I’m not sure I’ve stared at a blank screen for longer after any game this season than after the Blazers beat the Nets in Jersey. It’s not because it was so bad I couldn’t do anything but react. It was because it was so good I was left speechless. Because normally when a writer is speechless, we write that we are speechless and thus, we have speech.
No, the reason this one took so long to write about was because it was so very dull. Depressing, even, with every wide shot of an arena less full than that of a Mid-Major college on a snowy Monday in December numbing the heart to the same effect as seeing Juan Dixon in a Blazer starting lineup. It’s a sad state of affairs in that arena, where you can’t really blame anyone, but everyone is a little bit at fault.
The game itself was hardly bleak, with the Blazers scoring 124.4 points per 100 possession — basically the point in basketball where your offense becomes God Mode in Doom — and the Nets were a more than respectable 113.4 per 100 themselves. Portland was on the better side of a 42-26 points in the paint split for once and the majority of their assists were on field goals at the rim. That’s, well, not really progress because it is a statistical outlier caused by the Nets, but at least they can get into the paint against the Nets.
Sure they “blew” another 20-point lead and allowed the Nets to be a threat late in the game, but when Marcus Camby leaves the game a couple minutes into the first quarter with an ankle injury, the Blazers were back to being a non-defensive team. Hence, they blow a lead, I don’t, and you shouldn’t, care. It has no bearing on the future. On that note, however, the Blazers still had some strong defensive possessions later on and were simply beat by some good shooting on Courtney Lee’s part. But they closed the game out, not allowing a single point over the final 3:06 until Lee hit a three with 0.6 remaining and the outcome already decided.
Nic Batum got the start over Martell Webster, strangely enough to spread the floor, according to Nate, and shared his relative ineffectiveness with Webster, combining to shoot 3-of-10 with a couple defensive highlights thrown in.
The game wasn’t about them, though. It was about Brandon Roy being Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge continuing to impress as he inches up the evolutionary hoops ladder. Roy scored 28 points on 14 shots and didn’t look one bit hampered by a hamstring injury, and before you go lamenting New Jersey’s defense, consider that Roy managed to beat some quick double teams as well as beat a helping Brook Lopez in the paint on a number of occasions. For once, this was a Roy game with no asterisks attached, which should give everyone out there a nice, deep breathe.
Aldridge was a machine, scoring 27 points on 20 shots with the Blazers riding him all night until the final minutes when Roy took over. They could have gone to him even more, but the amount of times the ball was entered into the post was encouraging in itself. And though Aldridge only got to the free-throw line once, he continues to reward his team for his touches, scoring efficiently with a variety of moves while being patient enough to wait on double teams and kick the ball out (four assists, three for three pointers).
Andre Miller was solid in his own right with 20 points and seven assists, but this was about a glimpse of the near future when the Blazers can ride Aldridge and Roy to a victory despite only one other player scoring in double digits. Yes, it was against the Nets, but throw in a healthy Greg Oden alongside a dual performance like this from the two big extended contracts and you have yourself a team that can beat who it should purely on the strength of its stars.