Rocky Mountain Lows


‘@ Denver’ may mean little or nothing to the average person, but at this point to a Blazer fan it has to conjure up enough terrible thoughts to make them shake their head. For the uneducated the numbers won’t lie: 1-15 at Denver since 1999, with 9 straight losses at the Pepsi Center dating back to 2003. The last win occured on February 26th 2003 when Antonio Daniels and Ruben Patterson both had 15 to lead the Blazers to a 94-84 victory. To put that in perspective I was still in high school, Britney Spears wasn’t crazy yet and the Nuggets started Juwan Howard, Vincent Yarbrough, Junior Harrington, Ryan Bowen and Nene Hilario when he still had the Hilario. Exactly.

Every trip to Denver since that has had the same exact ending: a nasty L. The optimism fades when one realizes that just about a month ago this same Blazer team took a trip to Denver. That Blazer team was on a 4-game winning streak, had just ended losing streaks to Dallas and Detroit and ended up getting pummelled 110-93. And they had LaMarcus Aldridge. This Blazer time that will play in Denver is on a 6-game winning streak and has ended a nasty losing streak at Utah. No LaMarcus though. What is the argument that this Blazer team is different this time around? Confidence for one and Travis Outlaw is the other. Outlaw wasn’t in complete attack mode when these two teams played the first time so we will see how much of a difference he will make. Add in James Jones and you have a nasty equation.

The Nuggets have won 6 of their last 8 games with losses only coming against the Lakers and San Antonio. After that loss against the Lakers I wrote that the Nuggets need other guys not named Carmelo or AI to step up for them to win. And since then they’ve gotten it. In their win 10 days ago over Dallas they got 18 from K-Mart and 23 from Kleiza. The next game K-Mart chipped in 20, Anthony Carter added 17 with Kleiza and JR Smith both adding 9 in a win over Sacramento. Then they got 14 from Camby, 11 from K-Mart, 13 from Carter and 10 from Najera in a win over New Orleans. The recipe is simple: when other guys step up the Nuggets are usually going to win. Especially at home when they look like a completely different team than when they wear the baby blue.

So what do the Blazers need to do to win this game? They definitely need Travis Outlaw and James Jones to keep their play at a high level. They also can’t turn the ball over and they need Pryzbilla to continue to rebound as well as he has in the last few games minus LMA. They absolutely need to contain everyone not named Melo or AI. It sounds silly but at the end of the day they are going to do what they do. It makes it that much tougher to even try to stop them if you have K-Mart and Camby getting offensive rebounds or Kleiza/Smith feeling it from behind the arc. It will be interesting to see what happens, maybe Coup can stop crying about the Cowboys long enough to say something about it.

Other thoughts from around the league:

  • Detroit absolutely murdered Golden State 109-87 in what I would call the Warriors’ worst loss of the season. Add the Pistons to that list of teams that has held Golden State to under 100 points. A loss is a loss, but what made me scratch my head was when Stephen Jackson said the following: “We weren’t ready to play, and we got our butts kicked”. On the surface you could see that he might be right, plus you could add in the early start time and horrible weather to create a nice excuse. I for one do not buy it. Pardon me but I’m pretty sure when a team ‘isn’t ready to play’ they get blasted pretty hard in the first quarter. Score at the end of the first quarter: Detroit 23, Golden State 22. Sounds like you weren’t that far from being ready to me. Even worse is score with 6:26 left in the 2nd quarter: Detroit 35, Golden State 32. Hmm. The Warriors would go one to score one field goal the rest of the half as Detroit went on a 23-3 run over that time span. Here’s the rundown for that six minutes: 8 Golden State turnovers and six missed three-pointers. Not ready to play or a complete offensive breakdown as the Pistons turned the heat up? You tell me people.
  • Don’t mean to sound like a broken record but last time the Celtics played at Toronto they had Ray Allen and needed theatrics to pull it off. This time they had no Ray Allen and held the Raptors to 77 points. One thing I need to say about KG’s somewhat heavy minutes he’s logging so far: it’s a different kind of 35+ minutes. In Minnesota he averged damn near 40 minutes a game and he was their EVERYTHING the last couple years. He carried the offense and defense. In Boston…he hasn’t had nearly as much on his shoulders so its a different kind of 35 minutes a game than he is used to. That’s my argument that I just thought of but he doesn’t have to carry them, he’s averaging his lowest amount of minutes per game and field goal attempts per game since his rookie season.
  • I couldn’t squeeze a whole post out of it but Chris Paul really outplayed Steve Nash last night. Here’s the interesting part: Paul guarded Nash but Paul was hounded by the Suns defenders. I liked the old-school approach, we don’t see nearly enough of the superstars really guarding the superstars like back in the day. And I’m looking at you D-Wade.
  • Anyone else agree that the Cavs were better off without Varejao and Eric Snow? I’m glad they are back to proving me right that they are just really, really bad. They’ve lost 8 of their last 9 and they only got that win because Larry Hughes dropped 36 for the first time in forever. LeBron can only take them so far, they’ll start winning when he’s 100 percent again but by then the hole might be a little on the deep side.
  • By the way kudos to Mo Cheeks for somehow winning 5 of the last 6 out in Philly. Your guess is as good as mine.
  • The one thing I will say that I like about the Eastern Conference: it is such an open race this season. Besides Boston, Detroit and Orlando everything else is wide open. There are 8 teams that are either right above or right below .500 with teams like Chicago, Miami and even New York lurking. It wouldn’t be surprising if any one of those teams went on a winning streak to get back close to .500. Sorry Charlotte I just don’t see it happening for you this year.
  • Out West the hierarchy is still around except the improved play of every team in the conference has everyone not named San Antonio taking a few more lumps than they are used to. I like how the Blazers are throwing a monkey wrench in there for now. It’s a long season though.
  • Most Improved Player nominees: Kaman, Outlaw, Turkoglu and Dunleavy. I didn’t miss anyone did I?