Biggest win of the year? I don't know that I'd go that far. But when you look at the totality of the situation -- last of a five-game road trip against a team that beat you twice at home and is nipping at your playoff-racing heels -- you could certainly make a case. And if the Trail Blazers do in fact end up making the playoffs, I think we'll look back on this trip, and specifically the win against Memphis, as one of the main reasons why.
Onto the highlights
• Don't beat yourself up if you weren't able to make it home from work yesterday in time for the first quarter. Whatever you were doing to make that money was certainly more productive than the Trail Blazers were in the first quarter in Memphis. Not that a slow start was unexpected. The mind tends to wonder when you've been on the road for more than a week and you know that, win or lose, you'll be sleeping in your own bed for the first time in half a fortnight. Might explain the six first quarter turnovers, which was only one less than the Blazers committed during all 48 minutes a few nights before in Minneapolis.
What I'm getting at is that there really wasn't much, if anything, to write home about from the first quarter of yesterday's game. But if you had to pick a play, I supposed LaMarcus Aldridge's And1 over Zach Randolph would be as good as any. Click here to watch the video
• Looking over Rudy Fernandez's game log
, you can see that Portland's favorite Mallorcan has been a bit up and down, at least when it comes to scoring. 15 points against the Clippers, only 5 the next night vs. Boston. 10 against Utah, 3 the next game against New Jersey. 17 vs. the Raptors, 3 against the Bulls. And since Rudolpho put up 18 against the Timberwolves on Saturday, you figured the trend would point to Rudy having a low scoring output on Monday, which he did, just 5 points against the Grizzlies. He went 1-6 from three, which is a bummer, but hey, we got the win.
The other shot that Rudy made the highlight reel. Rudy received a pass from Bayless in the corner. And even on an off night, you have to respect Rudy from the perimeter, which is why OJ Mayo went all-in on the closeout, leaving his feet to contest the shot after Fernandez threw the pump, which turned out to be a fake. Rudy steps inside the line and cans the long two. Click here to watch the video
(Quick aside here. I've never understood why the ankle-breaking crossover is a sought-after highlight, but the overplay after the pump fake isn't. Both moves make the defender look equally ridiculous, in my opinion.)
• Dante Cunningham played three minutes last night. Three minutes! And yet, he managed to get in not one, but two highlights in his short stint during the second quarter. Two highlights! The first was a breakaway And1 dunk, the second a putback dunk off a Martell Webster missed layup. Way to make the most of what you get Dante. Keep this up and you'll go far. Click here to watch the video
(which also includes a LaMarcus Aldridge dunk).
• In all non-homer honesty, I'm really surprised and a bit perturbed that Andre Miller's full-court, jumping over Marc Gasol layin didn't make the Top 10 in NBA.com
. SportCenter I can kind of understand, but no love from NBA.com? Come on! I mean, I realize that we're all supposed to kiss the ring of LeBron James, but an alley-oop dunk that didn't even count? I mean, it's an athletic move, but you can see that after practice at any of 30 practice facilities around the NBA. Seeing Andre Miller, a guy who infrequently gets more than a a few centimeters off the ground, hop over Marc Gasol on the way to the rim is far more rare on occurance. Click here to watch the video
• Now this highlight is not Top 10 worthy, but it's still a good one nonetheless. Despite being over 10 years older and, lets me honest here, a lot slower, Andre Miller still manages to pick Mike Conley's pocket at the top of the key, leading to a two-on-one fast break. Miller passes to Nicolas Batum, who wisely passes it back to Miller for the layin. Just one of the many things Nicolas did right Monday night in Memphis. Click here to watch the video
• Another Miller/Batum highlight. Dre grabs the rebound, one of five on the night, and pushes the ball up the court. He draws two defenders in the lane, as you have to respect Miller's ability to finish at the rim, leaves his feet for the jump pass to Nico, who drains on of his four three-pointers in rhythm. Click here to watch the video
• Brandon Roy might not be 100 percent, but he looks pretty darn good out there to my eyes. Some find it necessary to crack-wise about a perceived step that he's lost since the hamstring injury, but he's still playing at a higher level than 90 percent of the league. Case in point: this double-clutch jumper to beat the shot clock buzzer.
Click here to watch the video
• Last season I wrote a piece about the team's swagger
, during which Travis Outlaw (wipe away a tear) made an astute observation about Jerrdy Bayless.
“Jerryd Bayless is just a high energy swag,” said Outlaw. “He
scream on everything! He hit a jump shot, he’ll scream. He’s just a
motivator. He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m good, I’m good. Look at me.”’
Jerryd didn't make a liar of Travis on Monday night. After Rudy took a deep, twisting three-pointer from Beale Street to beat the shot clock, Bayless collected the rebound, drive baseline for a layup and a foul, after which he flexed and screamed like an Olympic weightlifter. As Travis would say, swag out on 'em Bayless. Click here to watch the video
• More Roy acrobatics. During a stretch where the Trail Blazes couldn't seem to buy a bucket or a foul call, Roy came through in the lane as he often does. Roy split Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol and was still able to finish high-glass for the deuce. That was a big bucket. Click here to watch the video
• You can't say enough about Nicolas Batum. You can't. He's been like Visa since returning to the starting lineup: everywhere you want him to be. And with Roy losing the handle on a drive, he had the smarts to cut to the basket, receive the pass/prayer from Roy, elevate baseline and finish around Marc Gasol (and Mike Conley, who was only providing token weakside help) for the And1. Plays like that are so Batum. The guy is preternatural. Click here to watch the video
• Marcus Camby has a knack for getting tips. Usually it's a tip out to a teammate for another possession, but he also does a fair share of tips toward the basket as well. He's not the greatest finisher at the rim, but he'll manage to get you a putback at least once a game, and that's all you're asking for from a center on this team.
In this play, Roy drives the lane and draws a triple-team consisting of Gasol, Gay and Conley. Roy forces up some junk, presumably with the hope of drawing a foul. No foul and no make, but with three guys on Roy, there's no one at home to box out Camby, who beats Gay to the ball for the tip in for one of this two makes on the night. Click here to watch the video
• Batum's And1 off the Roy fumble was probably the play of the night, but Nico's block on OJ Mayo late in the fourth quarter might have been just as important. The Blazers were having a heck of a time inbounding the ball up 98-93 with 33 seconds to play. Andre Miller passes the ball into the backcourt, just beating a 5 second call, which OJ Mayo steals. Mayo drives and puts up a shot that would have brought the Grizzlies to within two possessions (possibly one possession if a foul was called) but Batum contests the shot and ends up blocking Mayo's attempt right as it leaves his hand. Roy gets the rebound and is fouled, and the game is essentially over. Click here to watch the video
• After the buzzer, Mike Barrett talks with Brandon Roy about bouncing back in the second half, Batum's contributions, finishing the road trip 4-1 and the importance of getting the first game back at the Rose Garden against the Pacers. Click here to watch the video