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April 3, 2008 -- Rockets 95 Blazers 86

This blog (most blogs) wouldn't exist without overanalysis.  Dissecting, debating, lampooning, critiquing: this is what we do here.  Tonight's game against the Rockets was not a game for overanalysis.  Tonight's game was a game for clichés.  

In fact, it was a game for one of the most popular clichés.  Rick Adelman said it.  Nate McMillan said it.  One of the locker room security guards said it.  Like the superstar that he is, Tracy McGrady took the game over in the second half.  And that was the ballgame.  

For long stretches tonight, a good, solid effort was there for the Blazers, particularly in the form of Joel Przybilla (a man possessed, who seems to be making an early hard-sell on why he should keep his starting spot next year) and LaMarcus Aldridge (who had his typically cool 23 points on 10 of 20 shooting).

However, the game hinged on McGrady's thorough exposure of our ineffective wing defense.  McGrady scored at will tonight.  "Scoring at will" is such a ready part of his identity as a person that it's listed on his curriculum vitae under "Skills and Achievements" (right there alongside "losing in the first round of the playoffs").   Outlaw couldn't stay with him.  On the few possessions that Jack or Jones were mismatched on McGrady, the story was the same: Tracy muscled to the hoop and either finished strong or kicked it out to find an open shooter.

It should be noted that it wasn't a total loss on the defensive end.  In the first half, I liked how we ran Przybilla at McGrady to keep the ball out of his hands and to force a difficult cross-court pass.  Sure, shooters were left open, particularly after an extra pass, but it sure beat letting McGrady gallop to the basket.  Unfortunately, there was plenty of galloping throughout the last 2 quarters.

The only other silver lining to take from tonight's game was that the ever-hateable Luis Scola laid a fat egg (0 points, 3 boards, 5 fouls).  I realize that it's unhealthy to take pleasure in the pain of others, especially when that pleasure is only a temporary distraction from a greater defeat (in this case loss #4 of a potential 8 game losing streak), but it's all I'm left with after this one.  At least it's over and we can look ahead to the ... oh... great... Spurs, Lakers, Kings and Mavericks in the next 9 days.  

If you haven't taken your spring break trip yet, now might be a good time.

Postgame Reaction  

Due to the late start for TNT, I've only transcribed a few choice cuts.  For the full audio, DOWNLOAD THE MP3.

Nate McMillan on the most disappointing part of the night: "We had a stretch of about 2-3 minutes where you lose... you're turning the ball over... it just snowballed... I think we had 3 or 4 turnovers in a row, you lose your momentum."

Nate on guarding McGrady: "Those guys like Kobe and Tracy they do what they did in the game tonight and last night.  They are very capable of taking a game over and putting the game out of reach.  I thought [Travis] made him work."

More Nate on McGrady: "You saw 2 good players take the game over... the good ones are capable of taking games over.  When they are hot, it's difficult to stop them... it's no different than what Brandon Roy has done for us.  Tracy tonight when we made runs he made big shots or he created opportunities."

Nate on whether this losing streak sours the rest of the season: "I think losing games in a row regardless of the schedule of who you are playing with... losing always gives you a bad taste... it does put a damper on what [we've accomplished]... you try to refocus and come out and get the next one."

Random Game Notes

-- Here are some of the names that were floating around the Garden tonight as possible replacements for Bill Bayno: Terry Porter, Chris Dudley and, perhaps the most popular choice, Dwane Casey.  I was very pleased to note that Blazers Edge readers brought his name up within minutes of the Bayno announcement, accurately reaching the same conclusion as the professionals at the Garden.  After a game like this, it's nice to enjoy a collective pat on the back.
-- Nate was not asked about Bayno during the postgame session.
-- Martell had flu-like symptoms and was not in the arena tonight.
-- This just in: Doug Collins carries a purse!  I want to say it's a Louis Vuitton too. It was slung over his arm and definitely not large enough to be a laptop bag (well, maybe big enough for a MacBook Air, but that's about it).  I'm not sure if it even qualifies for the Seinfeldian Man Bag.  Until proven otherwise, I'm sticking with purse.  Maybe this is the reason MJ ran him out of Chicago?
-- Noticeable pregame cheers for Rick Adelman tonight.  After the game, he seemed completely unsurprised by his team's quality play and was eerily calm. Great coach.
-- I was reminded tonight that Adelman was the Blazers' first captain and starred in the backcourt alongside Geoff Petrie.
-- Tonight was earth-friendly night with Channing Frye offering "green" tips during the extended TNT TV timeouts.  His tips included: shower rather than bathe to save water and turn off the lights when you leave a room.
-- Another scoreboard gimmick was a t-shirt cannon shooting contest between Blaze, Hippie Fan and Super Fan.  Hippie Fan won by landing a t-shirt the closest to center court.
-- Bobby Jackson might be the all-time best pump faker the game of basketball has known.
-- Rascal Flatts was in attendance.  Not exactly my domain of knowledge but many people were excited.
-- Speaking of which, one group that hasn't shut it down for the season is the Rose Garden crowd.  In sharp contrast to Saturday night, the building was loud and proud for much of the game.  It was nice to see that playoff atmosphere again.
-- I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to (and picking the brain of) former Oregonian Sports Editor Wayne Thompson, who currently contributes to Rip City Magazine.  An absolute wealth of knowledge.  Having seen it all in watching the team since its inception, he is not easily excited.  However, it should be noted that he is all aboard the Rudy Express, pointing out that Pritchard believes Rudy's value to be that of a top 5 pick in this year's draft and also that Pritchard believes the Spanish league to be superior in quality of play to the NCAA.  Mr. Thompson carefully reminded me that despite the losing streak, this coming draft we are, in effect, adding a #1 pick, a top 5 pick and the #13 pick (unless we trade it). The message was clear: the future is bright.  It's nice to hear that reinforced by someone with 30+ years of following the team.
-- The only other thing that got Mr. Thompson as excited as the possibility of 3 new lottery picks next year was Blaze rappelling from the Rose Garden ceiling down to the floor during a timeout.  It was impressive, my mouth was agape as well.
-- Yet another timeout feature: "Who is the worst dressed Blazer?"  Plenty of votes for Greg (surprisingly?).  Martell voted for Darius: "His suits, they cool sometimes but he's hit or miss."  Jack voted for Maurice Lucas: "He's wearing the same suit since they won the championship." Jack also suggested the people of Portland participate in a "Suit Drive" to get Coach Lucas some new gear.
-- When Przybilla rejected a shot attempt from Dikembe, roughly 1,000 fans simultaneously wagged their fingers at Mutombo.  What a sight to behold.
-- Best sign of the night: "Outlaw Blast Past the Rockets."  Great intentions, but not tonight.

--Ben (benjamin.golliver@gmail.com)