So...last night the Blazers played three mediocre quarters, not great and not bad, but then laid a 14-point stink bomb in the fourth and ended up losing to the Nuggets. Tonight the Blazers played three mediocre quarters, not great and not bad, but then pulled out a 34-point masterpiece in the final period and beat the Nuggets. You could not script it any neater. If this were wrestling the two opponents would meet next month in a cage match to settle the feud. I'm not entirely sure that shouldn't happen anyway, given the level of physicality these two teams inspire in each other.
The good points about tonight:
--We came out with more energy from Play #1 and generally sustained it throughout the game. Sometimes it was spastic energy. We certainly saw more painful turnovers tonight than usual. But it was energy nonetheless.
--We kept Chauncey Billups from going off again, and tonight he actually tried to. It's possible that his name was circled in the Blazers' scouting report the same way Brandon Roy's was circled in Denver's. As Denver proved most of the last two years, if they don't have a strong point guard they don't win nearly as much.
--We won the rebound battle and stayed within 5 attempts and 2 makes at the foul line. That took away two of the fatal flaws from last night.
--Brandon Roy's teammates stayed aggressive and looked for the right pass and the opportune shot. Them hitting eventually freed Brandon up to do his thing.
--The Blazers did a decent job of keeping the tempo up. That's a good thing against Denver. The second unit did its job, not only scoring while the starters sat but forcing the pace.
--Most importantly of all, when the Nuggets tried to bully the Blazers into a loss down the stretch Portland responded by shoving them back and taking the win. I think the Blazers knew they got taken last night. They knew they didn't fight back hard enough. They corrected that tonight. (Next chance to make up for such a shortfall: Boston.)
The not-so-good points about tonight:
--Nene killed us again tonight, especially on the offensive boards. 7 offensive rebounds is a crazy number. We had no weak-side help on the glass when our centers went to guard somebody, a fact which Mike Rice noted at least a couple times. Lamarcus, Nicolas, Travis...somebody's got to get in there and rebound, especially if we're going to leave our centers bare on defense like we did tonight.
--The execution was shabby until the final period. You only had to look at the way Denver set and used picks versus the way we set and used them to see what I mean. The Nuggets guards were able to fight through our screens all night. We consistently went around theirs. As a result we had a hard time freeing people in the halfcourt offense.
--Outside of Steve Blake our distance shooting was nothing to write home about tonight. Often that's a fatal flaw. It was good to see the Blazers win in another fashion.
Brandon Roy didn't come out to dominate this game. Frankly Denver wouldn't let him. But he did score 19 with 3 rebounds and 6 assists. He looked to set his teammates up. He also played some of the better defense I've seen him play this season.
Lamarcus Aldridge had a great offensive game, shooting 7-12 for 22 points. He would have had another block or two had the refs not been calling every blocked shot a foul tonight. Curiously while the Nuggets paid a ton of attention to Roy and even Outlaw at some points they seemed content to single-cover Lamarcus. Probably not wise.
Greg Oden's fouls ran into comical territory tonight, except it's not really that amusing. He picked up two in the first quarter and literally (no exaggeration) never spent a full minute on the court after. Every time they put him in he committed a foul within 40 seconds. Nate was like, "Good job, Joel! Have a seat. [butt pat] Joel, you're back in." Oden played 8 minutes total with 5 personal fouls to his name. The problem isn't necessarily that he's fouling people at the rim. Yes, he needs to learn to block shots better and keep his hands straight up but those are honest fouls. Seriously, folks, there should be a big, red button to push every time Oden steps out towards the perimeter on defense and picks up a smaller man out there. Nothing good is going to happen! When Greg gets isolated out there we should all be able to push the button and a big sign should flash, "Run, Greg! Run! Get back inside!" Then he should make like all of us did when we were little and mom took us in a store with a lot of breakables. Stick your hands in your coat pockets, keep your eyes ahead, and make straight for the exit. Above all, DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!
Awwww...geez, Greg. Now you broke their point guard. We're going to have to pay for that, you know.
Speaking of, Joel Przybilla was the player of the game. 40 minutes, smart defense, 19 rebounds, and hit his free throws down the stretch to keep us ahead. Way to go! This was one of the banner efforts of Joel's career.
Steve Blake blistered his old team, shooting 5-12 from distance, keeping us in the game early, and finishing with 17 points. He committed 5 turnovers though. The Nuggets were reading him.
Nicolas Batum missed a couple of rotations and a couple of shots. He's struggling out there right now. I'm not sure he sees himself in the role that he's being given. He has to play consistently well in a smaller role before he gets a bigger one though.
Travis Outlaw had a rough, rough shooting night. He didn't help out that much defensively or rebounding either EXCEPT that he personally stuffed the ball in Kenyon Martin's face a couple of times which shut Martin up for about half a nanosecond. That alone earns Travis a gold star.
Rudy Fernadez had a mixed outing. He shot fairly well and had some nice passes. He also moved around and showed energy which was vital to the second-unit success. On the other hand he got trashed defensively again. Still there were more positives than negatives. 12 points on 4-9 shooting, 3 assists (including an alley-oop to Roy), and a steal.
Sergio Rodriguez had a really nice night. Mike Barrett noted a couple times that Sergio was the catalyst for the tempo change. He sliced and diced and actually hit a couple shots tonight. He got 3 steals which helped disrupt Denver's comfort zone as well. He wasn't a dagger to them but he was plenty pesky. 9 points on 3-5 shooting, 4 assists, 3 steals.
Channing Frye played 10 minutes and hit 2-3 shots for 5 points with 2 rebounds. He also only picked up 1 foul in that time, which is about ¼ of his average. I guess he figured it was Greg's turn to hog that spotlight.
1. This has developed into quite a rivalry and is likely to stay that way for the next couple years. You need to circle these Denver games on your calendar. They're wild.
2. Blazer fans were booing Kenyon Martin tonight, presumably because he's physical. They shouldn't boo Martin, they should boo the Blazers until some of them get as aggressive as Kenyon Martin. Seriously, I know we love the nice guy thing...I do too. But you do need a little hard-foul jerk in you to win big in this league. Martin has that down.
3. Chris Anderson looks like a tattoo parlor got very angry with him. Don't try that at home, kids.
Check out the Nuggets fans extinguishing last night's victory cigars at PickaxeandRoll.
Review tonight's Jersey Contest form and enter for the next game here