They say one of the attractions of baseball is that any night you could see something you've never seen before: five homers by a single player, dueling perfect games into the 9th inning, players refraining from using the field as the world's biggest spittoon. Apparently this happens in basketball as well. If you watched tonight's game you saw the oddest game anybody has ever seen.
For a quarter-by-quarter recap, check out Timmay's piece here.
Suffice it to say that the Nuggets came out in this game like Liberace playing a tuba...plenty of sparkle, but the actual performance? Not so good. They defended their interior like Paris Hilton. They defended the three-point arc like the Denver Nuggets. The result was Portland scoring inside and out nearly at will in the first period while Denver looked disinterested. Any screen was enough to produce a wide-open look for the Blazers. Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and eventually Luke Babbitt destroyed the Nuggets.
On offense Denver had all the chemistry of One Direction meeting the Pope. Their offensive sets began with, "What the heck?", progressed to, "Oh no, don't do that!" and finished with, "Really?" The only relief they got in the first quarter came when the Blazers turned over the ball or shot long without passing first. Random rebounds and steals led to Denver fast breaks. Whenever they got in the halfcourt they got stuck shooting from the outside. That...uhhh...didn't work. (More on this in a minute.) They fared better in the second period by pounding the ball inside when they weren't breaking. Still the Blazers led by 10 at the half.
In the second half the Nuggets got their offensive house in order, driving past helpless Portland wings and offensive rebounding over shorter Portland bigs. The result was a torrent of points in the paint. They even buckled down defensively for a while in the third period, climbing back from a large deficit. But the Blazers held them off and eventually Denver forgot to play defense again.
As the second half progressed the weirdest development of the night began to develop. As proficient as they were at scoring in the paint--and they amassed a truly prodigious total--they were awful shooting from the perimeter. It was the most amazing thing I've ever seen. Consider:
Denver scored 17 points on made foul shots tonight. They also scored 74 points in the paint. That totals 91 points. The Nuggets only scored 93 for the game. That's right, they made one jumper all night. Count it...one. Ty Lawson made a jumper from the top of the key with 38 seconds remaining in the game to spoil their 0-fer night. Still, 2 points scored outside the paint in a game is a new NBA record. So is the 0-22 three-point performance the Nuggets put up tonight.
If that wasn't enough weirdness for you, those 74 points in the paint to Portland's 28 (a 46 point deficit for the Blazers in that department) were accompanied by a 31-7 advantage in fast break points. If I blindfolded you, spun you around six times, and told you that Portland would be -46 in the paint tonight and -24 in fast break points, force only 9 turnovers, and outscored the Nuggets by only 4 at the foul line, what would you guess the final score would be? It's got to be, like, Blazers down a million. Throw in Portland shooting 36% from the field, Denver grabbing 17 offensive rebounds and 59 rebounds total. Now the Blazers are down two million. Oh, by the way, LaMarcus Aldridge was out and Damian Lillard shot 3-14. Three million now, right? But no. Portland shoots 14-36 from the three-point arc (39%) while Denver goes 0-22 and that's enough for a comfortable 101-93 win.
I guarantee you will never, EVER see anything like this again.
I've got to be honest with you. I stopped taking notes early in the second half as this spectacle unfolded, so I only have scattered impressions of individual performances. Here they are:
--Damian Lillard had a really bad shooting night but he kept firing confidently and, more importantly, kept passing.
--Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum gave the Nuggets a stiff shove with their three-point bombing. What the Blazers lacked in inside punch they made up for with haymakers from these two.
--Luke Babbitt was kneeling behind the Nuggets as Matthews and Batum shoved, causing them to tumble to the ground. Babbitt started shooting really hot. He rebounded well too. Nice outing.
--Batum also played great defense at a variety of positions. He showed his value big-time tonight.
--J.J. Hickson was a rebounding MACHINE and did a great job cleaning up the inside opportunities the Nuggets left on the table for Portland.
--Joel Freeland started this game and...meh. Meyers Leonard at least had a nasty dunk.
--Speaking of nasty dunks, one of Lillard's few makes was an even nastier one.
--Sasha Pavlovic should be spanked for taking a corner three-pointer with the Blazers up 6, the game clock reading 26 seconds, and 14 seconds remaining on Portland's shot clock. Unless he likes spankings, in which case he should be sent to the corner to sit on a stool for a few hours. He's supposed to be a calming veteran presence. That was a bonehead play.
The most reliable outcome of this strange, strange night is that the Blazers are now officially .500 at 12-12. That's 10th in the Western Conference, superior to the Mavericks and Lakers, and a whole lot better than they were expected to be at this point in the season. Once you've stopped scratching your head over this game, use those hands to give them a round of applause.
Your boxscore. Bronze it.
Denver Stiffs is the most appropriately named site on the interwebs tonight.