Game 44 Recap: Blazers 108, Clippers 93

Blake Griffin got the benefit of the calls, especially this one, but LaMarcus Aldridge got the win and got one step closer to the All-Star Game. Photo courtesy of the Oregonian.

We can take away a few things from Portland’s victory Thursday night against the emerging Los Angeles Clippers, but let’s be honest, this game was about one thing: LaMarcus Aldridge versus Blake Griffin.

Because it’s late and TNT games take forever, I’m going to try and be as brief as possible, so before I get into the LA/Blake story let me run a few things down. Wesley Matthews: 28 HUGE points. Inside shots, layups, threes, Wesley was big timing all night long. Nicolas Batum: Only 10 points, but a couple of monster threes, solid defense, great energy. Andre Miller: 15 points, as solid as a rock, clearly the backbone of this Blazer team. Dre is the most soft spoken player I’ve ever had the chance to talk to off the court, but on the court he gets fired up. Thursday in the closing seconds he was screaming, hollering, and hugging his teammates; just a guy that wants to win basketball games and doesn’t give two shakes about anything else. Andre also got one of the top plays Thursday night, a slick show-and-go to the rim that left Blake Griffin dead on his feet. Rudy Fernandez: Besides LaMarcus Aldridge, Thursday was about Rudy. His energy is infectious, his hot shooting stretches leads, and the dude is basically fearless on offense. With the offense more open and fluid, and the Blazers’ regulars becoming more and more familiar with one another, Rudy has flourished. Look for that to continue. Rudy finished with 17 points. The big number: he hit only one three, meaning he attacked the basket most of the night.

OK, now on to the real meat of Thursday night. Blake Griffin is far and away the most exciting rookie of this season, and he may be one of the most exciting rookies ever. He’s a highlight reel, he can actually play, and he’s turned a perpetual basement team into a league-wide must watch. Griffin dropped 47 on the Pacers earlier in the week, and at that point most people, including me, basically conceded that he was bound for the All-Star Game. Now one good game does not an All-Star make, but neither does one bad game unmake. If Griffin becomes a lock due to a few weeks of hot play, why doesn’t LaMarcus become a lock for the reason. My theory is two fold. First Griffin plays in LA. Yes he plays for the other LA team, but it’s still LA. Reason number two, the dude is a SportsCenter highlight machine. The NBA thrives on player recognition, the league would be missing out on one of its most marketable players if it leaves Blake Griffin off the All-Star team. But I digress. Here’s the truth LaMarcus and Blake Griffin are firmly in the All-Star conversation; neither has made the team yet. Thursday was a chance for either guy to get traction.

You saw what happened if you watched the game, and hopefully those East Coast assistant coaches at least have TiVo. It wasn’t straight up domination by LA, but it was a pretty stark example of one player being better than the other. The Clippers basically were only looking to get Blake lob passes, and when they went to his back-to-the-basket game, Griffin’s moves were not impressive. One thing, too, that made my opinion of Griffin slide slightly was that he didn’t come back on defense. On more than one possession, Blake stayed in the back court, or was slow to get up the floor, obviously interested in the leak-out for a fast break. The Clippers play fast, and can score a ton of points, and Portland is a team that tends to parrot their opponent. Because of that it makes sense to prepare for fast breaks, but it just felt like the whole team was looking for the highlight dunk instead of building a functioning offensive set.

Thursday wasn’t about the failures of Blake Griffin though, he had a nice line with 20 points and 18 rebounds, it was about the successes of LaMarcus Aldridge. LA’s been building up to a game like the one he had Thursday. He didn’t score as many points as he did against the Timberwolves, 28 instead of 37, but he combined his new found low-post game with his old standard top-of-the-key jumper. If LA can go inside and outside on a regular basis, he is going to be basically unstoppable. Also one thing LaMarcus showed was that he has the ability to take over a game. In the third quarter Thursday LaMarcus went off for 12 points, hitting 6-of-7 from the field, and helping Portland to a 13-point lead, their biggest of the night at that point.

Clearly this isn’t a fad for LaMarcus, the playing well and dominating his position. The All-Star game may or may not be that important to him, but being selected will be a validation of every thing he and this team has accomplished since losing their franchise player. Also, if LA doesn’t go and Blake Griffin does, we’ll be able to point at Thursday’s game, and say that yes there was an All-Star on the court that night, and no it was not Blake Griffin.

One interesting note that will likely leave Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro scratching his head: Portland trailed by 14 in the first quarter, and won by 15. The Clippers looked good for stretches, Eric Gordon especially, but for the most part, when the Blazers starting building a lead at the end of the fourth, the Clips fell apart.

Portland is back in action Saturday night against the Indiana Pacers at the Rose Garden.

One really quick note:

  • I mentioned this on Twitter when it happened, but I want to quickly say something about it again. Thursday night former national team goalkeeper Kasey Keller was in the Rose Garden, and when he was shown on the big screen he was booed. I understand the dude plays for the Seattle Sounders, for those of you that don’t follow professional soccer that’s the MLS franchise in the city to the north owned by one Paul Allen. I understand that Portland and Seattle will become rivals when the Timbers’ season starts, but come on there isn’t a rivalry yet and this guy is one of the greatest American soccer players EVER. Plus he played his college ball at the University of Portland. I bet he would have played for the Timbers when he decided to join the MLS, leaving the English Premiere League, the NBA of international club soccer, if the Timbers had been in the MLS at the time. Come on Portland, you should love this guy. Of course all bets are off when the Timbers do start playing.

Box Score

Standings

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

Topics: All-Star Game, Blake Griffin, Kasey Keller, LaMarcus Aldridge

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  • http://www.sugarsled.com David Taylor

    Mike, your comment that “there isn’t a rivalry” yet is baffling… the rivalry between the Timbers and the Sounders has been on since the 70′s… the US Open Cup matches the last two years have been extremely heated, with huge police presence on hand. The Timbers have already put up a billboard in downtown Seattle claiming Portland as “Soccer City USA.”

    The rivalry between the Timbers and the Sounders will eclipse anything we’ve seen in pro sports in the US.

  • http://www.weareecs.com Doc

    Boy, I hope you never plan to cover the MLS… Timbers and Sounders have been rivals for decades now. You don’t have to be pro to have a rival. That said, very classy, Scum fans.

  • CVO

    Wow, pretty out-of-touch with Portland. Do you live here, or do you blog from out of town? The Timbers/Sounders rivalry is the biggest in US soccer, even the last two years when we were Divison-2, and are all over the news.

  • Mig

    NOT A RIVALRY YET ? Wow, you need to check your NW sports history. THe rivalry started back in the 70′s in the old
    NASL days.

    Did you seriously say that ?
    Do they really pay you to do this ?

    Please don’t write about what you clearly don’t know about.

    You might want to think about attending a Timbers/Sounders match, to see what a REAL rivalry is.

  • Clayton John

    To the writer of this article, do some research before you publish something. It just hurts your credibility and makes you sound dumb. The Timbers and the Sounders played together in the NASL (North American Soccer League), the A-League / USL (United Soccer Leagues), and have played against each other in the US Open Cup since Seattle joined MLS. I know it’s hard for a lot of American sports fans to understand, but in soccer teams compete in more than one competition at once!

    To Doc, just because the Timbers haven’t been in North America’s top flight of soccer, aka MLS, it doesn’t mean they weren’t a professional club. The Portland Timbers have been a professional club the entire time they were in the USL.

  • PC

    You should write another story that looks at the history of the rivalry. This certainly didn’t start when Portland was granted an MLS team.

  • Matt

    You guys should give the writer a break. I’m sure he did a thorough amount of research on this newfangled “soccer” using the Googler and everything.

    And well done, Blazers/Timbers fans. I’d expect the same thing to happen if Landon Donovan was shown on the big screen at a San Jose Sharks game.

    • http://www.sugarsled.com David Taylor

      I wonder if the writer knows that his article was linked to the MLS site? Poor guy.

    • Guy who likes Hockey

      Sure, if Landon Donovan played for the Anaheim Ducks. You are missing the point.

  • Michael

    Eh, give the guy a break. Yeah, he should have known how big the rivalry is being in Portland and all, but he’s a basketball writer, not a soccer writer. He’ll know better next time and hopefully he’ll come out to see Timbers/Sounders at PGE. :D

  • Michael

    Just checked out the writer’s Twitter:

    “@Tinodubya and saying that a hypothetical MLS rivalry is more import than team USA makes you a terrorist.”

    Forget what I said about cutting him a break, geez….

  • Ian

    No pity for ignorant Rose City sports writers?

    • http://www.sugarsled.com David Taylor

      No pity, Ian. Don’t hear the Portland fans giving Keller much of a break, eh? I wonder how Kasey’s family enjoyed their dad getting booed on the family outing.

      No… no pity for ignorant bloggers.

  • papabear

    Hell the rest of the MLS has been anxiously looking forward to having both organisations in the league precisely because of the very heated rivalry.

  • http://www.scsoccerarena.com Corey

    I was there at the game, and I gladly booed at Keller. Until he is no longer the enemy, I will continue to boo anyone who dons the shittle jersey. If you’ve ever heard Keller talk about the rivalry, he understands where the fans are coming from. He knows that the same thing would happen if he was playing for Portland and was shown on a Seattle jumbotron. The guy is and always will be one of the best, but while he’s between the sticks for the enemy up north….he will be booed.

    PTFC!

  • Duderjr

    Everyone has basically taken care of the verbal beat down deserved for this type of ignorance. One other note; although I follow the Blazers’ results, I have to address the contrived atmosphere at the Rose Garden–fans don’t know when to cheer or what to cheer for. Toys falling from above or silly mascots doing stupid things. Funny that when there is finally some genuine emotion coming from the NBA sheep that crowd is criticized by someone that is baffled by the whole thing–Keller a pacnorthwest Benedict Arnold–do some research man.

  • bgix

    What interested me is the apparent cross-over between Timbers and Blazer fans evident with the spontaneous booing. It means that a larger chunk of PDX sports fans are ready. Of course Keller expected the booing, and probably enjoyed it. He knows his way around the soccer as a larger community, and understands that those boos were the equivalent of both respect, and a sign of health for soccer in PNW.

    And no, Keller is no Benedict Arnold. He grew up in Olympia, and spent what, 4 years in Portland during College? He is where he belongs.

  • tallperson

    There’s also that little comment Keller made about the threat of opposing teams (read: Timbers Army) possible throwing bags of urine onto opposing players.

    Even Sounders fans were miffed at that one.

    http://www.prostamerika.com/2010/12/03/sounders-membership-alliance-meeting-brief-notes-33241/

  • Zolo79

    When the Galaxy came to Philly, Landon Donovan was announced to a rousing ovation, but from kick-off to final whistle he was booed at every touch. Most soccer fans and players understand the difference between rivalry and respect, and that they are not mutually exclusive.

    BTW, thanks for the laugh: “EPL, the NBA of international club soccer” Hilarious!

  • http://www.107ist.org blackedout

    No rivalry history huh?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AucOzX9qqRA

    E-Mail me. We’ll talk history.

  • Lance

    Mike I hope you keep covering Timbers! I am SO stoked for the MLS/Portland Timbers season to start. I have 3 season tickets and my family and friends take that number to over 20. The rivalry with Seattle will be epic, with the rivalry with Vancouver not too far off. I’m only 32 but in my life, I’ve yet to feel so excited about local sports. GO TIMBERS!!!

  • Diablo Blanco

    Mike, Mike, Mike…

    If Kobe was introduced at PGE park, do you think we’d give him an ovation because of his Olympic medal?

    This is soccer. This is real. This isn’t pansy, corporate, CHA-LU-PA Rose Garden Mickey Mouse junk.

    The Trail Blazers honor a Portland RIVAL? Insulting!

    Get. A. Clue.

  • That Guy

    Blazers uhhhh I blame Obama!

  • Ryan

    Mike! Major sports fail… If you don’t know anything about the sport you are referencing, don’t reference it. You’ll just end up looking foolish (and you do). Your penance is to write a 1000 word essay on the history of the Cascadia Rivalry. Educate yourself, son!

  • RipCityBaby

    Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

    Seriously dude … the Timbers and Sounders have been rivals and playing each other on an off for 36 years. The only thing you are right about is that he may be the best American born soccer player ever.

    As a basketball honk, I am sure you always cheer wildly for Kobe, Lebron, Chauncey Billups, Kevin Durant, Lamar Odem and on and on and on should their mugs pop up during an outing. If so, harden up.

  • Muddy

    Just wanted to add my voice to those who are miffed at your gross lack of understanding about the long standing rivalry between the Timbers and flounders. You do know that kasey keller has played in Portland, professionally at PGE Park for the flounders???? Right??? Please tell me you know that. This is not new. Unless he has the US jersey on, he is the enemy!

  • J$$$

    Sounders will continue to dominate the Timbers like they have for 30+ years. This writer is guilty of what just about every other sportswriter in America is guilty of…IGNORING THE WORLD’S MOST POPULAR SPORT.

  • C-Doom

    blackedout says:
    January 21, 2011 at 11:52 am

    No rivalry history huh?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AucOzX9qqRA

    E-Mail me. We’ll talk history.

    Your video inexplicably has ended prior to Roger “Timber Killer” Levesque’s 1st minute gual, and Nate Jaqua’s celebration with him.

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