Nov 26

Blazers Survive Hungry Nets

By mikebarrett Posted in: Nets, GregOden
There were several reasons to be concerned heading into this game. Any time you're playing a team that hasn't won a game yet, you know you could be "it." And, here's a cliche that you can certainly apply- New Jersey is better than its record. Perhaps that isn't saying much, because they're now 0-15, but they are now finally getting healthy.

Of the people I talk to before games, the only one who had the outcome of this thing nailed long before tip off was Mike Rice. He said the Nets would bring a ton of energy, play strong defense, and would give the Blazers all they could handle. Coming off Monday's game, where Portland cruised past Chicago, this probably sounded odd to some people.

As it turned out, the Nets brought a ton of energy, played very strong defense, and gave the Blazers all they could handle. It goes down as a wire-to-wire victory for the Blazers, and just another loss for the Nets, but it was no day at the beach.

Playing with every bit the desperation we expected, the Nets played one of their best games of the season. Now that they're getting healthy, this streak probably won't continue much longer. And even though Portland was in pretty good control of this thing throughout, no one was terribly comfortable until the final minutes. Not with what the Blazers had to lose.

We focused on one matchup during our pre-game segment, and that was the battle of two of the best young centers in the league, Brook Lopez vs. Greg Oden. Lopez, who played 40 minutes, scored 32 points, and grabbed 14 rebounds. Oden, who played only 25 minutes, had 18 points, 8 rebounds, and blocked 4 shots. Oden got his points on 11 shots. Lopez took 25 shots, and is a handful for anyone. It was a fantastic game for Lopez, and a solid game from Oden.

The Blazers came into this game second in the NBA in point differential, at +8.2, and this game won't hurt that number. But, the fact is, it shouldn't have been as close as it was. Portland has been shooting 81 percent at the free-throw line. But, in this game were just 14 for 24. That allowed the Nets to stay within shouting distance.

All 12 wins for the Blazers this season have been by six points or more. That's a good thing, but a scary thing at times. While they were so good last season in games decided by three points or less, we haven't really seen them come through in a very tight game this season. One of their home losses (Denver) came because they missed five free throws in the final 33 seconds. If not for the cushion they had in this game, we could have seen a similar outcome simply because of the lack of hitting foul shots in this one.

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

New Jersey was playing the second of a back-to-back, as they lost in Denver on Tuesday night. But, because of their situation, I didn't ever feel that was going to be an issue in this game. Simply a chance at a win would give them enough adrenaline to survive.

The Blazers got away with not being as sharp as they've been in recent games. I think some of this has to do with the schedule. It has been favorable, as far as who they've been playing, but no one has played more games than Portland at this stage. This game made it 17 games in 30 days to start the season. By Saturday, we'll be talking about 19 games in 33 days. That's a brutal pace.

Maybe it's because I travel with the team, and am with them every day, but I am so much a believer that the timing of games is just as important as who you're playing. It's perhaps more important. That's why I always point out things like "four games in five nights," on road trips. Those things are huge hurdles for teams. They are pros, but they're also human.

It's one day off for Thanksgiving, and then back to work on Friday night as the Blazers host Memphis. After that game ends late Friday night we'll fly to Salt Lake City, and Saturday night take on the Utah Jazz.


  1. yeah I agree....wee have got to hit our free-throws! Have u noticed how Rudy has missed some T-Foul shots! last year he was like 90% and this year he's like 80%...Oden is BEAST though!!!

    by ezblazerfan97 on 11/27/2009 8:24 AM
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