Roy to the Rescue
After having their hearts ripped out on Wednesday night by the Lakers, blowing an eight-point lead with just over four minutes to play, the Trail Blazers reversed roles on Friday night, and won in dramatic fashion.
Trailing Denver 89-82 with just 3:48 left, and after trailing by as many as 11 earlier in the fourth quarter, Portland mounted a rally that ended with a Brandon Roy three-point bomb with five seconds left that forced overtime- Portland's second-straight overtime game. This time, they were able to make the defensive stops, got a huge three from Wesley Matthews and two big free throws from LaMarcus Aldridge, and hung on to win it 107-106.
It was a strange night, in a normally pretty routine rivalry where they home team almost always wins. But, this Denver team is so entirely different, and the Trail Blazers essentially played six guys because of being so shorthanded following the Gerald Wallace trade. I can't remember a time Portland ever played this small- and I mean ever. Roy played center on a few occasions, and so did Nicolas Batum.
Denver, without Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups now, actually play defense, and are arguably as good or better than they were before the trade. Perhaps that's a stretch, but they took an awful lot of talent from the New York Knicks and instead of standing around and watching Melo shoot, they're playing with a chip on their shoulder now and are playing scrappy ball. Not sure if that's just the honeymoon surge that follows a trade, or if it'll truly last.
This win for Portland was big because a loss would have meant losing the season series to the Nuggets. Down the road that could have had dire consequences. Also, the Trail Blazers moved back ahead of Denver in the western race.
Now to Roy. Brandon was limited to just over 15 minutes on Wednesday against the Lakers and badly wanted to play more. He got his wish in this game, but Nate McMillan still wanted to closely monitor his minutes. They set a goal of 20 minutes in this game, but he ended up playing 24. It's a good thing. Roy scored 18 points in his 24 minutes, grabbed five rebounds, and hit the off-balance three pointer that sent the game to overtime. It was a return to his heroic role on this team. And, if there was a concern that his return would hinder Aldridge, and what he's been doing lately, this, at least on this night, put that to bed. Aldridge had 24 points and 14 rebounds, and loved having someone to help him shoulder the load.
Rudy Fernandez played a career-high 44 minutes. Matthews played a career-high 50 minutes. Andre Miller played 42 minutes. Nicolas Batum played 38 minutes, on a sore ankle that he jammed early in the game. And, Aldridge played a whopping 51 minutes, also a career high. They simply didn't have a choice.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
Help is, of course, on the way. Gerald Wallace will make his Portland debut on Sunday night against Atlanta. We talked to him during the second quarter of the game, and I interviewed him on the court following this contest. It was great to hear him say he actually had chills watching his new team come from behind to win. He also talked about the atmosphere at the Rose Garden, and how it'll be playing in front of a sold-out arena every night. That'll be a huge change from Charlotte, where good seats are always available.
Hopefully, Marcus Camby is back soon as well, and that could even happy as early as Sunday.
The Trail Blazers are also now AHEAD of last year's pace. That's remarkable. They were 32-26 after 58 games last season. After this win they sit 33-25. Think about all that has happened this season, and then let that soak in.
Talk to you Sunday night.
Help is on the way.