Memories of 2010-2011
By Brian Wheeler
When you’re going through it, an NBA season can often be just a blur. Things happen so quickly and the games come fast and furious that you don’t usually have time to reflect on what’s happening. But when the season comes to an abrupt halt and there are no more games to look forward to, all the moments, good and bad, come into greater focus.
NBA seasons are sometimes like riding a roller coaster with the various ups and downs, and I’d say this past Blazers’ season fits that description. The team broke out of the gates quickly with 3 straight victories to start the season. Brandon Roy led the club in scoring in each game, and looked like he was already on his way to another All-Star season. They went 3-1 on their first extended road trip, with newcomer Wesley Matthews showing he might be even better than advertised. But before the season even began in earnest, we had our first downer with the news that Greg Oden would need another microfracture surgery that would prevent him from playing at all in 2010-2011. It was surprising and devastating news considering he was going to be the final piece of the puzzle for this year’s team to achieve everything that had been predicted for them. On November 19th, he had the surgery that would end his season before it ever got started.
The next night on November 20th, the Blazers blew a 4th quarter lead and lost at home to Utah. The team of the last 2 seasons in Portland had been among the best in the league at protecting leads it held after 3 quarters. The Utah game unfortunately wouldn’t be an aberration as that would be a problem for this team at various points during the season.
After a great first multiple game road trip, disaster struck on the East Coast swing that took us from the latter part of November into early December. 4 losses in as many games, with 4th quarter leads lost in 3 of them. When we flew home after the final game of the trip in Washington on December 3rd, I was really worried about where the team was headed.
But then 4 straight victories seemed to right the ship. The last two were very impressive, the first a dominant home win over a hot Orlando team, and the 2nd a rare victory at Phoenix just one night later. Brandon was sensational that night, scoring a team-high 26 in the win. Little did we know at the time that would be the last time Roy would carry the team for quite a while.
That Phoenix win on December 10th would begin a 4-game road trip that was followed up by 3 disappointing losses, the last of which was at Dallas. But that game would be remembered as time went on as the night that LaMarcus Aldridge started to realize the vast potential everyone knew he had. After a quiet 3 quarters, Aldridge exploded in the 4th and nearly carried the Blazers to a victory in his hometown. He finished with 35 points. The game was also significant because it would be the last that Roy would play before missing the next 30 contests due to pain in both knees.
While they struggled on the road early in the season, the Blazers became a dominant club at the Rose Garden. In early January they won their 8th straight at home behind a then career-best 14 points from new fan favorite Patty Mills.
On January 19th, Roy underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees. One day later, Marcus Camby would have his own arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, causing him to miss the next 16 games.
All the while, LaMarcus stepped to the forefront as a #1 guy on the team for the first time in his career. He was named Western Conference Player-of-the-Week on January 24th. He’d win the same award again less than a month later on February 14th.
On February 16th, the Blazers beat New Orleans to win a season-high 6th game in a row heading into the All-Star Break. 8 days later just before the trading deadline, the team acquired Gerald Wallace from Charlotte. Unfortunately, they had to say good-bye in the deal to one of the most popular Blazers in the last few seasons, Joel Przybilla.
On March 2nd, Aldridge became the Western Conference Player-of-the-Month for February, becoming just the 3rd Trail Blazer in history to capture that honor. On March 8th, the team won its’ 7th straight game on the road, taking down Miami. The road winning streak was the 3rd longest in team history, and best since 1991.
On March 25th, the most exciting regular season win was secured at home over San Antonio as Nicolas Batum guided in an alley-oop inbounds pass from Andre Miller at the buzzer.
On April 3rd, the team posted an 8-game home winning streak for the 2nd time, something that hadn’t been done by a Blazers’ squad in one season since 1998-99.
On April 13th, the team finishes out a 48-34 regular season, a tremendous accomplishment considering they had to deal with another rash of injuries, but I’ll always remember that Nate McMillan never allowed the players to use that as an excuse if they didn’t win.
The play-offs would mirror the regular season’s ups and downs. I really think the loss in Game 1 at Dallas when the Blazers had a 6-point lead with under 6 minutes to play was the turning point in the series. A win there and the Mavs might have crumbled under the pressure of achieving some first round success. But instead, they followed up that win with another one in Game 2. To their credit, the Blazers came back home and captured Game 3 to get back in the series.
Then we’ll always remember where we were for Game 4. Brandon Roy turned back the clock and sparked a rally from 23 down late in the 3rd quarter to help the Blazers to their biggest comeback in team play-off history to square the series. Unfortunately, that would be the last big highlight of the season as the Mavericks won the next 2 to take the series and end the Blazers’ run.
But as I tried to illustrate, it was a season with a lot of special moments, and hopefully some things to build on for next year and beyond. When you don’t advance deep into the play-offs, a season always ends too soon. But we’ll have our games to reflect on and some individual performances too. Thanks for sharing it all with me and the rest of our Blazers’ Broadcasting group. We couldn’t have done it without you. What say we meet back here same time, same place, and have even more to talk about when next season ends? Deal? Deal. Have a wonderful summer!