The Short Version
Wow. After a close first quarter, the Portland Trail Blazers opened up a can of revenge, using strong defense and hot shooting to leave the Phoenix Suns demoralized and defeated by 38 points. Tonight's most popular phrase? "And the Suns called timeout." The fans were rewarded with an extended view of Luke Babbitt, Chris Johnson and Elliot Williams.
The Long Version
The game started with the trademark "Blazers slow start", as Grant Hill and Steve Nash sliced them up to the tune of 13 points in the first 7 minutes. Meanwhile, I get to use the word "discombobulated" again to describe the Portland offense. After 6 minutes, Nate McMillan saw enough and called timeout, with the Blazers lucky to only be down by 3. The teams traded turnovers for a few more minutes before yet another timeout. Phoenix clearly scouted the Blazer entry passes, and took every opportunity to intercept them. However, they forgot how to take the ball up court, as the Blazers regularly returned the favor before the Suns passed the half-court line. The quarter wound down with sporadic scoring, 14 combined turnovers, and still a 3 point Suns lead.
We pick up in the second where we left off, with lacklust---- HELLO NIC BATUM! First a three, then a dunk that brought the Rose Garden fans to their feet. Add in a quick steal and layup, and Phoenix called timeout.... to little effect. Batum continued his rampage, Crash alley-ooped to Aldridge for a dunk, and the Blazers were up 12 on a 21-6 run. Time for another Suns timeout, during which they quickly brought back Nash, Hill and Gortat. This timeout worked! … well, kind of. Phoenix's defense caused a 3.5 minute Blazer scoring drought, but Portland only allowed one Grant Hill jumper. Add in some more Aldridge and Wallace goodness, and the Blazers led by 14 at the half. Portland’s defense was all the difference in that quarter, as they outscored Phoenix 26-9. Phoenix repeatedly settled for contested outside shots, and at one point, a possession ended with a (!) 24-second violation.
Wait, did I say 14 point lead? Within 1 minute of the third, make it 19. Phoenix starts to tighten up a little. 21 point lead. 23. A Camby alley-oop to LaMarcus makes it 24, the Rose Garden is rocking and (wait for it...) the Suns call timeout. They just can’t get anything started... Steve Nash missed free throws. Grant Hill missed layups. And Camby snagged all the rebounds. Mark it down, with 5:30 left in the third, Nash missed an inside shot, Camby rebounded, and that was the last moment Phoenix held out any hopes of a comeback.
After that, the Blazers said, "Enough fooling around, we're done here". Wesley Matthews for three, good! Wait, Wesley Matthews for three again? GOOD! Just like that, it’s a 29 point lead! And say it with me... "the Suns call timeout". The Blazers were on a 47-15 run, and the Suns looked shell-shocked and dumbfounded as they head to the bench. Back to the game and... wait, Wesley for three again? GOOD! Wallace for three? GOOD!! It’s a 33 point lead! So, Crash Wallace dives into the crowd, and Phoenix has a 4-on-5 possession? No problem for the Blazer D, plus Crash is waiting at the other end! 35 point lead. Remember how disheartened the Blazers looked in Phoenix? Double that. But the Blazers begin to shoot lazy jumpers on every possession, and Sarge calls a timeout. A little prevent offense/defense led to a 33 point lead after three.
The fourth quarter was an extended Garden party, capped by a few emphatic Elliot Williams dunk and some streamers.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 23 points (on 16 shots) and 7 rebounds, in what could be termed a "quiet night". He was classic LaMarcus: Leading scorer, and there when you need him. Phoenix struggled to keep him contained all night, but the Blazers distributed the points around, so he was able to play decoy at times. His "missed shot, put-back dunk" move is coming along nicely.
As noted above, Nicolas Batum (14 points, 5 rebounds) was the spark. As the Blazers stalled, he opened up the second quarter on fire, hitting a three then nailing a contested dunk to spike the energy in the arena. His 10 points and strong overall play in the second were the turning point.
Marcus Camby didn't score a point tonight, but when you grab 20 rebounds in 23 minutes, nobody is worried about your points. He also kept Marcin Gortat off-balance at both ends. This is the second time Camby has pulled down 20+ rebounds with zero points, and he is only one of three NBA players to ever do so. (Reggie Evans and Dennis Rodman are the other two)
Gerald Wallace was his usual home x-factor, with 17 points and 2 steals. His finger was clearly bothering him on multiple plays, including a few missed layups that might previously have been dunks.
Wesley Matthews continues to show signs of recovery, as you may have noticed in the recap. He finished with 16 points, on 4-7 from downtown, and added 4 assists. He was a second-half dynamo, breaking the game wide open.
Raymond Felton was, well, nondescript. 4 points, 3 assists, 3 steals, 4 turnovers in a low 22 minutes. He might be the only player with nothing for the highlight reel. Phoenix keyed in on entry passes, which hurt Felton early, and he never got on track. Good thing it was a game where he really wasn't needed.
Jamal Crawford was a coach's dream tonight, scoring only 9 points, but with 10 assists and a steal. He was very comfortable simply letting everyone else get the shots, while hitting 4 of 7 shots when the Blazers needed some instant offense.
Elliot Williams scored 8 points on 50% shooting, including a few signature dunks. I place the over/under on Williams-themed weekend fanposts at 3.5
Luke Babbitt, Craig Smith, Nolan Smith, and Chris Johnson all joined Elliot in garbage time, each getting points on the board.
Second chance points: Portland 19, Phoenix 0.
Turnovers after the first quarter: Phoenix 14, Portland 7.
Assists: Portland 28, Phoenix 18
Rebounds: Portland 58, Phoenix 41.
Wow, that was a fun game huh? The Blazers were way overdue for a game like this: A statement to the NBA, "On any given night, we can do this to you." Phoenix may have been tired at the end of a road trip, but this is a short season, and the Blazers did what a good team should do. As a bonus, the Blazers get 2 full days off, a little time to practice, then are back in action Monday in Utah.
Enjoy the weekend, and if you missed it, catch a replay (tonight at 1am, tomorrow at 10pm). Absolutely worth your time. -- Tim