Alright, as mentioned I'm pinch-hitting for Dave tonight which means I will be attempting to work in the word "prosecute" at least once. Let's see how that goes.
First, some perspective: is tonight a night you will look back on months from now, savoring the win or pointing to a specific milestone or turning point? No, don't think so. The Los Angeles Clippers fielded a team of 9 players, 3 of whom (Ricky Davis, Jason Hart and Cheikh Samb) weren't trusted by their coach to play more than 8 minutes.
Mike Dunleavy during the timeout: "No, seriously, Fred Jones... I know you're tired, I can see the turkey gravy coming out of your pores, the towel boys are exhausted just cleaning up after you... but, seriously, we're going to need you to play for 43 minutes tonight... What's that? You're about to collapse? I know we just picked you up... Ok, Ok, how about this: you can take turns guarding Brandon Roy, that should help you catch your breath."
With that said, anybody can get hot occasionally and Jones (last seen at Grant High School last summer, by the way) started out smoking from distance. Before you know it, Thornton and Gordon started chipping in, and Skinner The Ugly made a few, and then Steve Novak (I thought he was the guy with a hook for a hand that ran for US Senate?) started hitting literally every shot and pretty soon Dean Demopolous was throwing his clipboard down in a tantrum after a LaMarcus Aldridge travelling call and life seemed a wee bit scary.
Was I ever really that worried? Were you ever really that worried? No, I don't think so. Not when Brandon was able to score at will. Not with Greg scoring consistently at the rim against DeAndre Jordan. Not with us starting cold from the 3 point stripe; we were bound to heat up. And heat up we did: the Blazers won the final quarter 36-15 and the full Garbage Time Roster (Bayless, Sergio, Batum, Channing, Ike) closed out a nice road victory over the Clippers in the Staples Center, 113 to 88.
What can you say about Steve Blake? Other than to ask the question: whose idea, exactly, was it for him to play tonight? He lasted only 11 minutes, missed both his shots badly, ran into a Brian Skinner pick, and sustained an injury that caused him to grimace in pain and leave the game for good thanks to a halftime "coach's decision." Did we need Blake out there against Eric Gordon (who's a nice player... but still) and Jason Hart? Was it Blake who pushed hard to have himself back in there? Fact: only 12 days passed since the original injury in Philly. That's not very long. Props to Blake for his heart and toughness; no props at all for the decision to run him if he misses any more time because of tonight's injury.
Tonight really was Brandon's night as well it should have been, given that he was lining up against Thornton and Jones. Those guys just can't stay with him, not even with velcro gloves. Possibly the easiest 33 points you'll ever see scored. Did he even break a sweat? 11 of 15 shooting plus 9 of 10 from the line. Buckets. In case you missed it: here is one of the best dunks of the season, Brandon absolutely destroying Cheikh Samb. "Booya." The score was tied 67-67 when he dunked that. The Blazers went on to outscore the Clippers 46- 21. Game-changer.
Double-check the boxscore and you'll see 7-7 for Greg Oden from the field. Dunks, turnaround hooks, you name it, it was falling. From what I've seen at practice and postgames in the past two weeks, Greg's got his mental back. And looks what's following right behind that: the physical. He's doing it against some confidence-boosting competition but it's great to see take place. And here's what I mean about him getting his mental back.... Go read his blog entry about turning 21. Then go back and read this blog entry from November. Same person?
Paging Monty Williams: please double the number of extra shots that Nic Batum takes on a daily basis. That stroke is wack right now. Not "needs to be re-tooled" wack but more like "iron the kinks out" wack. Nic with a reliable 3 pointer and a pull up jumper is an all star in 5 years. Book that (what up Fatty).
LaMarcus Aldridge will not become an All Star until he consistently beasts on teams he should beast on. This Clippers team was made for him to put up 25 and 10 in the first half and then call it a day. Instead, he finished with 10 points, 4 missed free throws and 2 turnovers. I liked him running the break and catching a nice dime from Sergio. I also liked his 2 steals, showcasing some nice anticipation. But getting up for Rasheed and KG is only 1/15 of the battle in the NBA. Do work, LMA.
Sergio Rodriguez did a nice job stepping up and prosecuting his game in Steve Blake's absence, finishing with 7 points and 5 assists. He got out and pushed the ball a little bit. He found the right guys on the fast breaks. And, of course, he had the fantastic over-his-head no look dime to Oden for the slam. Was that the single greatest highlight of Sergio's career? I can't remember a better one. As always, Sergio went 1 for 3 from the field but that was less relevant because he knocked down his free throws and because Brandon was on fire, providing the necessary scoring. Another night where I think he can look back and say he outperformed Bayless.
But that's not a huge knock on Rex, who had an up an down game with some real flashes. Bayless finished with 6 assists, finding Brandon a number of times and finding Greg memorably on a lob/shot in which they credited him an assist. Rex still has the "head down going to the basket" thing going on but he pulled up and found teammates a few times tonight when I was sure he was going to bull on through. Progress? Hopefully.
Travis Outlaw didn't seem particularly interested in the game tonight until the fourth quarter, when he got some can't miss looks and didn't miss (8 of 9 for 20 points). He wasn't super active on the boards. No assists; did he even pass the ball? His postgame interview with Haarlow was hilarious.
Rudy found his shot! 3 for 6 from distance on his way to 11 points. Tons of Rudy energy all over the place. Big time 3 to close out a quarter and give the team a lift. He finished with 11/4/4 in 27 minutes. Glad he's on our team. Hope he can continue to hit from outside. We need his shot stretching teams out, no two ways about that.
Joel had his way on the glass and was quite active in keeping balls alive. Basically Joel was Joel. Help me out here: was there anything that stuck out to you as super memorable about Joel's night? Let everyone know in the comments.
Channing Frye is still alive.
Ike Diogu is also still alive.
Neither one scored. Diogu really overwhelmed Frye on the glass (1 rebound to 0) and therefore should probably move ahead of him for good in the depth chart.
Given the talent and depth disparity this absolutely had to be a W. Do it again on Wednesday (and again on Saturday) and I'll be impressed.
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)