My, my, my. That. Was…
There’s little quite like a beatdown of the Utah Jazz in the Rose Garden with a division title on the line. From the very first whistle the Jazz were fighting an uphill battle, keeping themselves in the game (relatively) with some very tough jumpers and fortunate breakaway layups. But, basketball being a game of runs, the Blazers rode out their early pounce (39-25 after the first quarter) all the way to the bank.
While tonight might have fallen short of being Dunkfest 2009 (LaMarcus and Batum may disagree), the smart money is usually on the team that’s getting multiple alley-oops and lobs in half-court sets. It was backdoor cut after backdoor cut, and the Jazz were all but oiling up the hinges on the screen door. 61% shooting from the Blazers only tells part of the story, as the starters shot 68% from the floor. What other team allowed shooting like that recently? Oh, right, Phoenix. Didn’t turn out too well for them either, did it?
There were some strange, M. Night Shayamalan things going on throughout the night. Przybilla and Boozer getting double-technicals for jawing at eachother was normal enough, but then they each got TOSSED for just a tad more talking while Boozer was standing still and Joel was 10 feet away (and was still walking backwards). Truly a silly call, but Violet Palmer was doing her usual Violet Palmer things to the Blazers (how about that non-call when Oden got spun around in the post by Boozer?) so you could make an argument that things evened out. Then Jerry Sloan got himself tossed for tarnishing the pride and honor of Sir Ref the Brave by pointing his finger at him. Got the feeling Sloan had himself a Hoosiers moment and wanted to get tossed. Even odder, Oden apparently forgot he had two hands and resorted to pulling down boards with one palm. Actually, that was pretty cool, and he did make a lefty hook late in the game, so it’s a pass.
Roy, as always, was the maestro, and deserves all the credit in the world for those 11 (of the team’s 32) assists. But shucks if LaMarcus still isn’t playing some damn fine basketball. If he continues to put on a show like this in the playoffs, he will get that credit and respect we know he wants — and Barkley might stop calling him a jump-shooter too. I’m not going to single anyone else out because everyone had a good game (missed ya Rudy, could’ve used you on a few Sergio-led fast breaks), but, on nights when Batum is playing this well, even though he had the same point total as Outlaw (17), I can’t help but wonder who’s going to be left without minutes next year. But that’s enough talk about this, we’re entering Playoffville.
Most importantly, we knocked Utah down a peg and are only a game and a half behind Denver for the division. That’s not what I care about most, though. The Blazers are just a game behind Houston for the 4th seed, which would give them home-court advantage in the first round. If Portland can get that, I think, and they way they’re playing this isn’t even going out on a limb anymore, they will win a playoff series. My, my, my.