Rudy, L.A., Lift Portland to Win
We should have known it was going to be a strange game, and a bad night for injuries, when Minnesota's Darko Milicic sprained his ankle during the opening jump ball.
I know, that sounds like something that would only happen to a Portland player. But, it actually did happen, and knocked Milicic out of the game. His replacement, Nikola Pekovic came into the game, sprained his ankle, and had to hobble off. He didn't return either.
The Blazers lost Marcus Camby to an injured shoulder in the first half. Nicolas Batum, who was back in the starting lineup, injured his shoulder in the first half and didn't return (of course, he was starting because Brandon Roy missed this game, and the next two, with a sore knee). Joel Przybilla rolled his ankle early in the second half, and tried to play through it. But, he left the game, and when I left he was lying on the training table very swollen.
In short, it was just another night at the Rose Garden. Yes, Luke Babbitt is on his way back to Portland from the D-League, just to get the Blazers up to the league minimum on healthy bodies. They hope to have him ready by Saturday night's game against Golden State.
By the way, the Trail Blazers beat the Timberwolves for the 13th-straight time. Outside of watching players drop like flies, it was a very competitive and entertaining game. Minnesota has been playing better as of late, and badly wanted to end this ugly skid to Portland. But, the Blazers just wouldn't surrender the lead in the second half, and won the game 107-102. They haven't beaten Portland since March of 2007.
It's unfortunate the all of the injuries, yet again, overshadowed incredible nights from LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez. Each turned in inspiring performances, and Wesley Matthews was pretty darn good himself. Those three players accounted for 83 of Portland's 107 points.
Aldridge was coming off a huge game in the loss to Dallas that ended the last trip. He had 35 in that game. The challenge for him was simple coming into this game- do it again. He did. He tied a career high with 36 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots. I'll call it the game of his career, and I don't think I'll get much argument.
Fernandez, who went 2-21 on the four-game road trip, and has been mired in a horrible slump, was brilliant in this game. Rudy brought a ton of energy to the game in the first half and helped Portland shoot 80 percent in the second quarter (16-20). Fernandez ended with a career-high 26 points, on 9 of 15 shooting. He also dished out 6 assists, including a couple of spectacular lobs to Aldridge.
Patty Mills deserves some mention as well, as he played 24 minutes in this game, and was on the floor during crunch time in the fourth quarter. Patty Cakes finished with 8 points and 4 assists, and was very solid in a back-up role.
As has been the case so many times in the past couple of years, the good news on this night came with the bad news about the injuries to Camby, Batum, and Przybilla. Even though no official word came out, I'll be shocked if any of the three play on Saturday night. Przybilla's ankle looked to be in pretty rough shape. Camby's shoulder was very, very sore. And, I talked to Batum right after the game, and even though he said he tried to come back, this is an injury in exactly the same place as his injury last season, which required surgery. I'm not saying this one will result in the same kind of time loss, but he did seem concerned.
One step forward, two steps back. Like I said, just another night at the Rose Garden.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here