Ah yes...outside of the playoffs there's nothing nicer. Enjoy it, folks! There are a ton of things to be happy about tonight.
One of the things to be happy about is that we won this game handily and didn't play our best overall game. Offensively this was one of the best efforts of the year but defensively we had horrible problems in the first half. We let the L*kers drive with impunity and when we managed to stop their layups they found one quick pass to a cutter for a dunk or to a shooter for a three. What's more we spent the entire game rebounding with all of the tenacity of Spongebob at a union meeting. They ended up with 13 offensive rebounds and an 8-rebound advantage overall. Finally, though we made relatively few turnovers, some of the ones we did commit were brutal. Whose heart did not stop when Jarrett coughed the ball up at the end of the third for a Kobe three? In the final analysis, though, it all became sauce making the savory victory even sweeter.
The heart and soul of this game was our fantastic, multi-faceted, multi-pronged offensive attack. We shot 53% for the game. We had 3 players over 20 and 5 in solid double figures. We had a decent mix of inside and outside scoring, passing and individual moves. We overwhelmed their defense. They had to choose who to stop. They didn't have enough good defenders to manage everybody. This is exactly the game plan for beating the L*kers. You come at them like a river busting a dam. Make one hole and the rest will follow. At that point it doesn't matter if they have a couple columns still standing...the water is through. And even if Kobe scores lights out that only gives them a coin-flip chance of beating you, if that.
We said the defense was poor in the first half but we really smartened up after the break. We put more commitment into our zone and into stopping penetration. All of a sudden L.A. was shooting most everything over the top...way more than they should have been. They're dangerous shooting jumpers but this team doesn't really kill you unless Kobe is at the cup. Pau scoring deep really helps too. Neither happened enough tonight and we had something to do with that.
The energy tonight was pretty good too. I don't recall us walking it up the court much. We matched the L*kers in number of possessions even with all of those offensive rebounds they got. We moved the ball around. We had a reasonable amount of foot movement too when anybody but Travis touched the ball. We played with emotion but not overly emotional. We fought back when they took that early lead. We kept our heads on straight and didn't collapse when they threatened us. Other than those few turnovers and some weak rebounds we looked like a far more experienced team than we are.
One of the things I liked best about the game was what happened afterwards. We celebrated by smiling and patting each other on the heads and backs a little, then we just walked off the court. There wasn't a lot of jumping around like we had won something lasting. It was a great game emotionally, but it was a game. Not a playoff game...not our goal...not a moral victory...a game won against a legit Western contender. High five, head pat, when's Golden State coming in?
As there always will be against L.A. there was some ref talk. I counted 2-3 highly suspect calls going either way...a couple of mysterious fouls on Joel drawn by Kobe, that weird jump ball call late in the fourth, a call that gave us possession when Joel came over a rebounder's back and the ball went out of bounds, and that charge drawn by Blake on Kobe in the open court which almost always goes the other way. The refs didn't have a perfect outing, but I don't think they decided it. L.A. got 8 more attempts overall and they ceded us at least 4 going down the stretch in an attempt to catch up so I don't imagine there should be much complaining on that side.
One of the best things about this game was that, in addition to seeing some really nice team play, we got to see some spectacular individual moves as well. The Kobe under-the-bucket move on Joel was fantastic. But then let's concentrate on our guys...
--Hey, Brandon is back! His ankle was still hurting so we'll forgive him for only scoring 20 with 12 assists and 5 rebounds. We expect more from you in the future, young man! Where is the cancer cure? What about world hunger and poverty? And don't forget the clean-burning, non-oil-dependent hover-cars! Seriously, how much do you think Mr. Roy frees up the otherwise-stagnant offense? You leave him single-covered with, I don't know...Luke Walton and he snaps his ankles on the drive. So you put a quicker defender on him and he uses that quickness against him by driving two steps and then pulling up for the jumper. So you double him and then he passes to an open shooter. Whatcha gonna do, brother?
--Lamarcus had one of his best all-around games tonight. He led the team with 22 points on 10-18 shooting from the rim out to 20 feet. He had 5 offensive rebounds, which is a fantastic number. He also kept active on defense, including 3 steals. I was most impressed by what he did to Pau Gasol though. When Lamarcus defended him Pau had a hard time getting around him. When Pau defended Lamarcus LMA made him look like a scarecrow on a stick. This is part of the reason people are pretty high on Portland's future. Gasol is obviously a better player now, for rebounding and consistency's sake if nothing else. But Lamarcus is only in his second year--116 games into his career. He has no money moves yet. He's still learning how to defend and use his body. He has not bulked up to near the size he'll be three years down the road. And yet he's averaging only 2 points and 1 rebound less than Gasol right now and making him look silly in their individual matchup. Again, I'm not saying he is better than Gasol or that the L*kers would be happier with Aldridge or anything like that. I am saying that Gasol was considered one of the big pick-ups of the season and an acquisition that has a chance to push the L*kers over the top. This kid, in his infancy, looks like he's going to be at least that good, more athletic, and a better defender to boot. Things like this are why the Blazers are considered scary.
--We need to be throwing a TON of love Jarrett Jack's way tonight. WOW. I know he had that sprawling give-up I mentioned earlier, but he only committed 2 turnovers overall. He had 10 assists (on a night Roy had 12). He brutalized the L*kers with his drives and jumpers, shooting 7-10 overall and 7-8 from the free throw line for 21 points. The boy had 5 rebounds too. Most importantly of all when Brandon went down with the ankle twist in the third Jarrett stepped in, calmed the team, and kept us scoring until Roy could come back in the fourth. This was bravo, A+ material from him. You're not going to see much better from Jarrett than he showed tonight.
--Travis Outlaw was ON tonight! He was hitting some of the most improbable jumpers. Last year you would have gone, "What the heck are you DOING?" But we've seen it so much from him it was more like, "Hey...Travis is hitting again." He did it throughout the whole game too, not just in the fourth. When the L*kers decided they were just going to go straight man and Roy wasn't up to scoring it we just gave it to Travis and let him work against single coverage. So much for that defensive scheme. He ended up 9-15 for 18 points. My complaints are the usual ones...not enough free throw attempts and not near enough rebounding. We're having a really hard time when he plays power forward. His head-turning also pretty much led to those blown inbound defensive plays I mentioned in paragraph one. Ah well. He more than made up for it. Had he been missing between his missed shots and the increased attention others would have felt we may not have topped 100.
--Steve Blake hit exactly 5 shots tonight. And every one of them was a three. In fact 9 out of his 10 attempts were from that distance. He was a fantastic outlet and, like Travis, a reason guys like Roy and Jack didn't have to face suffocating mobs all night. Forget his assist numbers as this was the night for the score/pass threats to lead the charge. Blake did exactly what he was supposed to do. Oh...and he played Kobe pretty hard when he got the chance. He couldn't come close to stopping him, of course, but he did move his feet and stay in front of him. Don't sleep on how Steve helped us tonight.
--Joel Przybilla had 12 rebounds in 26 minutes and we needed every one of them. He also roamed around on defense putting out fires. He surely would have gotten more minutes had he not come into contact with #24. He hit half his shots tonight too, those being off the rebound or while he was cutting.
--Martell Webster's biggest contribution tonight was a very nice 3-pointer to break a 71-71 tie and continue a scoring flurry in the third. He ended up with 9 points on 7 shots.
--James Jones played for the first time in weeks and scored 8, including two 3-pointers, one in the fourth quarter from the banks of the Willamette that just stunned everybody. He might as well have left a business card saying, "James Jones--Three-Point Bomber, and I AM BACK!" I'm thinking his return is part of what put a little extra bounce in everyone's step.
--Channing Frye and Baron Von Wafer played 8 minutes between them and amassed 2 misses and 1 personal foul. And all of those were Channing.
One-Sentence Game Summary:
All wins are tasty, but a win against the L*kers is like See's Candy: super-sweet and you can never get enough.
P.S. Here's the perfect cap to the night: At the time this is posted our Gameday Thread stands at 1421 comments. This breaks the following Blazersedge Gameday Thread records:
--Most comments overall
--Most comments during a regulation game
--Most comments during a home game
--Most comments during a win
Major props to everyone including LakerFanJeff, who was kind enough to join us for the night. We even kept things civil! It was a pleasure, and may our two teams have many more occasions to lock horns in increasingly important games (hopefully with similar results)!