Blazers Drop the Hammer on Clips
I suppose it's okay to admit that I had an awful feeling about this game the entire day on Thursday. As I was standing on the court during pre-game warmups it wasn't getting any better. Then, as if to confirm my pessimism, the Blazers missed 7 of their first 8 shots and fell behind the Clippers by 14 to open the game. Jeez. Glad we weren't broadcasting the game at that point because the language I was using at that point would have probably offended most of my audience.
The Trail Blazers trailed 16 to 2
with just over 7 minutes left in the first quarter. Even considering all the wacky stuff we go through as Portland fans, I can honestly say I would have bet my house at that point the team wouldn't finish the game on a 16 to 2
run to win it 108-93. Crazy bit of irony there with the numbers, huh?
The Clippers came into the game having won 6 of their last 7, and were considered one of the hot teams in the Western Conference. TNT, and the league, always quick to sell the individuals and not the teams, might as well have called this "Blake Griffin Night" at the Rose Garden. That's all you heard about before the game. Portland, undermanned and perhaps even a bit outgunned, proved once again that the sum of a team's parts is always bigger than one individual player.
Griffin was good on this night, but wasn't fantastic. LaMarcus Aldridge was fantastic, again. Not only did he win the individual battle, as this battle for an All-Star spot continues, but his team won the game. Pretty much the same thing happened when he went up against Kevin Love and Minnesota on Monday.
After this game, Charles Barkley, with a straight face, said he'd still go with Love and Griffin, ahead of Aldridge, for the All-Star team. Nevermind that Aldridge has put his team on his shoulders and has them four games over the .500 mark, while the Clippers are 10 games under, and the Wolves are 23 games under. And, Portland is a combined 6-0 against both teams this season.
Aldridge finished with 28 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, and was clutch during Portland's late run to put the game away. He got a ton of help from Wesley Matthews, who was fantastic himself, scoring 28 points with 5 rebounds.
Andre Miller, who was so clutch at Sacramento on Wednesday, had 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists. And, in the second of a back-to-back set you always need someone from the second unit to come up big. Rudy Fernandez was that guy in this game. He had 17 points, and countless hustle plays late in the game to help knock the Clippers to the deck.
The Trail Blazers, who came into this game 26th in the NBA in field goal percentage (44 percent), shot a season high 56.4 percent, and hit 7 of 16 three pointers. They also outscored this Clippers team, a team that's very good inside, 48-44 in the paint.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
Portland has now officially recovered from the loss to Miami on the 9th of this month. That's probably taking things a bit too far, but that loss did start a three-game losing skid, and had this team rattled. Now, they've won four in a row, and have won the last three without Marcus Camby.
Thursday morning Camby had surgery, and the news afterward was very positive. As expected, it was a very minor procedure, and he's expected back in about 3 weeks. I talked to him before the game and he was very upbeat and wasn't even really walking with a limp.
Don't allow yourself to be sold this nonsense about some conspiracy involving the setting of a timeline for Camby's return. The doctors set that timetable, and that's based on a ton of experience. It boggles my mind at how so many positive stories around this team are glossed over in the effort to get you doubting every news release that comes out of Blazer headquarters. It's really not as deep and sinister as you're led to believe. Camby had surgery. It was minor. Things look good. The usual timeline for something like this is 2 to 4 weeks. They say they expect him back in roughly 3 weeks. End of story. Nothing more, nothing less.
As I was watching this game come to a close, I started thinking about some of the great things that we're seeing. It's been painful at times, that's for sure. But, as always, without the bitter, the sweet 'aint as sweet.
Watching Rudy hop around the court smiling as the clock ran out, I thought of what a strange journey this has been for him this season. It's probably only worked out this way because Brandon is injured. One big influence that's helped bring Rudy back from the edge has been his friendship with Patty Mills. Patty (another great story) wouldn't even be here if Jeff Pendergraph hadn't hurt himself in the preseason.
The contract given to Wesley Matthews was called "ridiculous" by so many people last summer. Even when we were in Utah recently, a writer there still called him "overpaid." A year and a-half ago he sat and watched every name called in the NBA Draft but his. He made Utah's team, was given a huge opportunity, and now makes more money than Blake Griffin, who was the number-one pick in that draft.
Then, there's Joel Przybilla. Flirting with thoughts of retirement just weeks ago, suddently started feeling much better recently. Now, thrust into heavier minutes because of Camby's injury, has rediscovered himself, and was talking with me last night about the desire to get another contract.
Of course, there's Aldridge. Last summer, Blazers assistant Bill Bayno predicted that Aldridge would be an all-star this season. He had just spent a month with LaMarcus in Dallas, working on getting stronger, getting better, and adding to his post-up moves. We needed proof, of course. Now, we've got it.
There's your press release.
Forgive me for my unbelief earlier in the evening.