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By now, you know the Blazers came back to beat the New Jersey Nets 109 to 100 in the Rose Garden.  The final score didn't do justice to the nature of the game, as the Blazers started slow yet again and were forced to grind out another closer-than-you-would-like home win, thanks in large part to Brandon Roy playing for almost 45 minutes.  Roy finished with a 31 point night, Nicolas Batum chipped in with a career-high 20 points and the biggest shot of his life down the stretch, and both LaMarcus (19 / 10) and Travis (13 / 10) continued their beast parades.  A well-balanced team performance on a night when the core players saw their minutes ramped up considerably in the absence of their injured teammates. 

Let's get right into the game notes.

Random Game Notes

  • You might have heard that Rudy has a bunch of friends in town from Spain.  His squad is too legit to quit.  They were rolling around the Rose Garden's back hallways dressed in matching Rudy jerseys and responding to greetings with "Mallorca!" shouts.  
  • Speaking of Rudy, if you want to read his translated take on the events from this past week, check out BustaBucket.com.
  • Jerryd Bayless chose the pregame music: "Damn, I'm cold" by Bun B and Lil Wayne.  He then went 0 for 2. Coincidence?
  • Can't say enough about Nic's game. He was all over the floor, looking like an all star.  He stepped up and drilled that 3 pointer to give himself a career high on 7 of 8 shooting.  Plus 4 boards, 2 asissts, 2 blocks and a steal.  Please.  Nic was joking after the game that he should get injured more often because he shoots better.  He did come out of the game briefly because he was in pain.  Nothing serious according to Coach.
  • I put this on twitter last night: Vince Carter's sixth foul, given the circumstances, has to rank up there with the worst fouls of the year.  Shot clock winding down. Travis struggling to fight off two defenders.  The Nets in a "must stop" possession. And then Carter rakes Trout across the arm for no reason and is forced to the bench.  The kind of play that will make Lawrence Frank pull his hair out. Oh, wait.
  • Speaking of Frank, I hope it came through on television: this man coaches from on the court for long stretches of the game.  At one point he was standing next to Steve Blake who was camping out in the corner.  Almost to the point of impeding him.  Now that Iavaroni and Wittman are no longer NBA head coaches, the title for "Coach who most overcoaches a bad team" is Frank's.  Congratulations.
  • Devin Harris is a gem to watch. I don't understand how New Jersey draws approximately 48 fans to their home games when they get to watch the Devin Harris show every night.  So many elements of his game to like: body control, ability to draw fouls, ability to break down defenses and distribute to open big men, ability to take care of the ball.  It could be 2019 before this guy isn't an All Star again.
  •  I spent most of yesterday afternoon preparing a list of justifications for why I don't like Brook Lopez but then I saw him play for the first time in person and only one thought comes to mind: he's a flat out baller (how often can you say that about Stanford guys?).  His instincts around the basket -- to get open, to get to the rim and to finish -- were light years ahead of most young centers.  Far more polished than I was expecting.  It's surprising it's taken this long for Lopez to get some ROY consideration: if he played in Portland we would probably rename one of the bridges after him and threaten the league with an email if he wasn't given the award. At this point in their careers, he is a better player than Greg Oden.  Not that the comparison needs to be made.
  • Nate tweaked the rotation tonight so that Sergio and Jerryd wouldn't be on the court at the same time, putting Jerryd in for Blake during the first quarter.  The move seemed to work alright, as the team was able to avoid the big drop in the second quarter that cost them the Mavericks game.  However, Nate tightened things all the way up in the second half and basically rode Blake and Brandon.  We can all agree: Brandon and Blake cannot play a combined 88 minutes if this team is going to do the things it wants to do, like win a playoff series. Paging Rudy. Please Rudy.
  • But it was another night where Nate got virtually nothing out of Sergio and Jerryd.  If it wasn't at critical mass before, it is now. In March so far, Jerryd has gone for the following point and assist totals: 0 and 2, 0 and 0, 0 and 0, 2 and 1, 3 and 1, 5 and 1, 3 and 1.  Sergio has gone for: 2 and 2, 0 and 4, 0 and 6, 2 and 1, 0 and 1, 0 and 1, 2 and 3.  That's a pattern.  It's not working.  
  • I can't tell you how much I enjoyed Brandon getting the steal in the last minute.  When he comes away with the ball on the defensive end, it always reminds me of someone playing Capture the Flag.  If you remember from grade school, the worst thing you can do when you get the flag is to stop.The second worst thing you can do is to not have your head up.  When taking the ball over on the defensive end, Brandon is almost always in constant motion, not full speed, but always moving and always surveying things, either trying to find a place to dribble without being molested or simply looking to push it across halfcourt in an effort to get a mismatch in transition.  It's almost as fun watching him weave his way through people in that situation as it is watching him slice through defenses going to the cup.  Despite his lack of top end speed I would absolutely pick Brandon first during a game of Blazers Capture the Flag.  
  • My top 5 Blazers for Capture the Flag: Brandon, Rudy (always moving, the strategic guy that jumps across the middle line just to make you come tag him and then jumps back to safety, then runs the other way now that you're out of position) Jerryd (king of the jail break, you already know), LaMarcus (long arms, good on both offense and defense), Channing (would probably invent some new rules during the game to help the team win).  Also, Przybilla would guard the flag.  No question. 
  • A pack of Chinese journalists were on the Easy Yi Jianlian beat.  I'm sure the home country was thrilled with their reports of a most respectful 1 point on 0 of 5 shooting in 25 minutes.
  • As I left the arena, Paul Allen was signing autographs for fans in the waiting area outside the arena.  Pretty sweet.  Then he jumped in an all black Yukon XL sitting on chrome.  Boss man riding dirty, love it.    
  • The point spread last night was 7.5.  The Blazers were up 5 with 10 seconds left.  Then Bobby Simmons' flagrant foul with 6 seconds left and the two free throws put the Blazers up 7.  The flagrant was 2 plus the ball so the Blazers got it back and Lopez completely unnecessarily put Brandon on the line with all of Vegas watching.  He sank both and the Blazers covered.  I'm not saying. I'm just saying. What a ridiculous way to lose a bet if you had New Jersey plus the points.

Nate's Postgame Comments

Nate entered the press room with a smile saying, "I bet you want to talk about Nic Batum."  

Nate on Nic Batum: "What a great job. That kid had a huge assignment tonight guarding Carter. And basically just without Rudy, I was really trying to scramble to find a rotation that worked and we went with Nicolas, Travis, Brandon, Blake and LaMarcus in that first half. It was a good group that got us back, we could switch defensively. Offensively, it was working for us.  My coaches I thought, I think they do a great job every night, but really solid job tonight late in that game convincing and debating whether to go back to that unit. Joel was doing a nice job and we got back to that unit with Nicolas, Travis, LaMarcus, Brandon and Blake and it worked out.  He was knocking down his shots. Defensively, he made Carter work.  On the defensive end, he took some tough shots.  I thought it was a total team effort tonight."

Nate on the talking process on the end of game rotations: "We do it every game. Where we are looking at combinations and without Rudy it kind of screws it up a little bit. I have a rotation I'm comfortable with. I thought Bayless and Sergio came in and did some good things for us.  Down the stretch, that unit was working so basically we went to a six or seven man rotation. Gave Bayless a little time and we stayed with Nicolas, Travis, Joel, Brandon played that whole second half. We just went with those guys that were working.  The call down the stretch, with about 4 minutes to go, to get Joel out.  Lopez was playing great, he was big, we needed size, he was scoring over Joel too. But we needed some size and we decided to go with that small unit and it worked out."

Nate on Nic's shoulder: He injured it during the game. He aggravated it during the game. I didn't see where but he got hit and he asked out of the game."

Nate on whether there was a question about whether Nic would play: "No. He was sore but nothing as far as doubting him to play."

Nate on the tale of two halfs for Brandon: "Yeah, we've seen this guy do so many good things, that when he has a night where his shot is off, everyone is like, 'what's going on?' He's human. He's going to miss some shots.  The good thing about tonight, being that type of player, he found a way to get it going.  He didn't give in to it, he knew we really needed this game, he had to get it going, I think he was 0 for 8 during a period of time, and then he got it going. I think that's the sign of an all star."

Nate on Brandon in the huddle: "He's talking. He's talking about playing hard, playing d, he got his rhythm, he's making shots, but yeah he's talking to his teammates, I think they all were communicating.  They didn't give in. They didn't give up tonight. They played for 48 minutes tonight and we had a 38 point fourth quarter tonight which was huge."

Nate on closing out the homestand with a win: "It's important. It would have been great to have been able to get all 4 games this home stretch and we didn't. But we got 3 out of 4 which is good. We matched our record from last season as far as 41 wins.  To get this game, being shorthand ed, and New Jersey is a tough team before we go on the road, it's a good win for us. Now we want to get on the road and win some games."

Nate on the home crowd: "That was part of what we talked about at the beginning of training camp. Making the Rose Garden a special place to play. We had to bring that play or that effort to the floor.  The crowd is going to be there and they do everything they can to lift us. Once we make some plays or we get some things going, our fans understand the game, they know when their team needs a lift.  They chant "defense" or whatever it is when we make an offensive play, they get on their feet.  Our guys, they ride that momentum."

Nate on feeding off the energy: "Well we are young so I guess it is.  We are a young team and your crowd can help you. Our crowd has helped us this year."

Nate on making the Rose Garden special: "Effort.  You come out there and you fight and you don't give up and you don't give in to maybe a team playing well, or you're struggling as we were in the first half, we didn't have a good first half, the second half you continue to battle and the crowd will be there. They are trying to lift you and support you and you have to just keep working."

Nate on closing out games as a young team: "I think a lot of that is Brandon is handling the ball a lot more. He's pretty calm, late in ball games.  We try to keep it simple, we don't give them anything, any difficult reads.  We try to keep it simple and spread the floor and allow these guys to use their talent."

Nate on making good decisions as a young team: "Normally it starts defensively, getting aggressive and getting stops, then offensively putting players out there and allowing them to use their talent, their ability."

Click through for Kix Pix.

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

IMAGES

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Brook Lopez.

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I forget who was rocking these Jordans but they are sick.  Almost got these at the employee store yesterday (big ups to Jimmie!) but went with these instead. 

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