In a Nutshell
The short-handed Blazers don't execute perfectly, miss a bunch of shots, get blown out on the break, get outscored in the paint by the less-than-intimidating Warriors, and generate no advantage anywhere save the three-point arc. Nevertheless they ride that, some poise, some gritty rebounding, and a bunch of heart and effort to a narrow (and much-needed) road win.
The beginning of this game was like every Blazer nightmare come true. Portland walked the ball up the court, drifted around the perimeter on offense, settled for missed jumpers, and then watched the Warriors can their shots. Down 0-7 after three minutes, defending neither the paint nor the three-point arc, the Blazers looked to be in deep trouble. Anyone who saw last night's contest versus the Wizards must have been ready to shovel dirt over this game. Then help arrived from the unlikeliest of sources.
Jeremy Lin, in a bid to take over all NBA media attention, showed up and dished 8 assists with 14 points for the Blazers before riding off into the sunset, leaving a life-sized sticker of his own face on the ball. Wesley Matthews and Marcus Camby started pouring in points off of the dribble while Raymond Felton made a couple assists and even hit a three. After a Matthews three capped off Portland's flurry the Blazers led 20-19. At that point the Warriors were like, "No way. We're getting Punk'd, right? Where are the cameras?" They paused in their search long enough to hit a couple threes, one by Nate Robinson, and led 27-20 after one.
The second period began with the Blazers challenging the Warriors to a three-point shooting contest, which the Blazers actually won.
Also Santa Claus appeared, announced that he had converted to Judaism, claimed everyone in the world owed him six billion gifts for his retroactive Bar Mitzvah, and said he'd kill for some flying venison jerky...possibly already had. Nicolas Batum hit 2 three-pointers to start the period and Gerald Wallace hit 3 to finish it. In between the Blazers got into the lane, drew fouls, rebounded the ball, and played good defense on everybody but Robinson and David Lee. Lee was a problem, as he was scoring inside. Robinson's points, though plentiful, went straight into the "he's hitting now but just you wait..." category. Portland's three point shooting ended up carrying the quarter, causing the Warriors to look even harder for Aston Kutcher on their way to the locker room at halftime. The Blazers let 57-54 after a 37-point period, sans LaMarcus Aldridge.
During the halftime break both teams sneaked into a back hallway and made a pact to preserve their tired knees in this crazy lockout schedule. They vowed that for the entire third period they'd walk the ball up the floor, dribble around, and cast improbable shots, missing as many as possible so as to not offend the other side nor encourage them to up the level of play. By treaty each side had two designated scorers. David Lee and Monta Ellis were chosen for the Warriors. Portland picked Marcus Camby and Raymond Felton. Hardly anybody else scored in the period. Wait...check that. Hardly anybody
else scored in the period. The Warriors outpaced Portland 16-15 and the Blazers led 72-70 going into the final period.
Both teams kicked it into high gear for the fourth. High gear for the Blazers meant dominating the boards, hounding dribblers, tipping passes, and throwing themselves on the floor for loose balls. High gear for the Warriors meant 6,000 dribbles for the now-hot Nate Robinson followed by an improbable shot. Every time Robinson scored the crowd cheered. Every made basket also added 200 dribbles to the next possession. On the other end the Blazers were shaky. On many possessions it looked like nobody wanted to take a shot. The bail-out man was Gerald Wallace more often that not. That proved to be fortuitous as he mixed drives for fouls with 2 more made threes for 10 points in the period. His final three tied the score at 88 after the Blazers had endured yet another made bucket from Robinson. Unfortunately the Blazers lost turnovers on the next two possessions, again victims of not knowing where to go. Then Coach Nate McMillan looked down his bench for somebody--anybody--who would know what to do with the ball...or at least be willing to take a shot. Unsurprisingly he crooked his finger towards Jamal Crawford. Crawford entered the game with 1:16 left and the Blazers down 88-90. He promptly hit an impossible three-point shot over Robinson. The circus had come to town. Robinson was then granted free throws on an incredibly brain-dead reach-in foul on the sideline by Marcus Camby, who had the diminutive guard thoroughly trapped. Robinson made 1 of 2, knotting the game again at 91 with 51 seconds left. Unsurprisingly Crawford took the ball again, this time getting fouled and knocking down both free throws. Robinson missed the ensuing shot, the Blazers rebounded, Crawford missed, but the Warriors couldn't get off their game-winning attempt in time. Portland walks out of Oakland with a hard-fought 93-91 victory one night after not caring a whit against the comparatively easy Wizards at home.
This wasn't a postcard-home-to-mama type of game. The Blazers did tons of things wrong. Their defense was sporadic. Their rebounding was intermittent. They passed too much or not at all, found the wrong people at the wrong times, and shot way too many long balls against a small Golden State lineup. They couldn't finish at the rim. All their guards shot poorly. David Lee ran roughshod over them. They hesitated like a Junior High boy going in for his first kiss during critical offensive possessions. But when it mattered they did everything right. Most of all they played like they wanted this game. There's no way to describe it other than some threes fell at the right time (finally) and the Blazers knocked heads together when they needed to. This was a game Portland fans can be proud of...not a work of art but a work of will.
The most important side-effect of this game is taking the horrible pressure off of tomorrow's contest. 1-2 is not what you'd hope for in a three-game series, two of which are at home. But without LaMarcus Aldridge that's a result you'll take. Going 0-3 in this back-to-back-to-back would have been a tough pill to swallow. Losing tomorrow won't be great, but it won't be a disaster. And seeing tonight's result, there's even some hope that with enough home crowd encouragement the Blazers could pull off the win. That's a tall order on the third night in a row with no power forward, but the outlook is far more positive heading home than it would have been if the Blazers had gotten blown out tonight.
Portland's frontcourt stepped up tonight. Gerald Wallace led the way with 24 points, 6-13, 4-4 three-pointers, 2 steals, and some impressive rebounding late even though he totaled only 6 for the game. Nicolas Batum went 7-13 for 17 points, 2-5 from distance, 2 steals, and 2 wholly impressive blocks. Marcus Camby scooped up the rebounds that the others missed, notching 11 in 30 minutes with 12 points on 5-11 shooting. The only real criticism here might be Camby's defense, which isn't looking up to snuff. He looks to be throwing himself at plays or not moving at all, lunging as if desperate and fatigued or standing still. None of that amounts to getting good position. It's something to keep an eye on...particularly if Aldridge remains out. The bright side is that Camby and Wallace were heroes near the end, saving the game for Portland with their board-work and defense.
Portland's guards were more of a mixed bag. Starters Raymond Felton (4-15) and Wesley Matthews (4-12) shot poorly. The exceptions were Matthews getting aggressive early when no other Blazer was and Felton hitting 2-5 from distance...both of which were needed. Felton had 10 points and 6 assists, Matthews 9 and 4. Jamal Crawford had 14 points and 6 assists off the bench, even though he took 13 shots (making 5) to get his 14. His huge virtue was stepping up when the game was on the line and everyone else went into shrinking violet mode. Win or lose, he was going to go down shooting. Instead he pushed his team over the line to victory. It's easier to forgive the missed shots when that happens.
Kurt Thomas had another so-so night, not up to his early-season standards. He did net 3 rebounds and a block in 12 minutes but he had 2 turnovers and 4 personal fouls.
Craig Smith also played 12 minutes and finally got back to rebounding instead of trying to be the next low post scoring machine. He grabbed 6 on a night when they were there to be taken. That will get him more playing time than shooting every time he touches the ball on the other end.
Elliot Williams had a blocked shot in 8 minutes but nothing else to shout about. Chris Johnson played 3 minutes and didn't look as energetic as usual.
Fun With Numbers
- Blazers get outshot 40.5% to 47.4%.
- Golden State 15 fast break points to Portland's 4.
- Golden State 42 points in the paint, Blazers 36.
- Assists, steals, blocks, free throw attempts, points off turnovers virtually even.
- Portland wins by shooting 10-22 from the arc (45.5%) against Golden State's 7-19 (36.8%).
- Also Portland nabs 13 offensive rebounds. Not exactly surprising against the Warriors but keep in mind Portland was both short and short-handed. That was effort.
Read about the loss at Golden State Of Mind.