That game was quite interesting. Though that adjective could be taken positively or negatively. It was an exciting game. Perhaps it shouldn't have been.
The Blazers came out flatter than buffet-line prime rib. They were slow, lacking energy, and seemingly intent on winning the game with offense. The problem was their offense, with isolated exceptions, consisted of jumpers and/or weak one-on-one moves. Meanwhile the Pacers, themselves masters of the offense-only win, showed us how it was done. Them hitting shots off of passes wasn't disappointing. That's what they do. But the number of times they scored in the lane was painful and the number of times they grabbed offensive rebounds was flabbergasting. The Pacers just don't get that many offensive boards. The Blazers forced their center to commit helping on defense and then failed utterly to cover the rebound from ancillary positions. Three Pacers got 3 offensive boards and two more grabbed a pair. Meanwhile nobody was stopping T.J. Ford or Jarrett Jack and we managed to make Marquis Daniels look like the player the Pacers wanted instead of the player the Pacers got. The opening period ended with Indiana up 26-20 but most of those Portland points came in a late-quarter flurry. The quarter was worse than the score indicated.
In the second quarter at least we got our offense going to the tune of 32 points. We remembered that the Pacers defend like...the Pacers and we got the ball inside and drew fouls. Lamarcus Aldridge and Travis Outlaw were a big part of the scoring. We also did a better job of closing out the lane against penetration, unfortunately at the expense of leaving the perimeter wide open. I haven't seen that much swishing since my last trip to Darcelle XV. (You go, girl! Work those hips!) The Pacers happily scored 33 and walked away with a 7-point halftime lead.
I'd love to be able to tell you that Portland came out fired up in the third quarter and took the game away but other than a turnover-plagued stretch for Indiana midway through the quarter each team basically had their way with each other. Layups, jumpers, free throws, threes...we got a little of everything, including those offensive rebounds. Every time the Blazers would come close Indiana would pull away again. The net result was a 27-26 quarter, an 8-point lead for the Pacers entering the final period, and a lot of nervous Blazer fans.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers finally came out ready to play. Brandon Roy picked up a microphone and said, "I'm glad you've had fun, but I told you play time was over a quarter and a half ago. You didn't listen. Now it's time for your spanking." Well, I suppose he didn't really say that but he might as well have. He called his own number left and right and connected almost every time he did. Equal credit goes to Steve Blake and Lamarcus Aldridge, though. In case you couldn't tell, up until this point the Blazers weren't having a good defensive game...not even (and maybe especially) Brandon. Steve Blake finally manned up and stayed in front of Jarrett Jack and Lamarcus played the Blazer Center role in the smaller lineup to the hilt. It seemed like he was all over the floor helping and recovering. He really looked magnificent.
Still the game came down to an inbounds play with 18 seconds left and the Blazers up by two. Portland got it to Rudy in the backcourt, which was the correct call since Indiana had to foul or the game was over. But the Pacers trapped Rudy and he picked up his dribble. Steve Blake ran back to help out but he got the pass right near the precarious halfcourt line area with a defender right behind him. With the rushed pass and the unfortunate positioning Blake never handled the ball and Marquis "You AGAIN?" Daniels stole it and went in for an unopposed dunk and the tie. Blazer ball, 11 seconds left.
Everybody and their uncle (and their uncle's coach and his agent and his agent's cat) knew who the ball was going to in that situation and indeed Roy got it and camped at the top of the arc, letting the clock run down. Roy made his move and juked the defender, leaning into an amazing shot to win the game. Well, OK, that's what SHOULD have happened. Instead Roy only semi-juked his defender, ending up cutting diagonally across the lane at an awkward angle with T.J. Ford on him. Ford gave him what looked on the big-screen replay to be a small hip bump. Roy fell to the ground. Tweet! Two free throws later Portland is up 2 with 1.7 seconds left. Don't say we never get any questionable calls.
Timeout, yadda...yadda...who else but Jarrett Jack gets the ball? He caught it, faked it, let the defender sail by, and ended up with an open-but-rushed look at a three to win it. Such drama! Such destiny! Such a pity it went wide right. Blazers escape with a win, 107-105.
The Blazers let the Pacers shoot almost 52% while getting up 83 shots, which normally is a recipe for disaster. Indiana hit 5 more field goals and 3 more three-pointers than the Blazers. Indiana outrebounded the Blazers. Indiana had 16 assists to Portland's 13, which not only indicates that the Blazers weren't passing the ball but that Portland was making the Pacers look like great one-on-one players, which they pretty much aren't. Indiana had 9 steals to Portland's 5, 7 blocks to Portland's 4. So how the heck did the Blazers win this game? The little sugar plum fairies in grey. The Blazers shot 84.4% to Indiana's 75% from the charity stripe. Oh, and Portland had 32 free throw attempts to Indiana's 16. It's somewhat unusual for the Blazers to win that way, but there you go.
Being live made it harder to keep good individual notes as I wasn't writing things down all game. Although I always include stats in these I never like to do them solely from the stats because they're often misleading. So the following will have to suffice:
--Roy, Aldridge, and Outlaw had great offensive games (28, 21, and 21) and Lamarcus had that good defensive stand as well. Outlaw softened the Pacers up before Roy finished them.
--Joel Przybilla had another good rebounding night (12) but I felt sorry for how exposed his teammates left him after he worked so hard covering for them. The hardest of the hard hats this year belong to the centers.
--It was not a good night for point guards. Not only did they make T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack look amazing instead of vulnerable not a one of them could hit a shot. Blake's main contribution was hitting the three that finally put the Blazers ahead. Bayless had a couple of nice defensive stands but otherwise didn't have a remarkable evening in his 13 minutes. Sergio got 5 minutes.
--Rudy had a couple of memorable passes. They're incredibly fun to watch live when you can see the whole play develop at once.
It's not surprising the Blazers struggled through this game after Sunday's masterpiece. I just wish they wouldn't depend on the fourth quarter so heavily. That's walking a pretty thin line. Tonight's performance probably means that they will either recover and play another excellent game in Denver or that they'll continue downward and flop entirely. It's Blazersedge Night. I'm rooting for the former.
Check out the Indiana view at IndyCornrows.
Have fun with tomorrow's Jersey Contest form here. I just realized I left town without the contest administrator's site in hand so forgive me if the scores are slow in posting.