Game report: Mavericks 103, Blazers 96
A fine night at the Rose Garden. The Blazers lost by 7 to the visiting Dallas Mavericks, but it was a fun game to watch, and the gutsy Portland team put on a performance worth cheering for. Even without rookie guard Brandon Roy out there tearing it up, the Blazers can play with just about anybody, at least at this early point in the season.
Jarrett Jack did a great job at point guard, throwing in 20 points and dishing out 10 assists. Zach Randolph came down to earth from his last few games and scored only 20, but he's in better shape and more engaged in the game than I have ever seen him. By far the highlight of the evening was the debut of Blazer big man LaMarcus Aldridge, who surprised everybody except himself with 10 points and 8 boards in under 20 minutes. That guy needs to get healthy from his injuries, work on his strength, and put on about 15 pounds, but if he does, look out, league. He's good.
The bluest note of the night for the Blazers was that Martell Webster, who played a solid first half, didn't play in the second half. Coach Nate MacMillan put him back in at the very end for a possible three-pointer, but Webster wasn't a factor in the finish, and he looked weak or hurt as he walked off. Without Martell or Brandon keeping the defense outside, Zach can't accomplish what he needs to inside, and nobody's from Portland's played a minute with Aldridge until tonight, so it will be a while before he can take the heat off Randolph.
The Blazers came out horrible, scoring only 4 points in about the first 7 minutes of the game. But they play in spurts, tonight taking the lead briefly in the second quarter and coming within 1 point of the lead toward the end of the night. They just didn't have enough oomph to finish off Dallas.
The Mavericks are not going back to the NBA Finals with this year's crew. They're down to Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, surrounded by a bunch of impressive (and no doubt expensive) names who seem just a step away from retirement: Jerry Stackhouse, Erick Dampier, Devean George, Austin Croshere. I didn't smell any chemistry from that group at all, and I can't see them going all the way to the last round of the playoffs. But of course, with Avery Johnson running the show, they'll go quite a ways:
I got my usual collection of blurry photos of the visiting team from our most excellent seats behind their bench. Dirk's not an easy guy to get a picture of. There's something about the energy field around that fellow that makes him hard to capture. Here's what he looks like putting on a jacket:
Here's journeyman Stackhouse, who's worn so many different uniforms he could open up a Foot Locker store in his basement:
And here (on the right) is Devean George, who's heading down that same travellin' path, and not with a smile, folks (I don't know who the wounded teammate next to him is -- anyone?):
I got my Photo of the Night just before the game, when Mavs owner Mark Cuban kindly posed with my daughter. That one's for Dad's private file.
Anyway, you can get into a Blazer game for something like five bucks these days, and it's worth at least that much. (Just bring another five for cotton candy and eight for a beer -- ouch!) With the exception of Randolph, whose off-court antics have upped the ante on his potential for redemption considerably, all of the Blazers currently in uniform are worthy of Portland's support. Darius Miles is up for another knee surgery and won't be wrecking the team any time soon. If the Blazers can either get Roy back (let's pray to St. Sam Bowie for his intercession) or keep Webster on the court (I'd be very curious to know why he played only half a game tonight), they'll be quite competitive. Ime Udoka is legitimate, and Aldridge could turn out to be someone quite special.
Alas, there are a couple of duds in Blazer uniforms. Center Jamaal Magloire seems to be a zero -- he sure played like one in a start tonight -- and third-string point guard Dan Dickau looked like he should have been the water boy, with two bad turnovers in 10 minutes. If we get that far down the bench, it won't be a good sign.
A final note: Blazers assistant coach and all-time great Mo Lucas looks like he's gained a few. He plays racquetball at the club at which I allegedly work out; apparently both of us are overdue for some quality time on the stationary bike.