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April 6, 2008-- Spurs 72 Blazers 65

Tonight we scored 65 points on 34% shooting, were outrebounded and out-assisted by a Spurs club that is older, wiser, and better.  At least Brandon is back.

The team is different with Brandon on the floor, not only because we have a star to turn to in times of crisis.  All the team's intangibles are different when he's on the floor: the mood, the funk, the vibe, the flow.  There's a swagger, a happiness, a pride, a sincerity.  Tonight, this didn't translate to a win or to a very pretty performance, but the Rose Garden crowd was treated to Brandon's electricity which has been so evidently missing over the last few weeks.

With that said, Brandon was clearly not 100%, starting quite slow but toughing it out on his way to a respectable 18 points.  In many ways this team cannot operate effectively without his presence; take a moment to think, for example, what tonight might have looked like had Brandon been sidelined.  

With Aldridge being flanked on all sides and everyone else on the roster struggling with subpar offensive nights, we could have been looking at some serious record-setting futility.

As Dave alluded to pregame, there is not much sense in losing sleep or banging one's head against the wall over this one.  In the words of every NBA player: "It is what it is."  Tonight was what it was.  At least Brandon is back.

Postgame Reaction (Download The Audio)

Nate on the result: "Down the stretch, you've got to execute and you've got to set screens and use each other.  I thought we had some good things going, then we turned the ball over... just a couple of forced shots, we went 1 on 1 against a team that is very good defending 1 on 1... you've got to run sets... know the time/score situation... when you go down about 3 trips and you don't get anything or you turn the ball over then we've got to make sure we get off a good look at the basket."

Nate on whether our offensive struggles were the result of poor execution or great San Antonio defense: "It was a little of both. It was definitely a part of our execution.  Recognizing the situation... you come down and your turn it over, you come down and have an isolation play where you miss a shot, the next time you come down we've got to get into a set, and that's coming down and recognizing that we need to get a good look."

Nate on Joel Przybilla's season-ending broken hand: "That's a sad situation. Joel has played well all year long. I know one of his goals was to play 82 games and to have a freak deal like that... the guy has played hard, he has been really good as far as improving in the middle for us, he became a big piece... just an unfortunate situation."

More Nate on Joel: "I talked to him at halftime.  I saw the play. He yelled at me to get out of the game and I didn't have a timeout to use. I told him to suck it up and you look at him at halftime and it's pretty swollen. You hate that for him because he has worked his behind off to try and stay healthy and try to keep his legs strong. He's played through a lot of stuff this year.  That will sideline him."

Nate on the return of Brandon: "His first couple of possessions you could tell he was off.  But then he started to get his rhythm and I thought he did a nice job attacking Bruce [Bowen]'s pressure. Just allowing the game to come to him.  Normally in games it can become personal with him and Bruce. I thought tonight he didn't even pay attention to Bruce's defense and the aggressive overplay. He was aggressive and he started to make some shots when he found his rhythm."  

Nate on calling up Josh McRoberts to use Joel's spot on the active roster: "We were looking at [calling up Josh] anyway.  I was thinking about bringing him up this week if Brandon couldn't go.  With Joel being out, we will definitely bring him up."

Nate on who plays center now: "I'll look at it. Frye could be a guy that could go there.  We may look to go small with Travis. Raef has played some pretty good minutes.  We'll see tomorrow but all those guys will play, we really don't have too many choices here."

Nate on Martell's health: "I'm sure we'll see him tomorrow. And get a feel for him after his tests tomorrow."

Nate on whether this season is turning into a nightmare: "No, it's not a nightmare.  We've done some good things. We've had some injuries and we've gone up against some really good teams.  It's just a brutal time of the season.  We are not playing our best basketball. It's been some tough times, we've had a ton of injuries.  That's unfortunate.  Serious injuries, with Joel, Brandon and LaMarucs.  We've been pretty lucky for most of the season."

Nate on the offense tonight: "We had some open looks in the first half and we didn't knock down our shots... One of the things we wanted to do was set better screens.  Even the screens we set in the first half was freeing up our guys.  We felt like if we set better screens we could get even better looks.  We shoot 34%, you've got to knock down your shots when you get them."

Random Game Notes

-- The Blazers announced on the scoreboard that by building a new basketball court for Madison High, they have now built a new basketball court for every PIL high school. The Blazers do not get nearly enough credit for this, I'm doing my part by putting it in bold-type.
--  The last play of the first quarter with Sergio at the top of the key was brutal.  We spread the floor for him and then tried to run a pick and roll, which Duncan jumped out on.  This pushed Sergio way out of shooting range.  He tried to bring it back in with time running down, only to have a contested shot not even draw iron.  Just one possession, but with Coach Nate's emphasis on execution he couldn't have been pleased with that.
-- A few signs: "I heart Brandon."  and "Thanks!" and "My Grandma thinks Brandon Roy is Hott!"and "Prince of Portland Brandon Roy."
-- The scoreboard showed another "ask the players" feature, with the question "Who is the biggest prankster?"  Martell got a number of votes but Jarrett mentioned himself, noting that he always messes up Greg Oden's locker and that Greg has no idea who does it.  Raef voted for Sergio but noted that "nobody can understand him."
-- Tim Duncan has some serious bow-leg action going on with his free throw shooting.
-- The Spurs had a very clear game plan for LaMarcus Aldridge... hang on him for 48 minutes.  Kurt Thomas, Tim Duncan and even Tony Parker got their licks in.  No wonder Coach Bayno liked to work with the oversized gloves so much.
-- Damon Stoudamire got some boos when he checked into the game.  For all of his faults, I don't consider Damon boo-able.  He is eminently cheer-able. You?
-- If you told me Jarrett Jack would never make another jump pass again, I would feel 100% better about his game and 100% different about his future with the organization.
-- Funniest moment of the night.  During the nightly Wells Fargo promotion where fans are encouraged to wave their credit cards on the big screen, the two European reporters sitting next to me looked totally miffed. "Why is everyone doing is?" I could see them thinking.  "Do they do this at every arena in the league?" one of them asked me.  "I don't think so" I replied, "It's a little embarrassing."  "Capitalism..." the other replied, shaking his head.  
-- Programming note: another interview is coming just as soon as I can type up the transcript.