In the immortal words of Neil Leffkowitz, Blazers’ season ticket-holder for 31 years, tonight’s game was “worrisome.”
Neil’s NY vacation was in peril. How could a fan of his caliber—with the face paint and the dedication to stay after to “try to get (his) sign on television”—enjoy his Broadway plays and exorbitant cab rides if the Blazers couldn’t stop a 4th quarter surge from New Jersey?
Turns out, Neil gets to enjoy Manhattan, and the Blazers get a much-needed win.
So. Why worrisome? Well, Camby’s ankle for one. Though it’s looking like just a minor sprain (he’s listed as day to day). But at the time, Neil and I hadn’t heard anything about the injury since our hearts skipped a beat in the first. Allow us that one.
For two, it’s the Blazers’ infuriating refusal to snap the necks of beaten teams. The first half was a massacre, tarnished only by Camby’s early exit, and the Izod Center’s mistaken belief that clips of “Jersey Shore” are worthy of the Jumbotron during timeouts.
Whatever happened to the Jumbotron fare of yesteryear? The follow-the-ball-under-the-ballcap and the “Nationwide Chain Hardware Store Grandprix” wherein chainsaw races the propane barbeque?
After leading by 19 at halftime, the Nets clawed to within 5 around the 3 minute mark of the 4th, before Brandon Roy and Andre Miller combined to finally, mercifully, finish them off.
See, I was expecting a statement game from Aldridge. Especially after he toyed with Yi (and to a slightly lesser extent, Brook Lopez). Through three quarters Aldridge racked up a solid 27-7-4 (on 13-20 shooting) and helped frustrate Lopez.
Unfortunately, it was The 4th quarter no-show from Aldridge that worried us. He had a terrific first half (8-10 shooting, 17 points, 3 tears from Yi Jianlian) but again vanished late.
For better or worse, Aldridge sets the tone. When he was aggressive, when he was breezing past the olé defense from Yi, when the turn-arounds were dropping, the team followed. When his turn-around, fade-away, “I’m settling” shot found rim towards the end of the third and nearly all of the fourth, well, the Blazers mostly followed right along.
Luckily, Roy & Miller picked up the slack in the fourth. Roy, after a pedestrian middle set, popped back up whack-a-mole-style after the Nets focused on LaMarcus & the Blazers began settling for jumpers. Again, in the 4th, you got your fix of Flashes of Roy when he scored 10 of the last 14 points.
It’s frustrating to watch Roy waver between the dominant, banging-bodies driver we know he can be and the slightly tentative, settling for well-challenged shots jump shooter he falls into now and again. It’s fair to blame the hamstring, but one still yearns. You see the first period in which he scored 10, and you hope it’ll last. I’m falling for all this hope. I’m making myself believe in the same way I used to believe in Santa — I believe because life’s better if it’s true. And tonight, Roy looked truly like he’s on the mend.
So what was it that let the Nets back in after a 19-point lead at halftime?
I walked away thinking it was the lazy offense, the flabby shot selection. But looking back, it’s hard to point to a time when the Blazers flat-out went cold. The truth is, the Nets snuck back in through the War of Attrition (and also caught fire with Courtney Lee and Devin Harris for about 8 minutes, each on their way to 28 points apiece) and the rare boost from a crowd that very rarely has a chance to cheer. Once the Blazers righted the ship, however, the usual sounds of grumbling and the occasional boo were interrupted by Blazer faithful cheering their team on through the last seconds of the game.
You gotta give it up for Trailblazers fans coming out to support their squad at a deathtrap like the Izod Center. After the game, a guy behind me in line waiting for a very late bus told me their shuttle bus from the train “literally collapsed” on the overpass, where they were stuck for most of the first quarter waiting for working transport to whisk them away from the NJ Turnpike. Blazer love is a serious love.
For some, it borders on the lustful. Keadi Cutwright, an ex-P-town resident who braved seven years in California, only to move out to New York for work, showed up to the game rocking her “B Roy” jersey underneath a coat soaking from the rain.
“I’m so excited to be near them again,” she said. I laughed, and agreed.