Portland Survives Again
The Trail Blazers only had nine players available on Saturday night at the Rose Garden. They ended up using all nine. And, all nine, in one way or another, had something to do with this 96-95 victory over the Golden State Warriors. It's the fifth-straight home win for the Blazers, and puts them back at the .500 mark, at 14-14.
If you felt comfortable when Portland led by 15-points with 7:40 left, you haven't watched many games this season. Even though this one will go into the catagory of not putting an opponent away, when you're this shorthanded, and this hungry for wins, you can't complain with the way you ultimately get them.
The Blazers have already lost six games when taking a lead to the fourth quarter, and one stat that kept jumping out at me was that Golden State was 0-15 when trailing after three quarters. You know they're going to break through at some point, and it could have easily been tonight. They outscored the Blazers 24-10, after Portland built that 15-point lead, but couldn't get the game winner to fall.
Missed free throws, turnovers, and a couple of bad possessions late in the game were reasons Golden State was able to put itself in a position to steal the game. Also, Monta Ellis, who had an awful first half, caught fire in the second and gave his team momentum. When the Warriors got the ball back with 8 seconds left, and called timeout, you knew it would be Ellis who would be involved in the deciding shot.
Coming out of the timeout, we predicted on the air that Ellis would attack the basket and go for the win on the shot, or get it at the free-throw line. It wasn't like that prediction was exactly going out on a limb. The entire building knew that would be the case. What surprised everyone was that Ellis didn't attack the basket. The Blazers had to switch a pick out top and LaMarcus Aldridge ended up on Ellis. Surely now Ellis would pin his ears back and put the pressure on Aldridge, and the referees, on a final aggressive play. But, he chose to pull the trigger on a long jumper. He missed, Rudy Fernandez grabbed the rebound, and Portland walked away with the win.
It had to be a painful loss for Golden State, who was very shorthanded itself in this one, playing without Stephen Curry, Andris Biedrins, and Brandan Wright. But, they battled back and fought hard in a building where they haven't had a whole lot of success in their history. In the end, they had the ball in the hands of one of the best spot-up shooters in the NBA. He just missed.
For the Blazers, who were playing without Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, Joel Przybilla, and, of course, Brandon Roy, you take the win and run. Portland had six players score in double figures, led by Aldridge and Andre Miller, who each scored 17. Oddly enough, the starter with the most field goal attempts for Portland was Dante Cunningham, who attempted 13 shots, scored 13 points, and grabbed five rebounds.
Coming off games where he scored 35, and then 36 points, Aldridge was the focal point of Golden State's defense, obviously. Aldridge didn't get the big numbers again, but he did pick up another double-double, and ended with 17 and 12.
Fernandez, coming off a career-high 26 on Friday night, was solid once again, and showed that with playing time he has a well-rounded game. Meaning, he's more than just a spot-up three-point shooter. Fernandez had 15 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals.
The star off the bench was Patty Mills, who scored a career-high 12 points, including 9 in the fourth quarter. He's fearless, and that's what fans seem to love most about him. He's a guy who's willing to take the big shots in the fourth quarter. He finished the game on Friday night, as Andre stayed on the sidelines. But, in this one, Mills played the first half of the fourth quarter and Miller got the second half. Andre had the biggest play of the night as well. With Portland up just 91-89, Miller went across the paint and got Vladimir Radmanovic to foul him, and also flipped the ball into the hoop. That made it 94-89, and turned out to be the biggest Portland bucket of the night.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.
Now it's a day off, before hosting the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday night at the Rose Garden. Batum told me several times before the game, and once after the game, that he plans on playing against the Bucks. We don't know yet about Camby, who injured his shoulder on Friday. He had it wrapped heavily before the game, and it'll be a wait-and-see situation. Przybilla could miss about 10 days, it sounds like, with a pretty badly sprained ankle.
Talk to you Monday night.