Huge Rally, Huge Win in Houston
It'll certainly go down as one of the more memorable wins of the season for the Trail Blazers. It was pulled off in unlikely fashion. A third-quarter meltdown, followed by an incredible fourth quarter run, put together by a lineup on the floor that didn't include Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews, or Marcus Camby. Yes, they were all healthy.
Before giving credit to invdividual players, a tip of the hat to Nate McMillan is in order. You don't often see coaches in this league with the courage to ditch their normal late-game rotation and totally coach by feel. As he told us after the game it wasn't easy. Several times down the stretch he toyed with going back to the three starters who were sitting on the bench. But, after consulting with his assistants, decided to let the group that got them back in the game finish the job.
Looking totally dead in the water, trailing 89-76 in the fourth quarter, the Trail Blazers were given a pulse by Patty Mills. Patty was huge in this game. He tied his career high with 14 points, and should get credit for giving Portland a second life in this game.
A veteran of big international games, and stellar play in the Olympics, Patty has proven to be unflappable in crunch time. He was 4 for 7 from behind the three-point line, and his chemistry with LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez is growing. If Patty was a stock, I'd buy him right now. I'm not going nuts here, but he's has turned into one of Portland's most reliable players off the bench, and a late-game stud.
It was Mills who kicked off Portland's 13-0 run in the fourth quarter. His buddy Rudy Fernandez, who was ice cold in this game, helped Portland end the game on a 27-11 run. Rudy's bucket, that beat the shot clock by a hair, gave Portland a 98-97 lead with :53 seconds left.
Aldridge was a man in this game- just like he's been in just about every game lately. During pre-game warmups, as we were on the floor getting set to take the air, he was dragging his body around the court. I went ahead and asked the silly question- "what, are you tired?'" He rolled his eyes, and said "I'm exhausted." This was before
the game. He had just played over 44 minutes 24 hours ago in Dallas.
But, he strapped on a saddle once again, and kept his team in this game. Aldridge ended with 27 points and 13 rebounds, and had a huge bucket with 14 seconds left. He spun baseline, and scooped the ball in, off the glass, with his left hand. We would have never seen him go to his left, in a situation like this, with a move like that, in the past. The dude has arrived.
It was a crazy game. You know that if you saw it. It was a game of runs, and huge swings of momentum. We saw Kevin Martin score 19 in the third quarter, and score 45 points on 18 shots (an incredibly-tough thing to do). We saw the Trail Blazers lose a 13-point lead in about five minutes of clock time. Then, we saw them come from 13 down in the fourth. Portland was outscored 33-19 in the third quarter, and then outscored Houston 29-20 in the fourth. As you know, the fourth hasn't exactly been kind to the Blazers this season.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
All of this came following an emotionally-draining loss in Dallas the night before. Perhaps that's what is most impressive about all of this. Houston has been playing well at home. They came into Wednesday night winners of 9 of their last 10 home games, and that one loss was to Miami. And, don't forget, Portland had lost 12 of the last 13 regular-season contests in Houston.
Just as some losses are more devastating than others, some wins are more confidence-building than others. Of course, that's only potentially
the case, as we'll have to see what happens after this. Thursday we head for Minneapolis, and Friday night the Blazers look for their 14th-consecutive win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.