Kevin Pritchard wasn’t there to see it in person, but Paul Allen was. The Trail Blazers owner, mum about the future of his embattled GM, wore a suit to the Rose Garden and clapped along with thunder sticks as his team cruised past the Mavericks 101-89.
Allen had a front row seat for one of the most even team performances of the year—one that saw the Blazers win despite Brandon Roy’s taking a measly seven shots. He may not have seen the “Keep K.P.” signs strewn throughout the arena, or a man hawking the t-shirts out front. But I know Allen noticed what a cohesive team Pritchard has constructed for him.
Allen paid dutiful attention throughout, including the play that wraped it all up:
With the ball and just over two minutes to play, Dirk Nowitzki forced a 22 foot jumper with 18 seconds left on the shot clock. Dallas were down 12 and it was now or never. Nowitzki missed badly and, perhaps knowing so, he flopped the ground. It was was two prayers that would go unanswered. The Blazers were playing tight, finely tuned, playoff caliber basketball, controlling the game against a high-seeded opponent.
But even after the Blazers put the defensive clamps on the Mavericks, holding them to nary a fast break point and just 14 in the final period, Nowitzki still said his shot felt good. He credited the Blazers defense as a whole, yet Nowitzki strangely added that he didn’t feel off “at all” Thursday night. The Dallas star scored just 15 points, hitting just five of 13 attempts:
The Blazers, on the other hand, we certifiably “on.” It was no figment of their imagination. As a team they shot 50% from the field, a marked improvement over the last two games (which marked the worst shooting of the Nate McMillan era).
The zone, which had confounded the Blazers in those two games, became a non-issue Thursday. A few outside jumpers go in and teams often switch quickly back to man to man. So it goes.
And while watching all those shots fall must’ve put a spring in the Blazers’ defensive step, the game plan was spot on as well. Nate McMillan refused to share elaborate detail of Portland’s defensive sets as not to tip his hat. He did say, however, that this was a win the Trail Blazers “desperately” needed.
Some of the defensive schemes, which LaMarcus Aldridge (and Dallas players) shared, had to do with pushing the Mavericks’ pick and roll a certain way and denying the ball to Nowitzki late. Others centered on covering the streaky Maverick guard Jason Terry on the perimeter. It seemed to work—Terry made just four of his fourteen attempts.
The win was the Blazers third straight over the Mavericks this season. I asked Jason Kidd what aspect of Portland’s play has made the difference:
Although he wouldn’t point to anything particular in the season series, Kidd did dwell on the Blazers defense of the Dallas fast break on Thursday. Either by making shots or running down Mavericks for blocks from behind, Portland kept their opponents from scoring a single fast break point. It was the first time the Blazers have done so since December of 2008. The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, had 16.
The two Marcus’—Camby and Aldridge—both notched double-doubles. But for Camby, the event seemed much surprise and welcome. With 17 points and 10 boards, Camby got his first double-double in a Trail Blazers uniform. The scoring matched Camby’s best output since Janaury 18th when he was still a Clipper.
Camby sure was a good pick up. Was that trade Paul Allen’s or Kevn Pritchard’s idea, I wonder?
- Portland wins the season series w/ Dallas for the first time since 1998-99
- Andre Miller had 33 less points than his last game against the Mavs
- Tonight marked Marcus Camby’s first double-double as a Blazer
- The win moves Nate McMillan into sole ownership of the third most all-time coaching wins in Portland with 191