Remember how awesome my Indiana Pacers Media Row Report was? Gosh, it feels like it was just yesterday that I was waxing poetic, painting a beauitul picture about a Blazer that had been traded and his chance to be a legend.
Well, look at that, 3 days later and here we were again.
As Brandon Roy looked on with his team clinging to a two point lead, the man the Blazers traded him for, Randy Foye, lined up a 3 pointer with the clock running down. It felt just like Jarrett Jack's moment on Wednesday with a few minor differences: the Blazers had played without energy the entire game, the crowd hadn't been into it all night, and Foye was shooting in front of the away bench rather than the home bench. Otherwise, pretty much the same setup.
The result was the same too. Had it been successful, Foye's last-second 3 point attempt would have stolen a road win and snapped the Timberwolves' 8 game losing streak. Instead, it rimmed out, running that streak to 9 losses and letting the Blazers off the hook with a 95 to 93 home victory.
It wasn't a pretty one tonight. Take Brandon Roy out of the equation and the team shot 37%, led (?) by a troubling 2 for 14 from LaMarcus Aldridge and a combined 5 for 14 from the 3 point guards. Had it not been for some uncharacteristic scoring from Nic Batum (12 points) and a very active, game-changing performance from Travis Outlaw (14 and 9), the Blazers' lack of pace could easily have led to a home loss. And the Jumbotron Karma almost ruined things by displaying "Bring on the Lakers" signs and highlights with less than 4 minutes to go and the team up only six.
Thankfully, Brandon and Travis took care of business down the stretch and the Blazers avoided a stab at last-second revenge. For the 2nd time in 4 days.
Because Dave's away from the computer, he asked that I throw up some observations about each player. Please add yours in the comments too.
Sergio Rodriguez and Jerryd Bayless: In Dave's absence and in his honor, I will attempt a biblical metaphor. Disclaimer: just warning you right now, this might not turn out well.
Remember when King Solomon played that game of chicken, threatening to cut a baby in two so that one of its prospective parents would say "no!!!" and save the baby's life rather than watch it die? Well, Nate's reached a point with the "Backup Point Guard Playing Time Minutes" Baby where there's a head and torso in Jerryd's locker and a butt and some legs in Sergio's locker and -- what do you know -- neither end of the baby is producing like a baby should.
Sergio went his stereotypical 1 for 3 in 5 minutes tonight .
Jerryd turned in what can only be described as his worst performance of the season. His 6 minutes were highlighted by his first possession on the court, which saw him 1) commit a careless defensive foul, 2) whistled for an unnecessary defensive 3 seconds violation (which gave away a technical foul free throw) and then 3) get posted up for a turnaround jumper by Ryan Gomes after failing to fight through a pick. His night continued with what appeared to be profanity directed towards an official after a no-call on a layup attempt and an out-of-sync pass behind a curling Travis Outlaw that squandered another possession. In fairness, he did continually attack the glass and had a nice lefty layup going to the basket.
Nate, it's time to pull a Solomon. Glue the Point Guard Minutes Baby back together and decide which of its parents will treat it right. Then go with that point guard and go with him all the way. Two halves of a back up point guard will never equal a full back up point guard.
Brandon Roy: Brandon's ability to lullaby and waltz his way to the cup at will was the difference, as it often is. His overall line (31, 4 and 6) was impressive but his defensive intensity wasn't up to the standard he set on Wednesday. After the game, Brandon's entire family (including his tiny new baby daughter) was dressed in Husky purple, owing to Washington's Pac 10 title. Brandon noted that he's a "dawg for life" and that he was proud of the team because he never took home an outright Pac 10 title in his time at UW.
Brandon did not wear his YG Nikes tonight, saying that Nike was still working out the issues that were causing him discomfort last week. He said the issue "wasn't a problem" but that he would continue to wear his older-model shoes for the foreseeable future.
LaMarcus Aldridge: I can only assume LMA was still feeling ill because his shooting night was one to forget. Except, of course, from the free throw line (11 of 12 FTA). He made up for his woes around the basket by increasing his rebounding production (11 boards... 7 offensive... was he catching his own misses? probably) . He also turned Love into a non-factor thanks to foul trouble. Hopefully he got the misses out of his system in time for Monday night. In case you're interested, LMA laughed off any talk about the upcoming matchup with Lamar Odom.
Joel Przybilla: Joel played just 21 minutes tonight, didn't attempt a field goal and only had 3 boards so it doesn't take a Stanford alum (there was a group of them in the house tonight for a pregame meetup with fellow alums Mark Madsen and Jason Collins) to realize he's still not feeling well. I asked Coach what Joel's status was and he confirmed that Joel is still "under the weather" and was sick enough to be suffering from "weak eyes." After the game, Joel said that the Blazers are "too young to be tired" and refused to make any excuses for the team's play tonight or his performance. It's way more fun to watch Joel stick to his talking points than it is anyone on cable news.
Nicolas Batum: An impactful 3rd quarter from Nicolas tonight and his full line (12 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 1 block) speaks to his all-around influence upon the game. On the postgame radio show, Antonio Harvey said that Nicolas deserves to be on the All-Rookie Second Team. If rookie awards were slanted towards good teams I'd say Nic's a shoe-in but this year's deep freshman class might mean he's on the outside looking in. I agree with Tone though -- Nic is deserving of consideration for that type of recognition, regardless of his niche role and limited minutes.
Rudy Fernandez: Rudy still seems to be struggling with his shot but was instrumental in pushing the Blazers' lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. First he hit a 3 and then he turned in the defensive performance of the night, poking the ball away on a drive and into Brandon's waiting hands, who fed it up to Travis for a clean breakaway dunk. At the time, it felt like that sequence would be the backbreaker for the Timberwolves. Credit them for hanging tight down to the wire.
Channing Frye: Frye selected the pregame music, "Me Against the World" by Tupac Shakur. He then probably sang the isolationist lyrics in his head while sitting on the bench for most of the game, as Nate opted to go small with LaMarcus and Travis, playing Frye only 15 minutes. In his time on the court, he scored 6 points and grabbed 5 defensive rebounds. He also did a nice job of boxing out the 3 point line after he took some face-up 20 foot jumpers. I kid, I kid.
Travis Outlaw: Travis brought the ruckus tonight. Put back dunks. Acrobatic rebounds. Better-than-usual defensive awareness. A ridiculous blocked shot. A funny, loud, "I hate the Huskies" postgame crack directed at Brandon. Really, he brought the full package. If you want to stamp a #25 on this one, I won't stop you. I also liked how Travis was the inbounds play decoy twice, venturing well into the backcourt to draw his man away from (first) Rudy and (second) Brandon so that Steve was able to inbound the ball easily in the game's final 15 seconds. Solid execution on the out-of-bounds plays (for once). Brandon dodged a bullet by going 1 for 2 on the free throws.
Steve Blake: Another difficult night for Blake against a quicker point guard. This time it was Sebastian Telfair (18 points, 7 assists) who yanked him around. Blake's 2 threes helped make up for it but I think it's fair to say he got outplayed tonight. He left the locker room quickly afterwards.
Michael Ruffin and Shavlik Randolph: May or may not have spent the game discussing Ruffin's interest in veterinary medicine. Ruffin may or may not have read aloud to Shavlik this passage from his media guide notes: "I once owned an exotic collection of pets that included a bearded dragon, three African spur-thighed tortoises, a hedgehog, an African bullfrog, a rabbit, three lizards, a frog two hampsters, one fish and a pair of ferrets." Shavlik may or may not have nodded his head in quiet disbelief. Both players received DNP-CDs.
Nate's Postgame Comments
Nate on escaping with a win: "It was a tough game. We made it a tough game. We got that game. It was a teaching game. Because we are going to have 5 maybe 6 more games where we are facing teams under .500. The focus to come out and put that team away is not going to be easy. But I thought for four quarters we basically just traded possessions with them. It was a close game. We get it and we'll take it but it was close."
Nate on how the team played: "I thought we came in and just played. That sense of urgency, the importance of this game, we have to play much better than that to continue to win. We did enough to win this game and it's something that we'll use as an example for our upcoming games."
Nate on whether were looking ahead to Los Angeles: "I don't know. The thing is, we got it, we're not going to.... we got it and that's the most important thing and now we focus on LA but the message to them when we're playing teams below .500 and they're not the top teams, we gotta bring the focus. We gotta come with a sense of urgency. Every game is important."
Nate on Brandon: "He made big play after play throughout the game. It seemed like every time they got close he felt like he had a rhythm and he made some big shots. He was able to make big free throws down the stretch and basically was the difference."
Nate on Travis: "I like not only his scoring tonight but defensively. He was active tonight on the defensive end of the floor. We saw him block some shots from the weakside. Those are the things we are going to need from all of our guys throughout the remaining games. Playing that game with some intensity and fire on both ends of the floor. I thought tonight it was a challenge to our guys to defend better. I thought he did it, he did a nice job tonight."
Nate on the matchup with the Lakers: "[LA] has been talking about it, they talked about it all last night on that telecast. They know that we've beaten them up here so they'll be ready for the game. We go into this game, what I wanted us to do was have a good rhythm going into this game. I wanted us to basically play really sharp to go into that game. We get this game but we gotta play much better than we did tonight to get that game because they are looking forward to it and for us it's at home and we want to continue to protect home court."
Nate on how he knows how to manage the team's schedule: "It is just a feel, talking to Jay the trainer, we had to give them a day off basically yesterday and bring them in for shootaround today because they just looked like they had heavy legs in Denver. So with the number of games we have, basically I'll be talking to Jay and the players and looking at their body language and we'll get in and get some work tomorrow. Tomorrow we will come in but it will be short and try to keep them fresh mentally. It's just as important as physically, keeping these guys fresh for the game."
Nate on whether the guys are tired: "It's just part of the season. Mentally, with all the games coming up and the situation we're in, it could be. So we have to look at that. We have to look at them, talk to the trainers, talk to the players and just get a feel for the guys. I felt like yesterday we needed a day off. We got in at 3 o'clock to bring them in yesterday to do something, I just didn't think we would get anything, so we gave them the day to sleep in and came in this morning to shootaround."
Nate on whether he remembers being in playoff grind as a player: "Yeah, as a player and coaching, from years of doing this and the group that we have. This is a young group that you can sense when your players need to get away. When they are tired of seeing each other. And we need to give them a day and we felt like yesterday was the day to give them that day off because we've got the Lakers, Dallas, New Jersey and then we go on the road, 4 games in 5 nights next week, we don't have time... We'll have to see how they go and maybe a day in between one of those days where we just have to give them a day."
More Nate memories of the Sonics' playoff runs: "It was the same thing. It was pretty much the same thing. We had a more experienced team. We were strong enough mentally and physically to understand and they had gone through it. I had Perkins and Brickowski and we had guys like that, Gary Payton and myself, Hersey Hawkins, we had guys who had playoff experience and had learned to adjust to the season."
Nate on Joel's health: "Joel's just under the weather, you know, he's working to get back, his eyes look weak."
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Travis Outlaw. (Have I shown his new kicks before? They are awesome.)
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