Jan 27

Payback Time for Blazers

By mikebarrett
How strange is it to be only 20 games in and have your most lopsided loss of the season and most lopsided win of the season be against the same team?

On January 5th the Trail Blazers picked up an emotional win over the Lakers, and then flew to Phoenix after the game.  We got into our hotel at about 4 a.m. and played the Suns that night.  If you recall (I certainly do), that game wasn't ever close, and Portland lost 102-77.  The Suns had it going that night, and perhaps did a little too much showboating and celebrating.

This whole "revenge factor" we talk about is always interesting and fun.  But, is it really a factor?  I asked Nate McMillan before the game about it and he said his players not only remembered the beating down there, but could recall individual plays and moments that they wanted to have back.  Well, they won't get those back, but they did get a chance to settle the score at the Rose Garden on Friday night.

Mission accomplished.

In what was the worst pounding in the storied history of this series, the Trail Blazers waxed the Suns 109-71.  The previous largest margin of victory for Portland in this series was 29.  They led by 42 before a couple of Phoenix baskets put the final margin at 38.

Now, a win is a win.  We always say that.  But, for this Portland team, that had been struggling in some key areas, perhaps this wasn't just a win.  Maybe it'll serve as a springboard to bigger things.  This was a confidence-building win, and a stress-free victory- a get-well game, if you will.  The Blazers hit 47 percent of their shots, and 35 percent of their three-point shots.  That's a huge step in the right direction.

Keep in mind, the Blazers trailed by three points after the first quarter.

In the huddle, after the quarter ended, McMillan challenged his team to turn up the defensive pressure, get into passing lanes, and up the tempo.  The message must have been taken to heart, because the Blazers outscored the Suns 26-9 in the second quarter, and then 31-12.  You won't often see a 57-21 beat down in the middle two quarters of a game.

As always, LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone early, and then took over in the second.  He finished the game with 23 points, on 10 of 16 shooting, and only had to play 33 minutes.  Marcus Camby continued on this roll rebouding the ball.  He had 22 against Memphis, 16 at Golden State, and had 20 against the Suns.  He became only the second Blazer in team history to pull down 20 or more rebounds in two-straight home games (Bill Walton was the first).

Gerald Wallace, who is a monster at the Rose Garden, had 17 points, and Wesley Matthews hit 4 of his 7 three-point attemps to end with 16 points.  Off the bench, Nic Batum had 14 points.  And, Jamal Crawford played facilitator in this one, dishing out 10 assists to go along with 9 points.

The Trail Blazers are now 9-1 at home.  That hasn't been the issue, obviously.  It's road games that have been the problem.  Monday night they'll travel to a place that has been a nightmare for them in recent years (much like Golden State)- Utah.

Most importantly, they now have a couple of days without a game to prepare for the game against the Jazz.  They are very aware of the road issues, and I expect we'll see a different performance.  I've called a lot of games in Utah, so you never flat out predict a win at that joint, but this one already feels different.  The Blazers certainly hope it is.


  1. Nice blog, Mike, and a nice victory for the team -- pretty much the most complete showing of the season so far. Jamal was my hero tonight. He took care of the ball and found the open shooters, which opened up some easy shots for himself. When he plays like that, he just may be our best PG.

    Is this the first time we will have had two days off before a road game? I expect Gerald Wallace to break out of his road slump in Utah because he will have a full tank and certainly has something to prove on the road.

    by dgpdx on 1/27/2012 11:25 PM
  2. this was a total team win. the most important part to me, and maybe this is a sign of the guys remembering the previous game about the suns, we didn't lose a step when the reserves came in -- and not even when the bench was cleared at the end. it's like ALL of the guys took that loss personally.

    after the first quarter, we took the game away. in the game chat, nearly everyone thought we could blow out the suns ... get our revenge. myself, i am a bit ashamed that i tweeted the suns to tell them we would win by just 14. i certainly didn't expect 38.

    in looking at the boxscore, there are so many little stats which pop out. did you realize that our starting center had 20 rebounds ... and our backup had 9? that's like unheard of, isn't it? are you aware that in just 12 minutes the Rhino had 3 steals? how about in 3:44 on the floor Elliot had not only 8 points, but 2 rebounds and a block?

    my point is, everyone played a part in this win. the real irony of this game is that the only blazer who did not score ... had 20 rebounds.

    i don't even want to talk about the upcoming game at utah because we actually have a full weekend (on the weekend) to mull it over. unlike the players, i'd just rather enjoy this blowout for a while.

    just what we needed.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/27/2012 11:36 PM
  3. Hey Mike: how about those Blazers, I remember the show boating that some of the Phoenix players did because I felt like that was somewhat stupid since they have to play us again.

    I believe Williams is going to be a big factor in this league, and not too sure that he won't be this year. He dribbles, passes and can shoot inside or out side. Not sure about drives to the basket yet.
    Batum, after the extension distraction, came out and played great. In fact I think he changed the flow of the game as much as anybody.

    Great game.
    Great Blog.
    beat Utah

    by Hg on 1/27/2012 11:34 PM
  4. Hi Mike,
    I'm an overseas Blazer fan and watch every game via League Pass Broadband. Do you and Rice know which feed (home or away) LP has chosen prior to the broadcast? Some of your past in-game comments lead me to believe you don't know. Typically, the home team's announcers are selected, but some nights-- like tonight-- they go with the road team. Do you and Coach Rice get offended when that happens? A few years back, you two-- like most of the small market teams-- tended to be a little too homerish at times. But I feel like you've made great strides and are now definitely one of the most listenable tandoms in the league. You should complain to the LP people about not getting your fair share of air time, haha. It was worse last season, I think this is the first time you guys have been bumped from a home game this year. I much prefer listening to your broadcast whenever possible-- if they use the road feed when the Spurs or Bulls visit, I might smash my laptop. Hmm... I guess Stacey King isn't coming to Portland this year, but you get the point... keep up the great work, and good luck in SLC.

    by baegin on 1/28/2012 12:32 AM
  5. This next game is a HUGE game. Not only are the Jazz playing well (for them), but it's a great start to finish the road woes. I like what you're telling me Mike, about the team being prepared. They NEED this. They needed tonight as well. Jeez, I thought the game was going to be closer, but that was seriously one, well, as Nico put it... Bleep whooping.

    by Herr on 1/28/2012 12:40 AM
  6. @baegin: I have the same problem as you staying outside of Burns, OR. LP used to have two feeds to each game, but apparently has stopped that. I thought it was Dish Network that was doing it, but it is league pass that decides the feeds apparently. The recent Sac game at the Rose Garden I had to listen to the Sac announcers instead of Mike and Mike. I, like you are fans of Mike and the other Mike LOL, and would like to have my choice.

    by Hg on 1/28/2012 5:10 AM
  7. @HG: The problem isn't Dish Network or even League Pass, the problem is Comcast. Blazer games are usually broadcast locally on CSN NorthWest, but other cable and sattelite tv companies are not able to carry it.


    by outcast on 1/28/2012 9:45 AM
  8. @outcast:
    Thank you for the update, once in a while, I like to get the opposing teams opinions, but just in short spurts, but I can get the Blazers side through high lights and blogs. I love me some Mike and Mike, but I love more to watch the team play opposed to listening to it although I love Tone and Wheels too. Except when we are losing Wheels tone of voice almost makes a loss more like the end of the world LMAO.

    by Hg on 1/28/2012 10:02 AM
  9. Did anyone notice that our best point gaurd in this game isn't a point gaurd?

    This was a great game and shows what can happen when you finish the game. Utah coming up and they are a much better team. Will Dr. J or Mr. H show up?

    by Ancientone on 1/28/2012 10:17 AM
  10. @outcast:
    on further review, as being outside Comcast blackout jurisdiction, it is League pass. My question is why do we only get one feed, as Baegin says, we usually get the homecourt feed. Is it because they have to pay extra for the Portland feed?

    by Hg on 1/28/2012 10:21 AM
  11. @Ancientone: I don't know if is as much Dr. J or Mr. H as it is depending on homecourt advantage. They have the same shooting woes at home as they do on the road; the only thing is they win the close games. I feel they have gained respect for Utah and how hard it is to win in their building, but playing their hearts out against a good home team sometimes isn't enough. Ask the Grizzlies.
    I did notice our best PG in the game wasn't a PG, but remember, him and LMA played together this summer in charity games, and Jamal does have great court vision, most of the time good handles and played the assist specialist last night. Playing the two man game in pick and rolls and dishes to LMA was a huge factor in the game.
    Do you see some changes coming in the starting five until Raymond can prove his worth? That line-up of Jamal, Nico, Gerald, LMA and Camby was awesome at the least. So maybe not every night, but to start the game off with great D would be a step forward most of the time.

    by Hg on 1/28/2012 10:34 AM
  12. Somebody lit a fire under Batum. He excels when given a defensive assignment. It challenges him. He can get in the flow of the game immediately. When he came into the game it changed everything.
    Everyone played well. How about Camby to the all star game. Just saying. Nice to see Matthews get going. He his such a smart ball player with the heart of a lion.
    Couple days between games. How about a formal practice. Imagine that.
    Hg; That's an interesting line up.

    by Divotking on 1/28/2012 1:43 PM
  13. MB,

    I remember thinking when we lost in Phoenix, it's just one game, one loss, it doesn't matter if you lose by 1 or 50. You bounce back and move on, I think the same can be said for this game. The plus side it that the Blazers we are used to seeing (at home) showed up. Wes' shot's were falling, Batum and Wallace showed why they are valuable. Jamal had his hustle on. Craig Smith and Thomas were ever dependable. Camby is the best rebounder in the league IMO. Everyone played good ball. It's encouraging and confidence building no doubt, but we have to bring this kind of gut and hustle as often as shortened season will allow and also we gotta make statements against playoff teams. Still for one night, I am gonna relish this one. We looked firery and healthy, we were running and diving to the floor, PHX just couldn't take us. It's so good to see, now I'd like to see some nice closeouts on the road. It's gotta be tough on the road with this schedule so I won't critique anything but I trust my gut in saying that the Blazers DO have it in them.

    Have a good day everyone.

    by Bull Frog on 1/28/2012 3:53 PM
  14. Hg: I'm not ignoring you I'm thinking. If you heard a squeeking grinding sound that's what it was. I have to worry that if we did that where do we get defence and scoring in the second unit?

    by Ancientone on 1/29/2012 10:46 AM
  15. @Ancientone:
    Good point. Maybe EW will light it up, but I guess we had better stick with the plan of Nate's and use that as a special shut down unit. or maybe as the closure. With Jamal as PG and willing to pass and can score with Batum at the 2 willing to facilitate, and can score, with Gerald and LMA receiving the rock in scoring position and Camby scooping the misses, ON paper it sounds great. What do you think?

    by Hg on 1/29/2012 10:57 AM
  16. @Ancientone: BTW, I thought that noise was my cranium pondering, glad to hear it was yours, of course that is if I could hear.

    by Hg on 1/29/2012 10:59 AM
  17. Hg:
    Nate needs to find ways to get Nic on the court.
    The NBA is all about matchups. The no. 1 key to beating the Suns is slowing Nash. Batum's length bothers Nash a little. Felton did ok on Nash in a different way. He pressured him in the front court. Once Gentry decided Nash was done for the night, Nate stayed with Batum. I think because of Felton's turnovers and missed shots. Whatever the reason we seen the result. Things went well.
    It is an interesting line-up. I'm sure Nate will be looking for places to utilize it.
    Elliot looks like lightning in a bottle.

    by Divotking on 1/29/2012 11:47 AM
  18. @Bull Frog: One problem is that every game matters in this shortened season. Right now in the western conference (as I write this the west's teams haven't played yet or are playing now) there are 6 teams tied for 3rd place. A win can mean moving up several spots, a loss can move you down one or more spots particularly against another western team. All of these teams have mostly the same story: Great home records and abysmal road records.

    I say mostly the same because the Blazers are different, that win in Oklahoma City proved that we can be a great road team too. Many of Portland's road losses have been in single digits and if it wasn't for their 4th quarter road meltdowns they were perfectly winnable. The problem is psychological, and it is team wide. Once that barrier is broken, this team can beat even the elites on their home floors.

    For comparison the LA Lakers this year are routinely losing in double digits on the road. It happened to them in Portland, in Miami, in Orlando, in Miami, and again in Milwaukie of all places. We're better than these guys.

    by outcast on 1/29/2012 4:15 PM
  19. you watch a game like this and just kind of just scratch your head. all you can say is, "yeah, play that way!"

    go blazers!

    by thedanman on 1/29/2012 6:46 PM
  20. Watch for a breakout road game for GW in Utah! He'll have a full tank and plenty to prove. I'm not even saying "I may be wrong..." on this one.

    by dgpdx on 1/30/2012 12:29 AM
  21. @don: I am agreeing with you, and raising you one. I think Batum will play a lot of 2gd and him and GW together will give the Blazers another break out game. At least on their defense.

    Nevertheless, I am not brave enough to pick us as winners, but I do have a feeling.

    by Hg on 1/30/2012 2:34 AM
  22. @Divotking: It isn't all about Matchups, it is lots to do with synergy. Batum and Wallace plays together terrific and makes the whole team better. the 2nd key to beating Phoenix is to stop Phoenix from hiding Nash on an non-shooter, in the past Batum was that guy, but Batum spoiled that for them too.

    IMO, Batum did fantastic against Nash, and also Batum playing the 2 with Wallace at the 3 was the turning point of the game.

    by Hg on 1/30/2012 2:42 AM
  23. It was a fun game for the fans, a whole lot of fun really. But it was also a beat-down at home against a marginal team that had played the night before, and whose big win under similar circumstances had the Blazers especially motivated. That means it doesn't have that much relevance for the future. We can hope that the confidence boost helps down the line. Wesley should shoot better with the monkey off his back. And the "discovery" that Nic can play the two should come in handy. I'm more skeptical about saying that a good performace against a tired team that doesn't play much defense proves that Jamaal can too play point. However, the way he talked after the game about following the coach's instructions to run pick and roll after pick and roll, does at least give me hope that he's capable of learning to do the things at point that maximize his ability. But we'll have to see how that works against a team that plays hard pick-and-roll defense before I waver from my preference for giving Nolan a real chance to "prove his worth."

    by Islander on 1/30/2012 10:47 AM
  24. You're right on, Hg. We can put a very long (and talented) lineup on the floor with a front line of LA, MC, and GW, with JC and NB at the guard spots.

    by dgpdx on 1/30/2012 4:28 PM
  25. What a disaster. That's the best word to describe yet another road debacle, "disaster". This was the pattern set when they played at Golden State, good first half, then completely blowing it in the third quarter and first half of the 4th, and then failing miserably to make up the difference in the final minutes. Just like at Golden State, and just like so many other road games this season, the Blazers handed Utah the game. Plain and simple. While the reason the Jazz were still in the game at half time was because the Blazers allowed them to get so many offensive rebounds. But that wasn't the real reason Portland lost, the real reason was because in the second half Utah came to play, and Portland blew it YET AGAIN. It's getting to the point to where I start to grimmace every time there is a road game, and I just can't help but wonder "will they turn things around or will we be disappointed yet again?"

    And yes, this post is harsh, but frankly heaping scorn on a team that allowed an 11 point lead to vanish and then allow a 7 point Utah lead is the best thing we can do. With this one loss Portland has now managed to slide down to 8th place. Every game counts and we can't keep throwing away road games like this, not if we want to be in the playoffs. Maybe letting them know how disappointing and frustrating it is will help. I don't know, the problem is psychological and unfortunately those are much harder to solve. :(

    by outcast on 1/30/2012 8:47 PM
  26. Hey Outcast; it was a pretty bad game and you are right we did give it to them, but IMO, it was when we started casting off threes.

    Anyway it is OK to let off steam and it is clear that you are in need of it.

    We will get better.

    by Hg on 1/30/2012 11:46 PM
  27. @Hg: I'd hope so, but we're 1/3 of the way through the schedule, and I'm starting to question if we really can rise above fray in the West.

    by outcast on 1/31/2012 10:32 AM
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