The better team won tonight, that was clear. But it took some more late game heroics from Brandon and all-around dominance in the second half from LaMarcus to overcome Kevin Love's 2 points Al Jefferson's 27/5/5/3/2. Thankfully LMA went for 24 and 13 (13!!!!!!) and Brandon hit a sick jumper with less than a minute to play, and we escaped with the win.
My favorite play of the night came down the stretch when LaMarcus grabbed that big rebound, fell to the floor, and had the sense to call timeout. Big time sequence from Aldridge. The kind of sequence that wins tight games.
Other than that, it is truly remarkable the number of scrubs that are on Minnesota's roster. That's really a testament to Kevin McHale's diligent effort. Every time Randy Wittman digs deep to get 4 points in 19 minutes from Ryan Gomes or motivates Corey Broomstick Brewer to 5 points in 17 minutes, McHale should be right there next to him, ready to share the standing ovation.
In much better news, there were some must-read compliments from Coach Nate regarding Joel's play tonight (scroll down).
The team, as you know, hits the road for 5 games in the next 10 days.
I'm going to miss these guys.....
Random Game Notes
- Travis selected the pregame music. The lovely "I'm Illy" by T.I.
- When the team comes out flat, I nominate Jerryd Bayless to come out and play headless chicken basketball to get things going. Sergio and Rudy are starting to get the ability to pick up the tempo; But I'd like to see JB's killer craziness infused when we are really lulling and a tempo change isn't quite enough.
- Kevin Love was introduced tonight to a smattering of cheers and boos.
- On press row, a fight nearly broke out (not really) between the Portland Mercury (booing K Love) and Lake Oswego High's sports reporter (cheering K Love). Thankfully security did not need to intervene.
- Tonight was military appreciation night. Before the game, 200 men and women were sworn into the military.
- At one point, the Veterans in the crowd were asked to stand to receive an ovation. There were A LOT of veterans in the stands.
- Craig Smith's mouthguard fell out as he ran down the court after a made basket. He called the five second rule, picking it up and putting it back in his mouth. Almost as disgusting as his mohawk hair cut.
- Congratulations Randy Wittman. You are now officially the "coach that most overcoaches a crappy team." Marc Iavaroni is disappointed to give up the title but he understands that you earned it tonight by coming off the bench and onto the court at least 5 feet to literally push Mike Miller towards the hoop for an offensive rebound. Again, congratulations.
- Don't know if you caught this but Channing Frye was beaten by Ryan Gomes to a rebound on a missed free throw that led to a layup. I reflexively commented to the guy sitting next to me, "last year, that would have gotten Frye benched." Before the words were out of my mouth, Batum was checking into the game. Pet peeves die hard, even if you're an NBA coach.
- The signs were pretty lame tonight. Best one I saw was simply: "Attaboy Roy."
- Nate got a technical and he was pretty heated at the moment. Monty came rushing after him to make sure he didn't get booted. I love it when Monty does that.
- Monty's jacket tonight was an ode to algebra class -- zigzagging lines that looked like x and y axes. Not the best look.
- On the scoreboard, they had a game, "Who is the best dressed Blazer?" Obviously Jerryd Bayless won. It wasn't even close.
- LaMarcus's favorite TV show is The Office.
- The great perks of being Harry Glickman's grandson: you get to go in the locker room, get everyone to autograph a basketball and then walk out with Brandon's game-worn shoes autographed. Freaking sweet! The little guy asked Sergio "Are you from Spain?" Sergio said, "yes." And the little guy said, "I lived in Barcelona!" Sergio cracked up. A similar exchange occurred with Rudy and Rudy asked him excitedly, "Do you speak Spanish!?" Always fun to watch our team interact with young fans.
Nate's Postgame commments.
Nate's general thoughts on the game: "Oh my goodness. We just don't want to win the right way. It was a gut check for our guys tonight. After such an emotional game, we came back tonight and got off to a slow start but they fought through it and it was good to see that, and it was good to see them lift each other in that second half, to get each other going. It's going to take that type of play in games like that. LaMarcus really had a tough first half and Brandon and everybody, Rudy, everybody, started supporting each other, "come on, let's go, let's get it," and they fought through it."
Nate on the team's communication in the second half: "They were telling each other that. In huddles, on the floor, in the locker room at halftime, they were challenging each other to get going and to play some defense and that's what it's all about. There wasn't nothing I could say. We talked about what we needed to do. It was just about them getting going and finding a way to get themselves going in the second half. LaMarcus knocked down some shots. He was able to get his offense going, he got a couple boards, and defensively we got enough stops to win the game."
Nate on Brandon's big shot: "It doesn't surprise me. We are getting breaks, there's no doubt about it. We are definitely getting breaks. Things are going our way. When we have control, we have to put teams away. We know he's capable of doing that. He's going to have the ball in his hands with the last shot and we allow him to make decisions with the ball."
Nate on the good luck tonight: "We foul again for a 3 point play on Jefferson. We have a chance to put teams away, at the end it comes down to us making an unbelievable shot. You need that. We'll take that. But we want to sharpen up down the stretch."
Nate on the defensive strategy of not doubling Jefferson down the stretch: "It's a two point ballgame. As long as it's a two point ballgame, we're not going to give you a chance to nail a 3. I begged Joel, "Big Joel give me one stop. give me one stop" and we just tried to grind it out and play straight up defense. We didnt' want to take a chance of scrambling. We did that once, Telfair hits a corner 3. It was a two point ballgame, we're not down."
Nate on talking to Joel in the huddle: "We knew they were going to him. Jefferson is tough on that block. Big Joel, just give us one stop and we were able to get that one stop. Love had a tip in that rolled around and we get a break."
Nate on what's ahead: "Let's get our first road win. Right now we are .500. Going out on the road which is good for us. We get this game tonight and let's go and work on getting that first road win, starting with Orlando."
Nate on the importance of the win: "We'll take it. We'll take it. This is what it is. The important thing tonight was to get this game and move to .500. And now we go out on the road and try to win our first road game."
Nate on whether or not this game was a letdown: "Of course you try to prepare them for the letdown. I don't think it was really a letdown but I thought we came out and they just made some shots and we missed some shots. And we had to get ourselves going. I think we came out wanting to play hard. But it took us a half to get ourselves going."
Nate on the ball movement in the third quarter: "We made some shots. That was the big thing. In the second half we only had four turnovers. We talked about winning the free throw line and controlling the boards and taking care of the ball. We started to do that. We got to the free throw line 30 times. We got aggressive and we started making some baskets."
Nate on Joel: "I believe in him. He plays good solid position defense. He does a great job weakside. I think the combination of Joel and Greg having those two, or having one or the other on the floor at all times, I like that combination. I'm just looking forward to seeing it soon. Big Joel has been doing it since I've been here. I just love the way he plays."
Nate on the latest on Greg: "Greg is travelling with us and he is just starting to move around on the court a little bit."
I Got a New Camera (it's about time):
I know you Rex Heads will get a kick...
Sergio went through a brisk workout pre-game. His body language seemed very good.
-- Ben (email@example.com)