In a Nutshell
After looking about as interested as Kim Kardashian at a chess tournament in the first half, the Blazers pour on the offense in the third period and the defense in the fourth, defeating a Nets team mired in its own guard ineptitude.
I promised myself I would only expend as much energy recapping the first half as the Blazers spent playing it. Sadly I exceeded my quota by turning on my computer. Portland's defense in the first half was remarkably unremarkable. New Jersey scored repeatedly on the interior in the opening two periods, first legitimately in the halfcourt and later by beating Portland's defense down the floor. Meanwhile Portland's offense was typified players standing and point guards picking up the dribble 25 feet from the basket. It wasn't so much the dribblers' fault either. Everybody was just looking at each other going, "We should probably be doing something but I can't make a play from this position and nobody else is moving." Rebounding was non-existent. Portland's shooting bit. Only a late second-quarter flurry prevented the Blazers from taking a double-digit deficit into the locker room at the half. As it was they were down 7, 53-46, when the buzzer sounded. The Nets scoring 53 points in anything less than three quarters was bad enough, but they shot 60% when doing so. That's like 420% in normal team shooting. Forget chalupas. Ticket holders should have gotten coupons for free Amps and Monster Javas just to make it through the second half.
Fortunately the Blazers came to play in the second half. The period started with a Stephen Graham jumper and then the Blazers rattled off 17 straight on the hapless Nets. The main catalysts were a couple of outside jumpers falling, opening up the interior. New Jersey either shot the ball past 20 feet or turned it over during the streak. All of a sudden the Blazers were up 8 and looked like they were on their way. But not so fast! The Nets hit a couple of long jumpers of their own and Portland's stopped falling as quickly as they had started. New Jersey's marksmanship brought Portland's defense out further on the floor, allowing Brook Lopez to go crazy again. The Nets took the lead. A late Wesley Matthews steal and layup conversion against Devin Harris brought Portland back to within 2, 76-74, as the period closed.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers made a concerted effort to get the ball inside to LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, the former in the post and the latter flashing through the lane. When they didn't convert they either drew fouls or got offensive rebound put-backs. On the other end Portland collapsed the middle, daring Harris, Jordan Farmar, and the previously-hot Sasha Vujacic to beat them. New Jersey's guards tried dribble pull-up after dribble pull-up, scraping the orange off of the rim with their massive bricks. Portland collected the rebounds and went back inside on their end. When Aldridge and Matthews started forcing turnovers late it was too much for the Nets. They never had a chance at the end and Portland walked with the 96-89 victory.
It's only in shades and glimmers now, but you can still get glimpses of what the Blazers were designed to be when those wings hit threes, run, and poke away steals. The defensive pressure that Portland can bring to bear is downright intimidating. But it doesn't matter as much when you only get 5 minutes at a time.
LaMarcus Aldridge had some quiet stretches in this game but came on strong late. The guards really open up the floor for him when they hit shots. He's also looking about 80 times as comfortable with his back to the basket as he was a couple months ago. 9-18 from the field, 9-12 from the line, 27 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists. He also defended pretty well late.
Nicolas Batum had a Good Nic outing, working aggressively on the defensive end and attacking off the dribble as well. He played more above his average than any other Blazer tonight. But, you know, what about next time Nicolas? 9-15 shooting for 23 points and 6 rebounds.
Andre Miller looked for his shot big-time against Harris, making Harris look foolish in the process. He went 8-14 for 19 points and 8 assists.
Marcus Camby had 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 3 assists...the usual.
Wesley Matthews played the best 4-9, 10 point game of his Blazer tenure tonight. He got after it on defense, grabbed 6 rebounds, and added 3 steals and 3 assists. He personally disrupted the Nets something awful as they tried to mount a final comeback, barely letting them dribble.
In that same vein, Rudy Fernandez had the best 1-7 game of his career. The shooting looks gruesome but many of those misses came from precarious finishes after drives. Rudy putting the ball on the floor isn't usually a good thing but tonight it was sorely needed since nobody else was moving the ball anywhere before he did. His misses looked better than everybody else's. He had 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal.
Patty Mills scored 9 points in 13 minutes but this was a Bad Patty night. He had no assists, the offense pretty much stalled under him, and his defense was nowhere near the level of his compatriots.
I'm not exactly sure what Dante Cunningham is doing out there at this point. I'm not exactly sure Dante is sure either. He needs a mental/emotional reset. Whatever fire was there is now a very polite, lavender-scented candle.
Joel Przybilla got all 5 of Sean Marks' minutes. 1 rebound.
Stats of the Night
- Nets shoot 60% in the first half and end up 50% for the game.
- New Jersey attempts 12 foul shots, Portland 25.
- Blazers 17 offensive rebounds and a 40-30 advantage on the boards overall.
- Portland 13 fast break points, mostly off of turnovers.
Odd Notes and Links
There was no Jersey Contest form for this game but you can enter the next one here.