Ladies and gentlemen, your early candidate for Game of the Year. Now pause for a moment with the most obvious lyrics in the world:
You tryin to check my homey, you better check yo self
Cause when you diss Dre you diss yourself…
Relativity is a funny thing. If the Blazers had a losing season this year, we are all shocked and disappointed. If they have a losing season in 2005, we shrug and move on. Likewise, if Brandon Roy drops 52 in a win at Dallas, it gets the Michael Jordan memorial (and Kobe Bryant rip off) fist pump and scowl. You don’t expect him to do it every night, but you can’t be all that surprised when it happens. But when Andre “I set my career high of 37 eight years ago” Miller scores 52, we’re making sure the cats haven’t shacked up in the doghouse and double checking the last page of the History of the World to see if anyone added the words, “THE END”.
There’s so much to say about Miller scoring the second-most points in franchise history, but so little of it wouldn’t just be treading water in the same hyperbole infested sea. Using lanes that were filled the night before in Houston, Miller shifted and spinned his way past everyone from Jason Kidd to Shawn Marion to Dirk Nowitzki, finishing in the lane in the same contorted fashion anyone pick-up veteran would recognize. It wasn’t graceful, nor was it powerful, but Miller imposed his will on the Mavericks just the same. And that baby hook to force overtime: literally magic.
Not to be too much of a downer, but the most important thing to do here now that the deserved hysteria has died down is not to avoid overreaction, but continued reaction. It was a special game and one that I’m going to remember for a long time, but keep in mind that it also boosts Miller’s trade value higher than it will ever be all season. I don’t believe the Blazers should trade him unless someone is available we don’t know about, but it’s still a big part of the story. In fact, Miller dropping 52 in itself doesn’t even confirm whether or not it was a good signing last summer. How he has played since being inserted as the starting point guard and how Portland has maintained success speaks to that. 52 was nothing more than a glorious night in January, but winning twice in Dallas for the first time since 1999 won’t be any less than a great memory.
Who said Andre Miller looked worn out….he shot 22-of-31 from the field but what really made his night was the 7-of-11 he shot from 16-23 feet out. You know what’s amazing, NONE of those 22 field goals were assisted. I don’t have a way to check the history on this, but I imagine that feat puts Miller in even rarer company than he already was in. Speaking of which, I wonder what the single greatest scoring career-high increase ever was from a 33 year old in a single game?
Nic Batum might not get the game ball, but he at least gets to hold it for awhile. It was a masterful stroke by Nate McMillan — or whichever coach made the suggestion — to have Batum guarding Jason Terry for much of the second half to have him switch onto Dirk Nowitzki in pick-and-rolls and later just putting Batum on Dirk outright, with Batum playing power forward. Dirk is one of the toughest guys in the league to block because of his height and the perpetual fade on his jumper, but Nic’s hand appeared to be centimeters away from a block all night.
We can’t forget LaMarcus Aldridge in the Dirkus Circus. He played 47 minutes and was just a smidgen less effective on Dirk, despite some showy defense waving his arms about. He’s going to get lost in the shuffle of this one with offensive attention on Dre and defensive kudos going to Nic, but Aldridge was a rock right up until some bad late fouls and a pair of missed free throws that came ohsoclose to costing Portland the game.
Like Aldridge, Jerryd Bayless also had an underrated night, scoring 17 points on 11 shots. He actually came away with the best plus/minus on the team at +20 and for awhile provided a great counter-punch when Dallas’ defense was caught Miller watching.
How fitting was it that on the night that the wily vet drops 52, Juwan Howard hits the game winner, on a broken play no less? He also grabbed 12 rebounds against a big Dallas frontline.
Nobody will remember this, but Steve Blake hit two massive three-pointers in the second half. He wasn’t any better than usual on defense, but this was one of his better recent offensive nights just because he blended in like a good old Zuka Juice back in the day.
Both Martell and Rudy took backseats to the Miller show, in part because they weren’t adding much to the offense with Dallas’ longer defenders making life difficult, but also because they didn’t have great defensive matchups either. I don’t want to read into this, but there were a couple shots of a seemingly unhappy Martell on the bench in the fourth quarter. He looked a little more cheery later and it might have been the camera just catching him at a bad moment, but it’s never a good feeling when you’re losing a battle in the starting small forward war.