Holy...hopping...hornytoads. Blazers win. Blazers WIN!!!
I don't think we've seen a comeback that dramatic since Odysseus and company flipped the script on that semi-overrated team from Troy. And that goes back a ways.
The San Antonio Spurs forgot one of the three fundamental lessons of life tonight. Do not cross the Proton Pack streams. Do not touch the Queen of England. And DO NOT think that you have the Portland Trail Blazers beaten until the final horn sounds. Everybody in the NBA needs to write that last one on a Post-It note, stick it to their bathroom mirror, and repeat it six times every morning.
I think we can forgive the Spurs for at least temporarily forgetting, however. With apologies to the great Muhammad Ali the Blazers came out tonight floating like a bowling ball and stinging like a Q-tip. After LaMarcus Aldridge hit his first two shots San Antonio collapsed on him and everything just went to heck. Our offense consisted of contested jumpers or passes into a cutting-but-covered Joel Przybilla for turnovers. There was no movement to speak of. There were no decisive passes. There were no offensive rebounds. There was no interior scoring. Everything that makes the Portland offense dangerous was missing.
And that was the stronger end of the court for us.
The Spurs shot 12-17 in the first quarter and basically got any shot they wanted. They made it rain with open threes, made it thunder down in the lane, and made lightning flash off of Tony Parker's fingers and feet. San Antonio got to every contested ball as well. It was a symphony of misery.
By the end of the first quarter and the beginning of the second even guys like Roger Mason Jr., Kurt Thomas, and Drew Gooden were eating our cookies. When Thomas followed his own missed shot with a tip to make the score 41-22 with 7:45 left to go in the second quarter we looked dead in the water. We give up. Sail the ships. Your turn to party, San Antonio. We've left you a big, wooden horse, as per usual! Yes...yes it's heavy. Big statues usually are. No, you don't need to check inside. Not until tomorrow, anyway. Just relax for now. Go about your business. Ignore those noises from inside. Oden had the chili at the pre-game buffet. No, wait! Scratch that last part! Just go about your business, like we were saying.
BOOM! Oden dunks back a Brandon Roy miss.
What? No...we really did quit. You've got to give us one dunk to save face, right?
BOOM! Travis Outlaw dunks off of a pass from Steve Blake.
No, that's silly! We aren't thinking of a comeback. Travis was just jealous of Greg, that's all. We'll just go back to being submissive now.
KA-ZING! Brandon Roy makes a layup.
I know we're getting inside now. Rim inspection, that's all. They'll disallow your win if the rim isn't at regulation height, you know. Just making sure all of the formalities are observed.
BOOOOOOM! Oden throws down another dunk off of a pass from Roy.
Screw it. We're coming back on you.
After that it was classic 2008-09 Blazer basketball. Obviously the resurgence started inside. We probably had more paint points in those four consecutive plays than we had the whole game to that point. Greg Oden and Brandon Roy deserve a bunch of credit for starting the interior attack.
Now, brilliant pupils, you do know what happens once the Blazers start hammering away inside, forcing the opponent to commit extra men defending the passing lane and paint, don't you? That's right. The outside shooters get open. Brandon Roy...swoosh. Travis Outlaw...swoosh. RUUUUUDYYY...three swoosh.
Meanwhile on the other end of the court we threw some zones and tipped some passes to disrupt the flow. San Antonio's easy buckets started drying up.
By the time Steve Blake set Priam's palace on fire by hitting a last-second halfcourt heave to end the half the 19-point deficit had been cut to
three TWO and the Spurs were muttering to themselves on the way off the court.
Now here's the problem. I'm sure San Antonio did a lot of talking and planning during the intermission, but when Manu Ginobili is already out you kind of have to keep the best of your remaining players on the court to help those plans come to fruition. The Spurs did alright for the first 9 minutes of the third quarter. The score remained neck-and-neck throughout. But then Tim Duncan had to sit to finish the period. At that point the gates cracked. The Spurs shot almost exclusively from the perimeter. They gave up more offensive rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge started dominating them. When Tony Parker went to the bench San Antonio's scoring dried up too, which made the gates come off the hinges entirely. The Blazers built up a 7-point lead and enough momentum to carry through for the double-digit win.
Portland managed to reverse the course of this game fully and completely, not just on the scoreboard but in execution. They started off shooting poorly from the perimeter, lacking rebounds, rotating slowly on defense, and looking directionless on both ends. San Antonio attacked, punished, and strolled to the lead. By the end of the game each team had assumed the other's role. Given the circumstances it was an incredible thing to watch.
One of the HUGE keys we haven't mentioned is tempo. The Blazers started out playing slow, almost lethargically. They were walking the ball up the court and jogging back down it. The pace started picking up as the comeback mounted. The rise in energy affected Portland's whole game. This is quickly becoming an indispensible part of Portland's success. Right after rebounding comes pushing the ball up and either scoring early or maximizing your clock opportunities.
The Blazers ended up outshooting the Spurs in every category, even in three-pointers and at the foul line. There were remarkably few foul shots taken in this game and the Blazers responded well to the way the refs were calling things. Portland destroyed the Spurs on the boards, 43-26.
There have been a couple games this year that have been so bad I've not parsed out individual contributions. The team had to take those losses together because everybody was responsible. Nobody was spared.
This game is the same way for polar opposite reasons. This was such a complete team effort, with everyone falling into place together, that giving individual credit would almost rob it. I will say that Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Fernandez were the initial catalysts. This marks one of the first times you can point directly to the guys that most fans would identify as the Indispensible Four and say they pulled this game out together. Travis Outlaw did some nice stuff in there too for those who would like to make it Five. We also saw a lot of combinations which included heavy doses of Rudy, Roy, Outlaw, and Aldridge together in various forms...the offensive powerhouse lineups many have been pining for. It worked.
But really after the abysmal start everything worked for every Blazer who set foot on the court, each in their own way. Sergio was 3-4 shooting. Przybilla had 17 boards. Blake had 7 assists and The Heave. They all worked off of each other, stayed connected (as the coaches are wont to say) on defense, and rebounded hard. First 16 minutes aside, this was as playoff-ready of an effort as you could hope to see.
We'll run down the seeding implications in a separate post once the NBA night is over and the numbers are crunched. We'll be looking at some three-way tiebreaker possibilities, which is new.
As enthused as I am about the win, I will say that unless Tim Duncan sitting was a complete and sustainable physical breakdown (which it may be) we're not likely to see this same kind of game from the Spurs should we meet them in the playoffs. They have more left than they showed here.
Oh...50 wins feels really, REALLY nice. Especially when #50 was gained in this fashion!
Check out the morose prose over at PoundingtheRock.
Jersey Contest Playoff Update
This game marked the next cuts in the Jersey Contest playoffs.
The following players have exited in this round: Amlmart1, Cablinasian, Djudd, Goden, Megustanumerocinco, and Saregister.
In addition, three players tied on the bubble for the last two eliminations: Darkwebs , Halfasiansensation, and HeffBlazer. Those three players will be allowed to continue into the next game. However the two of them who score lowest in that game will be eliminated even if their scores are higher than other people still in the contest. In other words the next game is sudden death for those three and only one will survive.
You can check out the games scores at this link but ONLY PLAYOFF PARTICIPANTS should enter. Game Form and Scoreboard