I guess the path of least resistance after a sluggish game like tonight's 101 to 92 victory over the Nuggets is to: appreciate the ridiculous circumstances caused by the weather, step back to enjoy the quality W and the split back-to-back, and look forward to yet another big test on Thursday. Or, you could find 1,000 things that went wrong tonight. That's another option. And if we don't pull it out down the stretch thanks to Blake's big 3 and a huge dunk from LMA, I might have been tempted to pick nits. But as it stands, I'm happy with chalking up the W and getting my Christmas anticipation on.
I was all set to give the game ball to Przybilla tonight for his monster 10 point and season-high 19 rebounds performance in 40 minutes. (Someone asked, 'Are we sure Greg isn't fouling on purpose so he doesn't have to play?" Ouch.) But then Joe Freeman came through with balls of steel and asked Nate if he had considered moving Joel back into the starting lineup. Of course, the answer was "no," but putting that question to Nate after that win was no small feat and I think Mr. Freeman should be publicly acknowledged for doing so. It was awesome. You can read Nate's exact response to the question below.
As frustrating as some aspects of tonight's game were (Blake's 5 turnovers and more trouble inbounding the ball, among other lowlights), we can all take heart knowing that JR Smith does not play on the Blazers. Also, we don't have to deal with Birdman's preening and clucking. So if you want to persecute Greg or Nic or Travis or whomever, that's fine. Just please keep in mind that it could be worse. It could be A LOT worse.
Tonight wasn't necessarily how we want every win to look but if we're seriously heading towards 50+ wins, odds are good we are going to have (and need) a good number of ugly wins like we got tonight. Billups is a baller, Kleiza was on fire and Nene was doing what he wanted. This game was very, very losable. We came away with the win.
Random Game Notes
- Tonight's pregame music was selected by LaMarcus Aldridge. His choice: "Amazin" by Young Jeezy. Sample lyric: "Let em talk, let em hate, watch the Lincoln navigate/ If you touch em, wipe em off, fingerprints they take em all/ I can make an avalanche and I ain't talkin Chevy trucks/ call me Georgia lottery cause I'll be talkin mega bucks."
- Rebecca Haarlow was rocking the BRIGHT BLAZER RED shirt. I know you saw that and laughed. OVERCOMPENSATION. I'm totally kidding. I thought it was a really classy move by her. Three cheers.
- Before the game, future Hall of Fame Point Guard Jerryd Bayless came out to midcourt to salute the large crowd by saying "On behalf of the Portland Trail Blazers, I want to say thank you to all the fans that came out despite the weather... happy holidays." He then said, "By the way, Chris Broussard, if you're listening, don't let me catch my name comin' out your mouth again or it's going to be problems. This is B-Rex and I don't make idle threats. I'll gnash you if you keep making up weak trade rumors." Just so we are crystal clear, everything after the word "holidays" was made up.
- Best sign tonight by far: "Denver Nuggets roasting on an open fire." Now that is a good sign.
- At halftime, the scoreboard played a medley of Brandon Roy highlights from the Suns game with all of Brian Wheeler's calls. It was sweet. It was also funny because they waited until the players came back on the court to warm up. So Brandon and all the Nuggets couldn't help but hear Wheels yelling out his "Do it. Do it. Do it till you're satisfied" line.
- Back to pregame warmups for a second: the entire team was out for a shootaround pregame and many stayed out to work on various drills. With about 90 minutes until game time, probably 10 Blazers were out working on their shots. At the same time, the only Nugget on the court was Kleiza, who was bombing away from the 3 point line. He ended the night with 20 points and 5 of 7 from distance. Maybe he should have convinced some of his teammates to work out early too.
- We really struggled to make entry passes to Brandon as he tried to post up Billups. Both Blake and LaMarcus failed to deliver the ball to him on time and twice the ball was passed to Przybilla at the high post who couldn't find Brandon going to the hoop with Billups sealed on his backside. Something to work on.
- A few funny pregame moments. First, Brandon was doing some light one on one dribbling with one of the assistants at the top of the key, when Coach Lucas waddled over. Brandon went the long way around Luke (and it is a long way) and canned a jumper from just inside the 3 point line. He then joked with Luke "Where was my screen?" Luke said, "I was doubling you!" They both got some chuckles out of the exchange.
- The other good pregame moment: Coach Dean was watching Outlaw shoot threes and said pretty loudly in the direction of Monty Williams, "He's on his toes. I've never seen a kid shoot like that, Mont." Travis was hitting them and Dean was obviously kidding. But the unorthodox stroke and the razzing both brought a lot of smiles.
- After the game, Aldridge said that he was excited to play against his hometown Dallas Mavericks on Christmas but was sad because his family's flights into Portland were cancelled due to the weather.
- I only made it to the game thanks to my father (who earned back his BE street cred after misidentifying Channing Frye as Jerryd Bayless). He braved the cold and drove halfway across town to rescue me with his chains-equipped vehicle. Also, because of my mother, who apparently wants all the credit for me making it to the game because she spent 10 minutes shovelling snow while Pops spent nearly 3 hours driving to and from my place and the Rose Garden, a half hour in the winter cold negotiating for a scalped ticket, and a solid 45 minutes complaining about Greg Oden's 8 minutes on the court. This was a fairly typical day. Kodak moments.
- FYI, they'll both be at Blazers Edge night so if you're reading this you can thank them both personally on Saturday. They'll be the ones wearing "I'm Ben's Mom" and "I'm Ben's Dad" t-shirts. Kidding. (At least I hope they were kidding.)
Nate's Postgame Comments
Nate on the result: "Our guys bounced back, the challenge was to be the aggressive team against the team that beat us last night. I knew we could play better. The second unit didn't play well last night, but they responded tonight and really gave us a lift. We really got everything going in that second quarter. We kept the momentum from there."
Nate on stepping up after losing last night: "What we're working on is making that transition being able to play against Phoenix. The Nuggets. We've got Dallas coming up. All of these games are going to require the same type of basketball. Very physical, got to be focused. We've got to be the aggressors. We're the young kids on the block and we're up and coming. Proven teams are approaching it that way and we've got to approach it that way. We've got to beat these teams with our aggressive play and outworking them and being on the attack. I thought tonight we did that."
Nate on Joel: "What a great game. What a great game by Joel. Free throws huge. Down the stretch they were clean. Stepped up with confidence. We talked about to win games you've got to make plays. Those are plays. You get to the line you've got to knock those shots down. He dominated the boards. They were leaving him and going to trap. They were rotating off of him and he made them pay by getting on the glass. Great job on both ends of the floor."
Nate on whether he would switch Greg/Joel in the lineup: "No. He's doing a good job. Greg has to play through it. Greg has to learn to play and learn the rules as far as what the officials are calling on him and make that adjustment and the only way he's going to do that is to be on the floor."
Nate on Blake's busy night (5 of 12) from the 3 point line: "He's been knocking them down. We have looks, we want to take them. There were times we could have penetrated their rotation andI thought we were settling for those threes. I think we were 5 for 15 or 3 for 15 at the half. But too many in the sense that we had opportunities to drive the ball to the basket. We've got to get to the basket. We're not getting to the paint and to the rim enough. In the first half we only had 4 free throws. In the second half we did a better job of attacking the rim."
CLICK THROUGH FOR IMAGES! STARRING SHAVLIK RANDOLPH AS ROCKY!
-- Ben (email@example.com)
Wait a minute. They honored Terry Porter twice?!?!?! Oh. Right. Well.................... still glad to see #30 up there finally.
Shavlik Randolph = Rocky. Here are a few (blurry) shots of him running stairs during his pregame workout. Shav rules.
Now checking into the game for the Denver Nuggets.... Cheese Wagstaff. I'll never forgive you for crossing Prop Joe. And I'm glad Tall Man took it to you in the end. Thanks to Michael Tillery for the shot.
The Nuggets had some sick shoes.
These were my favorites.
But these were also dope.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)