Ahhhhh...winning makes everything fun again, doesn't it? You need those every once in a while.
It's funny how giddy I feel after watching the game because I've actually seen the Blazers play much better than they did tonight. We didn't defend or rebound particularly toughly through most of the game. We relied far too heavily on the three-point shot. We had major lapses in concentration down to the very last moments of the game. If you asked me if we could win a game while playing this way again I'd say, "Sure, but I wouldn't want to try it too often." But we did enough to overcome our deficiencies and stepped up when it counted, which is all that matters for tonight.
Speaking of, let's talk about some of the things we did well. First off, in a relatively fast-paced game we committed only 10 turnovers. Memphis did score 21 off of those but that was negated by the 27 points we scored off of their 15 turnovers. Converting that many T.O.'s into points was a huge boost. We did a reasonable job of staying in between them and the rim. We had lapses but most often they were shooting over people. We didn't get anywhere near their perimeter shooters but I'd rather have that than a parade into the lane all night long. The shot distribution was probably what we need to play winning basketball. We shared the ball fine, dishing out 26 assists, but when push came to shove Lamarcus and Brandon were the guys shooting the ball. They attempted a combined 44 of our 84 shots. Outlaw added 13 attempts because he was the hot hand late. Przybilla had 3, Blake 4, LaFrentz 1, Sergio 0. We need to find the right combination of the ball moving but still having our best players take most of the shots. We found that combination tonight. Granted it was a against a Memphis defense that wouldn't scare a reasonable-sized Beanie Baby, but that's still something. We also compensated for players who were hot and cold. Guys who missed (outside of our main two) didn't get more shots. Guys who were hot got fed. This is also a sign of maturity. Not that I expect it to stick, but it's good to see it's possible.
Most of all I loved how the team turned it up in the third and fourth quarters. Brandon Roy led the charge, waking up from his slump to punish the Grizzlies. One he sparked it set the team on fire. We decided not to lose this game and we did enough to give ourselves a chance. Yes, some of those shots were lucky but we put ourselves in a situation where getting lucky was possible. That's not bad for this team...certainly better than some of our recent efforts.
--What the dee-diddly-dang-dang happened to Travis? Somewhere around the end of the third quarter he ducked out, changed out of his mild-mannered Floppy Fish suit, and became SUPER TROUT. And boy did we need him. His greatest strength is that he can get a shot up anywhere, anytime over anybody when single-covered. We put ourselves in a position where that mattered tonight and Travis really came through. He hit a couple of last-second bail-out shots that defied belief. It's a good thing he hit that game-winner too because it looked for all the world like he was primarily responsible for letting Rudy Gay slip through for the offensive rebound off of that Navarro miss on the penultimate play of the game. It would have been easier to win it by boxing out Gay, but it was more ESPN-worthy to win it like he did.
--After another shaky start Brandon Roy CAME ALIVE! 26 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists looks pretty darn good to me. He's the one who got us back in this game, make no mistake. People were getting pretty uptight about his slump because we had not seen him do that before. He's going to have stretches like that, especially against good defensive teams. For all we know he may still be in the thick of his current slump. But it doesn't matter because you know he's going to come out of it and be the solid player he's always been. Don't fret about this guy. He is the man.
--Lamarcus had another fantastic outing in most ways. He shot efficiently and well and scored 23. He played some great defense on Pau Gasol right through the closing minutes of the game. He only got 5 boards, 2 defensive, which is a concern. He didn't get any free throw attempts. Part of that was the style of offense he was playing and part of it was that the two teams combined for only 26 free throws total. Still, he needs moves in his arsenal that will draw him fouls. That will be the difference between him scoring 19 and 25 a game.
--Steve Blake had 6 assists and 3 steals and played appropriately. I got frustrated with him a couple times as he refused to take shots when he should have, leading to bad offensive possessions for us. But I wouldn't be surprised if part of the game plan was to run through the two main guys so maybe he had that in mind.
--Joel Przybilla also contributed nicely, helping defensively against Gasol as well. He really frustrated me by picking up a couple of stupid fouls though. We need him available as an option and he takes himself right out of the game when he has mental lapses like that.
--For the first three quarters of this game Martell Webster was an El stinko burrito with a side of suckamole. Not only was he not hitting shots, he virtually disappeared off of the court in a manner we haven't seen since last season. His defense, rebounding, and energy all went to pot like his warranty had just expired. However when Brandon stepped up in the fourth Martell did also. Hopefully he'll be back to regular form next game.
--James Jones was a huge hero in this game. He shot 6-7 overall including 4-4 from the three-point line. His 16 points spread out the Grizzlies' defense and freed up room for others to drive and shoot. His release was quick too! I assume he won't shoot like this every night but even once in a while is fine.
--I still love it every time Jarrett Jack drives. Keep it up! He missed his jumpers tonight but that will happen with him.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
Buzzer beaters make the whole world happy!