Hoo boy! Was that something or what? Nice take, B-Roy.
About three minutes into the second quarter I wrote down in my notes, "Everything that is happening this half is fool's gold." Things were going well, mind you. We had captured a 36-27 lead at the quarter but, as predicted, we were doing it with offense. The rest of our game to that point had been so-so (drifting towards less). Something was going to break. "Let's put it this way," I said to myself, "is it more likely that the Blazers will continue shooting 75% or that the Knicks will continue shooting 50%?" The rest of the game was like waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The second unit managed some defense which the returning starters then picked up as the second quarter came to a close. The main defensive accomplishment of the first half was getting back on the break consistently, followed closely by forcing turnovers. It was a nice half. The pretty offense was expected playing against New York but the 9 point lead going into the break was still a relief after watching the other night.
There was a time in the third period when everything came together for the Blazers. Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge played excellent interior defense and the team punished New York for even thinking about going in the paint. It was like the Knicks were two years old. "I think I might..." Swat. No. "But that looks..." Swat. No. "I wonder if they're really serious about..." Swat. Yes we are. We said no. It looks like you need a timeout young fella. Sit there and think about what we told you. The Blazers also poured on the offense inside and out, with Sergio Rodriguez (and yes, in this instance you should trill those "R's" pretty hard) hitting a couple of threes to go with the big guys' production. The Knicks, meanwhile, were reduced to hucking solo jumpers. The Blazers got up by 17 midway through the stanza and it looked like a cakewalk.
Then, naturally, the other shoe dropped.
The basic catalyst was the Knicks getting uber-hot--we're talking Megan Fox mixed with Jessica Alba mixed with Lynda Carter hot--from distance. They started throwing in threes like it was pop-a-shot and they were the only sober people in the room. That left them the occasional single-covered drive or post attempt and those started going down too. Meanwhile the Blazers' offense featured an array of missed jumpers by Lamarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw, missed free throws, turnovers by the guards...you know, the usual, "Why don't you climb back in this game" stuff. This was followed by more threes from the Knicks and all of a sudden they were up 13 with 8 minutes left in the game. You could palpably feel the Rose Garden crowd choking their popcorn boxes.
That's when Travis Outlaw said, "Oh no you didn't. Maybe I can't help, but I know somebody who can. Wait here a minute." He disappeared down the tunnel and all of a sudden out came...Super Trout! Dunk! Three! Three! Free throws! Jumper! Jumper! "How much was your lead again? Oh man, it must have been swimming in cold water because it TOTALLY shrunk up. Wait...hold up. Let me introduce you to my main man Aldridge Boy." Jumper. Jumper. "And here's the Big O!" Block. Put-back tip. In short, Travis and his cronies owned the latter part of the fourth. After a Travis jumper off of a nice Rudy inbounds pass the Blazers were down 108-107 with 31 seconds left. The Knicks got the ball to Al Harrington at the top of the three-point arc. This provided the opportunity for Lamarcus Aldridge to display one of the better individual defensive stands of the season, as Lamarcus shadowed him all the way down the lane and forced him into an uncomfortable half-push layup attempt which missed badly. Oden rebounded the ball.
This is where mass confusion ensued. The Knicks denied the ball to Roy so Outlaw had to bring the ball up the court with the clock ticking down well into single digits. Travis didn't know what to do so he finally called a timeout with 4 seconds left. The odds weren't good for Portland as New York had a foul to give. The absolute, no-brainer, gimme play was to let Portland inbound the ball near midcourt, watch the dribbler take a couple dribbles towards the hoop, then clobber him. After a couple timeouts the Blazers did indeed inbound the ball near midcourt to Brandon Roy, who was freed by one heck of a giant Greg Oden moving pick. (Great play, by the way, as the refs are NEVER going to make that call in that situation.) Astonishingly, amazingly, the Knicks failed to take the foul after Roy caught the ball. This was a monumental mistake...one that even surprised Roy by the look of his dribbling. It was like he was looking around for contact and it never came, so he put his head down and headed for the hoop. He dribbled in...3... leaned left...2...extended the ball with his right...1...layup flip in traffic...the ball hangs on the back of the rim...
Let's let Brandon explain what happens next.
"OK, you STILL don't get it? Let me run it frame-by-frame. I am Brandon Roy. This is my Bayless face. This is my Bayless face morphing into my ‘O' face. This is where I tug on my jersey. This is me chest bumping my best buddy Travis. Cue the streamers. We all go home. We've been through this before, you know. Remember this time."
109-108, Blazers. And a potentially disastrous night turns into happy-fun dancing time.
A side note about the final play. As I said, not taking that foul to give was a huge error for New York. Answer me this: How did it happen? Part of it was the way the Blazers ran the play (including that pick). The Knicks got discombobulated. But part of it was also on them. Who's to blame for that part? Correct answer: We don't know. See, we don't know if it was a complete coaching oversight, if the coaches mentioned it once or twice but not enough, or if D'Antoni and staff spent those two timeouts repeating over and over again, "Take the foul! Take the foul! When they inbounds it, take the foul!" And we never will know. It seems to me extremely unlikely that the coaching staff wouldn't notice the situation or prepare the players. It was almost certainly a blunder of execution by the players. But unless D'Antoni's a real jerk (and I haven't read the Knicks' post-game stuff yet so I don't know) he's not going to get in front of a microphone and say, "Player X really blew it out there! Did you see that? We told him 22 times and he still didn't get it!" We'll never really know but it seems reasonable to assume that one or more guys just got out of position and missed the moment out there. Most people would agree it was unfortunate for New York but understandable.
If that had been the Blazers, however, we would be even now be reading 102,000 comments about how poorly coached the team is and how it's the coach's responsibility to make sure the players took the foul, and why didn't Nate emphasize taking the foul harder and blah blah etc. We wouldn't know for sure. We weren't in the huddle. We have no idea what was said or how the team was prepared. Taking the foul was probably the call. The players probably got fouled up on the pick. But all of a sudden we're certain exactly who to blame and it ain't the guys taking the screen. We give more leeway to an opposing coach than we do our own. Something's wrong there.
This is a lesson that sometimes less than optimal things happen. Coaching, good or bad, isn't always the answer to everything. The Knicks pretty much stuck to their game plan tonight and it darn near netted them a win despite not being as big or talented of a team. You could almost see the Blazers falling into their web. That's pretty good coaching on their part. D'Antoni and his staff didn't turn stupid over one play.
The statistical take-aways from this game are incredibly high field goal percentage, high three-point percentage, total rebounding dominance, and a bunch of blocked shots. It's a testament to the Knicks' style and individual scoring talent that the Blazers only won this game by 1. New York took 29 threes and hit 14 while the Blazers, though shooting them well, only hit 9. That, along with Portland missing 7 foul shots, helped the Knicks stay close.
The Blazer guards dealt with screens better tonight. The caveat to that is that New York isn't the most intimidating team in the world for setting picks.
--Roy's game-winner was the usual masterpiece. He ended up 9-16 with 8 assists and 19 points. The Knicks really couldn't stop him but he got everyone else involved, ceding much of the fourth quarter to Travis.
--Lamarcus looks better in a game where everybody is chasing around the floor than he does having to guard a post guy individually. His energy level was higher than we've seen it lately. 8-15 shooting, 5 offensive rebounds, 7 total boards, and that nice defensive stand against Harrington to help Roy's bucket make the difference.
--Greg Oden did a lot of business in the paint tonight which showcases his game better. He remembered that he was way bigger than anyone the opponent could throw at him. He's excelled this year in these exact situations (Milwaukee, Washington). He ended up 7-11 with 17 points and 12 rebounds, 6 of each flavor. The more impressive stat was 6 blocks, however. Him shutting down the paint kept the Knicks at bay long enough to make the difference. Nice pick at the end too.
--Sergio Rodriguez played the same Steve Blake shooting role that helped us win the first game against the Knicks earlier in the season. His three-point shot was ON tonight and this freed up the middle for the likes of Oden. This was one of Sergio's better, more active games of the year and he was rewarded with 37 minutes for it. 5-11 shooting, 4-5 from distance, 16 points, 6 assists, 2 steals, 3 rebounds.
--Nicolas Batum was also active and added 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal to his 4 points in 16 minutes. Nic's write-ups are always short because it's pretty much the same game (couple of shots, good defense) with some variations in how much he touches the ball on offense and rebounds on the defensive end.
--After what looked like preparation for an angry-making, brick-fest outing Travis finally got going in the fourth quarter as mentioned above. He had only 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in 31 minutes but he hit half of his 16 shots and scored a Blazer-high 23. As with Lamarcus, this kind of game makes him look better on defense than the norm. Without him we don't win this game so you overlook everything else.
--Rudy Fernandez had trouble connecting from distance but he made a couple of smart passes, grabbed 2 steals and 4 rebounds, and didn't hurt us defensively. 6 points is an off-night for him but you didn't notice much.
--Joel Przybilla had 5 rebounds in 18 minutes and would have had more than 3 points if he had been able to catch a pass. A couple of them bounced off of his chest when he was right by the basket.
--Jerryd Bayless hit a three but also had 3 turnovers in 10 minutes. It wasn't one of his better games. Rookies go up and down.
--Channing, Ike, and Shavlik didn't make it into the game but they were heard singing several rounds of, "B A Bay, B E Bee, B I Bicky By, B O Bo, Bicky By Bo B U Bu, Bicky By Bo Bu" during the big comeback.
OK...one down the hard way. Next up is a Wednesday date with the You-Know-Whos. This one doesn't count if you lose that one.
Listen to the New York reaction at PostingandToasting.
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