Game 5 Media Row Report

If you've seen Goodfellas you've seen this scene. The tracking shot where Henry Hill and his date skip a long club line and enter through the kitchen. Henry, ever cool, lays a few hundred dollars in tips on some employees and -- boom -- after about 90 seconds, he's seated front and center ready to enjoy the evening.

It's a famous enough scene that it's been mentioned in roughly 34 Bill Simmons columns. If there's one thing I hate doing in life, it's ripping off a running Simmons reference 

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[Obligatory: Trade Greg Oden? Yep, these are my readers.]

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But in this case I feel I have no choice but to call up that scene because I found myself following a postgame moving entourage led by Brandon Roy.  It made its way from the Blazers locker room, through the long, narrow, densely populated back hallway, round a bend that opens to the fan VIP section and finally into the main media room, which has been transformed into the postgame press conference stage.  

And damned if B Roy doesn't have a lot of Henry Hill swag.  He knows he's the king of the place. He knows you know he's the king of the place. And he's fully content to not dwell on that (dwelling would make him less cool) and just keep it moving.  He's on another level right now.  

All of this despite the fact that Roy was hours removed from receiving a pregame IV to help battle a nasty flu and a half hour removed from gutting out nearly 40 minutes against Ron Artest and Shane Battier.  

Our tracking shot starts with handshakes from his teammates and the team doctors, morphs into hugs from wives, girlfriends and mothers, blossoms into sophisticated, pre-rehearsed hand slap sequences with various crew members that recalled pre-teen female jump rope routines, gives way to head nods and questions from Kevin Pritchard and Mike Born, and evaporates into a sea of waves to fans as the crowd lightens and his pace increases.  

When Brandon finally sat down at the long press conference table, he looked tired.  He looked a little pale.  And he looked proud.

Whether he remembers it clearly through the influenza fog or whether the game film will be needed to jog his memory, Brandon led his team to their best defensive effort of the season, bar none.  With the exception of a red-hot Luis Scola, the Blazers' defensive energy and, I hate to use Nate's favorite word, scrappiness contained every Rocket, nudging up the degree of difficulty on shot after shot and virtually eliminating offensive rebounds or second chance points for the Rockets.   Despite finishing with a double-double, Yao Ming was a non-factor for much of the game and Aaron Brooks, much to Steve Blake's delight, decided to come back to Earth, struggling through a 6 for 20. Game 4 Hero Shane Battier had the same number of field goals as Brian Cook; Ron Artest was just plain ill-advised.

I guess if the tracking shot  were to continue following Brandon after he left the press conference, it would eventually find him preparing to enter Blazer One, bound again for Houston where life for Brandon and his teammates has been anything but charming.  

For tonight, let's just yell "cut" and end the scene with the Rose Garden scoreboard reading Blazers 88 Rockets 77.   

Great movie. Two thumbs up.

Random Games Notes

  • Before the game, I'm sitting courtside with Michael Tillery of the Portland Observer and (as always) Bayless is playing one on one with Bill Bayno.  It's the final possession and Bayless steps back and drains a 3 then holds his follow-through as he turns and walks in our direction.  He asks, "Can you tell this guy to play some defense?"  and then continues walking towards the locker room, without pausing.  Bayless.  Too much. I don't get a vote but if I had one I would vote for Bayless to go to Summer League again this year and have an independent film crew follow his exploits.  I could see him averaging 52 + points, 9 hours of workouts and 2 hours of driving around the strip singing rap lyrics by himself in his Range Rover. I'll even volunteer to be a cameraman for this thing. It needs to happen. Bayless-Rise. Up-Bayless.  Whatever you want to call it, just make it happen.
  • Immediately after the game I saw Director of Player Programs Chris Bowles, who smiles, nods and says matter-of-factly, "And you know this.... BALLLIN."  This man needs a blog or at the very least a twitter acount.  How could you possibly summarize tonight's mood in five words better than that?
  • To answer that question, perhaps you're Rudy in the locker room postgame and you use just two words: "We believe."
  • Congratulations. You just witnessed the most dominant 2 point 4 rebound performance in NBA history.  Greg didn't impress himself but I'm sure Wafer is having some uncomfortable private thoughts on the plane back to Houston after getting capped Kennedy style at the rim.  Possession after possession after possession Greg changed the game in the second half.  Oden diehards deserve a long moment to savor his performance tonight.
  • I have heard nothing but arguments for starting Rudy in Game 6.  So I would like to hear the couterargument from you: why should Nicolas Batum keep his spot?   
  • If Luis Scola had exactly the same game but was named Lou Scott and sported a buzz cut he would get 300% more All Star consideration.  Maybe?  It's late. I might be delusional.  It sounded good when I first thought of it.
  • LMA is starting to provide a lot of answers to the questions. I think regardless of what happens the rest of the way, we've seen enough to call his first postseason a success.

Nate's Postgame Comments

Did your lobbying affect the calls tonight? "No. I said this before the game, I'ma hold true to this. My mother told me when she was living, years ago when I was a player and I was negotiating a contract and talking to shut my mouth and do my job. And that's where I'm at. That's behind us. I should have taken that advice and just kept my mouth closed and went on about business. It's behind us. I thought tonight our guys came out and played their hearts out. I never questioned this team's heart. Being in a situation like this, with your back against the wall, against a very good team in Houston, they've played well, these guys wanted to go back. They didn't want the season to end. And they played their behinds off."

Brandon was sick: "Well you just never know. I've been involved in some games where I didn't feel well and I played well. I said that before the game. Some nights when guys come in and they are under the weather or not feeling well, they have some of their best games. Brandon had one of those tonight. He came out, took an IV before the game and came out and just played.  He played like a champion.  LaMarcus who had an injury came out and played. It wasn't two guys, it was a team effort again tonight."

On Increasing Rudy's minutes and starting him in the second half: "Well, I just felt like we needed to get some more movement. Artest and Battier were switching off on Brandon. And we needed to get movement, to get scoring in the offense. I went to that rotation early in the first and I liked it and I just wanted to try to keep the pressure on their defense. Make them have to guard five guys out on the floor."

On whether the increased time for Rudy will continue in Game 6: "We'll talk about it. Rudy wore himself out running and trying to defend.  We'll talk about that tomorrow. We can certainly go that way."

On the defensive effort: "Yeah, early Scola was knocking down shots, he was hot. You want the team to take perimeter shots. But we needed to get a little closer to him. Our close outs were slow. We started to get more aggressive and make our reads.  It's a good team. They take advantage of the defense. If you are collapsed on Yao, they move the ball, they do a great job of moving the ball, I thought tonight we were more aggressive recovering to the perimeter and controlling the ball, especially the second half. In the first half, Brooks and Von and those guys got to the basket but the second half we made some adjustments and did a better job of keeping them out of the paint."

Who is the pressure on? "Well you know they still need one game to close the series. They are going back home for Thursday's game. For us, it's still a one game season. We want to try to get back to Portland. We haven't won in Houston so it's still a huge challenge for us and for them. They need one more and we need to win to stay alive."

Does your approach change? "Really, it's the same for us. We still have to win to play another game. They have to win one more. It's just different buildings. They've been able to win here in this series and we haven't won there. The pressure is on us to go out and win that game on Thursday."

Postgame Audio Files

Shift-click to stream. Right click + save link as to download the mp3.

-- Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)

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