It seems almost rude to single out any one player for praise in a game
featuring great all-around team play. There was LaMarcus Aldridge
canning jumpers and improving his defense in the second half on Luis
Scola. And Brandon Roy battling influenza-like symptoms to provide
stability in the fourth quarter. And of course their was Rudy
Fernandez, who, despite scoring just seven points, kept Shane Battier
busy running all over the court.
All of those performances are
worthy of kudos, but for me, this game was all about Joel Pzybilla.
Przy's stat line in Game 5 isn't going to wow anyone, but he played an
integral role in winning what will hopefully be the first of three
Consider that Przybilla finished each of the
previous games in the series with no fewer than four fouls. Tuesday
night, just two, none of which came against Yao Ming. He had two
steals, as many as he had in the first four games combined. But the big
number was four, as in a career-high, not to mention team-high, four
assists for Przybilla. That's the equivalant of Rudy getting 10 blocks
in a game. And it's probably not worth noting considering the minuscule
sample size, but while we're showing the big man some love, might as
well note that the Blazers are 2-0 in the series with Przybilla gets
more than one dime.
But maybe the most important number is 33,
as in the number of minutes Joel was able to play tonight. He stayed
out of foul trouble, held Yao in check (with a huge hand from Greg
Oden), was a major factor in holding the Rockets to just three
offensive rebounds, set solid screens that drove Battier to frustration
and generally provided the rugged play that we've come to expect from
Przybilla has often looked tired postgame during
this series. A night of throwing your body against Yao will do that,
but after Game 5, Przybilla looked refreshed. He looked like a guy who
was ready to go again. In fact, it was Przybilla's son Anthony who
seemed ready to doze off in the locker room postgame, not that his dad
would let him.
"You're not tired are you?" said Przybilla to his heavy-eyed offspring. "The fun is just starting."
You can say that again.