays at his own pace so well that he might as well be on a different planet from anybody trying to guard him." Brandon just dominated that game for us. It wasn't even one of his best outings. He just warped reality out there to suit him. 25 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, NO turnovers...15 total shots plus 11 free throws. Show me a guy who has a bigger effect on the game taking 15 shots. Even 20 if you count the times he was fouled. It didn't matter that he didn't hit the game winner...he WAS the game winner.
--Lamarcus had a miserable first half...first three quarters really. He just faded out there. Then lo and behold when we need it in the fourth he starts hitting. More importantly he started rebounding. He ended up with 13 total rebounds for the game. As I said last night, here's a guy who really listens to what we need and then goes out there and does his best to provide it. Everybody will have off-nights. Guys who can produce on their off-nights are worth their weight in gold.
--Did I miss Travis Outlaw's 21 points? I was all ready to say what an off night it was for him and then I look at the boxscore and he's near 50% shooting and throwing down the blackjack. He did hit some poised shots when the game was on the line. That's becoming a nice habit for him. Thanks Travis! Sorry about the overlooking thing. I'll pay better attention next time.
--Jarrett Jack really came on strong in the fourth period and overtime and helped save this game for us. You all saw the steal and three-point layup conversion. He was the only guy scoring for us in the lane all night. On this night he made a bigger impact than his 17 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds would indicate. We lose if he isn't doing his job.
--James Jones played a heady, veteran defensive game even when his shot wasn't falling. How about that last-second block of Nocioni to (in essence) end the game?
--Steve Blake provided a fantastic shooting outlet on a night when other people handled the ball more. His 3-3 beyond the arc cemented our 50% shooting pace from distance. He and his compatriots also conspired to hold their Chicago counterparts to rotten shooting percentages.
--Martell was on and off with his shooting. Unlike his teammates I didn't feel like he contributed as much outside of his shots. I really want to see more of the Martell we saw to start the season.
--Joel Przybilla made the best of his 15 minutes, grabbing 6 boards and throwing his body around.
--Channing Frye did fine too...hitting a couple shots and grabbing a few rebounds.
One-Sentence Game Summary
A double overtime victory was thrilling, but one more rebound could have salted it away in regulation.