In a Nutshell
The Blazers win a game they only half deserve as team play dissolves into individual heroics. The Portland stars push the team through a stellar fourth-period offensive rally while the supporting cast locks down defensively.
The first period of this game started similarly to Portland's other two outings. On offense the Blazers moved the ball with alacrity, most notably using Nicolas Batum as a fulcrum. Batum responded with passes and made shots. The Knicks couldn't compensate for Portland's motion, repeatedly caught flat-footed on cuts and staring at rotations they should have made. The Blazers were persistent in getting the ball to whomever was guarded by Raymond Felton and it paid dividends, particularly when Felton was on a bigger player. The scheme was solid and the execution was quick and impeccable. On the other end New York relied on Amare Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari for offense. Stoudemire tried to exploit the Blazers one-on-one. Gallinari alternated between posting and heaving bombs. Amare did OK. Gallinari was horrible. The rest of the Knicks failed miserably shooting from distance. The only easy New York points came off of guards driving down the lane or fast breaks. Those were annoying but not fatal to the Blazers. Portland led 26-19 after one.
The Blazers boosted that lead to a dozen in the second period before the game reversed on three developments. First the Blazers started believing their own headlines. They stopped testing the Knick defense. They settled for longer jumpers and more iso plays. Second, Wilson Chandler hit back-to-back threes mid-quarter, an oasis in the desert for his team. That uncorked his game and he went on to blister the Blazers for 13 in the period. Chandler was the sharp edge of the rally but its weight came from the team banding together, most noticeably on the boards. The Knicks started outrebounding Portland like...well...like they were Portland and the Blazers were the Knicks. After that everything started clicking for them. They swarmed on defense. They beat the Blazers to every spot. They high-fived all over the court. Badda-bing, badda-boom, Portland manages only 18 in the period, the home team made up 12 points in 9 minutes and we went into the locker room tied.
The third period opened with both teams running everything through their stars. Stoudemire took almost every Knick shot in the opening four minutes. The Blazers countered with Miller, Aldridge, and Roy. Nearly every shot went in until Stoudemire drew a foul with 8:26 left and had to hit the bench. Chandler came in for him but could not re-create his second-quarter magic. Unfortunately for the Blazers the Knicks had the bit in their teeth by this point and all of their other reserves ran and danced around Portland's "defense", which had not improved much from the halftime pep talk. The lane opened for the Knicks and rebounds came aplenty. Andre Miller followed Stoudemire into foul trouble at the six-minute mark, leaving the Blazers to experiment with their point-guardless lineup. Wesley Matthews looked uncomfortable in the role, turning the ball over bringing it up the court. Brandon Roy grabbed the reins after that. His offense was hit and miss. He turned the ball over as well. It was a shaky ride. When the dust settled each team had scored 30 and the score remained knotted heading into the final period.
If the third was nervous-time the fourth was a flat-out heart attack. Stoudemire returned and touched the ball early but foul trouble and a moving ball kept him from taking over until very late in the period. In the meantime Raymond Felton took the captain's chair. Via dribble or pass he got the ball inside. The Blazers either didn't compensate or over-compensated, leaving an easy shot or an open jumper respectively. The Knicks worked their way to a 9-point lead off of a Bill Walker three with 5:30 remaining. On the other end Andre Miller rose up, playing inspired offense down the stretch. He drove, he passed, he hit shots. He even managed to get LaMarcus Aldridge involved in the game after LMA had faded following a bucketful of misses. On this night that was like getting Seinfeld's Elaine to dance acceptably. 'Dre assisted on two Aldridge shots and a Batum layup plus he hit a 15-footer, a three-pointer, and a free throw of his own. When the Miller carnage ended the Blazers were back up by 1 with 2:00 remaining.
The Blazers would not hit another bucket in the game, having to settle for four trips to the foul line. Maddeningly they converted only 1 of 2 charity tosses on 3 out of those 4 trips. Aldridge, showing all the clutch ability of Mary Katherine Gallagher, missed twice and Batum missed once. Miller, with his huevos of brass, was the only guy to sink 2 of 2. That said, the true heroics came on the defensive end. The Blazers got the chance to use their lock-down lineup of Marcus Camby, Aldridge, Batum, Matthews, and Roy when it mattered. They came through with flying colors. Aldridge in particular played some nice defense on Stoudemire, whom the Knicks suddenly rediscovered now that the game was on the line. Marcus Camby also gave great help on the guards. In the last two minutes the Knicks missed 3 threes, got a shot blocked, and went to the line once. That was it. The Blazers also managed to shut off New York's rebounding torrent when it counted. This stand was a fitting complement to Miller's explosion. The Blazers walk away with a 100-95 win and the Knicks get their hearts broken again.
You really saw the two different Blazer teams tonight. One need only look at Nicolas Batum's touches to see the difference. Early on Batman was flying and raining threes. He was also active defensively. Later he barely touched the ball and his game fell off. The same held true of Wesley Matthews. The Blazers can share or they can grind it. The latter still works against weaker teams but one of these games the team's going to take a punch it doesn't get up from. It's not just the offense. Defense, rebounding, energy...everything goes down when the ball stalls.
That said, if you're going to go with individual heroics, this was the way to do it and these were the people to do it through. Roy had 29 and 6 rebounds on the evening, Miller had 19 with 10 assists and 3 steals, Aldridge managed 20 with 10 rebounds. The Blazers out-starred the Knicks. It would have been easier to just outplay them.
The most disappointing development in the game was the lack of rebounding, though to be fair Marcus Camby got in early foul trouble which disrupted the big-man continuity. The Knicks do have good rebounding potential but Portland didn't need to let them show it for so long. The best development was the late-game execution. That defense was fantastic...to a man. The offense went pretty well too. The Blazers looked like a veteran team closing out a win even though they hadn't played well enough to earn it comfortably. This kind of game counts in the standings just like any other. In a way it's encouraging to see Portland with the grit and poise to take it.
Roy took 23 shots to get his 29, hitting 7-8 free throws in the process. His mid-game offense was shaky but early and late he got really good looks. He was also great converting the shot off of the pass when he hadn't been the center of the play.
Miller hit 6-8 from the field and 6-8 from the line. He even hit a three late. He won this game for Portland. Sometimes there's no replacement for a true expert.
Aldridge looked extra-bad down low again tonight. 8-20 shooting isn't going to earn you many accolades. He was bad at the line as well, making only 4-10. It was ugly...as ugly as any 20-point game you'll see. He knew it too. But the defense late was enough to erase any complaints. He helped save this game after helping put it in peril. I don't know what happens to his coordination and poise when he's 3 feet from the bucket instead of 18 but he really needs to work on that part of his game.
Nicolas Batum had a fantastic start to the game, a decent end, and a bunch of mush in the middle. That was the story of the Blazers' night though. He got to defend different positions again tonight and did well. I'd just like to see more obvious impact on the game even when the offense isn't coming his way. I'd also like to see the team keep the offense coming his way.
Marcus Camby played 25 minutes, drawing 5 fouls. The Blazers missed him. He got 5 rebounds but his best contributions came in that end-game stand. The amount of floor he covers shouldn't be underrated.
Wesley Matthews led the bench with 25 minutes. He looked really good shooting, going 5-7 for 13 points with 6 rebounds. He got a little more mid-game offense than Batum but not much. His ball-handling was suspect all over the court tonight regardless of position. The only dribble he made comfortably was backwards.
Rudy Fernandez played 16 minutes and hit only 1 three, going 1-4 for the night. He was active and didn't break down defensively, which is good.
Dante Cunningham was a defensive madman in his 11 minutes. He was a rebounding, shot-blocking blur with 4 and 2 respectively. It was just the kind of 11-minute spurt you want from your bench guys. Come in, change the game a little, leave everything on the floor, don't need shots, don't get in the way of your own team, come back out and get back slaps from everyone. Great night.
Fabricio Oberto got 17 minutes because of Camby's foul trouble. He went 2-3 with 4 points, 2 fouls, and 1 rebound. He did well enough place-holding, which is what you want.
Stats of the Night
- Knicks 51 rebounds to Portland's 41
- Blazers 6-13 from distance on well-crafted shots as opposed to New York 7-28 on heaves
- Blazers 30 free throws on the road but make only 20 of those 30
- Blazers shoot 48.7% even though they only get 7 fast break points
- Knicks score 50 in the paint
- Amare Stoudemire 18 points
- Knicks only get 16 assists
Odd Notes and Links
It's always funny to see Spike Lee in the front row. It really looks like he's trying to coach the team. He ought to make a movie about the Knicks. Then things would turn out right.
The Jersey Contest Scoreboard for October is complete. Pending authentication, darkwebs appears to have won the Nicolas Batum jersey!
Enter the first form of the November Jersey Contest here. We need to update our Blazer list so just choose people who are on the team for now.
Find the New York story at PostingandToasting.