In what seemed like it might be the toughest single game of the season, the Trail Blazers went to work at home, on National television, against the Nuggets. Led by Brandon Roy's 41 points and a resilient cast around him, Portland won 107-96.
Let me first get something out of the way about this most recent stretch of games . Last Monday, apparently not trusting our team, feeling disheartened by injuries and a rough stretch of losses, I basically predicted Portland could lose six of these last seven games . What else can I say but...my freaking bad.
How could I be so wrong and so lacking in the faith department? The Blazers have shown us something we hadn't seen all year: team basketball, trust, cohesion, defense, and flat-out hustle.
They are winning games right now because the NBA doesn't gameplan for this kind of "back to basics" basketball. What a run; I'm sorry I ever doubted these guys.
Now, on to tonight's victory. To be perfectly honest, I didn't think the Nuggets would be very beatable.
Denver presents so many mismatches, plus all the talent in the world. They sometimes just lack discipline and organization. Chauncey Billups controls that team on the floor and when he sat out the second half, everything changed.
Early in the game Portland just barely hung on. Nobody but Roy was contributing and it didn't look good. But with Billups absent in the second half, multiple Blazers stepping up and Roy doing his thing, Portland pulled off a gutsy victory and completed a most impressive week.
Brandon Roy was certainly the star of this game. Once again he put on a show on the big stage, scoring 41 points (25 in the first half), grabbing 6 rebounds and dishing 4 assists. But that wasn't even some of his best work.
When Roy switched over to guard Melo in the fourth quarter, that's when things really changed. Roy's defense, leadership and guts to play with that injured shoulder allowed this win to happen. He didn't do it alone, but he sure did the heavy lifting.
I owe it to Steve Blake for finally getting his shot back on track, especially when it mattered. Last year's Blake was in the house tonight and it was sweet to see him hitting.
With Roy double-teamed, Blake was wide open and he made Denver pay. Blake ended the game with 17 points, making 5 of 7 from beyond the arc. Hopefully, that is the confidence boost he needs to knock down key threes consistently this season.
I also thought Andre Miller had a nice game. His 14 points and 8 assists in only 25 minutes really set the tempo with Brandon resting or playing off the ball.
Miller made some big plays in the passing game and shot the ball efficiently, you can't ask for much more in limited playing time.
Other guys had key stretches as well. Martell Webster had a nice third quarter, 8 of his 11 points and managed to disrupt Melo a little bit mentally.
Jerryd Bayless had a great fourth quarter with intelligent decisions and basically a better stretch than his first three quarters.
Juwan Howard and Jeff Pendergraph were active on the boards, grabbing 13 rebounds combined and being tough on the interior. LaMarcus didn't have a stellar night offensively but he did pull down 13 rebounds.
There were brief stretches of mental lapses early in this game that allowed Denver to lead by as many as seven points. If it wasn't a careless turnover, it was Jerryd Bayless taking the ball at Chris Andersen and getting his shot easily blocked.
A block from Andersen seems to end up as a fast break for Denver, which feels a lot like a turnover. Bayless also seemed to do too much early on, he was taking contested jumpers or dribbling too much.
If he lets the game come to him, he'll be more consistent. I think Jerryd could learn from Brandon about how to drive on Birdman and make him irrelevant. Get your body into him first, then show the ball. Simple enough.
We could talk about tattoos or complaining, but let's just get right to it. Chris Andersen looks like a fool.
Since when is it ok to have a Jersey Shore spike in the front with a mullet in the back? His look is bad, his reactions after blocked shots is worse for his team, he's just a clown.
Perhaps he should focus more on some other aspect of the game besides blocking shots. Roy dominated him almost everytime; he becomes useless when guys figure out how to attack the chicken man.
The life of a shot blocker is nice because you get on highlight reels, but he really did get abused in the second half, and I for one, loved every minute of it.
Excellent week, hopefully the team gets some rest and enjoys the weekend. The schedule gets better starting Monday.