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Game 19 Recap: Blazers 112, Heat 106


Mmmmm...winning GOOOOOOOOOD!  (And I think this is one we can really be proud of.)

Team Observations

There are a lot of things you could say about why we won this game, but one of the most significant to me happened early.  You all saw Shaq maul Joel, or at least saw the replay.  While I doubt Shaq went out there specifically to hurt Joel it wasn't accidental.  The back elbow swing was intentional.  The face smashing looked pretty convenient too.  At that point the Heat were sending a message like so many of our opponents have:  we're going to bring it right at you...HARD.  So many times before the Blazers have folded.  Tonight I saw Shaq get hacked the next three times he caught it in the lane.  It wasn't dirty.  It wasn't to hurt him.  He just got clobbered and sent to the line instead of getting to push people around and dunk.  Raef did it.  Lamarcus did it.  Even Steve Blake did it, bless his heart.  I'm not saying we pushed Shaq around like he did to us.  But we did stand up for ourselves.  The fact that he missed ¾ of his foul attempts didn't hurt.  In fact he never got on track after that.  Had the Blazers not come with some sort of response not only would Shaq have scored repeatedly in the lane, the refs would have allowed him to and Miami would have run roughshod over us down there.  If you don't fight for your spot in this league it's going to be taken from you and nobody is going to bail you out or help you get it back.  I loved seeing a little bit of that fight.  We got smacked in the chops tonight and finally we smacked back a little.

As far as other particulars, first we need a small caveat that Miami was every bit as slow, unmotivated, and uncoordinated as advertised, especially in the first half.  They never helped each other on defense, they had rebounding trouble until the second half run, and you never got the sense that they had, or even wanted, control of this game.  I say this not to diminish the win in any way, but to forestall the "What Happened?" questions in later games.  Part of what happened is that we don't play the Heat every night.

Nevertheless as I said in the Gameday Thread comments, teams have offered us their throats before this and we haven't taken advantage.  We deserve major credit for going out there and taking this game.  And hey, we even played the veteran team trick of letting off of the gas until the opponent pulled within 1 point and then accelerating again to put the game out of reach!  That wasn't intentional, I'm sure, but this is still one of the first times we have lost and then successfully regained momentum in a game and have gone on for a victory.

Three things stand out as particularly important from a team perspective:

  1.  Once again we let our two main guys take most of the shots, bolstered by a third player (in this case Outlaw).  I don't think it matters much if that third guy is Travis, Martell, or Jarrett.  Whoever has the hot hand will do.  But we need Brandon and Lamarcus to get plenty of shots up
  2.  We did not turn the ball over.  We only committed 10 total TO's and Miami scored only 4 points off of them.  We stand a lot better chance of winning when we take care of the ball and get shots up.
  3.  We stayed even (plus a bit) in free throw attempts and actually scored 8 more points at the line than did the Heat.  It is so important for this team not to pile extra deficits on top of the usual ones caused by inconsistent performance.  If we stay fairly even at the line and it's our shots against your shots we have a chance (again providing we don't hand you easy points via turnover or not getting back).
Of course scoring 56 in each half wasn't bad.  Those emotional dunks and blocks didn't hurt either.  There was some nice icing on the cake tonight.  Considering the thin gruel we've been forced to dine on lately that was a welcome sight.

Best of all for any long-time Blazer fan, we held Shaq to the worst game I can remember him playing against us.  8 points, 10 rebounds, 4 turnovers, and 5 fouls...sweet music to the ears.  

Individual Notes

--This game really belonged to Brandon Roy.  Every time we needed a shot or a play in the first three quarters he was there.  Forget his 7-15 shooting.  Check out the 11-13 from the free throw line!  He made Dwyane Wade look injured on defense out there.  He was as aggressive as we've seen him this year and he didn't let a few missed shots bother him.  This was a nice, nice game.

--Travis came to play in the fourth quarter for the second game in a row.  At first it looked like he might bork away his goodwill with a couple of late-game crazy shots but then he settled down and went to work.  If you weren't on your feet for that rim-rattling dunk you probably need a Blazer Fan defibrillator jolt.  The aggressiveness of our two main guys really opened up the floor for him and he took advantage.  It's great when he plays in such a way that we can concentrate on what he does well instead of what he doesn't do.  He did miss a couple defensive rotations tonight but he more than made up for it with his points.

--Lamarcus had a quiet evening until late and then he became the final wave that knocked over the Heat's sandcastle.  He came up with 10 rebounds, which ain't bad against Shaq and Mourning.  He also had that monster block to put the nail in the coffin late.  His offense was there in the fourth when we needed it.  I think this was one of his more professional efforts.  He didn't stand out, he just did his job.  For tonight that was perfect.

--James Jones had a heck of a first half again!  4-6 three-pointers?  14 points on 7 overall shots?  BooYay!  You gotta be kiddin' me!  Just as Brandon opened up space for Travis Jones opened up space for Brandon.  Even though he wasn't taking or hitting those shots in the second half just the threat of a repeat performance was enough to keep the defense more than honest.  I doubt Jones will stroke it long-term like he has the last couple of games but all he really has to do to make life easier on us is hit enough long balls to develop a reputation.  I hope he can do that.  And he played a little defense tonight too!

--Joel came back to have a nice little game after getting his bell rung.  He got a few rebounds and didn't let Shaq run wild, which is about what you want.  His overall game was a positive.  I'm going to point out something because it's been discussed so much lately.  You saw Nate leave Joel in after Miami went to a small lineup in the third quarter.  You also saw why that's not the answer.  Joel was not able to get out to help on the perimeter and then recover to watch the basket.  Granted it wasn't his fault that the Miami guys were getting past our perimeter defenders but he wasn't able to contribute when that happened.  Neither was he able to get back in transition.  When we were on offense their much quicker guys left him alone to stop our penetration.  Again, I'm not blaming the setback on Joel.  I'm saying that everybody who's asking, "Why doesn't Nate leave him in?" as if that were the answer should have seen tonight that it's not.  Joel went out when Miami's run was about half complete and they did continue the comeback even after he had gone to the pines.  But at least with him out and quicker rotations from the middle the Heat had to shoot over the top instead of dunking.  

--Maybe it was playing against his hometown team, but Steve Blake had one of the best nights I've seen him have in a while.  He was appropriately aggressive shooting the ball, taking every shot he should have and none he shouldn't.  He also drove and scored a time or two!  12 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 50% shooting, 4-4 free throws...we'll take that.

--Jarrett had a mixed night.  On the one hand he drove as usual, which was nice.  On the other hand he had trouble hitting his jumper except for one memorable three late in the game.  Nate tried him at point for a little bit with Brandon and that didn't seem to work at all.  I wonder if the sun is setting on that experiment for now.  (Strange, as just last year he was our starting point guard.  But then the demands of the position were much different last year.)  Four turnovers is way too many for 18 minutes.  But Nate didn't stick with him anyway.

--I liked Sergio's outing tonight.  He did some nifty driving and dishing and was a spark.  He scored a couple of buckets and dished 5 assists in 10 minutes.   He had very good energy.  Ignore his 2 turnovers as that's just going to be part of his game right now.  They weren't particularly bad anyway.  That's not why he got a slightly shorter stint in any case.  The big asterisk on his game was the defense.  All of our guards were getting toasted somewhat by Dwyane Wade but Sergio got fried by everyone he faced.  On a few plays he didn't look like he even made a good stab at defending.  Much like the Joel thing I say this not to denigrate his performance.  As I said I really liked what he brought tonight relative to where he is in his progress.  Grading him against himself it's two thumbs up.  But if you're going to argue that he's qualified for a bigger role based on this performance he's actually coming up way short on the other end.  That's why he's not getting those extra minutes.

--It's a minor thing but Raef gave us a quality 4 minutes when Joel was out.  He did more than would be expected:  hit 2 shots, grabbed 2 boards, and took 2 nasty fouls on Shaq which was EXACTLY what was called for at that time.  This is what a veteran can bring.

--Channing Frye also had good offensive production in limited minutes (6 points, 7 minutes to be exact).  But he really blew a good opportunity for more time.  At the time he came in Joel had not returned and all of our other big men had collected fouls against Shaq and were sitting to protect them from getting more.  The way Channing was going he probably could have finagled 6-7 more minutes in the half at least.  But he also picked up 2 quick fouls.  Except they weren't against Shaq.  They were of the semi-silly variety...not stopping any shot attempt, just out there in space.  Channing is young and I have to remember that, but at the same time when you're the only guy who isn't in foul trouble--the guy the team is depending on to hold the fort--you can't go out and get useless fouls.  I don't know what's up with Channing but he can't seem to avoid getting in his own way nowadays.

One-Sentence Game Summary

Take THAT Shaq!

--Dave (

P.S. I forgot Martell! He may wish I had continued to forget because I didn't like his game much at all. Briefly: it's not just that he was missing open shots, it's that his movement off the ball looked slow and aimless, much as it did last year. He didn't seem alert or that energetic. Oooop! I just looked at the boxscore to see if it confirmed or denied my impressions. No free throws, no rebounds, no assists, no steals. Yah...I didn't like Martell's game much at all.