Back to back? No Worries.
The back-to-back set. It's one of the tougher situations the NBA schedule makers can throw at you. But, for the Trail Blazers, two games in two nights hasn't been a scary situation. Last season they led the NBA with a 15-4 record in the second of back to backs. They didn't have to wait long to get their first such test this season. And, they just passed it.
They've also been considered a very good fourth-quarter team the last couple of seasons. Through two games this season, it's been more of the same. On Tuesday night the Trail Blazers stepped on the gas in the late stages of their game against the Phoenix Suns, outscoring them 31-11 on their way to a 106-92 victory. That included an 18-1 run to end the game.
On Wednesday night, the Blazers also came to the final quarter trailing. But again, were able to rip off an impressive run and bury their opponent. This time it was a 15-0 run in the fourth that did the trick. They beat the L.A. Clippers 98-88, ruining their opening-night celebration. That's two games, two wins, and a combined score of 59-28 in the fourth quarters.
This victory took a balanced attack in the final quarter, as all five starters posted impressive numbers. Brandon Roy once again led the team with 22 points, and also grabbed 10 rebounds. He was one of three starters who recorded double-doubles. LaMarcus Aldridge, after a tough first half, rallied for 19 points and 10 rebounds. And, Marcus Camby, who was probably the MVP of this game, had 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots.
When you can struggle from the field, shooting just 41 percent, and win, on the road, you take it and run to the airport. Only this time, we ran to the hotel. Thursday morning we'll fly to New York where they road trip resumes on Saturday night when they will be a part of another team's home opener.
Even though Camby will grab the headlines in this game, Roy is the guy who gave the Blazers control, and gave them a five-point halftime lead. Brandon had 18 of his 22 points in the first half, and absolutely took over the game in the second quarter.
Another bright spot was again rebounding. Portland, as expected, drilled Phoenix on the backboards to the tune of 48-30 on Tuesday night. In this game, the Clippers stayed in the game early by taking the early advantage in the rebounding department. But, the Blazers eventually took control of that catagory too, and ended outrebounding the Clippers 51-41.
And, while we're handing out praise, Nate McMillan deserves a mention. He went to a zone defense in the fourth quarter that turned things around.
This trip only gets tougher now, as the Knicks, led by Amare Stoudemire, won their opener in Toronto and will return home feeling good. The Bulls are expected to be one of the elites in the east, and Milwaukee wants to build on last year's terrific second half of the season.
But, for Portland, that's two up and two down, and reason to feel confident heading into game three of the season.