Wow...that was crazy!
Grizzlies 132, Blazers 135
--The starters came out flat as a pancake tonight in a horrible, horrible first quarter. We weren't defending, we weren't shooting well, Zach looked like he was playing horse out there all by himself...and losing. We looked winded, our transition defense was awful, it looked like a long night.
--The very first sign that we weren't automatically going to cough up this game was when the bench came in. Martell, Jamaal, Sergio, and even Raef really came to play. Where the starting unit had been unfocused and without energy, the bench really picked it up and got us back in the game. That first glimmer of hope probably rested most strongly on the play of Sergio Rodriguez.
--The starters took a cue from the bench squad and finally woke up in the third quarter. They played almost all the minutes in that period and were forcing Memphis turnovers left and right. This is the first time all year I've seen us so aggressive (and successful) stealing the ball. This brought us the rest of the way back. The big credit here goes to Ime Udoka, who kept the Grizzlies' perimeter players from hurting us as badly as they had in the first half.
--In the fourth it was on. Both teams came to play. Pau Gasol was pounding Zach on one end, Zach was pounding right back on the other. Both sets of guards were looking to push at every opportunity. The real savior for the Blazers was Joel Przybilla, who responded to his first serious fourth quarter playing time in ages by being active on everybody he encountered. I know people are going to make a big deal about Zach's career high (and rightfully so) but the hidden game ball really goes to Joel. Without him nearly single-handedly making life hard on the Grizzlies Zach never gets to shoot those shots because this game ends in regulation with a loss.
--The overtimes were a slugfest...all one-on-one play. It was just a matter of who would hit the shots. It ended up being Portland. The starters played ALL of those overtime minutes.
--With apologies to Zach, my player of the night tonight was Joel. He had 11 rebounds (his first double-digit rebounding total all season) and a heap of great defense, as described above. A chronically underrated aspect of Joel's game is his ability to set solid picks. That ability served us well tonight, as he freed up players for crunch-time shots on multiple occasions. Plus he directly and unmistakably covered Zach's behind on defense on multiple occasions, so Zach shouldn't mind ceding the honors to him.
--Zach had 42 points and 12 rebounds. He only shot 40%, his offense was brutal at times (he took 40 shots to make those 42 points), and this was the worst defensive game from him I've seen in a while BUT he was the one who carried us in the extra sessions. After it got to that point he was going to win it for us or nobody would. His rebounding was also a key factor in the game. In short he turned what looked like one of his worst outings of the season into something pretty good with some great work in the second half and overtime.
--Ime had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals. He and Brandon were working like clockwork out there. He shot 80% from the field and, as was mentioned above, stopped the gaping hole that was our perimeter defense.
--Rounding out the starters, Brandon and Jarrett had exactly the kinds of nice, stat-filling games we've come to expect of them. It's a good sign when we can pass over their good efforts like this, saying, "That was just more of the usual."
--Off the bench you noticed Sergio first with 7 assists, 7 points, and 3 steals in 18 minutes. His play turned this game around early.
--Jamaal Magloire may have been the guy you noticed next. He got the deep post position that Zach wasn't and shot 5-6 for 10 points. He made a big effort on the offensive end tonight. It was also nice to see him and Raef LaFrentz (who got in briefly) fighting over who got to set the pick. We need more of that.
--Martell was pretty active. He hit some nice shots and got a couple rebounds. It wasn't quite as demonstrative as his efforts the last couple of games but it was good. He'll keep playing.
--Juan Dixon didn't have a great game. The Blazers played a lineup of Sergio, Jack, and Martell in the second half which is bad news for Juan. I believe things are going to keep trending that way. I think he's lost all of that "confidence time" Nate was giving him.
--The Blazers were plenty happy as a group after this win. Lots of smiles and high-fives.
--Mike Barrett said something similar midway through the broadcast but I thought of it well before he mentioned it so I'm going to say it anyway. Maybe part of the reason the Grizzlies are scoring more since new coach Tony Barone took over is because he looks like he'll have his crew whack you if you upset him.
--We may have a new candidate in the "Ugliest NBA Player Alive" contest. Jake Tsakalidis looks like someone took a milking pail and smacked him right across the face with it. Come to think of it, the Grizzlies as a whole pretty much look like somebody took an ugly stick to them.
--I thought Damon left Portland so he could win...