Blazers Survive Magic Kingdom
Make that six in a row on the road. It doesn't matter how, who they were against, or who wasn't playing in a particular game. Victories away from home are never easy, especially at this time of year. Plus, because of all they've been through this season, they qualify for not having to explain anything after wins.
The message before this game in Orlando was about not relaxing because Dwight Howard wasn't playing for the Magic. Good teams find ways to compete no matter who is out. No one knows that better than Blazer fans. If the Magic couldn't win without their star, that's on them. Everyone has to play shorthanded now and then.
Before this game we talked a lot about what it would take for Portland to get this game in their tempo, and beat the Magic in their building. Get physical defensively, track three-point shooters, and get the pace slowed down to take advantage of the size differential. We also said it was vital to play inside-out offense. In other words, get LaMarcus Aldridge established on the low block, and allow him to work in the middle.
Some of that went as planned. The Blazers were tough defensively, and they did get the tempo to their liking. But, Orlando shot the three-point ball very well (11-22), and Aldridge was pushed out of the middle and was double and triple teamed all night. He still managed to score 24 points, but most of those came from the outside. The only time he started getting to the rim was when the Magic stopped doubling him late in the game.
The Blazers led by five after the first quarter, and led by four at halftime. Their lead swelled to 14 in the third quarter, but you never got the feeling they were going to put this game away until late in the contest.
After putting together a 14-1 run, and closed the third quarter on a 16-6 run, Orlando had all the mometum, got the crowd in the game, and appeared ready to pounce. But, big buckets by Brandon Roy, Andre Miller, and Aldridge, allowed the Blazers to reclaim the lead and keep their heads above water despite the hot shooting Orlando got from Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas, and Hedo Turkoglu.
It was a strange final two minutes of this game. Portland got its final point of the game on a Gerald Wallace free throw with 1:42 to go. That put them up 89-81. Then came an odd four-point play for the Magic, when Turkoglu hit a free throw, missed the second, but got the rebound and hit a three, making it a four-point possession with 1:21 to play. No more points would be scored in the game.
You don't see endings like that every day. But, the Blazers will take it. This game was about survival. Just get the win and get to the airport, and that's what happened.
Now, time to give credit to our guys running the replays in the TV truck. I tried to explain on TV what was going on during both of these times during the game, but this gives me a better chance to explain what happened.
Rarely does a TV crew have an effect on a game. But, our crew happened to save the Blazers three points in this game. Early in the second quarter, Aldridge hit a three-pointer that was called a two on the court. The officials made no indication that they wanted to review the shot on replay during the next time out. And, there was no protest from the Blazer bench. These things are tough to see. But, our truck reported to me that Aldridge was indeed behind the line and that this should be overturned.
McMillan spends most of his time during games about five feet from where I call the game. Once I was told about the replay, I alerted Nate that he should ask for a review of the shot. During the next time out, he did. Bill Spooner looked at the shot from several angles and agreed that Aldridge was behind the line. The score was changed, and the Blazers were given a point. That has happened one other time this season. In the game against the Lakers at home recently, Kobe had a foot over the three-point line and was given a three. We told Nate to ask for a replay, and it was changed to a two.
With 4:39 left in the game, another situation presented itself that would allow for a replay. Orlando's Ryan Anderson scooped up a miss and scored on a lay in to just beat the shot clock. Again, there was no protest and the bucket went on the scoreboard. After our truck took a closer look, it appeared the ball was still in Anderson's hand when the yellow light (the shot clock light) appeared above the rim. Once again, we asked our coaches to ask for a review. They got it, and after the time out the bucket was taken off the board. I can't tell you how rare it is that this would happen twice in the same game.
I also want to say that this isn't a reflection on the referees calling this game. Spooner, Tony Brown, and Tom Washington are among the best in this league. These things are very tough to spot in real time. I actually want to give them credit for agreeing to take a look at these things, in order to ultimately get the call correct. That's the goal. I actually told Brown, after the second request, that we weren't meaning to show them up, but just wanted to let them know what the replay was showing. He was great, and agreed that the important thing was getting the calls correct. It's great that replay is able to be used in this fashion in the NBA. Indisputable video evidence is too powerful to ignore. And, in a close game, it can make all the difference in the world.
Anyway, I'm not tooting our own horn here, but rather giving credit to our guys who bust their humps in the TV truck during the games. An extra set of eyes (complete with slow-mo) never hurts. The reason this was so rare in this game, is that no one saw either play, and things would have stood as they were without our guys calling attention to both things. Three points is huge.
We're in Miami now, and take on the Heat on Tuesday night. No, it's not a good time to be catching the Heat. They've been catching plenty of Heat. It's another reason the win in Orlando was so huge. Now, you're playing with house money, and the pressure is squarely on Miami. I'll turn you loose with predictions, and what you believe are the keys to Portland making it seven-straight road wins.
Talk to you after the game.