So, some LaMarcus Aldridge guy sprained his ankle tonight. That’s cool. This Jeff Pendergraph fellow seems just fine with his career-high 14 rebounds and all. Blazers still beat the Clippers, and we all got Chalupas. Yahtzee!
At least that was the general consensus I gathered during and after the game at the Rose Garden, listening to other conversations like a 1977 Washington beat reporter. There was no eerie silence draped over the crowd when Aldridge left limping and only a few mutterings about his non-return. Not that you can read anything into that, but the fans seemed to take this injury in stride, helped along both by Pendergraph and the fact that Aldridge was (Edit: NOT) carried off the court by teammates or a stretcher.
We’ll hold off on further Aldridge talk until we know how long he’ll be out, which could probably be anywhere from one practice to three weeks. The important part, for now, is that the Blazers still managed to win with a Juwan Howard-Dante Cunningham-Pendergraph frontcourt, tying points in the paint 44-44 while staving off a late run from the Clippers.
As my younger brother so astutely pointed out afterwards, it was like a game of paddleball, with the paddle itself marking a zero-point differential (his words). Well said young fella. The Blazers never appeared to be in much danger, but they kept gaining 7-10 point leads only to fall victim to an L.A. surge and find themselves tied again. As much positive energy comes out of these against-the-odds victories, this type of game may well define Portland for now. A team that just doesn’t have the defensive talent to hold leads against squads with offensive ability, however squandered it may be.
Despite an efficient 25 points on 19 shots, it was strange Chris Kaman didn’t get the ball even more than he did. But that’s why they’re the Clippers — pardon the inane NBA generalization. L.A. didn’t have any trouble scoring, shooting 49 percent, and they may have pulled off the comeback had they not been dragged beneath the waves by Baron Davis’ lackadaisical 2-for-15 shooting performance. Nothing saves a depleted team like the opponent hoisting bad jumpers in droves.
That, and hustle, heart, energy, desire, or whatever you want to call it. Something is going right when you grab 12 offensive boards. Oh, and the Blazers shot 13-of-25 on shots between 16-25 feet. That stat has become a pretty strong barometer for how the night has gone.
Individual Thoughts plus Rose Garden observations:
This feels like one of those games where people are just going to look at one another and say “Roy was pretty good” and leave it at that. But 25-7-6 on 20 shots, including a couple “No you don’t” jumpers in the final minutes to seal the game, would be cause for celebration for a large portion of pro players. One thing I found amazing was that when Roy had been resting for some time and L.A. made its run, Roy checked in and immediately hit a tough jumper. Some guys need to work themselves back into the game, some guys are always in the game. Just one free-throw attempt seemed a bit odd, though.
Aldridge was having a good night with seven points on four shots before leaving the game. If you weren’t already numb, any significant injury to him probably completed the proverbial morphine injection of fandom.
Juwan Howard rebounded nicely from a slow Monday by, well, rebounding well. Nine boards, four of the offensive variety, and 10 points on seven shots. Imagine if a Collins brother was getting his minutes right now.
Almost 20 minutes flat for Andre Miller, or was that 20 flat minutes? Six points, three assists, a couple cringe-worthy jumpers and hardly anything else of note.
Minus the mid-range jumpers and plus a little more hop to his step, Pendergraph played remarkably like Howard. He tends to be in the right places, doesn’t make too many mistakes — you can see he’s pretty cautious with the ball — and he looked much more fluid crashing the boards than he has. A big game like this, in a win, will do a lot for Pendergraph, who is rarely lacking in confidence regardless. Let’s see what he does for an encore now that he’s earned himself a spot on opposing scouting reports.
Martell Webster had a quiet 15 points, at least to these eyes, but getting to the line for eight tries was nice.
Jerryd Bayless dropped five assists in the second quarter and at times looked like a point guard. At other times, he was following Baron Davis’ lead with bad jumpers and getting into trouble at the rim. His passing instincts are starting to impress, but the man needs a floater to give shotblockers something else to think about, just like a big man needs a counter to his favorite post move.
Steve Blake got his shot blocked into the Byzantine Empire, or at least the 37th row, on a fast-break play you could see coming from mid-court. I literally saw heads shaking in the crowd before he crossed the three-point line. Other than that, he hit some open shots, but it still looks weird when he is initiating the offense in the fourth quarter with Roy and Bayless on the floor.
Dante Cunningham made himself noticeable late in the game, but his jumper isn’t coming off his hands right. When he’s missing, he’s missing long.
Someone in Portland’s game operations crew had a real bad idea tonight. When the Blazers make a run and the crowd stands up on its own in applause, that is probably not the best time to play a Blazers-remixed “That’s G” video package. I’ve never seen an excited crowd so dumbfounded, nor one sit down so quickly.
PG-13 Alert: There was a rowdy Clippers fan in our section. He was standing, yelling, waving his arms about, all the regular buffoonery. After a particularly sweet Portland play, a concessions lady came to our aisle and handed a bag of peanuts to the gentleman and said it was courtesy of a man a few rows up. I think you can guess what the Blazer fan yelled once the Clipper fan looked behind him. The Clipper fan was soon ejected.
Not only was it great to catch two Blazer games while I was in town, but it was great to see both Ben Golliver and Casey Holdahl in person. With how much of our time we spend on Twitter and on blogs, sometimes it’s just nice to see people face to face and shake their hands. Cheers, fellas.
That’ll resume the Portland excursion segment of our coverage. Back to League Pass in a couple days. Hopefully we’ll find something out about Aldridge tomorrow, and hopefully that doesn’t lead to us writing a post analyzing the Blazers’ game-plan without him.