Folks, as I said in the live game chat this was a game that was not good for a good team, but pretty darn good for the Blazers. I always feel a twinge of disappointment when we lose and I'm sure Nate and the staff will have plenty to say about this game, but from a semi-detached perspective you have to say we did OK.
Nuggets 114, Blazers 107
--If you want to know why we lost, there are a couple basic reasons. First we made some poor offensive choices. There were a lot of covered jumpers dead against the clock. The stats say we got 25 assists but I don't see how the heck that happened because it seemed in the critical times everything was one-on-one isolation unless it was in Roy's hands. Plus the spacing was poor on many offensive sets. There were guys too close to one another or too far away or just not ready for the shot when it came to them.
--Second reason: we got killed in transition. Late in regulation they flashed a stat that Denver was ahead of us in fast break points 31-0. 31-0 I defy anybody to win a game like that. The Nuggets were running after every long miss or turnover and we had plenty of both. We did not get back in numbers and there you go.
--Third reason: In the second half our interior defense got pasted like a kindergarten popsicle stick. One pick or one cut, then one pass...BAM. Dunk, layup, or foul for Denver. It must have happened more than a half dozen times. No recognition, no rotation, no good.
--This is the learning point to take from this game. We played them darn tough. That's mainly how we stayed in it. The game went into overtime. That means if we had corrected even one of those glaring mistakes--even one time getting back, even one time recognizing the cut or rotating to stop it--and we win this game. Between the lane-searing cuts and the fast breaks we must have flat given up on 16 plays during the course of this game. If we had given up on 15 Brandon Roy's miracle shot would have won it for us instead of tying it.
--There were some other things that were good about this game. First, we evidenced some of that missing backbone that I mentioned in the pre-game report. We made Denver take this game from us, we didn't roll over and give it to them. Second, did you know we outrebounded them? And this was on a night when Zach's rebounds were comparatively modest. That was a team-wide effort and I applaud it heartily. You don't always have to be the most talented team to win in the NBA. You can win an awful lot of regular season games by just working hard on those little things.
--Boy...Brandon Roy went to the market, bought some cake mix, came home, mixed it, baked it, ate it, and cleaned up afterwards tonight. About the only thing he didn't do was get on the rebound train with everybody else. He shot 5-11, made 50% of his three pointers, made 10-11 foul shots (!), got 11 assists (!!), and ended up with 22 points while playing reasonably good defense on the Denver shooters. Plus he hit a miracle, leaning three with three seconds left in regulation to send it into overtime. And he hit other critical shots leading up to that too. Stellar game.
--Zach...hmmmm...this wasn't a bad game from him. He hit some nice shots. It just wasn't a consistent game from him. He had the 25 points and 9 boards we've come to expect from him and you can't discount that. Without him and the attention he drew we're not in this game. On the other hand he had a severe case of fumble-itis. His four official turnovers aren't indicative of the number of times he dropped the ball and thus put us in precarious positions offensively. Plus most of his shots came off one-on-one moves. He wasn't passing as well or often as usual, nor was he getting really good position most of the night. In fact it looked like he started getting really tired near the end of the game. He took a lot of critical shots tonight and missed most of them. Actually "missed" is an understatement. He got swatted more times than a red-headed stepchild stealing grandma's huckleberry pie. His release point was so low on his shot he was begging for it, and Camby and Nene were more than happy to oblige. They had 7 blocks between them and if more than two of them were on anybody besides Zach I'd be very surprised. As a couple people pointed out in the chat Lamarcus Aldridge didn't help because he stood pretty close on Zach's iso sets, allowing Camby to cheat over, but really I think Camby would have stayed there anyway. Zach was just going to shoot tonight and everyone could see it. Denver made a pact to make somebody else beat them and Zach stepped right into it.
--Jarrett Jack had 9 assists himself and 12 points, but he only shot 5-14 and didn't seem to spark out there.
--Ime had a couple of amazing sequences in which he kept us in the game by rebounding or defense or both. He also missed a couple of critical shots (which were in bad enough spots he probably shouldn't be taking them). He did get 8 rebounds.
--Lamarcus got some serious time tonight...36 minutes. He only attempted 5 shots but he also got 4 free throws and finished with 7 points, which is not enough for that number of minutes but the shots were going elsewhere. He got 5 rebounds (eh...) and 3 blocks (woot!). He wasn't necessarily helping the interior defense but he wasn't the one killing it either.
--That honor goes to Jamaal. 19 minutes, 6 photos as the "stunned face" guy in the highlight posters. Start your yelling now.
--Joel got 10 minutes. Maybe he could have helped with the interior defense. But then again he got 4 fouls in those 10 minutes and I think Nate is sending him a message. I bet he tells Zach and Martell and Brandon and Jarrett, "You need to do this and this to stay in the game." For Joel I bet the key words are, "Stop drawing so many fouls." Joel just can't do it. So he's not going to play him. I'm not sure saying that is entirely fair to Joel, as some of his fouls are caused by his teammates or his reputation, but it is what it is. We just better learn to deal with it.
--Juan Dixon started out slow but really redeemed himself by becoming the Human Jump Shot. He hit 5-6 three pointers en route to 21 points in 28 minutes. He also got 2 steals, 2 assists, and 4 rebounds. (Note to Lamarcus: If a 6'3" backup shooting guard can get 4 rebounds in 28 minutes, you can get more than 5 in 36.) He was one of the stars of the game.
--Martell...ugh. The less said, the better. He got 2 steals, how's that?
--Carmelo busted out with 33 again but tonight 10 of those were from the line. Most were hard-fought. We made him shoot 26 shots to get those 33 points and he didn't look like an all-star out there. Steve Blake, on the other hand, did. He had 14 assists and scored 19 points on just 7 shots. (His 7-11 clip at the foul line accounted for some of that.) He destroyed us in overtime, which makes this the second game this year he has ripped from us. Nene also had a FANTASTIC game, not only offensively (20 points) but in stopping the Blazer big guys, Zach in particular. J.R. Smith also acquitted himself quite well.