Just got back from the Rose Garden. Since this recap is already starting late, plus I'm under the weather and living on sinus pills right now, I'm going to abbreviate the usual format.
The Blazers won this game because of four crucial developments.
1. They featured Nicolas Batum early and he responded, turning a couple of early dipsy-layups into a night-long strong shooting performance, including from the three-point arc. This diversified Portland's offense and made the Blazers harder to guard.
2. Portland took advantage of the extra space to register a sterling shooting performance from the arc, hitting 10-25 for 40%. Batum and Wesley Matthews each shot 4-8 from distance. Raymond Felton and Jamal Crawford combined for 1-7. But the good balanced the bad.
3. The Blazers shot amazingly from the free-throw line, a perfect 25-25.
4. Portland played at around a 70% level on defense. That sounds like a condemnation but when you look at the 20% effort they put in against Milwaukee (tops!) the improvement was significant. Portland's halfcourt defense was crisp from the opening tip but they continued to play poorly in transition through most of the first half, allowing Memphis 10 fast break points by intermission. The Grizzlies finished with 12 for the game, which tells you the Blazers tightened the leaks in the second half. Portland's center-less lineups couldn't keep the Grizz from scoring inside however they wanted in after the break, and Memphis ended up with 48 points in the paint tonight. But when it counted the Blazers packed the paint, rebounded, and did enough to win.
What does this all mean? Probably not much. How often do the Blazers shoot 40% from the arc? How often will they get 25 free throw attempts and make them all? Their points in the paint tonight: 22. Fast break points? 2. That leaves an awful lot of points coming the hard way. Plus as the game progressed Portland once again forgot about both forwards on offense. I was muttering under my breath every time they failed to take advantage of LaMarcus Aldridge being guarded by Zach Randolph. They're fortunate that the deep shots fell or the tone here would be quite different.
That said, the crowd was able to cheer tonight and walked out feeling good, not just because the Blazers won but because it looked like they gave effort and took pride in their work.
As most of you know, this was also Blazersedge Night. We'll have a picture or two for you by Monday. You could tell it was our night right away. As I walked up outside the Rose Garden I saw thickets of kids with teachers and chaperons passing out tickets. We were spread over 6 sections or so and our side of the arena was incredibly loud...easily the loudest place in the Garden tonight. You could hear kids asking questions, yelling advice, cheering buckets. When the Blazers won the place exploded. It was great!
Thanks to everybody who came by to say hello, especially the pretty girl from New York and the folks who made the huge sign. You made my night!
We'll talk more about the evening after I get home. For now I'm not feeling well and I'm facing a long drive tomorrow, so I'm going to get some sleep. This will be the first time in six years that I won't be writing a game preview, but discretion is the better part of valor given the situation. Whatever the Lakers are or aren't this year they don't lose much at home. They have a real center. The Blazers still aren't playing together nor to their fullest potential. All of that spells almost certain defeat tomorrow. But that's another day. For tonight, Blazers win! 705 kids and one blogger go home happy.
Straight Outta Vancouver will talk about the Grizzlies loss.
Silver Screen and Roll will preview tomorrow's game from the Lakers' side.
I will score the Jersey Contest form for this game when I get home. There's no form for tomorrow night.