So sad for everyone who turned the game off in the third quarter...
This is definitely a comeback the Blazers will remember. It's one the Hornets would prefer to forget but I have a hunch that after losing three in a row and this last in crushing fashion, they're not going to be able to shake it easily.
Let's get this out of the way right now (and this is part of why tons of people come to read these recaps, because we're honest): the Blazers don't win this game if Chris Paul doesn't get injured. He just owned us with a capital "OW" all night. From a Blazer fan's perspective what Paul did to Sergio Rodriguez at the beginning of the game should have been rated MA for "masochistic audiences only". And then the dirty two-timer turned around and did the same thing to Jerryd Bayless when he came in. No wonder he had a groin strain by the second half. Don't be fooled by the lack of scoring on Paul's part. He knew he had scored a bundle in the last two games and the Hornets had still lost. He knew he needed his teammates and he wanted to get them involved. Besides that Portland's collapsing help defense forced him into the pass. But those passes got there and his teammates hit left and right which was just what the Hornets wanted. The only thing that gave him pause even slightly was Portland's bigger, no-PG lineup but then the Blazers' offense didn't look crisp and their transition defense faltered.
Then the basketball gods decided enough was enough and reached down and tweaked his groin.
Everything that happened from that point on was all Blazers. And you have to give Portland credit.
For much of the game the Blazers had been beaten on the boards. The offensive rebounds New Orleans got in the first quarter were obscene and disgusting. The Hornets are not a good offensive rebounding team but they looked like giants playing against middle-schoolers the way they worked the glass. Portland looked lethargic and ended up a step behind. All of a sudden, though, the Blazers started gang rebounding. Lamarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw...they all got into the act, helping out Joel Przybilla in limiting New Orleans to one shot. Meanwhile the Blazers collected multiple attempts on their end.
For most of the game Portland coughed up turnovers and failed to force any from New Orleans. Now all of a sudden the Blazers were poking balls away and streaking down the court while taking care of the ball themselves.
For much of the game the Blazers were stagnant in their offensive sets, walking the ball up and dumping it to somebody to try and score. The vast majority of those shots were jumpers. Portland took no advantage of its size and put no pressure on the Hornets' lane. Suddenly we saw fast breaks and passing in the halfcourt. Point guards who had been abused were doing the abusing. Centers once woefully out of position now found themselves in the thick of the play getting hands on rebounds and finishing with chip shots. Those elusive points in the paint started coming thick and fast, which freed up our jump-shooters for clean looks which then fell.
Most of all without Chris Paul carving up the defense like the Grinch carves roast beast the Blazers finally got a hand in the faces of the Hornet shooters and in the passing lanes. Antonio Daniels looked lost setting up the offense. Shots that had been free and easy for David West and Peja Stojakovic earlier now came one-on-one, defended, and without any other Hornets moving.
In short, the only thing missing was a voice coming over the arena speakers saying, "In the fourth quarter the part of the Blazers will be played by the New Orleans Hornets." They were understudies for most of three periods, now it was their time to take the lead role. They played it to the hilt, too. The result was a 38-15 fourth quarter in Portland's favor, a bunch of high fives as time expired, and a New Orleans crowd sent home in stunned silence.
If you add that all up you see that while the catalyst was the Chris Paul injury, Portland had to do a ton of things right to make this happen. Full marks to them for that. Also as we mentioned in the pre-game New Orleans has had a habit of drifting south in the fourth quarters of games lately. They just have to work too hard to defend without Chandler anchoring them. So this was not entirely unprecedented even if the magnitude was shocking.
The take-away points for the Blazers are these:
1. Never give up on a game.
2. Playoff teams, let alone eventual championship hopefuls, learn this lesson early: it doesn't matter why you won, it matters THAT you won. Opponent got injured? Sad. Give us the W. Refs acting quirky? Someone should look into that. Now give us the W. Seven masked Oompah-Loompahs rushed the court and gang-tackled the opposing off-guard just as he was driving unopposed for the game-winning layup and he was so shaken that he missed both free throws with no time left on the clock? Wow...that's unusual! Now give us the W. Thank you. Have fun. See you next year.
Were we to have a speculative, philosophical argument about which team is better right now I think you'd have to go with the Hornets for a variety of reasons. But this game wasn't played for speculative, philosophical bragging rights. It was played for a "win" mark in the ledger. Portland got it, New Orleans didn't. And that's the only thing that will last from this game.
3. Well done.
--Brandon Roy scored a season-low 6 points on 2-10 shooting and looked out of sync out there. He was slower than usual and almost looked unmotivated, could I believe that. I doubt that was his mental state, but something wasn't firing right. Even his eyes looked flat. 5 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers.
--Lamarcus Aldridge was also flat as a pancake until the run that provided the victory. He was taking fall-away jumper after fall-away jumper...classic Bad Lamarcus offense. Neither he nor the centers could keep a lid on David West. With all of the other things going wrong for the team this game would still have looked winnable had Lamarcus and Brandon played normally. It just wasn't happening. But LMA came alive during the endgame. He started pursuing boards and he sank some of those jumpers he had missed earlier. He ended up with 22 points on 9-21 shooting with 11 rebounds (5 offensive) and 2 assists.
--What is it with Greg Oden and the Hornets? Even without Tyson Chandler in there he looked like he was trying to solve a Rubik's Cube every time he moved his feet. A nice jump hook and a couple of putbacks aside, it was painful to watch him out there. It was one of those, "I've blown the play, so I will fix it by fouling!" nights. Late...foul. Let a guy get by him...foul. Saw a cute girl in the stands...foul. Poor ref looks like he's getting bored...foul. When he committed his fourth with 8:37 left to go in the third period Nate just tucked him in for the night. Joel Przybilla was on the floor for the entirety of the run. Oden finished with 6 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 fouls.
--Nic Batum had about the usual game. 15 minutes, 5 points, 4 rebounds, a couple of defensive lapses and a couple more good defensive plays.
--Sergio got 19 minutes of run. We've already mentioned the defense. He did make some shots (3-6) but he looked a little wild out there tonight. The Hornets announcers remarked on it as well. 6 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers.
The bench players were the true stars of the game tonight.
--Travis Outlaw was the only guy whose offensive game remained consistent throughout. He hit some shots in the first half to keep the game close and drilled some key shots in the fourth quarter, breaking the Hornets' backs beyond repair. It's not like they forgot to defend him. They forced him into 4 turnovers and frequently threw multiple defenders at him. He just kept coming back and stroking it anyway. 7-11 shooting, 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 1/3 of the game ball.
--Jerryd Bayless had a rough first half but as soon as Paul went down and the game opened up he just took a sledgehammer to the Hornets. Say whatever you want about him--and there's plenty to say both ways--but this guy can finish. That's actually a semi-rare commodity on this team. Only Roy really has the same ability to score at the cup no matter what. In any case, when the game got rolling Bayless ran the floor, attacked the rim, and had the Hornets praying to Jesus. Jerryd was responsible for most of the quick points (as opposed to those scored in the more traditional sets) and when down like we were, quick points are exactly what you need. 7-9 shooting, 19 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and he was the guy playing the fourth quarter minutes. 1/3 of the game ball here as well.
--The last 1/3 of the game ball goes to Joel Przybilla, who finally managed to get through a Hornets game without squaring off with Tyson Chandler. When Oden went south Przybilla rode to the rescue again. Like the rest of the team his game transformed in the second half when he was allowed to stay home and set up for rebounds instead of being forced to chase guards all over kingdom come. As soon as he got his feet planted in the paint he started dominating the boards which was a key to the Blazers' comeback. 10 rebounds in 29 minutes.
--Like Travis, Rudy had a fairly steady game throughout. He shot 4-8 for 15 points and provided 8 rebounds, which we sorely needed. He was the only Blazer who could hit from three and thus one of the few reasons for New Orleans to extend the defense. He was 3-6 from distance and we only hit 4 threes the entire game. His energy helped make up for the lack of same from the starters. However as a side note I will say this. Those between-the-legs passes are really neat, but the next time Rudy attempts one into traffic with less than 6 minutes to go in the fourth quarter of a tied game I sincerely hope Coach Lucas calls him to the bench, turns him over his knee, and paddles him until he can't sit for a week. You have to know the time and place. I'll forgive it because of that nifty reverse lay-in off of the alley-oop from Sergio though. We don't have another player who could catch those passes, let alone finish the play like that.
--Neither Frye nor Diogu nor Randolph played tonight. During a lull in play I did see Frye make a fist, slap it downward and into a loop, and land it right smack dab on Randolph's head though.
That was an unexpected and very welcome win. What if we could bag another one in Dallas? This trip could get pretty exciting. Let's not attempt it the same way though...
It ought to be plenty interesting over at AtTheHive tonight.
Check out the Jersey Contest results and enter the next game right here.