Long Story Short: The Blazers blow out the Knicks by 28. And it wasn't really that close.
Apologies to Knicks fans in advance. Not for what I'm going to say about this game, rather that they had to watch it. I was in the Rose Garden this year watching that game where the Jazz cleaned Portland's clocks. That was bad. But at least the Blazers had a clock to clean. The Knicks looked like they were surprised there was a game tonight. This contest had all the drama of a no-holds-barred MMA fight between Brock Lesnar and Strawberry Shortcake. The story of the game was simple: the Knicks didn't defend in any way, shape, or form. You know what happens when you don't defend the Blazers. But the Knicks worked extra hard at not defending. Multiple alley-oops for Portland in the halfcourt, Andre Miller driving unopposed to the rim, wide-open threes anywhere, anytime, for anyone, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy looking like they were running shooting drills, an all-night buffet of offensive rebounds, barely any turnovers forced...about the only thing the Knicks did decently was get back in transition and I half suspect that was because Portland thought it impolite to run on them given everything else they were getting.
The Blazers dominated in every way possible save three-point shooting (where the Knicks edged them by shooting 7-20 instead of 6-20) and fouls drawn (which didn't matter). New York was welcome to both. You could have put one of those shooting contest circles out on the floor and invited the Knicks to shoot 10 threes unopposed and odds are they wouldn't have pulled even. Portland shot 52.6% from the field, got 15 offensive rebounds to the Knicks' 6, won the overall rebounding battle 50 to 30, made 50 field goals, dished 30 assists, picked off 12 steals, outscored New York in the paint by a dozen...you name it, Portland did it.
We won't belabor this much further. But games like this do provide perspective on the "troubles" the Blazers have had this season. The injuries have been awful. That's legit and shouldn't be minimized in any way. But when you watched New York tonight you saw a team that was completely disconnected from the game, their coach, and each other. They looked like they knew the story of their season, that it didn't really count, that everybody is depending on cap space rather than current players to save the franchise. Not long ago Portland was in a similar position. It's amazing how quickly and with how few wrinkles the Blazers have grown beyond that. The things we nitpick about now are small potatoes compared to what the Knicks are facing even though a long season and cramped sports quarters in town make them seem huge.
I think of the things people have gotten mad about this year. You want mad? Did you watch Tracy McGrady play tonight? Dude's making $22.5 million this season. That's approximately $1.5 million for every play he gave up on this evening. I know he's a cap-cleaner but still, he's taking the floor. Even his escort of an injured Al Harrington to the bench was halfhearted. I've seen bridesmaids clasp groomsmen's arms with more authority and connection. That's the kind of thing to save your anger for. Imagine dealing with that instead of watching a tight playoff seeding race which, while admittedly for a lower seed than expected, still carries legitimacy. The ghosts of Zach Randolph and Sebastian Telfair haunted the Rose Garden tonight. Thank goodness they were wearing other uniforms.
Almost everybody looked good tonight but this wasn't a repeatable experiment so we'll only hit the standout points.
When LaMarcus Aldridge feels comfortable he's deadly. He felt comfortable tonight, hitting 10-12, most on jumpers and turn-arounds, for 21 points. If the repertoire of defenders he doesn't care about ever expands he'll be a major force in this league.
Nicolas Batum had the sweet offense going in the first half, hitting threes and stop-and-pop jumpers and most everything else. He had one move where he hard-dribbled to the foul line, rose quickly and completely vertical without drift, and canned a beautiful looking jumper. Hopefully that's a glimpse of things to come because that shot is hard and he made it look like it was taken in his driveway.
Andre Miller made some sweet passes, especially to Martell Webster for the aforementioned alley-oops. It's fun watching Martell dunk. 7 assists for Miller in 22 minutes, 14 points for Webster in 20. Andre also played some energized defense until it became apparent it wasn't needed.
Roy was just having fun out there, taking enough shots to stay warm. 7-12, 16 points.
Rudy took on the playmaker role again and didn't look horrible doing it, though I'm not sure how he could have tonight. He missed a lot of open threes though.
Jerryd Bayless had 7 assists in 23 minutes but he also got torched by Sergio Rodriguez...a guy whom Batum later handled defensively with aplomb.
Dante Cunningham had 7 rebounds in 17 minutes. Beast.
I've missed seeing Jeff Pendergraph play. He looked a little stiff (rusty) out there but I like how he's always trying to make something happen.
Oh, and Marcus Camby cruised to 10 rebounds and looked like he was having fun shooting the ball freely.
This was exactly what the Blazers needed headed into the Denver game tomorrow. Everything is set up for a fair fight. We'll see if Portland can pull it off. If they can they've certainly made their mark in this race.
Beware the hands slapping foreheads at PostingandToasting.
We do have a Jersey Contest winner. We'll trumpet that more in the morning.