As Ben said in his excellent game recap below, I was not able to watch the game today...most of it anyway. DirecTV didn't have it up on their guide properly which means I missed everything before the last part of the third quarter. I try not to do reviews with incomplete information so Ben took care of it for me. I did have a couple of impressions from what I saw:
--The Pistons tried to steamroll the Blazers late in the game and it worked for a while. Portland was turning the ball over and getting bad shots. But after Detroit took that small lead the Blazers starters returned along with the poise. In the end it was the Pistons--a veteran, ex-championship squad--who looked hesitant and discombobulated. On a couple sets literally nobody outside of Iverson wanted to put up a shot. How's that for defense?
--Notice how the Blazers are not only setting, but using picks much better this year. For years the screen was a waste of time because even if the screener set it right (which seldom happened) the dribblers pretty much ignored him. Portland is running some of the best pick plays I've seen and that's one of the reasons they are getting good shots.
--Greg Oden's outlet passing is delicious. Notice how quickly and accurately he gets the ball out after rebounding it. We haven't seen that around here for a while.
--Oden's block on Allen Iverson in the fourth was one of a dozen or more huge moments in this game but it pretty much announced to the NBA that the Blazers are ready to be taken seriously. Iverson is supposed to score. That's what he does. Even if he misses, he's supposed to get the shot up. Erasing that attempt like it was nothing put our stamp on this contest and on AI. If we can do that to Iverson and the Pistons there are few teams who can still pretend they're immune. I can think of one in green and one in purple and gold. A couple others might be respectful, but unfazed. Everybody else will be going, "Wow...this could be trouble."
Moving beyond the game, as we finish the month of November, having passed through one of the most evil single-month schedules in league history, it's time to stop and reflect about what an amazing ride this has been so far.
We are 12-6, people.
There have been some hard losses in there but the brutal, embarrassing, "you're not ready" losses have been limited to one. The wins, meanwhile, have ranged from the solid to the spectacular.
Against this quality of opponent with this kind of schedule, 12-6 easily counts as our best month since the days when Rasheed wore our uniform. All things considered it may be the best month since the Clyde days. We've had months with far fewer losses but not with a team this young and not against these kinds of opponents.
December looms and the schedule is nearly as tough there. The Blazers aren't out of the woods yet. Also they have to be careful of letting down once they do get past the rough patch. You get zero wins on credit in this league. You have to go out and prove you're a good team for months on end before you can be considered one. So far, however, the team has performed amazingly well. Taking a moment to acknowledge that is important.