Portland Takes Down San Antonio 96-84

Busta BucketCorrespondent INovember 7, 2009

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 27:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches a free throw attempt by the Houston Rockets during the season opener on October 27, 2009 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Sent Nov. 6, 2009 9:55 AM to Sheed

Since it’s a national game tonight I can actually do a recap if you want a break

Received Nov. 6, 2009 10:03 AM from Sheed

That would be splendid my friend

I still managed to almost miss the game when my fiancée informed me that watching Rihanna talk about getting beat up by Chris Brown was far more interesting than the Blazers playing against the Spurs.

This was letting me know that the television would not be available. I felt what could only be the onset of spontaneous combustion. Luckily a hastily cobbled together guilt trip did the trick. I tuned in just after the tip, and remain happily non-combusted.

First things first: the lineup. Portland started the game with Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy, Steve Blake, and Andre Miller. Due to a couple quick fouls (shocking), Oden managed to play just under four minutes before Joel Przybilla stepped into the game. The new lineup did more than just work effectively. It breathed life into this team and the fans. I had written down the word "energy," then crossed it out and replaced it with "EXUBERANCE!"

The team seemed lively and frustration free for the first time all season. Things seemed to flow easily. Miller and Blake were working well with each other. With Oden out, Portland gave up on that demoralizing offensive strategy where they attempt to force-feed Greg in the post even when it is apparent he doesn't really want the ball and his teammates don't really want to give it to them. (I’m a big supporter of a more organic approach to Oden’s offensive development. When he feels good and really demands the ball on his own will, give it to him. Otherwise treat him like Przybilla.) Oh ball movement, how we've missed you.

Blake and Miller starting the game had another benefit a lot of fans will like: it made room for Jerryd Bayless to get his first minutes of the season. The exclamation point on the quarter came with Martell Webster slamming in a missed three-point attempt by Rudy Fernandez at the buzzer. Just like that, the frustrations of the season seemed distant. The fans and team breathed a sigh of relief, realizing the Blazers are still pretty good, and things were fun again.

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Now to rain on the parade just a bit. Starting Miller and Blake worked great tonight, but don't expect this to be an unstoppable Blazer strategy. San Antonio's starting shooting-guard, Keith Bogans, may not have been able to take great advantage of being guarded by a point guard. Some other 2-guards will. The same goes for small forwards getting checked by Roy. The good news is that now we know that Blake and Miller can make things work. This is an option coach Nate McMillan can use in some situations.

In any event, Portland looked too athletic and too hard working for the San Antonio to keep up with. When it was announced that Tony Parker wouldn't return in the second half due to an ankle sprain, the game seemed to be in the bag. I even contemplated making a run to get some of those new tacos that Sheed and Kellex have been raving about.

The Spurs, being the Spurs, kept working. Somehow Portland's 17-point lead was cut to just three with five minutes left in the game. Roy quickly responded. When the Spurs decided to force the other Blazers to beat them, they did. Thank God for that, I'm not sure I could have handled watching the Blazers lose this game after appearing to dominate a vast majority of it.

There was even more goodness throughout the game. Oden looked—dare I say—confident, playing active defense and even pulling off some nice post moves against TimBot in the post. It was great to see Oden hit a pair of free throws in the waning moments of a tight game. Przybilla (13 rebounds, six offensive, in 18 minutes) had his best game of the season. In Miller's first start, he had the second highest plus-to-minus ratio on the team (plus-14), sunk some clutch free throws, and the team won.

Roy doesn't get mentioned as often as he should because it's so normal for him to perform at a high level, but yeah, he remains a quiet master at work. When his teammates have it going, he is happy to facilitate. When they go cold or the team is in desperate need of buckets, he shifts smoothly into takeover mode.

The rest I've condensed into easy to read Bust-a-Bucket format, with some of the usual irrelevant coverage.

  • Gregg Popovich's face in HD (Yikes)
  • Not much from LaMarcus
  • Richard Jefferson's dunk = Oden hater fuel
  • Oden! Przybilla!
  • Blake & Miller!
  • Enthusiasm transplant
  • Clutch free throws
  • Rip City uniforms

IRRELEVANT THOUGHTS

The uniforms—I must have some of that. What are the rules regarding grown men wearing jerseys these days? Is it acceptable in any context outside of attending a game?

Hilarious National Announcer Comment of the Night—Paraphrasing Hubie Brown here, “[Travis] Outlaw, to me, is one of the best in the league at scoring off the bench. He does it EVERY night.” Outlaw's scoring output by game this season: 19, 12, 4, 4, 23, 9. Mr. Consistent.

Unusual Fan Sign of the Night—We have a tie. One woman behind the bench was holding a sign that said "I Want a Ticket on the L-Train," which was disturbing. Some other guy had a poster featuring six Blazer players wearing cowboy hats. I don't believe there was an accompanying pun or explanation.