Long Story Short: After playing right into the Warriors' hands for most of the game, kept afloat only by Brandon Roy playing his own personal game of "31" against the defense, Portland puts in 7 minutes of good basketball, overcomes a double-digit deficit, and hands the Warriors another discouraging loss. After the game an Oracle Arena caramel corn vendor gets mad when the monkey formerly on the Blazers' back tips over his stock and starts pelting the Golden State bench with it. Film at 11.
The Blazers opened this game looking like they had thoroughly read the complimentary copy of "How to Let the Warriors Win" tucked into the drawers in their hotel rooms. I was seriously beginning to wonder if the arena staff pumps some kind of hypnosis gas into the visitors' locker room or something. Starting the game 1 for 11 was bad. The fact that those 10 misses came off of wide open jumpers and a bevy of layups didn't help. And the turnovers. Jumpin' Jiminy Crickets! Portland would have been better off inbounding, setting up all five guys on the defensive end, and just tossing the ball way down the court to Golden State than what actually happened. Brandon Roy and Andre Miller were pretty brutal. Roy looked completely out of it (hypnosis gas?) and Miller was responsible for a couple turnovers plus most of those missed layups, leaving him completely out of position to get back on defense. The result was Golden State hustling back for layups or open threes. Two things kept the Blazers' biscuits from getting totally burnt. First, the incessant inside attack was producing free throws even though buckets were noticeably absent. Second, the Warriors were turning it over too. Combined with some Blazer blocked shots those miscues produced some running opportunities that even Portland couldn't blow. Despite the spotty play the Blazers found themselves tied with Golden State after one.
The second unit for Portland had some defensive continuity issues straddling the first-second quarter line. Golden State got to run out some more as they took advantage. But Juwan Howard made like a kid on free sample day at Costco and walked around the offensive end sampling whatever shots were available. All 12 of the points the Blazers scored in the first five minutes of the quarter were either made or assisted by him. Then the defense broke down entirely and Golden State ran a layup drill to streak ahead by 10. A shot-clock-foiling dagger three by Jerryd Bayless stopped the bleeding and then Brandon Roy went to town, personally pulling the Blazers back within 2 by the time the quarter expired. Another bullet dodged, but this game wasn't looking good, especially with ghosts of failures past swirling around the team's head.
Those ghosts stopped being contented with swirling and started actively punching the Blazers in the face in the third period. Golden State opened up with three triples and never looked back, daring Portland to match their offense. With LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller seemingly stuck in a perma-funk Brandon Roy simply called for the ball over...and over...and over. He scored 14 in the period, helped only by a couple of Bayless free throws and threes from Nicolas Batum and Rudy Fernandez. Nobody could stop Roy. But even though he was scoring 2 points with every attempt the Warriors went through stretches where they couldn't help but get 3 points per possession, either from the arc or with the extra foul shot. Those extra points added up quickly, sprinkled as they were with the usual layups and chip-shot J's. Suddenly the Blazers found themselves down 13 and headed in the decidedly wrong direction with only one period to play.
The Blazers got a ray of hope starting the fourth as LaMarcus Aldridge finally showed up. The Blazer bigs had been ineffective all night, unable to keep up running the court, not making enough of a difference on the boards, and most importantly of all not making any shots. At one point Nate gave up and just went small to match the Warriors, but that experiment went awry when the new, smaller "bigs" continued to pursue offensive rebounds...rebounds they had less of a chance of getting than the true 6'11" guys but rebounds that left them just as far behind the play on defense when they failed. The fourth-quarter rally around Aldridge felt like a last-ditch attempt to exploit some kind of height advantage. It worked. Aldridge made two layups and a short jumper, assisted by Howard and Fernandez. Aldridge also set up Bayless for a nice layup and Roy scored another time as well. Now the lead was 5 with 8:00 to play. After the Warriors pushed it back to 9 Nate inserted the rest of the starting lineup with 6:40 left. The Blazers were about to go on an enormous run. The Warriors had just made their final shot of the evening save one.
Portland's run was triggered by reversing every trend that had brought them to their sorry state to begin with. They got the ball in the paint and scored it. They destroyed Golden State on the boards both ways, limiting them to one rushed shot while feasting on second-chance points at the other end. Portland ran successfully. More importantly, Portland ran back on defense. They continued to score at the foul line. When Golden State collapsed in the paint the penetrator calmly flicked it to Rudy Fernandez on the perimeter and he answered with made threes. The turnovers stopped too. It was like the game had restarted and another Portland team took the floor for that last stretch. Meanwhile the Warriors imploded. Perhaps remembering past successes Corey Maggette bulled his way into turnovers instead of buckets. (It's worth noting that the Blazers finally figured out to get Aldridge off of him.) The rest of the Warriors got jumper-happy. Steph Curry's three-pointer with 1:30 left was their only score. It pulled them within 3, where the score remained until 9 seconds left. That's when C.J. Watson, having allowed Andre Miller to run the shot clock down to 5 seconds remaining, brilliantly committed a foul, sending Miller to the line instead of forcing him to score in those final 5 seconds (a miss leaving at least a couple seconds for Golden State to attempt the game-tying three). Nellie got a few more gray hairs as Miller sank the free throws and the Blazers walked away with a 5-point victory.
The Blazers fell just short of 42% shooting tonight while the Warriors were at 47.5%. Golden State actually sank more shots and more threes than did Portland. The Blazers drove hard and earned 37 free throws to Golden State's 21. Portland got an amazing 22 offensive rebounds, clamping down enough in that amazing final period to double up the Warriors, who gathered 11. Portland finished up a dozen in second chance points and up 17 in overall rebounds. After tossing the ball away repeatedly early in the game the Blazers finally calmed down and limited their overall turnovers to 16, a reasonable number, considering. Golden State did score 28 fast break points but they only scored 38 in the paint overall, meaning that only 10 other points came close to the bucket for them. Portland, meanwhile, notched 46 points in the paint. It certainly wasn't a bankable way to win a game but the Blazers did enough things right to give themselves a chance and the Warriors were kind enough to turn that chance into reality.
You have to start with Brandon Roy's 41 points on 14-22 shooting, 13-17 from the line, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals. After the early bad start he was ruthless and efficient when he got the ball. But as far as 41-point performances go, this wasn't my favorite one from B-Roy. It actually seemed that the Warriors and Blazers had switched places at one point. Usually the Warriors get an enormous performance from somebody but they're playing in such a way that those points are decoration on the loss. About halfway through the third period it felt like Roy was scoring those kind of "So What?" points that we're used to seeing out of a Monta Ellis or Kevin Martin when he was with Sacramento. Granted Roy's teammates weren't showing up, so it was both appropriate and good that he was scoring. I mean, what do you want him to do? But had the trend continued, had the offense not opened up, had the energy not spread to every aspect of the game, the high number would have been meaningless. I guess that's my way of saying that it's good that Roy kept us alive, but that's not how we ended up winning.
LaMarcus Aldridge does not like Oakland. Except for that early fourth-quarter stretch he pretty much bombed. (Thank goodness for that stretch though!) He was 4-14 on the evening, saved by getting fouled on some of his interior moves to the tune of 6-7 free throws, for 14 points overall. He did have 8 rebounds. He also had 6 turnovers and 5 personal fouls. Ample credit for manning up on both ends at the end of the game. But LaMarcus Aldridge does not like Oakland.
Marcus Camby had 17 rebounds tonight, 9 offensive, and also helped key that blistering fourth-quarter comeback with his board-work. Earlier he didn't look like that much of an advantage, eventually falling victim to the small-ball experiment. He went 1-7 on a variety of "I used to make these four years ago" jumpers for 4 points.
Andre Miller went 4-15 from the field and I swear to you that 10 of those misses were on layup attempts. He gets full marks for following the game plan to a "T", not settling for jumpers against that Golden State defense. But dang, he could not get a layup to fall in traffic to save his life early on. He did draw 8 free throws, hitting 7...again a huge benefit to the Blazers in this game. He also ended up with 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals, and 3 turnovers. His name goes on the list of fourth-quarter-run providers too.
For the first time in a long time I was disappointed with Nicolas Batum's defense tonight. Every once in a while he has a game where his head just doesn't seem in it. It looked like he wasn't prepared for this particular opponent tonight, like he was defending the way he's used to instead of against the way the Warriors play. He got juked, backdoor cut, and other than one of his patented streaking, come-from-behind monster blocks on the break he really didn't leave an imprint on that end of the court tonight. He did hit 2-3 from distance for 6 points and had 2 blocks overall.
Both Rudy Fernandez and Jerryd Bayless had solid nights offensively. They looked like they understood who they were playing. Rudy went 4-6 from the arc for 12 points, setting himself up perfectly and delivering. Jerryd went 4-7 from the field, 1-2 from the arc, and 3-3 from the free throw line in 20 minutes, also providing 12 points. Both had nice defensive moments. Both also forgot their jobs getting back and staying in front of people at times.
Tonight Juwan Howard was like the great-uncle who slips an extra fifty in your Christmas stocking without anybody knowing about it. You didn't look at the game and think he was dominating or even making that much of a difference. But that second-quarter offensive flurry helped keep the ship afloat long enough for Brandon to save it. Howard went 3-4 for 6 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 18 minutes.
At the end of the day they don't ask how you won them, they ask whether you won them. There are no asterisks in the playoff standings. The Blazers need 3 of 4 wins in this stretch versus Golden State, Sacramento, Washington, and Toronto. This was not a guaranteed win and the Blazers didn't play well enough to guarantee it at any point. But they won on the road against a team they should beat and in the end that's all that matters.
By the way, did anyone else notice that this game ended three hours after the announced start time? What is it with TNT games? Are they doing Superbowl Halftime Shows at these events that we just don't see? How can you play at the highest pace in the league and have a game take three hours to complete, even if the start time was a little late? Hmmm...maybe that's how the Blazers won.
Hear the screams reverberate all around GoldenStateofMind.
P.S. Martell Webster had 4 rebounds and missed 4 shots in 16 minutes. Sorry, Martell.