mikebarrett

Feb 01

Aldridge Drops 40, Blazers Drop Spurs

By mikebarrett Posted in: Spurs
Coming off two-straight home losses, still very shorthanded, and just as they were kicking off a difficult and crucial month, the Trail Blazers were able to accomplish what few thought they could.  Of all the unexpected feats this team has pulled off this season, nothing tops what happened Tuesday night at the Rose Garden.

It struck me earlier in the day, while listening to local radio callers discuss the upcoming game against the San Antonio Spurs, literally no one was giving this team a shot in this game.  It’s okay. 

It wasn’t hard to understand why even the most optimistic fans were predicting perhaps a good fight by the home team, and a close game, but not a Portland win.  Not against the 40-7 Spurs, who came into the contest 27-4 against the Western Conference and 12-0 against the Northwest Division.  Not these Spurs who had won 11 of their last 12 and were rested and determined to get their annual “rodeo trip” off to a strong start.

For the few believers who were out there, even their faith had to be rattled when they saw Portland go scoreless in the first four minutes of the game, and fall behind 7-0 right out of the chute.  Even on the air we talked of the familiar feeling of the game, as the Blazers sputtered offensively, and seemed to be searching for answers.  The Spurs would push their lead to 9 in the first half and looked poised to do what they normally do- methodically grind opponents into dog meat.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and the Rose Garden crowd was recording a season-best performance, the Trail Blazers were leading San Antonio by 16, and Gregg Popovich was waiving the white flag, dumping his bench with still over two minutes to play.  A 14-2 Portland run put them in total control, and they won their fifth straight over the Spurs at the Rose Garden, finishing the job 99-86.

Yes, crazy stuff, in an even crazier season.

If LaMarcus Aldridge slapped an exclamation point on his all-star push against one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, and was absolutely brilliant on Tuesday night.  He scored a career-high 40 points, on 16 of 23 shooting, and also pulled down 11 rebounds.  The Spurs had two days to design a defense to try and neutralize Aldridge.  They tried Tim Duncan on him, and gave DeJuan Blair a shot.  They brought Antonio McDyess in off the bench to play him, and tried double teams.  They faked double teams, and they delayed bringing the double team.

After the game ended, in a classy move, Popovich walked to the midcourt line to shake Aldridge’s hand and congratulate him on the victory.

But, as impressive as Aldridge was, and as good as Portland’s offense was, it was defense that won this game for the Blazers-  defense, effort, and intensity.  Yes, outside shots finally fell, as they shot 51 percent.  But, just about everything they did at the offensive end came as a result of a defensive stop.  The Spurs average 104 points per game.  But, the Blazers held them to 19 points in the third quarter, and an amazing 15 points in the fourth.  This makes 10-straight times the Blazers have held the Spurs below 100 points.

This doesn’t happen to this San Antonio team.  They don’t have nights like this.  The only time they’ve been vulnerable at all this season has been on the second night of back-to-back situations.  Clearly, being they hadn’t played since Saturday, energy wasn’t the issue.  Well, it was, but it was Portland that simply had more.

To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.

Several times this season we’ve talked about the Blazers getting a win when they absolutely needed one.  With what’s ahead this month, and following losses to Sacramento and Boston, this was one of those times.  It’s a huge momentum-builder, as we’re now off on a three-game trip.

Normally, a win in Denver is about as rare as Mike Rice remembering someone’s name.  But, this win over San Antonio should have a carry-over effect.  Whether or not it’s enough to lift this team to a victory over the Nuggets is to be determined.  But, on this night, it’s enough to return most of the people in this travelling party to a good night’s sleep.

It’s 4 am in Denver, and -13 outside.  You can take it from here.  Best win of the season?  And, can they repeat the feat on Wednesday night?      

35 Comments

  1. Great win, I'm very happy for LMarcus. I also feel your pain regarding the cold. It's 64 degrees in our office and 69 degrees outside right now. It is so cold here, that I almost slept with a blanket. I hope you and the rest of the organization can manage to stay warm.

    by tominhawaii on 2/2/2011 4:47 AM
  2. I was so confident the Blazers would win, that I picked them in ESPN's streak for the cash. Nearly 98% of the nation had the Spurs but not me. Aldridge to me just solidified his vote to the all star game.

    by blazerdarren77 on 2/2/2011 6:42 AM
  3. It is 7:50 in Prineville, and it is 10 degrees. We haven't won a Tuesday night game in quite awhile and I am guilty of thinking this would be no different, but never gave up hope. I felt if Camby was playing we had a slim chance, without him we were almost hopeless. I was just hoping for a gritty game and lots of fight. Boy, I wasn't disappointed.

    I got through with my bowling league at the end of the third quarter and got to listen to Wheels and Tone the whole 4th quarter. I also had the game recorded and got through watching it minutes ago.

    This win wasn't from SAS taking us too lightly, they are very seldom guilty of that. In Fact Portland should take notes on that.

    LMA, was fantastic, Do you remember me asking you and Rice on court side one time about Aldridge playing the three, I now think he could play the point. That pump fake and drive to the basket for a two handed dunk was crafty and awesome. That one play should get him in the All-Star game.

    I thought we missed lots of easy shots, but of course I don't know how much the Spurs was knocking us off rhythm.

    Just a delightful win all the way around and kept us from going down to 1/2 game ahead of Memphis. A game and a half is still to close so we have to take it to Denver tonight.

    Thank you for your usual update Mike, I'm loving it.

    Hg

    by Hg on 2/2/2011 8:04 AM
  4. Mike, thanks for getting rid of the black background in your blog, it was impossible to read. I had to copy/paste the text into notepad to read. Thanks so much. And a note to your web design people, rule #1: any text on a black background is a big no no.

    by Timdog on 2/2/2011 8:23 AM
  5. What a great win! I was really nervous about us being "rusty" after such a long break, and concerned about Nicolas and Wesley's injuries. I had pretty much no hope, however, after Lamarcus' 16 points in the first quarter I said to my son, "OMG, LA is going to have a career night. I say it'll be 40 points." What a spectacular performance from him. If he doesn't make it to the ASG, I no longer care. That he is playing this way is pay-off enough! I mean, it would be really validating for him, but it just isn't needed. I think Pop's handshake, something LA said he's NEVER done before, makes it clear the coaches respect the hell out of the changes he has made, ASG votes or not (though if he hasn't turned in his vote yet, I bet LA earned Pop's vote!) My favorite LA moment was when he got fouled while shooting and walked away with some serious SWAGGA! NEVER seen that before, but that was just totally awesome to see him have that kind of attitude :)

    Not sure about Denver, and Memphis is freaking me out right now, but all this team can do is just keep doing all they can in every game. As usual, the emotional win can give them momentum or lead to a letdown. LA had a fantastic defensive game against the Nuggets last time, and I will be hoping he does again. I don't remember much else about the game, other than that it came between two excellent wins over Utah, right about the time we were all still doubting the new LA 2.0. I know we lost by almost 20, so I will be hoping that if we don't manage a win, we at least keep it much, much closer. If we can beat them in Denver, there's a great chance we will take the series at home :) That would be super awesome, since it would mean we have the tie-breaker over two of our division rivals. Either Wesley or Nicolas (who's due to have a good game) needs to have an excellent game, and someone off the bench just has to come through, either with serious hustle and defense or super scoring. If that happens, and LA plays well again, I think we can win.

    by SisillaRiann on 2/2/2011 9:00 AM
  6. Great Win!! Hope they can pull off another one tonight. Stay warm ;-)

    by RedRudy5 on 2/2/2011 9:22 AM
  7. Mike:

    You are always saying that the first game after a rough road game is really the end of the road trip, that along with the fact that you keep saying as you did last night that teams that start a road trip plays harder to get the first one under their belt gives us a one-two punch on the Nuggets. I would feel so much better if Camby could play, and Nic and Wesley was not hurting, but we play with who we have.

    I know flying to Denver on a back to back is rough, so I will not make any predictions. There is also a fear of a let down. I hope we go out, play aggressive with intensity and let the chips fall where may.

    Hg

    by Hg on 2/2/2011 10:00 AM
  8. That was a game we've all dreamed about.
    If you put Rudy in a row boat in a lake do you think he could spit and hit water 50% of the time(not counting water in the bottom of the boat)? I know he has been having trouble with his back and wonder if that has caused him to change his stroke?

    by Ancientone on 2/2/2011 10:16 AM

  9. LaMarcus shot 69.5% from the field against the best team in the league.

    His game was dominant overall on offense and defense.

    It would be nice for his doubters to chirp in and eat their crow.

    by reverse on 2/2/2011 10:53 AM
  10. Dang Mike, a blog already! Usually you'll wait until after the 2nd game of a back-to-back and analyze the two. This was a great win and I appreciate the extra effort.

    LMA was of course incredible, but how about some of what we saw from WesMath? Specifically, it looks like he's been working on a pop-up jumper to compliment his drive.

    Wesley has proven to be a reliable spot up jump-shooter when he's got time to set up, but last night he was able to recognize the defense collapsing on his drives, get them on their heels, and pop up for a mid-range shot. He was still forcing a few plays, but I bet he'll come to use that move a bit more as defenses are forced to respect his drive.

    by 500Dogs on 2/2/2011 11:04 AM

  11. at this point, it is obvious LA is an all-star.

    if he somehow doesn't make it, he'll be the 1st injury replacement for sure.

    by reverse on 2/2/2011 11:14 AM
  12. Ancientone:

    How are you doing after your rough week?

    I don't know about Rudy' spitting and hitting the water if he was standing in water let alone in a boat. But that pass between the legs of a defender last night was right on the money. Rudy and Mills are awfully streaky, but, couldn’t we use their shots tonight to keep LMA from packing the whole load. But then, I think LMA is enjoying backing the team. Denver has some giants working for them, therefore I am not sure LMA can pack that big of a load without Camby.

    I read on the Denver's blog that it is quite possible that Camby and BRoy both are done for the year. Of course that is different than what we hear, but I fear that we may be the last to know.

    Oops!!!! I don’t want you to have to go make a sandwich in your rehab time.

    Hg

    by Hg on 2/2/2011 11:31 AM
  13. We start the game with four scoreless minutes, miss a lot of threes while they make a good percentage of theirs, Blair goes nuts on the boards in the first half, Rudy, Patty and Nic all shoot badly, and we still win going away. Wesley, Andre and LaMarcus all did the job. Props to our guards and the team D for stopping Parker and Ginobili. I think the key was that we were finally rested, and match up well with this team. Jefferson has to face Nic, Manu has to work against Wes, and Parker has slowed down enough that crafty old Andre can handle him, while the reverse is not true. (Wicked little post-ups against the cheating Frenchman). And of course, the biggest match-up advantage was LA versus whoever they tried. Will it be the old guy, or the short guy, or the other old guy? Didn't matter, because LaMarcus was going to drive to the hoop or pop for an open jumper, or spin in for the lob, or sky for the rebound putback. It was amazing to see how comfortable our guys looked, once they got used to being back on the court. It would be nice to think that this is how they play when they aren't run ragged by the schedule. We'll see how much the effect carries over during the rigors of the upcoming road trip, but on the basis of this performance after several days off, I'd certainly pick the Blazers to beat the spread when they face the Lakers at home after the All-Star break.

    by Islander on 2/2/2011 12:39 PM
  14. Congrats to Chris Johnson for scoring his first NBA points! :D

    by Shem on 2/2/2011 1:01 PM
  15. A celebratory blog! This was by far my favorite game of the season. I'll admit, I went in thinking we didn't have a chance but WOW was I surprised.

    LaMarcus absolutely dominated this game. 40 POINTS! Amazing.

    As for @Denver. I think we're going to go in with something to prove. If we can beat SAS then we can beat Denver. Getting a win tonight could be just what we need to catapult us to success in the coming weeks as the schedule gets tougher, and I think the guys know it.

    Thanks Mike!

    by sarahhecht on 2/2/2011 1:40 PM
  16. lamarcus ıs a good shooter but lıttle bıt slım then he sometımes lıves hard tımes agaınst lıke kendrıck perkıns andrew bynum :...

    by sunny on 2/2/2011 2:15 PM
  17. sarahhecht: @Denver tonight is a completely different polecat, matching up with their bigs is rough without Camby, Of course Joel is getting better, but doesn't have the passing skills of Camby. If our outside shots are hitting better then they was last night that would give LMA a little room.

    I know Denver is a rough place to play, let alone on a back to back. Even the Nuggets blogger thinks it is trifle unfair for the second game of a back to back played in Denver. This is the second time it happened to us. Nate complained about it last time with the airport being so far away from town and making the Players not getting to bed before 4 in the morning.

    I do agree that a win here would be the greatest, and I don't mean to be negative, I didn't think we would beat the Spurs either, not because of the line-up, but win loss record.




    by Hg on 2/2/2011 2:41 PM
  18. this was a strange game. in the first half, i thought Blair was going to have a monster game, but his motor all bu stopped in the second half. the start made me nervous, but the end was exceptional.

    of course, LaMarcus was la-man last night and it was great to seem hit a new career high (again!). Wesley was very efficient, as was Andre. the three gave the spurs plenty of problems when we had the ball. couple that with the scrappy hustle of Rudy, Dante, Nicolas, Patty, Joel and even Chris Johnson (two points and two boards in four minutes of your first nba game ain't to shabby).

    i think a lot of fans were realistically hoping that we could play tough and give the spurs a good fight -- as we did with miami -- and hoping for win. we got it all last night. it goes to show that if we play hard and battle the whole game, we can beat anyone.

    this was the best win of the season in the sense that we beat the best team. with the exception of about the first five minutes, we remained competitive. this is the type of game which exemplifies the reason that the coaches and players don't use the injuries as an excuse; because we can win these games. instead of saying "well, we had some guys injured," we're able to say. yeah, look what we did as a team. bring it on!"

    a few notes: after the game, Nicolas was reported as saying his knee felt "fine." if Chris Johnson would have played 36 minutes at the same pace he played his four, he would have had 18 points and 18 rebounds (i know, i know, but i just had to!). LaMarcus' record for double-doubles in a season is 24. through 48 games this season, he has 23.

    i'm looking forward to tonight's game, and i'm cautiously optimistic. we know we can beat denver, but it will take another performance like last night. as i've said before, i think we can beat any team on any given night. hopefully we can do it two nights in a row.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 2/2/2011 3:53 PM
  19. Inspite of the size that Denver can throw at LMA if the outside shooters, Wes-Patty-Nick-Rudy, can force Denver to chase the shooters and LMA could have a big night again. If they can't and Denver can pack it in on him it will be a long night.

    by Ancientone on 2/2/2011 4:21 PM
  20. I talked my darling wife into waiting until after the game to go to work, but we will have to work until wee hours of the morning. I am really looking forward to the game now. Of course listening to Wheels and Tone isn't bad, Wheels really gets into the game.

    Hg

    by Hg on 2/2/2011 4:36 PM
  21. I'm not one for complaining... Alright I am, but still, time to rant.

    The obvious factor in this game was energy. The Blazers came out looking fairly decent, matching the energy of the Nuggets. But, the effects of having hardly any sleep and being on the 2nd of a back to back obviously showed effects.

    Do I think Denver is a better team than Portland? All biased aside, I still don't think they are. Do I think the Nuggets are so good that they realistically have won 15 of the last 16 against the Blazers in Denver? No I don't. I think it's absolute bull s*** that every time in Denver, it's the 2nd of a back to back, and the energy is always the problem in the game. Casey made a blog last Denver game about Nate saying "It seems we're always on the second of a back to back here", and Casey did the research saying like 80% of the time in recent history it really has been the 2nd of a back to back.

    LaMarcus has played 80+ minutes of professional basketball in a 24 hour period, and looked obviously tired. He's one of the fastest powerfowards/big men in the game, yet was nearly always the last one down the court. That didn't happen last night (against the Spurs), where he was one of the first down the court.

    I applaud the Blazers for their effort, as it was a fairly decent effort for the circumstances they were under. Meanwhile, I frown on the NBA for giving such a lopsided advantage to our opponents, and continue to do so.

    by Herr on 2/3/2011 2:43 AM
  22. I know a lot of people argue against it, but I really do believe the altitude of Denver is an advantage for the Nuggets. Look at their Home versus Road record the last two seasons. They are always really, really good at home, and then border on bad on the road. This year they are 21-5 at Home, but 8-15 on the Road. Last season, 34-7 Home and 19-22 Road (they were the ONLY WC playoff team with a below .500 road record). Even in 2008-09, they were only 1 Road game over .500 (21-20, with 33-8 at Home). Maybe they are just a terrible road team, maybe the lower altitudes work against them when they travel, idk. But I think the thinner air (which means there is actually less Oxygen to breathe) must make some kind of a notable difference, especially later in the game, and especially on the second night of a back-to-back. I mean, most of the time, the Blazers are sitting at what, 120 feet? Denver is 5160 feet higher!

    by SisillaRiann on 2/3/2011 11:44 AM

  23. EowynAmarie:

    IMO, Training at high altitudes and competing in lower altitudes gives more oxygen to the lungs benefit--Denver. Training at lower altitudes and competing at high altitude gives the player less Oxygen to breathe, benefit--Denver. Therefore the lack of road wins just shows that Denver isn't the quality team that their record shows. Therefore, your statement of just being a terrible road team may be closer to being the truth, and of course, the normal home-court advantage ties in; like the Blazers, Utah and others.

    by Hg on 2/3/2011 12:35 PM
  24. @EowynAmarie I agree with altitude being a factor. People that live and spend extended time (Nuggets players) at altitude become acclimated. This allows their bodies to use the limited oxygen more effectively and ties into a reason Denver would have such a great home record. Other teams are ALWAYS at a disadvantage when playing in that city. Altitude definitely matters.

    by sarahhecht on 2/3/2011 12:42 PM
  25. The Spurs win was a excellent win. I wasn't to surprise because we've always got up for good teams while drop to the level of bad teams. So I wouldn't be that surprise if we lost to the Cavs.

    Bummer LA didn't get a all star selection. I think if he had played all season like he has since mid Dec he would have got the pick and if he continues like this through next season there is no way he won't get a pick next year.

    by mgb on 2/3/2011 5:57 PM
  26. mgb,
    Right on. Had this been going on all season, LMA would have been a shoe-in. As it is, I think it's total horse crap that a rookie is making it over established players, but the ASG is truckload of horse crap anyway. Sure, it's important to the players as a milestone and an incentive, but it means nothing to the record, the playoffs, or the team. I'm actually a little concerned that WesMath is going out there after his recent tumble.

    by 500Dogs on 2/4/2011 11:38 AM
  27. last night I did something I've not done since I moved to Oregon in the mid seventy's. I voluntarily quit following a Blazer game after 3 quarters. I figured if the Blaszers didn't care why should I. No focus, no defense, poor shooting.

    Some one let Cleveland know if this is the team that shows up tonight they can break their losing streak easily.

    It breaks my heart to watch Joel out there. Slow, no lift, tenative. Once a defensive force to be reckoned with that now opposing centers salivate when they see him against them. I pray for one of two things. One, that he regains his former prowess and power, or he retires and leaves us with the fond memory of what he was.

    by Ancientone on 2/5/2011 10:41 AM

  28. today is a bounce back day. lamarcus should be in the 5 spot a lot against the cavs.

    30pts and 12rebs from the L-train? he should be able to get that against cleveland.

    more importantly, i'd hope to see a solid all around effort, and team victory. go blazers!

    by reverse on 2/5/2011 10:43 AM
  29. Ancientone:

    I do janitorial work for businesses after they close, and decided to wait until after the game to go to work, but after 3 quarters of that crap and I decided it was better to drawn my sorrows with a johnnie brush attacking toilets instead of my usual sulking temper tantrums.

    I too feel bad for Joel, but I see him as getting better as his injury rehabs more. I can see his quality of play being down, but am just marveled at the fact that he can even play again.

    by Hg on 2/5/2011 11:10 AM
  30. i never got that excited about the spurs game. the team + the rose garden won that game. i will be surprised if we even make the playoffs. last night was just plain sad. it was as if we just threw in the towel before it started. it was like requiem for a team.

    for a team in our position in the standings to play like that says an awful lot. and then reality set in. we just don't have a very good team. period. if batum aldridge and mathews are the cornerstones we're going nowhere fast.

    they're good players but not cornerstone good. not yet anyway. i will say lma is close.

    i would be willing to bet nate takes over another team next season. it's just been to much to overcome for too long. in fact, i think he needs to. he's done the best he could.

    this team has come a long way in terms of image. i can't deny that. i wouldn't trade these middling blazers for the western conference finals jailblazers of old. no way. even though i miss winning, it is not worth making a deal with the devil.

    someday things will change. someday...

    by sudelander on 2/5/2011 12:39 PM
  31. Well, I didn't even watch the game. I saw the score here and there, and knew at the half we weren't gonna get it done. It didn't surprise me, because in direct opposition to last year, we are a TERRIBLE road team this year. I will be hopeful that the Cavs game goes much better, but I won't be surprised if we lose there and save them from history. After all, it wasn't so long ago, with both Marcus and Brandon Roy, that we experienced a 6-game losing streak on the road, against a couple of the lowest teams in the league at the time (aren't they still??)

    I disagree that we are not good. I think we have the talent for the most part, albeit, we need a few more pieces now. Despite that, when this teams plays loose, guys hit their shots, and we have a suitable 5, we are really tough to beat. Nicolas does have a confidence and a focus issue, but he is still developing. Lamarcus JUST came into his own (and still has some ceiling) and he's in his Fifth year...not exactly the youngest guy on the team. Wesley is only a SECOND year guy, and is still feeling the league out in many ways. Yes, he's mature, but he's still too anxious to prove himself and to win, something that only experience is going to temper. They cannot be the foundation on their own, but they are certainly pieces to build around. Of course, I am biased in that I simply do not believe you have to have a superstar to win a Championship. The Celtics have done it, the Pistons did it, and several teams have come really close, superstar or no. Getting that "one guy" doesn't guarantee you anything! Just ask Cleveland :) Sure, it makes it easier, but we aren't getting one any time in the near (5-7 year) future, so if it's required, we all might as well get used to seeing a middling or First-round Exit club for years to come. I agree that is much better than the WC contending Jailblazers any day of the week.

    by SisillaRiann on 2/5/2011 4:32 PM
  32. Whew, we beat the Cavs! :)

    by mgb on 2/5/2011 7:20 PM
  33. Did it really all come down to LeBron? Yes, yes it did. Sure AV was wearing a jacket on the sidelines (if he'd been playing, CLE wins), but still... Worst loosing skid of all time. Can any more crap rain on the city of Cleveland? I wasn't rooting for them last night, but I do feel bad that it was Portland that had to hang that mantle of shame around there necks.

    Did anyone else notice LMA fighting teammates for rebounds? I'm hoping it was just a few bad plays (which wouldn't surprise me in this game), but could it be that the All Star snub hit him right in the stats? Don't be that guy, LMA.

    by 500Dogs on 2/6/2011 8:03 AM
  34. 500Dogs:

    I think we were all rooting for cleveland against Memphis plus we didn't want to be put into that situation.

    If you are saying that if AV was playing then they win, you will have to say if Camby, or BRoy, or Greg, or Pendy, or Dante was playing Portland would have won by a landslide.

    by Hg on 2/6/2011 8:24 AM
  35. Listening to the most dreaded game of the season last night, my ears and mind pondered a statement made from M&M. We were treated to the latest excuse taken right out of the Blazers' "Bible of Excuses, When good teams go bad" (this is now a two-volume collectors' set btw). We were told that when Dante Cunningham went down that the team was out of rhythm because we lost a starter. Here's a player that has been an afterthought much of the season, a player of last resort. What's next, the team goes into a funk because Luke Babbitt isn't getting enough minutes? It was said on Blazers' Edge that the game was a glorified YMCA contest, and I concur. School yard pickup games don't have set substitutions, nor does the prison yard shank-in the-back, but still no foul kind of game I grew up on (no, I wasn't in prison, well, at least not for too long). This game was the Matadors against the Bulls, only it was hard to tell which team was which. I think we need to cut a player or two so here's my suggestion. Pull the pin on a grenade and play hot-potatoe with it for awhile. The team should be in their comfort zone, they've been doing it with a basketball for some time now.

    by Phi Slamma on 2/6/2011 10:43 AM
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