This game was… epic. As if this season has not been enough to fill a novel, this game alone surely could. Get your pop corn Blazer fans!
After an abysmal 2nd quarter where Dallas outscored Portland 27 to 14. I recall sitting in the Blazer chat when Casey Holdahl was repeatedly saying, “put the bench in.” And if I’m being honest, who wasn’t saying that? I certainly felt this game was over. Dallas effortlessly abused Portland making bucket after bucket early in the shot clock and often.
Down by as many as 21 in the 3rd quarter, the Blazers whittled the Dallas lead down to only 6 by the start of the 3rd quarter, tied it at around the 7 minute mark in the 4th, and took the lead with 6:43 to play in the 4th for the first time since the 3 min mark of the 1st quarter. The game stayed within 2 points until Darren Collison hit what was a shot clock beating prayer from nearly half court that pushed the lead to 5. It felt like a dagger. An Aldridge miss at the rim and a failed tip in by Batum, turned into another 2 points for Dallas on the other end. The lead extended to seven (101-94), and Hickson would turn the ball over in the next possession with 2 minutes to play. It was the second time I would chalk this game up as a Blazer loss.
Would an answer come from above?
Shawn Marion traveling -> Aldridge gets fouled and makes both free throws (101-96)
1:37 minutes to play
O.J. Mayo gets picked by Matthews -> Batum missed 2 free throws, wincing in pain
1:15 minutes to play
Mayo gets picked by Matthews -> Wes draws a foul and makes 2 free throws (101-98)
0:52 minutes to play
Nowitzki misses a jumper -> Batum drains a contested 3 pointer - Lillard assist (101-101)
0:28 seconds to play
Marion drives, kicks out to Nowitzki for a three pointer (104-101)
0:11 seconds to play
Batum get trapped, hits Aldridge who steps back and drains a three pointer (104-104)
(his first of the season)
0:04 seconds to play
Ronnie Price enters the game and takes a charge (RING THE BELL!)
0:01.5 seconds to play
Aldridge catches the inbounds from Matthews, and in one motion, turns around and drains the game winner.
Blazer win! (106-104)
Portland scored 32 points each quarter of the second half, outscoring Dallas 64-45 in total. It was the highest scoring second half of the season for the Blazers. They sent the Mavs off the court just like they did after game 4 of the playoffs two seasons ago - in shock.
In a game where the Blazer backcourt struggled to find their shot, shooting 4-24 for in the first half, and 11-40 for the game, it was the front court that did the heavy lifting. Aldridge and Hickson combined 21-33 from the field, 55 points, 28 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 2 steals.
Hickson faced some favorable match-ups amongst three of the four Dallas guys that played at centers (Kaman sat out from a head injury sustained versus Phx on Sunday).
Elton Brand (17 min) went 1-6 and 2 rebounds.
Brandon Wright (15 min) went 3-5 with 8 boards and 2 made free throws.
Bernard James (15 min) went 5-9 with 3 rebounds.
In total, the Maverick centers were 9-20 (20 points) and grabbed 13 rebounds. In 36 minutes, Hickson was 9-13, 15 rebounds, and this 65% free throw shooter on the season went 8 for 8 at the line ending with a season high 26 points. He matched the 3 combined in blocks (2) and steals (1).
The opposing team's size is the bain of Hickson's existance this season, but playing next to Aldridge has made life much easier on JJ. LaMarcus demands that teams put their best front court defender on him. It worked great tonight.
Jason Quick of the Oregonian pointed out that it was the 10th win from a half time deficit this season, tied with Indiana for most in the NBA. And, the 8th win this season while overcome an 11 point or more deficit, tied with Utah for the most in the NBA. And lest we forget the stat guys who claim the law of averages in close games - Portland is now 12-8 in games decided by 6 or fewer points.
Aldridge’s game winning shot recieved ESPN Sport Center’s Play of the Game (for all games). It was the lead to start Sports Center at midnight, and 3rd on the top 10. I can’t explain why it wasn’t #1 when it was the lead clip, but it’s some rare face time for a much deserved Blazer team, and their two-time All-Star.
The best part to me besides the celebration was watching Batum’s reaction when the ball left Aldridge’s hand. At the top of the screen, Batum runs up the sideline, arm raised. (Keep getting an error trying to embed the video. Sorry.)
Now, watch Batum at the top of the screen as LA hits this game winner last year in April versus the Mavericks in Dallas. He walked into the Dallas Bench. And you have to like the commentator’s response about Aldridge, “This is why he was an All-Star.”
Batum’s reaction is literally identical in each one! And of course this game smacked of the game 4, playoff come back versus Dallas 2 years ago when the Blazers and Brandon Roy overcame a 23 point deficit. They only needed to come back from 21 in this game.
"I can't get tired of appreciating what our team does as far as competing and fighting and never giving up,” Stotts said after the game. There will never be a lack of sports analysts and stats guys that would say Stotts wasn’t given much. But I don’t see it that way. He was given a team that epitomizes what it means to be a team, and has helped them realize their potential and what is possible. They give everything they have, they play for each other, they never quit, and they have a common goal to win basketball games, and no one cares who gets the credit. They are genuinely happy for the success of their fellow teammates as much as they are for the success of the team. Stotts was given a team that lacks size, and depth, and even talent in places, but a real team nevertheless. And although many didn’t expect much from Stotts or the Blazer, I did. Call me a Homer, or call me a Blazer Fanatic, I don’t care. Stotts is delivering 10 fold on my expectations for this season, as are the Blazers in dramatic fashion.
The Blazers lack size, depth and talent to be a championship contender, but they are clearly in the playoff hunt. It’s clear what deficiencies exist at this point in the season. But, Antonio Harvey reminded me of something after the game that does strike a chord with what Blazer fans have come to expect and appreciate in terms of team chemistry. After a disappointing Western Conference Finals loss in 1999-2000, and posting a Western Conference best record through the beginning of March the following season, the Blazers signed PG Rod Strickland. They went on to lose 17 out of the next 25 games and ended up losing in the first round. Fans that have a passion for this current roster certainly have an argument to make about disrupting that chemistry as much as other fans have an argument to make that the Blazers have holes to fill.
Do you think the stigma of free agents not wanting to come to small market Portland next season has changed? I have to think that players looking for a team to join this off-season are moving Portland up their wish list. I know that JJ is making it really hard on the Blazer front office to not find the cap space to sign him.
And, if I could ask one question to a Blazer after this game, I’d ask Jared Jeffries to compare this game, and this season, to the Lin Sanity he experience last season. He had a front row seat for both. Did I just blow your mind Jarred?
I hope you enjoyed the win as much as I did! Let me know what you think.
RIP CITY BABY!