Long Story Short: The Blazers pull ahead early then ease up on defense enough to make it interesting. In the end monster nights from LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy seal the deal for Portland. Now acclimatized to the Blazer culture, Marcus Camby sprains his ankle 5 minutes into the game and doesn't return.
We begin with a disclaimer. DirectTV had a snafu and didn't broadcast the first quarter of the game so I was not able to see Portland leap out to a 32-22 lead. Nor did I see Marcus Camby sprain his ankle, though Ben reports the Portland TV crew saying x-rays were negative and his status for tomorrow's game is unknown.
Portland also cruised through the second period, which I assume was a repeat of the first. Portland's defensive intensity was fairly high. The Nets were shooting from the perimeter, definitely not a specialty. When the ball went the other way, well...they say a team often takes on the personality of its coach. If so, Kiki Vandeweghe has had a remarkable and immediate effect on this squad. They play defense just like he did. All of them play defense just like he did. I don't know a better way to put it other than to say they look like a team that has just given up on that end of the floor. For the most part the Blazers got anything they wanted off of LaMarcus Aldridge posts or any given wing penetrating. LMA was in the paint repeatedly, scoring at will against Brook Lopez or anybody else. Miller, Roy, even Webster scored off of penetration. When Aldridge is getting within four feet and Webster is taking you off the dribble you have problems. On the rare occasions New Jersey did put up a fight one pass was all that was necessary to find an open jump shooter. The Blazers ran on the Nets. They passed in the midst of the Nets. They gave up only 3 turnovers in the game to the Nets. It was easy as pie. Portland led 56-37 at the half.
Portland loosened up defensively in the second half. Courtney Lee found a hot hand and gave New Jersey confidence. Did I say confidence? I meant a sense of imperviousness offensively. With only a couple minutes left to go in the game they were clocked shooting over 92% in the half. That allowed them to cut the lead to 5 on a few occasions. Unfortunately they were still quite pervious on the defensive end. Yes, the Blazers' offense stalled but mostly that's because they just started shooting any old thing. Once the game got serious they fed Roy and he butchered New Jersey single-handedly. When the game got down to the final minutes Portland turned up the defense again. The Nets ended up missing 7 of their last 9 shots. And that was that. Thank goodness.
Kudos to Portland not just for shooting over 54% for the game (how could you not?) but also for knowing how to get decent shots for most of the evening. The Blazers attempted only 12 three-pointers tonight, which was perfect. Why in the world would you want to shoot threes against this team? But that's not stopped Portland before. In a major reversal of fortune Portland also scored 42 points in the paint to New Jersey's 26.
Those odd, odd stats should automatically tell you that any individual observations tonight need to be taken with a grain of salt. If you go to trade a guy and say, "Hey, he shot 68% and scored 20 in the paint against New Jersey!" the opposing GM is going to laugh in your face. But I will mention a few interesting tidbits and standout performances.
LaMarcus Aldridge was Mr. Energy tonight, particularly on the offensive end. We don't usually see that many sweeping hooks from him in a week. The Blazers fed him too, except they ignored him late as usual. Maybe somebody needs to do something about that if he's hot. 13-20, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 27 points.
How long has it been since we've seen Roy and Aldridge go off in the same game? It happened tonight and it was good to see. (I know...New Jersey.) Brandon was cutting more freely than we've seen and his plant for his jumper was pretty solid. Maybe he's feeling better? He took over late and the Nets couldn't do diddly. 9-14 from the field, 10-13 from the line, 28 points.
Andre Miller scored 20 on 7-10 shooting because New Jersey couldn't stop him from penetrating. He also had 7 assists.
Nicolas Batum got the start and put up Martell Webster-like numbers: 2 points, 1 rebound in 23 minutes. He did have 3 blocks.
What has happened to Rudy Fernandez' three-point shot? He barely hit the rim with it tonight when he was wide open. I guess he did hit 1 of 3 but those others just looked wrong. Whatever else we want or don't want out of Rudy is all predicated on him being that deadeye shooter. If he loses that he loses most of his value to us. It's like trying to decorate a cake with icing and finding the cake has disappeared. At this point I'm willing to have Rudy forget everything else and just hit those shots. I'd be happy.
Check out the general numbness to losses at NetsDaily. If anyone else gets the #1 overall pick it's a travesty.