If Thursday’s win over Orlando was the most impressive of the season, then Friday’s was a very close second. What perhaps made it even bigger than the win over the Magic, was the fact that it came on the road, and on the second of a back to back. What made it feel better than the Orlando win was that Brandon Roy looked like Brandon Roy, and posted his most impressive night since the first week of the regular season.
Roy led the Blazers with 26 points and 6 assists, and put the nail in the coffin with just over a minute to play, as Portland hung on for a 101-94 victory in Phoenix. After leading by as many as 17 in the second half, the Blazers went ice cold down the stretch and certainly kept the door open for the Suns. Fortunately, they refused to step through and make it a nail-biter.
After Portland’s lead had been cut to 94-88, as they were in the midst of a 4 for 18 shooting slump, Roy beat the shot-clock buzzer with a 15-foot jumper over three Phoenix defenders. The bucket made it a three-possession game and put the Suns away for good, ensuring Portland’s third win over the Suns already this season. There are still 12 NBA teams the Blazers haven’t even played, yet they’ve already clinched the season series with Phoenix for the second-straight season.
We've become used to seeing the Blazer fight through very quiet offense stretches during the second halves of recent games, and this one was no different. Not very often you can go 5:19 without a point, in the fourth quarter, and live to tell about it. But, following eight consecutive misses, Portland’s lead had shrunk to 6, and they simply looked to be watching the clock and hoping to stall out a win. Roy’s basket not only iced the game, but further helped this team, and Brandon himself, rebuild confidence.
But, this game was much more than just Roy. Marcus Camby, who wasn’t a huge factor earlier in the week when the Blazers beat the Suns in Portland, was huge in this one. Camby had 16 points and 18 rebounds, and provided the team with much-needed energy all night. He ended up playing 34 minutes and looked ready to pass out after the game.
The team arrived in Phoenix at about 3:45 am following the win over Orlando on Thursday night, and Nate McMillan told me before the game he would need a huge effort from the bench to survive what was sure to be an up-and-down game in Phoenix. As it turned out, Portland was forced to rely heavily on the starters and got only four field goals from the second unit. The starters didn’t seem to mind, as they shot 55 percent in the game and not only got the 26 from Roy, and 16 from Camby, but also got 23 from LaMarcus Aldridge, and 16 from Wesley Matthews. Andre Miller, who was the hero on Thursday, took only four shots in this game, but recorded 9 assists and 5 rebounds.
McMillan, and his staff, should be given some credit as well. The defensive game plan against Phoenix worked like a charm again. The Suns average over 110 points per game on the season, but were held under 100 points for the third time this season by the Blazers. In the three games, the Suns have scored 92, 99, and 94 points. Some try and run with this Phoenix team, while others, like the Blazers, try their best to slow them down. No one has done it like Portland this year.
Okay, it didn’t hurt that Jason Richardson is going through a massive slump from the field. He was 1 for 11 on Wednesday in their loss to Memphis, and went just 2 for 9 in this game, and missed all four of his three-point attempts. Steve Nash was the only reason the Suns were able to hang around in this game, as he scored 24 points on 11 for 19 shooting. As a team, the Suns shot 45 percent, and were just 3 for 14 from behind the arc.
To listen to McMillan’s post-game comments, click here.
Following the ugly six-game losing skid, the Blazers have now won four in a row. Now, things get tough. Sunday afternoon the Blazers take on the team with the best record in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. That’s followed by a game against the Grizzlies in Memphis, and then the trip wraps up in Dallas.