Tuesday, April 28, 2009
It seems almost rude to single out any one player for praise in a game featuring great all-around team play. There was LaMarcus Aldridge canning jumpers and improving his defense in the second half on Luis Scola. And Brandon Roy battling influenza-like symptoms to provide stability in the fourth quarter. And of course their was Rudy Fernandez, who, despite scoring just seven points, kept Shane Battier busy running all over the court.
All of those performances are worthy of kudos, but for me, this game was all about Joel Pzybilla. Przy's stat line in Game 5 isn't going to wow anyone, but he played an integral role in winning what will hopefully be the first of three elimination games.
Consider that Przybilla finished each of the previous games in the series with no fewer than four fouls. Tuesday night, just two, none of which came against Yao Ming. He had two steals, as many as he had in the first four games combined. But the big number was four, as in a career-high, not to mention team-high, four assists for Przybilla. That's the equivalant of Rudy getting 10 blocks in a game. And it's probably not worth noting considering the minuscule sample size, but while we're showing the big man some love, might as well note that the Blazers are 2-0 in the series with Przybilla gets more than one dime.
But maybe the most important number is 33, as in the number of minutes Joel was able to play tonight. He stayed out of foul trouble, held Yao in check (with a huge hand from Greg Oden), was a major factor in holding the Rockets to just three offensive rebounds, set solid screens that drove Battier to frustration and generally provided the rugged play that we've come to expect from the Thrilla'.
Przybilla has often looked tired postgame during this series. A night of throwing your body against Yao will do that, but after Game 5, Przybilla looked refreshed. He looked like a guy who was ready to go again. In fact, it was Przybilla's son Anthony who seemed ready to doze off in the locker room postgame, not that his dad would let him.
"You're not tired are you?" said Przybilla to his heavy-eyed offspring. "The fun is just starting."
You can say that again.