Oh man...forget the fact that we won this game for a minute. Get a little excited about how. This game showed a couple things from the Blazers we haven't yet seen...things which if duplicated could have far bigger ramifications than the current winning streak. First of all, remember how we said Denver would let you outrebound them but we never take advantage of situations like that? Oh...we took advantage alright, like a tuxedo-bedecked prom boy after the punch is spiked. We KILLED them on the boards. It wasn't even CLOSE! And remember how we talked about Denver bullying us around last time? No sir. Not tonight. We were up in their collective grills pretty much every minute. We got physical on defense and in the paint. When challenged in the middle portions of the game we stood up and shoved back. As a result Denver never got back in it.
In other notes our deep-fried, sesame-battered, stuffed crust, extra-crispy, vitamin fortified zone held us in good stead AGAIN tonight. When we came out playing a similar scheme against Denver that we had against Utah I was all ready to say, "Uh oh...this ain't the Jazz." But the Nuggets readily obliged by missing jumpers left and right and generally forsaking the lane. `Melo in particular was brutal. Aside from that ultra-embarrassing stretch where Kenyon Martin scored on three straight alley-oops (probably a record in the annals of NBA history) we made the paint into our house and didn't allow visitors (or at least didn't allow them to run off with the prized china). We refrained from turning the ball over for most of the game and also limited Denver's fast break points, both sure keys to victory.
As far as offense I'd say I was amazed more than impressed...the distinction being that this was an incredible night as far as shots going in, but probably not sustainable over the course of time in terms of scheme, shot selection, or the defensive pressure that we faced. I don't know the last time I saw so many jumpers fall. Nobody could miss. Martell Webster's 1-3 and Brandon Roy's 11-27 marked them as the only Blazers who shot below 50%. This helped on a night when we only shot 19 free throws and got outscored at the free throw line and three-point arc both (and allowed the opponent to shoot 49% from the field to boot).
--CHANNING FRYE FOUND HIS PADDLE! And what's more he immediately used it to beat... the... Nuggets... up... side... their... heads. Way to exorcise an entire season of frustration in one game! More than his jump shooting I was impressed by his extra energy on the boards and moving his feet. It was like he watched Joel Przybilla's acceleration the last few games and said, "I can do that too!" The result was not only the best effort of the year, but an effort as good as all of the other games so far combined. Hopefully this will unlock the shackles of his confidence and allow him to play freer and more energetically even if he's not scoring 20 in the first half every game.
--Oh Brandon Roy...26 points and 11 assists while bearing the clear brunt of the Denver defense. How we do love thee.
--Joel was a bundle of energy again tonight as well. If you have not seen him play the last 3-4 games you need to get in front of a TV or buy a ticket. The difference is night and day.
--Sergio played another great stretch! He had a nifty steal and breakaway that had me laughing and cheering. However he did appear somewhat winded when he left the game, and this after only a few minutes of playing time. At least it looked to me like he was sucking air a little. This could be a partial explanation for his shorter minutes. Did anyone else notice this?
--Travis was hitting shots tonight that just weren't fair. And this despite being called "Charles Outlaw" twice by the Denver crew, even as he was toasting the team's collective hides. Bo Outlaw I can understand, but Charles? What do these guys do, peruse a book of baby names before the broadcast so they can choose what to call him? "I think I will name him Jordan Christopher Outlaw!" Awww...that's cute! Maybe the Blazers should just give up and sew his first name on the back of his uniform too. Or he could just wear one of those "Hi! My name is..." tags.
--I'm starting more and more to think of Steve Blake and Jarrett Jack as one point guard blob because each is trending towards certain things I like and certain things I don't. Making them into a conglomerate makes it easier. So tonight Starrett Black shot 8-13, got 7 assists, and scored 22 points. I was impressed by the general running of the offense by the Steve part and (as always) the driving by the Jarrett part. I was not impressed by Jarrett's continuing turnovers. You'd think the game would be normalizing for him soon. He's committing some ugly ones.
--James Jones played a nice supporting and defensive role tonight. I really tend to underestimate his non-scoring abilities. On this team he stands out plenty. He had 14 points and 7 rebounds. It doesn't hurt that he continues to make teams look incredibly silly for leaving him even a tad bit open. And Denver left him way open tonight.
--I'm starting to like Raef LaFrentz's short stints more and more as he swings back into playing mode. He's not a bad guy to spell Joel for 10 minutes.
--Martell Webster went from "What is going on with him?" territory to a sympathetic figure by getting popped hard in the jaw. I'd love to see what would happen if Webster and Jones got it going in the same game. It'd be a non-stop three-fest. Right now they can't seem to get it going in the same month together. Ah well, that's what March is for.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
Can anyone think of a nicer Christmas present than a seven-game winning streak...except maybe eight?
Ladies and gentlemen, we are at .500 now.