In the last five seconds, your 6-11 PF hits a 3 and your 6-2 PG draws a charge. Just another amazing day in #RipCity
— Aaron Grossman (@AGDuck) January 30, 2013
OK, so let’s break it down. Was Tuesday’s 106-104 win over the Dallas Mavericks in all of its glory the Blazers’ best win of this season, as some media members speculated post-game?
I would have to say no. For my money, Portland’s 92-90 victory over the Miami Heat (the defending NBA Champions in case you forgot), their 98-90 victory over the San Antonio Spurs (the team with the best record in the NBA), or their 105-100 win against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden (the Mecca of professional basketball) were all “better” by varying degrees. I would say even Portland’s 101-100 victory over the Clippers three short days ago or their 100-80 victory of the Pacers on the 23rd were also better. Both those teams have winning records, something Dallas does not.
OK, so if Tuesday wasn’t Portland’s best win, was it then the Blazers’ best comeback of 2012-13? Again, in my opinion no it was not. Sure Portland trailed Dallas by 21 in this one (69-48 with 8:37 to play in the third period), but way back when the Blazers had to put together a furious comeback to beat the Charlotte Bobcats, they were down 18 (97-79) with 5:17 left in the FOURTH quarter. With 5:17 to play in Tuesday’s final period, Dallas lead by a single bucket (92-90), and with four minutes and 39 seconds left this game was tied.
Certainly closing Tuesday’s game on a 10-3 run was impressive, but back on December 3rd Portland outscored Charlotte 23-5 in just over five minutes and then 16-10 in overtime. Those are more impressive numbers to be sure, and that’s without even factoring in that the Blazers had gone to double overtime the night before in Cleveland, and were deep into a tough road trip.
Alright, Tuesday was neither Portland’s best win nor it’s best comeback of the season (in my opinion), so then it had to be the Blazers’ best buzzer-beater right? Sorry, again I’m going to say no. Think back on that aforementioned Cleveland Cavaliers game, the one that ended in double overtime. Remember how it ended? A catch and shoot three from Nicolas Batum that came with 2.5 seconds left on the game clock and Portland down 117-115.
What makes that buzzer-beater better than Tuesday’s LaMarcus Aldridge’s turnaround 18-footer under duress with 1.5 seconds left and the game tied? Two things. First, of course, Tuesday’s game was tied. Worst case scenario, Portland goes to overtime. They’ve played six overtime games this season, and lost only one. They’ve played two of those six OT games at home and won them both. LaMarcus’s shot was a thing of beauty, but come on now, the game wasn’t really on the line like it was in Cleveland.
Second, Batum’s buzzer beater to take down the Cavs came at the end of two overtime periods and it was on the road. There’s no way after 46 minutes of play that Nicolas wasn’t totally gassed. That he could get the ball to the rim was a miracle. And shooting a dagger in front of a gym full of people willing you to miss? That’s some talent for blocking out negative energy.
OK then, Tuesday wasn’t the Blazers’ best win, it wasn’t their best comeback win, and it didn’t have their best late-game shot for the comeback win (I’ve substituted late-game shot for buzzer beater since to be fair Nicolas Batum’s game winner in the Cleve went through with .2 seconds on the clock and the Cavs, in theory, had a chance to get their own winning shot). So what was it?
I would love to say it’s business as usual, but that would mean that this is some sort of planned formula developed to give the Blazers their best shot at a win.
In his Power Rankings over at CBSSports Eye on Basketball blog, Matt Moore said that he has dubbed the Blazers the “Chaos Engine.” Now I’m not sure if he means that Portland is a machine that runs on chaos, or if they are a group that thrives when the book is thrown out the window and everything breaks down. I’m not sure that I quite agree with either description of “Chaos Engine,” (Portland’s comebacks seem more methodical than frantic and they often their opponents come out on top of broken plays), but I get what he’s going for. It’s very hard to put a finger on what is going on with this team.
Tuesday after one half, Damian Lillard, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthes were a combined 3-of-24 from the field for a combined 10 points. Their Dallas counterparts (Darren Collison, O.J. Mayo, and Shawn Marion) shot 13-of-25 from the field for 31 points. In my preview, I said Portland would have to make jump shots to win this game. In the first half, they couldn’t make a jumper if their collective lives depended on it.
Portland’s second half shooting was a lot better (18-of-45 from the field and 2-of-12 from three in the first as compared to 21-of-41 from the field and 8-of-16 from three in the second), but it was defense and timely shooting that really helped the Blazers get back into, and then eventually win, this game. Defense and timely shooting in the second half is normal for Portland right? Yes it is, but not from the guys that gave it to them Tuesday night.
Ronnie Price hit a big three with 7:41 left in the fourth quarter to trim the Dallas lead to two. Sasha Pavlovic got a steal and a breakaway dunk to tie the game a possession later. One possession after that, it was Pavlovic again driving to the hoop, hitting the lay-up, and getting the and foul to give Portland the lead back that they’d surrendered with just over three minutes to go in the first quarter. And then with it was Price again drawing a charge on O.J. Mayo with 1.5 seconds on the clock that nixed the Mavericks’ final play and gave the Blazers a chance to win Tuesday’s game.
Pavlovic and Price, not the guys you roll out every night to try and seal a win if you’re the Blazers. But those were the guys doing it Tuesday. Maybe that’s what Mr. Moore means by “Chaos Engine.” Expect the unexpected. The next nine times LaMarcus Aldridge shoots a step-back three with 4.9 seconds left in a game and his team needing that three to tie, he’s going to miss (Yahoo has LaMarcus shooting 10 threes this season, his game-tying three Tuesday was his first make). Counting on Sasha Pavlovic or Ronnie Price to come up with not one big play but three big plays in a row and one HUGE play, is not a winning strategy. Getting 20 points on 25 shots from Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard is not a formula for success.
Regardless of all those things, Portland won on Tuesday. They’ve won a lot of crazy games. There’s a chance they’ll continue to win crazy games (there is unlikely to be any major structural changes for this roster this season). So maybe Tuesday was business as usual.
Just another day.
The Blazers have the next two days off before kicking off another home-and-home back-to-back. This one starts Friday in Salt Lake City against the Jazz.
Couple of quick things:
- Portland got double-doubles from LaMarcus Aldridge and J.J. Hickson. LA finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds; Hickson finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Hickson was also a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
- LaMarcus’s game winner came on a play that the Blazers have run a couple of times. It was basically the same set Portland ran against the Washington Wizards that ended when LA was tripped/or tripped and the in-bounds pass from Nicolas Batum sailed out of bounds. Missing an in-bounds play with a chance to cut a deficit, tie, or win is always tough, but it can be a good chance to learn for the next time. Portland head coach Terry Stotts made an important switch in the set he drew up Tuesday, he had Wesley Matthews in-bounding the ball.