Did James Jones draw the charge on Amare? Did Channing Frye really goaltend the ball? Woulda? Coulda? Shoulda? It was another frustrating night for the Blazers, filled with the kind of plays that make you stop the tape, analyze the replays, and wish they could be undone. Alas, we are stuck with the result: a 97 to 92 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
This one was all but over after the Blazers dug themselves a 23 point deficit in the first half. The team made a valiant effort throughout the second half, benefitting from a stat-stuffing night from Brandon Roy (25, 5, 4 and 2 steals). In the end, we simply lacked the inspiration and the luck to get it done tonight; aside from the tough call on Jones and the tough-but-correct call on Frye, Jarrett Jack made a number of costly turnovers down the stretch which more than offset some nice plays on the offensive end. For the Suns, it didn't take much more than an incredibly hot start (54% field goal shooting with 28 points in the paint at halftime), a solid 22 and 7 from Amare, and Shaq's 13 boards (11 defensive) that single-handedly kept the Blazers off the offensive glass.
The biggest story tonight, however, was the off-the-court presence of Commission Stern, who "hopped on a plane this morning" to show his support for the Blazers' recent success. In a certifiable junket, Stern held court for media members, answering questions on topics from the internationalization of the NBA to the active trade deadline. Perhaps most importantly, he addressed the impending move of the Seattle Supersonics. Here is some exclusive BlazersEdge.com video of his remarks:
To read the full transcript of his nearly 20 minute press session (a must read), check out Joe Freeman's Behind the Beat post. Joe, if you're reading this, my sincere gratitude for taking the time to type this up. I will be getting an extra hour of sleep tonight because of this remarkable effort. I salute your powerful movement.
Up Close and Personal
Caption: Many people listen as a powerful man hangs a fanbase out to dry.
Nate on the result: "We missed some easy, point blank range shots early in the game, in the first quarter, and they pretty much got what they wanted, they were knocking down threes, they were getting to the basket, they came down and scored pretty easily. We got tight, we started to tighten up and basically they got what they wanted and built a lead that was tough to dig ourselves out of. In the second half, we came out and played the way we are capable of playing, we got ourselves back in the game and had a chance to win it.
Nate on the controversial Amare/James Jones charge/block: "I didn't see it on the big screen. I thought James was in position. I thought he got there in time. I don't know if his heel was on the line, I think if his heel wasn't on the line they missed that call."
Nate on whether fatigue played a role in the 4th quarter: "I don't think so. I wouldn't say necessarily fatigue. Brandon looked a little fatigued with his minutes but other than that everyone else was playing average minutes. Those were shots that you can't hesitate, we had some looks where you are open and you have to shoot the ball... If anything I thought [the Suns] fatigued, with them playing seven guys, we wore them down and they started to fatigue and we started to get some open looks."
Nate on the Channing Frye offensive goaltending call: "The ball is coming out. That's a tough one. Of course, you leave it alone but he's right there. A huge play. Again I was away from it, it's one of those things where you are up there and you have a split second to make a decision, do you pull your hand back or [not]... it's over the rim just enough to give you some doubt."
Nate on the early hole: "We missed shots and I thought defensively we weren't physical enough. We allowed them to make their cuts freely, without contact, without grabbing, they got to the basket, penetration was there, we left 3 point shooters, bell and a couple of those guys are left open, and we are 2 for 15 from the three... they were the aggressors."
Nate on 4th quarter execution: "Down the stretch I thought we settled for some jump shots when that came was close... I think we got kind of caught up in the game and not understanding the situation. We had them on a roll and on two possessions Brandon shot a three and [Frye] shot a long ball. Those are possessions where you've got to slow it down and the game is within reach and make sure you get something good... You've got to execute."
Nate on Joel vs. Shaq: "I try to match Joel up with Shaq. Joel has played him pretty well, the two times he was in Miami. He really was the only matchup we had for Shaq. We didn't attack the glass like we really wanted to. I think the first half Shaq had 8 or 9 defensive boards, there was no one even close to going to the offensive glass. With this team, they only send one rebounder, and our 3, 4 and 5, we wanted those guys to be aggressive going to the boards."
James Jones on the result: "Tonight's game was winnable, but it just shows if we don't come out and take the initiative early, it's going to be tough."
James on the team's inconsistency: "We're still an enigma to ourselves. Sometimes we come out and we are great, other games we don't. we are just trying to find out why and pinpoint what we aren't doing."
James on the Suns: "They're a great team, you have to give them credit, they went up by 23 and then we went on a run... they remained poised and composed and they made the shots they needed to make."
Random Game Notes:
-- I sat next to Australian radio's Ed Wyatt tonight. He suggests the Blazers consider drafting Australian Nathan Jawai--who he described as a "6 foot 10, 300 pound aborigine who is 21 years old and can move." This, of course, peaked my interest. Here's some Youtube; decide for yourself.
-- The Blazers unanimously agree that Martell Webster is the best dancer on the team. Martell also agrees. Jack says Martell has some "Chris Brown and Omarion moves in him" which I suppose in some circles is considered a good thing.
-- Did you know? Jerry Colangelo was going to play basketball at Kansas until Wilt Chamberlain decided to leave for the NBA. Colangelo then transferred to Illinois, where he was All Big 10 basketball and also played baseball.
-- Did you know? Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver is the youngest person to found a national bank. He was 23 years old! He started working as a mortgage loan agent at the age of 16.
-- Amare Stoudemire and Dwight Howard are 1A and 1B (you pick the order) for biggest freaks in the NBA. Amare did some warmups by dribbling a ball with each hand at varying heights. He also was working on his pull-up 3s. Ricola-ridiculous.
-- Grant Hill earned himself a technical tonight at a very inopportune time, with just 3.9 seconds to go in the 3rd quarter. It was an uncharacteristically unintelligent play from the former Dukie.
-- Sorry for the abbreviated report tonight there was a lot of chaos surrounding David Stern's appearance. Can't forgive my brevity? Check for a feature with the Oregonian's Ryan White coming soon.