Oh god, that's three in a row. Time to make some trades! Trade Blake! Take his freakin' head off!
Ladies and gentlemen, that was sarcasm.
Let me begin by saying that the first 46 minutes of that game were just a joy to watch. First things first: Jerryd Bayless's timely slide into some 1st Quarter action. Do not underestimate the significance of this move - that was quality time that Bayless was taking up. Obviously it was because Travis was out, but time is time, and I really liked what I saw. There were the fouls, if you want to complain about something. Personally, I liked that he was being aggressive. And I'll have some more of his defense, please. Did you see him on B. Diddy? Davis tried to go around, but Jerryd was completely stuck to him. So, Davis tries his other weapon: backing a guard down. But unfortunately for Baron, Jerryd Bayless is a physical speciman that should be under research for some government programs. Baron got nowhere, and settled for a fadeaway jumper. Then, Jerryd attacks the rim. What's that? He what, now? He attacks the rim (please see The Importance of Jerryd Bayless piece I wrote the morning of the game - thacknba.blogspot.com). He misses, but Greg follows for a strong flush. So he's in for 6 minutes of perfect defense and attacking the rim. Needless to say, I like it. One can make the argument that we should have seen more Jerryd, but let's not get too anxious. This was a very significant step, and Jerryd showed us some good things. He's ready to play.
Now, it's somewhat disrespectful that I didn't begin by talking about Brandon Roy. That may have been the greatest game I have ever seen from him; it was nearly 53 minutes of Brandon Roy putting on a show. At the end of the game, he knew he had to exploit the mismatch on Baron Davis by getting close and taking the shot if they kept one man on him. The following marathon of Brandon Roy hitting 10-15 footers each and every time we needed big buckets was incredible. By the way, he did it all with a taped finger. You could see him deteriorating - the spaces he was creating were getting smaller and smaller, but he still kept hitting them. Absolutely incredible. He ended with 38 points, 9 assists, 1 turnover, and shot a perfect 7-7 from the freethrow line.
Oh, and I have some strong feelings about what I saw from Greg Oden tonight. Did anybody else see some comfort in Greg's right-handed jump-hook from straight on? Call me crazy, but his hooks from the baseline have looked a little uneasy. Then, all of a sudden he introduces me to this jump hook from straight on and I liked what I saw. He missed the first, but was stunned by how fluid and comfortable it looked for him. Then, when he came back for more he drained it! Nate McMillan either planned this in for the offense, or he should be taking note that Greg may have found a tool for offense that can help him gain some confidence. Also, he was a machine on the boards tonight. He had 2 or 3 really huge offensive rebounds that I thought were a great sign. Biggest thing of all, though, is we got 42 minutes out of Greg Oden! He slowed down, yes, but he never looked like he was completely out of gas. I was really impressed by one possession in particular where he took a pass and went up without hesitation for a flush. He caught the defense off guard because he exploded so quickly, and I think it was understated because he didn't throw himself around by the rim (Paul Allen must have had that talk with him). It made me realize, though, that we've been seeing Greg hesitate a lot. In a few years I think we'll be calling it the "hesitation stage" of his career. That stage may almost be over, because I think he may have noticed it worked. If nothing else, let's consider tonight an excellent opportunity for Greg to learn more about his body. Tomorrow morning will tell us a lot. Either way, I don't see any reason for him to have that many minutes again for a while.
Z-Bo put on a performance. I won't really comment further on that. I think that's a poor distraction from what we should be looking at from this game.
The Clippers threw some double-teams at us early because, as I said, they noticed it worked for Orlando and Utah. And at first it did, as Roy was forced to take a timeout early because he got trapped. But after that we spaced ourselves and moved the ball much better. That's the key, we really moved the ball well tonight, which kept them from isolating somebody to double team. Then the last two minutes. Yikes. Blake didn't get it done, then he saved us with a steal and a 3, then Baron happened. Quite a rollercoaster.
In the end, if you're Kevin Pritchard and Nate McMillan, it's another day at work. If it's a win or a loss, you just got a lot of experience into some critical projects. Blake may still be in the gym practicing freethrows after the game - he knows what he did. Get over it. One could complain more about some poor displays of officiating; making the correct call, and then overturning it for the incorrect call at a pivotal time in the game. We're tired, we're still ahead of schedule, nice effort - see you tomorrow.
Kevin Pritchard said that we may lose, but we're going to play you tough. That's all I can ask from my team. Two of our last three games have been really tough losses. It feels kind of good to have a tough loss at the end of such a brutal schedule - we battled on fumes.
I'm hoping to see some more progress after they get some rest, take a look at some tape, and work on improving in practice. Tuesday won't come soon enough.