Well, that game was OK. If you like that kind of thing, that is.
Just kidding! Oh...my...God. That was incredible. I'm warning you now, if you expect rational analysis of this game you're going to be disappointed. Oh, I have my usual copious notes but they only lasted until midway through the third quarter. Right about then my rational analyzer shut down for good and I got totally caught up in the game.
Brandon Roy just destroyed everything in his path. There's your rational analysis.
A few other things worth noting:
--Portland used the double-team to good effect tonight, something that's been missing from their repertoire lately. Back in the days when we stank at defense we used to double team everything that moved, thus making ourselves easy pickings for anybody who could execute a simple pass. We've moved into a more straight-up defense this year but we've seen some games lately in which selective doubling really would have helped. Tonight we used the double to perfection. We didn't employ it every time against any given player. Instead we waited until opportune times in opportune positions and surprised them with it. It was a wrinkle reminiscent of the ever-changing zones we were throwing last year. It's been a while since we've seen a wrinkle like that. Well done.
--We did a good job of running the Phoenix defenders around, particularly Shaq. Not letting them get set up hampered their defensive potency. We ought to take note.
--The Blazers employed their old-school rotation tonight. Nobody new to the team got more than 17 minutes. (Though Oden's minutes were dictated more by fouls than choice.)
--That 26-9 run during the second half of the third quarter was the best six minutes of basketball this season.
--We had great energy all game long. It felt like every possession was important but we didn't play tight in any of them. We hustled in transition both ways, dove for balls, scrambled for rebounds, attacked the basket, and despite the increase in tempo and energy only committed 6 turnovers all game long. Wow.
Usually I recap the game flow for those who didn't see the game but I don't think I can do that tonight. There's no way to describe what happened other than saying Portland was down by 12 in the third quarter and then all hell broke loose, plus a large dose of classic Drexler-era Blazer basketball. You must find video clips of this game...not highlights or isolated plays, the whole thing. Or at least everything from the six-minute mark in the third on.
The Blazers did allow Phoenix to shoot 57% tonight and an amazing 66.7% from the three-point line. But the Suns only got 72 shots up while the Blazers attempted 87 while shooting 52% themselves. Three-pointers made went to the Suns by 1, free throws made to the Suns by 2, so those extra shots came in handy. We also had 9 steals to their 3 and, as I said, 6 turnovers overall to their 16. We did a good job making life difficult for Steve Nash on offense which is a good strategy against Phoenix even if everybody else hits often and scores big. By the end of the game Nash wasn't looking aggressive at all. He ended up 5-14 with 15 points and 11 assists. Those are good numbers but not traditional Nash numbers. The defense was only partially due to our point guards. The Blazers switched on everything tonight which left Lamarcus Aldridge out there guarding Nash several times. The Suns only scored once when that happened that I saw. Nice job by Lamarcus and the team there. During the first 30 minutes of the game I did write repeatedly that we need a point guard who can play straight-up defense to complement Roy, though. But that's a topic for another day.
For tonight, 124-119 is all we have to remember. That and we finally got one of the schoolyard bullies off of our back, at least for a while.
If you didn't see what Brandon Roy did it's no good me telling you about it. The numbers, as awesome as they are, don't do it justice. He was every bit as good as Kobe Bryant on a good night out there. (Of course Kobe is Kobe consistently whereas this is a special occasion for Brandon. No overreaching hubris intended, L*kers fans. However our boy was M.V.P.-level tonight.) You ready? 52 points on 14-27 shooting, 5-7 from distance, 19-21 from the free throw line, with 6 assists and 5 rebounds. Phoenix just couldn't stop him from anywhere. He looked like he was playing against children. The all-time Blazer single-game scoring record is 54 by Damon Stoudamire. That tells you what kind of game this was.
Steve Blake also came up with a huge night. Most of his points kept us alive during the first half when we were struggling. Phoenix tried to pull defense off of him to use elsewhere. Apparently they haven't gotten the memo about that strategy not working this year. I assume 8-15 shooting, 4-7 on threes, 22 points and 10 assists will make the scouting report next time around. Now THOSE are Nash numbers.
Tonight also saw the return of Super Trout. Travis didn't have much impact until the second half. He was inserted after Roy started going off, at the 3:13 mark of the third quarter. And he brought his "You can't stop this, and I mean from anywhere" touch with him tonight. Hello, camel's back. They call me...STRAW. Phoenix had no option but to single-cover him. Whoops. 7-14 for 14 points. It should also be noted that Travis was rebounding hard in traffic even before he started scoring. Well done, and more playing time probably regained.
Remember how we said in the pre-game that Greg Oden needed to look Shaq in the eye tonight? Fair warning that his time and stats were limited by picking up 5 fouls in 17 minutes, most of those unnecessary. That's part of the learning process. However he did look Shaq in the eye tonight. More than that, he dunked on Shaq's head tonight and also put up a nice hook on him. The Blazers helped by featuring him very early...and not just by dumping it to him in the post and watching either. They involved Shaq in some screen plays which made him move. That freed Greg up to dive towards the basket and...BAM! His first two baskets were dunks and both came in the first minute and a half of the game. In fact the first basket of the game for Phoenix was an authoritative Shaq dunk on which Greg fouled him. Immediately you thought, "Uh oh...this could be bad." You wondered if Greg would slink away again. The very next time down the floor for Portland Steve Blake flips a pass and Greg DUNKS. Then Oden took Shaq in the post and bodied him a little, forcing a travel. The very next time down the floor Steve Blake flips a pass and Greg DUNKS! So much for slinking. Was Greg as good as Shaq tonight? No way. But he was a man against Shaq and not just a rookie. He also used his body actively on defense, had a couple spectacular blocks, and moved around the court quicker than I've seen him do so far this year. Props to the Blazers for making sure the big guy got a confidence boost by putting Shaq at a disadvantage. Props to Oden for taking advantage of it.
Lamarcus Aldridge looked for his shot aggressively until Roy took over the game. He commanded the Suns' attention with 16 points, 8-12 shooting, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals. He also kept Amare Stoudemire mostly off track for the first half of the game. Amare ended up getting his but it wasn't the tour de force we expect from him, largely due to Lamarcus making him work and never letting Amare get ahead of the Blazer defense. Don't underrate that contribution. An unfettered Amare could have rendered the Roy party moot.
Nicolas Batum was a little hard to see through all of the fireworks. Basic effort from him. He did his best to shut down the perimeter but it's hard against Phoenix. Matt Barnes outplayed him, but I suppose that's not surprising.
Joel Przybilla played 30 minutes due to Oden's foul trouble. He always plays Shaq hard but only marginally effectively. He did contribute 6 rebounds, 5 points, 2 assists (pretty ones too), and 4 fouls to the cause. We wouldn't have won had Joel been our only center tonight but we would have lost if he hadn't have been there.
Rudy hit a couple of threes to keep the Suns honest but also had 3 turnovers in 17 minutes. Sergio had no turnovers but missed three shots including a layup. He probably could have done more damage against the light Suns defense but in a game that was clearly going into the 100's missed shots weren't that allowable. Each had 1 assist, but answer me this: How come the Spanish Connection can't seem to throw an alley-oop to anyone outside of itself?
Ike Diogu got Channing Frye's minutes tonight. There were only 6 of them but Diogu got 4 rebounds in that span. He looked slow and ground-bound on offense though.
It should be noted that both Jerryd Bayless and Channing Frye, despite the DNP-CD's, were among the most vocal and happy-looking celebrators whenever the camera panned to the Portland bench. Neither looked grumpy.
1. We national viewers got to see the tip off! Miracles never cease. Thanks, TNT! (Or should I say thanks Orlando and San Antonio for playing a relatively efficient game time-wise?)
2. Games like this make it worth anything to be a Blazer fan.
Listen to the Suns' fans complain about the officiating (I haven't checked, but I'm assuming since it's what happens here after every loss and half the wins) at BrightSideoftheSun.
Check out the Jersey Contest scores for this game and enter the next one here.