Mt. Reggie Erupts in Portland
Among the positive things we've seen from this Portland team this season is the fact they've never really looked completely outmatched by a single player, or by a team. They've had some losses by wide margins, as many teams do, but for a team that sits below the .500 mark, they've almost always held their own.
The Blazers have fallen victim to some great team efforts, and we've seen single players have hot periods against them, but never this season had we seen an individual player turn in a totally-dominant effort like the one we saw Wednesday night. Kobe hasn't done that to them, neither has Durant, or LeBron, or Duncan- the guys we know by just one name.
Sure, some of the superstars have put together solid games against the Blazers this season, but no one has done to them what Reggie Evans did in this game. Not to say Evans isn't a good rebounder, because he is. But, to think that he could take control of this game in the opening seconds, and keep it up the entire night, was pretty amazing.
Even thinking back to past years, I can't remember a player ever having this big an effect from the opening possession on, as Evans had in this game. He set the tone on the early possessions, his teammates fed off his energy, and the game was over. Just like that.
By the time we got to the first timeout in the first quarter, Evans had five rebounds, three of them offensive. By the end of the first quarter, he had 10 rebounds, 9 points, and his team had built a 20-point lead. By the end of the night, Evans had posted a career-high 26 rebounds, and a career-high-tying 22 points to go along with them. He was simply remarkable.
The Nets built a lead as big as 30, weathered a minor push back from Portland's second unit late, and won the game going away, 111-93. A pretty amazing statement by the Nets, who have been playing well, and by Evans, who has never had a game like this.
There's something to be said in this league for knowing exactly what you are, and what you aren't. Evans defines that characteristic. He's always been a capable rebounder, but on this night evidently he thought he was an offensive threat as well. And, he was.
The Blazers came into this game needing a win badly to keep pace with the teams ahead of them in this jumbled playoff race at the bottom of the conference. You always worry about the first game following a long road trip, but because Portland's last game came on Sunday, it was thought that it perhaps wouldn't be as big a factor this time. I'm still not sure it was a factor at all. They were just whopped in the face in the first few seconds, put on their heels, and never had a chance. Evans saw to that by himself.
LaMarcus Aldridge was terrific for the Blazers, as he scored 24 points, on 11 of 14 shooting, but also suffered a sprained ankle when he came down on the foot of Evans in the first half. To his credit, Aldridge did his best to play through it. He just didn't have enough help in this one.
Brooklyn did have a solid defensive game plan to deal with Damian Lillard, and we've seen a lot of teams scheme to take him out of the game. The Nets just make Lillard uncomfortable from the very beginning, and Evans' dominance on the boards put the Blazers in hurry-up mode from the middle of the first quarter on. Lillard still had 15 points, but all 15 came in the second half, when a blowout was already in the books. So, credit to P.J. Carlesimo and his staff for a good defensive game plan.
And, it wasn't all Evans for Brooklyn in this game, even though it seemed like he'd be enough by himself. Brook Lopez had 28 points, and with Evans out there Lopez only has to worry about scoring and can forget about having to rebound. That certainly makes life easy on him. Deron Williams was a star in this game for his defense, and not his offense, as he had only 6 points. Even former Blazer Gerald Wallace, who's been unimpressive throughout this season, got in on the act, scoring 12 points, grabbing 6 rebounds, and dishing out 5 assists.
Evans helped the Nets hold a 16-0 advantage in second-chance points through one quarter, and they ended up winning that category 34-19. It got more respectable as the night wore on, but enough damage was done early.
The Blazers entered the night knowing that 8 of their final 12 games would be at home, and knowing their margin for error was razor-thin. They also knew to be ready for Lopez, Williams, and Wallace. What they apparently forgot about was Evans. Now, they'll be seeing him in their nightmares.
So, we're down to 11 games for Portland, and their post-season hopes took another hit. But, as the players echoed after the game, they're nowhere near raising the white flag. It was good to hear, but it's tough to look at the remaining schedule.
Utah is up next.