Oh man, that was one whale of a game! What a win! I was wrong in one point in my preview...we did have something to do with Dallas losing. I was there. I watched it. To be fair to them this was neither their "A" nor "B" games, but it was probably a C- or thereabouts. But beating a C- version of the Mavericks is still a great feather in the cap for our young team. We helped them have a bad night. It wasn't just that Dallas didn't win, it's that they were never in it past the first quarter. Amazing.
I cannot say enough about our defense tonight. It was the best I have seen it in forever. We really stayed in front of guys and got hands in their faces. We made it uncomfortable for Dallas to go inside. It wasn't just our main players either. We got defensive contributions from just about everyone. That was the main reason we won this game...defense.
I'm going to forego the normal format tonight and just tell you what I saw.
--I saw Lamarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy come out aggressive in the first half. Aldridge was spectacular early. Dirk Nowitzki tried to take over the game in the first quarter with his shooting. Lamarcus nullifed his contributions by matching him shot for shot. Not only that, LMA was better defensively. Eventually they switched Dirk off of Lamarcus because he couldn't handle him. (And let me say this one more time in case you missed it in last night's recap: NOBODY...GETS PAST...LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE...OFF THE DRIBBLE. Not even once.) It would be ridiculous and insulting to say Lamarcus is at Dirk's level but it's perfectly appropriate to say that TONIGHT Lamarcus played at Dirk's level. There's hope that someday he will play there for good. Plus you can't even describe Brandon's night. He looked so poised and controlled. Everything he did offensively made sense. It was a fitting career high evening. Tonight he was a superstar.
--I saw the Blazers refuse to settle for jumpers off the dribble, instead attacking the basket in every quarter. When the lane area was shut down they simply found the open man for the jumper. It was beautiful.
--I saw our small forwards contribute in ways beyond just scoring. This may have been a hidden key to the victory. Travis was a rebounding and defensive machine tonight! He ended up pulling Dirk as a defensive assignment in the second half. He really stayed in his jock, kept his body in front of him, and put out a ton of effort! I also saw Martell moving on defense, having busy hands, and even diving on the floor! YES!!! This was a fantastic night for them.
--I saw Jarrett Jack come out confident, taking open shots when they presented themselves, driving with regularity, and helping the flow of the offense when he had no shot. If he plays this way every night we're good to go.
--I saw Steve Blake blending into the offensive and defensive schemes, hitting guys for open shots without dominating the ball himself.
--I saw Joel Przybilla throw his body around against a smaller, quicker team and snag a ton of rebounds.
--I saw the entire offense play unselfishly. COMPLETELY unselfishly. You cannot overstate how wonderful it is to have your star--Brandon Roy--also be a team player. It turns everybody else into team players too. I love watching them share the ball. It looks like they literally don't care who scores. Don't they know they're supposed to be selfish, stat-absorbed, contract-counting NBA players? Or has the memo not come down yet? 28 assists in 35 buckets is...wow.
--Also we committed almost no un-whistled turnovers tonight. (The whistled kind being travels, offensive fouls, moving screens...the kind that require the ball being taken out of bounds.) We took great care of the ball and maximized most of our possessions.
--Most of all I saw a ton of poise out there. And, by the way, very little overt celebrating afterwards. Of course there were high-fives and handshakes but it wasn't like they were tearing the goalposts down. It was pretty much like they expected to win.
The beauty of a game like this is it will give the players confidence in their defense and it's ability to win games. That switch flipped in 1989 for the Clyde Drexler-led Blazers and it led them pretty far. This team isn't ready to go that far yet but if they learn that lesson really young--to take more pride in stopping someone than they do in scoring on them--they will get where they're going a lot quicker.
P.S. I am making the long drive home after the Panel presentation at Wordstock today so Jersey Contest updates probably won't happen until Monday. Don't forget to come to the Blazermania: Past and Present presentation at the Oregon Convention center if you can. It starts at 1:00.