This was an interesting game. It was one of the best outings we've had on an Oden-foul-fest night. We actually played fairly poor defense. We had a hard time keeping in front of the Jazz without fouling. Deron Williams caused us no end of trouble. But that no end of trouble (and the 35 points which resulted from it) meant that he wasn't dishing the ball. Without Boozer in the lineup the Jazz have a harder time scoring without being set up. In a sense the Blazers played rope-a-dope (unintentionally, I'm sure). They just kept taking the best Williams could dish out and then coming back with a flurry that was even more effective.
Portland ended up shooting 55.8% to Utah's 54.4%. That's no guarantee of a win, of course...unless you also force turnovers and hit the offensive boards, which Portland did in abundance. The Jazz had trouble controlling possessions from the opening tip (3 consecutive steals by the Blazers to start the game) and the Blazers took full advantage. Controlling the ball allowed the Blazers to push the tempo at selected times and almost completely prevented the Jazz from doing so. When you shoot better than the opponent and generate those kind of extra possessions you're going to have to face some awfully strange circumstances in order to lose.
Adding to Portland's good night was the return of the three-point barrage, necessitated somewhat by Oden's frequent departures. 20 of the Blazers' 77 field goal attempts were threes and they hit 10 of those 20. As soon as those shots started falling the smackdown was on.
Another key was keeping Jazz forward Paul Millsap in foul trouble. Without him having a standout night Williams plus a side of Okur was never going to be enough.
I'm not sure the Blazers could win like that again, but it sure worked tonight.
Brandon Roy almost looked like he took Deron Williams' scoring as a personal challenge. He looked for his own shot more than we've seen lately. After hitting an array of feathery jumpers to start the game he started taking it to the hole repeatedly. The Jazz couldn't keep him out of the paint. You know that's bad news. 11-19 shooting, 6-8 free throws, 30 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds.
Lamarcus Aldridge had a tough night from the field, shooting 5-15 for 14 points. He had a couple nice moves to the hoop tonight. He also had 4 assists as the Jazz broke the defense trying to bother his shot.
Greg Oden had 5 points, 2 steals, and 1 rebound in 11 minutes. He couldn't stop Oku or Millsap without fouling. He also got left out to dry on the pick and roll again. It's partially him for not showing stronger and thus having to meet the dribbler way past the screen. It's partially the guards too. Either way, it's not a good situation.
Nicolas Batum feasted on three-pointers tonight as the Jazz completely abandoned the arc in favor of trying to shut down the middle. Batum was 4-5 from three, 5-8 overall, and scored 16 with 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. Credit Batum for helping to open up the middle for Roy's second-half drives.
Sergio was aggressive from the get-go tonight, which was good to see. He had a couple of measured shots off of penetration, forced 2 steals, and had some whiz-bang show-stopping assists. It was a pretty typical Good Sergio game. 9 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, 2 rebounds in 19 minutes.
Joel Przybilla was one of two main crowd-pleasers off of the bench. His 17 rebounds made sure the Jazz never got off the canvas after our smalls had put them there. The Mighty Przy also had 14 points off of 4-5 shooting and 6-9 from the free throw line. You know it's your night when Rudy Fernandez throws you an alley-oop but you can't quite get there so it ends up on your forearm but your dunking motion propels it far enough towards the rim that it rolls off and through the hoop...plus you get fouled. Everybody on the bench was smiling and laughing. Joel was just, "That's how I roll."
The second crowd-pleaser was Rudy Fernandez, who was an energetic and involved as we've seen him since the calendar turned. In honor of the blowout he pulled a bunch of tricky moves out of his bag. Three-pointers...check. Alley-oop reception...check. Alley-oop tossing...check. Needle-threaded pass down the lane through traffic...check. Behind the back crossover...WHAAA? Check! (Unfortunately the ref called a travel on that one, which refs often do with moves they've not seen before.) 13 points, 4 assists, more "Oooohs" drawn per minute than everybody else combined.
Travis Outlaw shot 4-8 and picked up a gob of personal fouls and back-down body blows trying to guard Mehmet Okur. 11 points in 24 minutes.
Jerryd Bayless couldn't convert his shot and joined a long line of people who were humbled by Deron Williams but he did have 4 assists in 24 minutes. Not his best game.
Channing Frye, Ike Diogu, and Shavlik Randolph all got in on the last three minutes of the game. They all scored too! Next time I want to see them slapping each other on the back of the head and doing blocked, two-fingered eye-pokes.
It was great that we handled that game. You can say the Jazz were short-handed but they were also short-handed when they beat us in Utah. This will give them something to think about.
Also when I had a chance to glance around in the fourth quarter I noticed something that struck me. Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge don't look like kids anymore. They're starting to look like men in their facial features and bodies as well as their play. In a way that's sad for me. I'm going to miss that fresh-faced, sky's-the-limit optimism of their early years. However it's good for the Blazers' chances of actually winning something. I shudder to think what impression they're going to leave in another two years.
Check out SLCDunk for the Utah take.
You can see the Jersey Contest results from this game and this month plus enter for the next game here.
P.S. Ben's report will be along in the morning.
P.P.S. OK...I don't know how to get to the January scoreboard either. We'll get that fixed. You'll just have to wait for the monthly total.