During the preseason there was some talk that the Blazers would be "the 2008 Hornets" -- coming from the depths of the Western Conference to make a surprise run through the playoffs. It's still too early to make that case definitively but tonight we straight jacked the Hornets' slogan ("Passion, Purpose, Pride"), displaying all 3 P's as we ran them off the Rose Garden court 101 to 86.
We saw the passion in Batum's coast to coast steal for a layup (he does this at least once every game now, doesn't he?). We saw it with Rudy's gesticulations after his made buckets. We saw it on the glass all night -- big offensive boards from Aldridge and Oden, and tip-in layups from a host of players.
This was a purposeful win: the tone set from jump by Nate's distribution of minutes. Everyone got minutes -- 8 players played 20+, 10 players played 10+. Everyone swung the ball to the open man (25 assists on 37 field goals). Everyone attacked the rim -- even Rudy! Even Channing! -- as the team shot 25 free throws to New Orleans' 10.
And, as always this season in front of the home crowd, the Blazers played with pride, exemplified best by Brandon standing up to the fugazi David West with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter. "What's that about?" Brandon chirped at West after a harder-than-necessary foul. West shot back with, "What'd you say?" Brandon didn't flinch, standing chin to chin with the popcorn muscled West, repeating himself, "What's... That... About?" The scene was defused by a double technical and a timeout; shortly thereafter, Byron Scott waved the white flag and pulled his starters. His team had been unable to out-execute the Blazers throughout the second half. Now the Hornets had failed to intimidate the home team. It was over.
Brandon finished with 25 points, 10 dimes and 6 boards. Once again, against elite competition, he showed himself to be the best player on the floor. Under B Roy's guidance, it's looking more and more like those 3 P's will translate to the one P that matters -- playoffs.
Random Game Notes:
- A few interesting things happened pregame. First, KP sat down courtside for 15, maybe 20, minutes with Jerryd Bayless. Shall we speculate what the conversation was about? Could it be ... playing time? Despite the double digit win Bayless played 40 seconds tonight. Or, perhaps, KP might have been asking, "Hey did you see the six fanposts and 3 fanshots about Mike Conley on Blazers Edge? What do you think?" Perhaps not.
- Second, Martell was shooting step back 3 pointers off the dribble, moving around the 3 point arc from left corner to right corner. He went 7 for 9, all net during one stretch. His stroke looks beautiful. He tired himself out a bit -- he was sweating through his warm up shirt and his shots started coming up short after awhile.
- We keep getting questions about who is working with Oden during Coach Lucas's absence. Today, it was Coach Dean again, going through pick and rolls from various locations on the court.
- Speaking of Greg, he had 1 point, 8 boards and 3 dimes. Wacky line. He sat through crunch time -- hard to argue with that call from Coach Nate although I thought Greg rose to the challenge of Tyson Chandler pretty well. Again, I didn't see Greg postgame but he probably rushed out of there. He wasn't the only one. The locker room tends to clear out very quickly on a Friday night.
- Shout outs to Dougall5505 and mjcbmp for stopping by to say what's up. Both of them represent the knowledgeable high school fan set to the fullest. Like I told them, if you're a Blazers Edge reader in high school, your job is to go to the computer lab and change the default home page on every computer to www.Blazersedge.com. Consider yourselves the Nic Batum of this community. You gotta do your part.
- Rudy continues to get ridiculous cheers at the Rose Garden. When he drew that dumb foul at the end of the third quarter and appeared to be injured, the crowd just willed him back to health with "Rudy! Rudy!" chants. Awesome.
- Not many signs tonight. There was a whole lot of hubbub over the Ducks and the Beavers, I guess tonight was "Civil War Night." For some reason I was expecting thousands of young men dressed up in Grey and Blue fighing with fake cannonballs and muskets but instead we got a bunch of college cheerleaders. Yes, I am a dork. Yes, I was disappointed.
- One of the funniest timeout moments that I've seen -- they blindfolded a lady and spun her around, then let the crowd cheer her as she walks towards various cardboard signs, which each represent a free home appliance that she can win. This is a common gimmick. For the first time ever, the lady choked like Nick Anderson, failing to even make it past halfcourt, winding up near the Hornets bench. James Posey, gentleman that he is, tried to direct her the right way but the timeout ended before she could get past the free throw line. So I guess she didn't win an appliance. Epic fail.
- There was a whole flock of Aldridges in the tunnel postgame, presumably visiting the big man of the family over the Thanksgiving holiday. it must be fun for a young man to see his sisters (and cousins?) all decked out in matching #12 jerseys. He rewarded the fam with 17 and 7 tonight, thoroughly outplaying all star David West. That was excellent.
- Remember when the Hornets hosted that playoff game and then lit the court on fire with their pyrotechnics, delaying the game for like half an hour? Well, the back cover of their media guide has a shot of the stadium all lit up, with flames surrounding the hoop shooting about 20 feet into the air. So apparently they aren't too ashamed of that failure. If it was my choice, I would have just gone with another picture of Chris Paul. Anything to avoid bringing back memories of that ridiculousness.
Nate's Postgame Comments
Nate on the double digit win: "We beat a good team. New Orleans is a good team. They were coming off a back to back and they had a tough game in Denver but that's a real good team. That was a challenge for us tonight. In the first half we did some good things but we did better in the second half. The adjustments that we made. I thought our bench responded. We felt their bench outplayed our bench in the first half. In the second half I thought our bench got aggressive on both ends of the floor."
Nate on halftime adjustments: "I thought we got some stops. We went to a different defense on Chris. We dodged some bullets. They had a couple open looks that they didn't knock down. Our first game, and even the first half of this game, they don't take a lot of threes, but it seemed like the 3s that they do take are daggers. They missed a few of those shots. We were able to put the ball in the basket, get the crowd into the game, and our guys kind of fed off of that."
Nate on Brandon's motivation tonight: "We know that tonight's going to be a tough matchup. New Orleans is a very good team. They've had success this season against us. Posey had a big game last time we played and it could have been that. The fact that we get this game and he went up against some tough defenders and that he got hit at the end. I think that fired him up a little bit. It was a big win for us."
Nate on playing Paul: "What we try to do is wall him, commit 3 guys to the pick and roll defense. The second half we adjusted and ran "push up and get through" which is a 2 on 2 defense, it's basically the center and the guard working together so we can stay at home on the shooters."
Nate on what needs to happen on this road trip: "We know we got to keep improving, we've got to keep getting better. It's only us. We don't have our crowd, our crowd has been great. It's only us that's on the road and we've got to make our own noise out on the road. When we do have opportunities at the end we've got to put games away. Continuing to build, we know that we have to improve."
Nate on Brandon: "I thought it was solid. He allowed the game to come to him. He was able to score and create opportunities. Even though he had 25, I thought it wasn't something where he totally dominated. He kind of allowed the game to come to him. He was efficent tonight."
Nate on LaMarcus: "Part of the growth and maturing is learning how to respond or recover from maybe a night of bad shooting or a couple games where you don't have your rhythym. How to get your rhythym back. That's part of what he's learning to do. When I have a bad half or bad game, or two bad games, mentally getting myself back confident that you can do it the next night. Tonight he had his shot going. Now how do you keep that going."
Nate on keys to victory: "The 3 things we always talk about is, win the free throw line, control the boards and take care of the ball. Tonight I thought we did all 3. 25 free throws, 29 boards, 12 turnovers. I thought we did a nice job."
Nate on where the team is at right now: "I am happy with it. We had some tough losses. We've been able to for the month defend home court and play well here which I think is very important. I felt like that tough schedule we were going to be better. You don't necessarily know what your record would be but I felt like we would be better because we could see what we needed to do and what we needed to improve on. We have been able to improve and we have to continue to do that."
Nate on whether he's happy at 11-6: "I'm happy with the record. Maybe a game or two we possibly could have had. I'm happy with where we are at."
Nate on whether we've exceeded expectations: "I'm happy with where we are. Right now 11-6. We are playing pretty good basketball. There's room for improvement. We've got Martell coming back here sometime soon. We've got to keep getting better."
Nate on defending Chris Paul: "We wanted to keep pressure on him. I thought Blake tried to do that then Sergio came in and just stayed in front of him. We shadowed him and tried to make someone else handle the ball, to make someone else work to come get it. To make Chris work for everything that he got. He missed some shots in the second half. Keeping our shoulders square on him and keeping him in front of us I thought our guards did a good job."
Nate on Brandon's great play down the stretch: "He has confidence in himself. He plays with the ball a lot down the stretch. He's had more success than failure in the sense of down the stretch, making plays. He wants the ball. He wants to be the guy who makes the plays down the stretch, whether it's taking the shot or creating opportunities. He's running to the ball. The one game I really saw that was that Houston game. That play that he knocked down that shot, I saw his eyes, the look he had on his face, he wanted that ball. He was able to make the shot but he wants the ball down the stretch and he feels he can pretty much do what he wants."
Nate on whether accepting failure is a part of being a clutch player: "No question. If you're afraid to take the shot you'll never get to that point. He's been there. I think for the most part he's had more success late than failure. I think he's at that point now and we believe in him. We're going to go through him. We're going to allow him to make plays for us."
Nate on Batum: "He's done some good stuff. He's knocking down shots. Defensively, we felt like he's always been pretty solid. He's doing a good job, a really nice job. Martell will be back and we'll see where we are. We are going to play the guys, if it's working, we'll stick with it. All of our guys understand that."
Click Through to See Martell's Shoes!
-- Ben (firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- Ben (email@example.com)