Aldridge Drops 40, Blazers Drop Spurs
By mikebarrett Posted in: Spurs
Coming off two-straight home losses, still very shorthanded, and just as they were kicking off a difficult and crucial month, the Trail Blazers were able to accomplish what few thought they could. Of all the unexpected feats this team has pulled off this season, nothing tops what happened Tuesday night at the Rose Garden.
It struck me earlier in the day, while listening to local radio callers discuss the upcoming game against the San Antonio Spurs, literally no one was giving this team a shot in this game. It’s okay.
It wasn’t hard to understand why even the most optimistic fans were predicting perhaps a good fight by the home team, and a close game, but not a Portland win. Not against the 40-7 Spurs, who came into the contest 27-4 against the Western Conference and 12-0 against the Northwest Division. Not these Spurs who had won 11 of their last 12 and were rested and determined to get their annual “rodeo trip” off to a strong start.
For the few believers who were out there, even their faith had to be rattled when they saw Portland go scoreless in the first four minutes of the game, and fall behind 7-0 right out of the chute. Even on the air we talked of the familiar feeling of the game, as the Blazers sputtered offensively, and seemed to be searching for answers. The Spurs would push their lead to 9 in the first half and looked poised to do what they normally do- methodically grind opponents into dog meat.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter, and the Rose Garden crowd was recording a season-best performance, the Trail Blazers were leading San Antonio by 16, and Gregg Popovich was waiving the white flag, dumping his bench with still over two minutes to play. A 14-2 Portland run put them in total control, and they won their fifth straight over the Spurs at the Rose Garden, finishing the job 99-86.
Yes, crazy stuff, in an even crazier season.
If LaMarcus Aldridge slapped an exclamation point on his all-star push against one of the better defensive teams in the NBA, and was absolutely brilliant on Tuesday night. He scored a career-high 40 points, on 16 of 23 shooting, and also pulled down 11 rebounds. The Spurs had two days to design a defense to try and neutralize Aldridge. They tried Tim Duncan on him, and gave DeJuan Blair a shot. They brought Antonio McDyess in off the bench to play him, and tried double teams. They faked double teams, and they delayed bringing the double team.
After the game ended, in a classy move, Popovich walked to the midcourt line to shake Aldridge’s hand and congratulate him on the victory.
But, as impressive as Aldridge was, and as good as Portland’s offense was, it was defense that won this game for the Blazers- defense, effort, and intensity. Yes, outside shots finally fell, as they shot 51 percent. But, just about everything they did at the offensive end came as a result of a defensive stop. The Spurs average 104 points per game. But, the Blazers held them to 19 points in the third quarter, and an amazing 15 points in the fourth. This makes 10-straight times the Blazers have held the Spurs below 100 points.
This doesn’t happen to this San Antonio team. They don’t have nights like this. The only time they’ve been vulnerable at all this season has been on the second night of back-to-back situations. Clearly, being they hadn’t played since Saturday, energy wasn’t the issue. Well, it was, but it was Portland that simply had more.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
Several times this season we’ve talked about the Blazers getting a win when they absolutely needed one. With what’s ahead this month, and following losses to Sacramento and Boston, this was one of those times. It’s a huge momentum-builder, as we’re now off on a three-game trip.
Normally, a win in Denver is about as rare as Mike Rice remembering someone’s name. But, this win over San Antonio should have a carry-over effect. Whether or not it’s enough to lift this team to a victory over the Nuggets is to be determined. But, on this night, it’s enough to return most of the people in this travelling party to a good night’s sleep.
It’s 4 am in Denver, and -13 outside. You can take it from here. Best win of the season? And, can they repeat the feat on Wednesday night?