This is hands-down the hardest game recap I've had to do all year. There was just so much to this game that there's no way I'm going to get it all down. If you didn't see it I fear my descriptions will be a poor substitute, but I will try.
Lakers 116, Blazers 111
--This game can't really be encapsulated by technical or statistical descriptions. We did a fantastic job rebounding in the first half. Letting them get too many offensive rebounds as the game wore down was part of our downfall. Our rebounding lead shriveled from enormous to just one by the end of the game. We did a great job sharing the ball tonight. This was one of our smoother offensive nights in recent memory. It looked like professional basketball out there. (Not semi-crappy professional basketball either.) Despite the outpouring of points our defense was also pretty alert. We did a good job shutting down most of what they wanted to do and making the rest difficult. What are you going to do when Kobe gets on a roll like that? He's done it before...you know how it goes. Some of his shots were so improbable as to defy believability. But let's remember that he DIDN'T do that to us for the first two games of the season--both Laker losses. Let's not get into this "Kobe has our number" and "This always happens" junk. The Lakers won 33.3% of their games this year against us and they needed that superhuman effort from him to win this one. If they want to play another game tomorrow in which both sides take the exact same shots that were hoisted tonight I guarantee you we'll take that offer. We'd win 9 out of 10 times. This was not a loss to feel that bad about. I just wish for the guys' sake that we had been able to pull it out because we did so many things right and that should be rewarded.
--My favorite moment of the game was actually not in the game at all. Late in the fourth Brandon Roy had just hit a layup to push us into the lead and there was a timeout. On the way back to the huddles Lamar Odom bumped Jarrett Jack with his shoulder. Jarrett had a couple words for Lamar and then Odom started walking right at him. All of a sudden here comes Lamarcus Aldridge out of the huddle and sticks his nose right in Odom's face and the two are jawing. The refs got in between that and Kobe came in and then he and Jarrett went nose to nose and started having words. Eventually everybody got separated and back to their own benches but Jarrett was HOT. He was yelling and pointing at the other guys in the huddle and the look in his eyes...WHOOO! A charging rhino would have stopped and thought twice if he had seen that glare. It may seem odd to celebrate a near-fracas and I'm not suggesting that the Blazers should turn into Ruben Patterson-esque silly punks. But man...this is the first time in YEARS that we've seen that kind of fire, that kind of fight, that kind of sticking up for each other and the team. At that point they weren't out there to run the plays right or to make their shots or to earn more playing time. At that point they were out there to WIN. No...not just to win but to dominate. And if they had to take off a few heads or stand toe to toe with one of the best players and one of the most celebrated teams in the league they were going to do it. From that point on they did, too. They matched them shot for shot, rebound for rebound, energy play for energy play. That kind of attitude has been a heck of a long time coming around here, and it really feels like the Blazers turned a corner tonight...or at least opened a door, even if they're not able to step through it yet. This was one of those signs of growth that we were talking about needing to see in our last 17-18 games. It was great!
--Since I've started doing this I've never wished so hard that the players were reading this blog as I wish it tonight. Maybe if some of the organization people who might read this stuff are here or even some of the media folks that have contact with the team get hold of this they might pass it on. Because I just wanted to say to the team that I'm proud to be a Blazer fan tonight....very proud. If I lived in the area and knew when you were flying in I'd gather a couple friends and do the Hillsboro Airport thing for you tonight. That was a wonderful game to watch. What you did out there seemed magnificent. You had heart, you had fire, you had passion, but those things weren't just unfocused and unbridled...you translated them into great execution and team play that hurt the other team instead of yourselves. Don't worry about the loss. You forced the opponent into taking difficult shots and that will win you that game 99 times out of 100. Those wins will come in time. You showed us a glimpse of that tonight. We saw it, and we know it, and we love it. I'm feeling something tonight that I haven't been able to feel in years. And it feels good! I hope every one of you is as proud as all of us are. Thank you.
It almost doesn't seem fair to do these with such a team effort, but we'll mention a few things.
--This was easily the most seamless 31 points that Zach has scored all year. His games have almost always been of two varieties: either he dominates the ball and scores big or he passes and shares the ball and scores less. This was a game where he kept the ball moving in the flow of the offense AND scored huge. You didn't even notice he was scoring 31 until the game was over and you looked at the boxscore. That's fantastic and it's everything you could hope for. He also got 7 rebounds and 6 assists, making this one of his more well-rounded games of the season. High marks.
--Lamarcus didn't just show spark when he got in Odom's face...he was all over the floor as well. He shot 8-11 and had 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks. They were MAJOR blocks too. The shooting percentage probably impresses me most though. He didn't take a single shot you didn't think he could hit tonight. Like Zach he was in the flow of the offense.
--You could point a finger at Ime when looking at Kobe's 65 but you'd pretty much be a fool to do so. Udoka checked the Flying Foul Magnet single-handedly all night. He's 6'5" tall on creaky knees. What do you think was going to happen? Most of Kobe's shots were jumpers and tough ones at that. It wasn't like Bryant was leaking through for dunks. You can't ask much more. Also Ime shot 7-12 himself, including 5-7 from the 3-point line, and ended up with 19 points, which is above and beyond the call of duty for him.
--It was not a great night for ANY of our guards. Brandon came the closest to average, scoring 14 with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. But he missed 15 of his 21 shots doing it. Jarrett had a couple of passionate moments but had more turnovers (6) than assists (5) and only scored 5 points. Our three bench guards combined for 0-6 shooting, 0 points, and 2 assists. (To be fair the latter three only got 18 minutes combined.) On the other hand the Laker guards outside of Kobe had forgettable nights also so it was almost a wash.
--Jamaal Magloire deserves some special mention for bringing energy to the game. He missed a couple of layups he really should have hit but for the most part he played well. He got 6 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocks in 23 minutes and shut down Andrew Bynum when the kid was starting to rip us a new one.
--Martell hit 3 out of 4 triples tonight including a big one to almost pull us back in overtime.
--Travis Outlaw became a scoring machine late in the game. My only quibble with him is that he missed 4 or 5 absolutely WIDE OPEN shots before he got in his groove. We set him up perfectly and he just doinked them. Nonetheless we wouldn't have hung in there without his contributions and this proves yet again that Nate is smarter than I am as I was calling for him to get yanked after the initial brickfest.
--The only miscellaneous observation that CAN be made tonight is 1...2...3...7. That's how many comments are in the Gameday Thread as I type this. And yes, we broke 1000 when it was still in regulation. I guess I should have planned better since as this happened on a Friday it's doubtful that many of the other Big Bloggers out there will notice or report on it. (They tend to take the weekend off...that's the difference between a blogger who gets paid and one who doesn't...LOL.) Nevertheless we should all be very, very proud. I don't think you'll see that in a blog for a long time. Even the hugest blogs in the universe--non-sports blogs like TMZ that get a hundred thousand hits a day--don't do that...let alone a little old basketball blog about a little old team from Portland. If the Blazers had won tonight and we were all happy out of our minds I would shout to the highest heavens and party all night, but as it is a simple "thanks" seems appropriate. Nice going!