Payback Time for Blazers
How strange is it to be only 20 games in and have your most lopsided loss of the season and most lopsided win of the season be against the same team?
On January 5th the Trail Blazers picked up an emotional win over the Lakers, and then flew to Phoenix after the game. We got into our hotel at about 4 a.m. and played the Suns that night. If you recall (I certainly do), that game wasn't ever close, and Portland lost 102-77. The Suns had it going that night, and perhaps did a little too much showboating and celebrating.
This whole "revenge factor" we talk about is always interesting and fun. But, is it really a factor? I asked Nate McMillan before the game about it and he said his players not only remembered the beating down there, but could recall individual plays and moments that they wanted to have back. Well, they won't get those back, but they did get a chance to settle the score at the Rose Garden on Friday night.
In what was the worst pounding in the storied history of this series, the Trail Blazers waxed the Suns 109-71. The previous largest margin of victory for Portland in this series was 29. They led by 42 before a couple of Phoenix baskets put the final margin at 38.
Now, a win is a win. We always say that. But, for this Portland team, that had been struggling in some key areas, perhaps this wasn't just a win. Maybe it'll serve as a springboard to bigger things. This was a confidence-building win, and a stress-free victory- a get-well game, if you will. The Blazers hit 47 percent of their shots, and 35 percent of their three-point shots. That's a huge step in the right direction.
Keep in mind, the Blazers trailed by three points after the first quarter.
In the huddle, after the quarter ended, McMillan challenged his team to turn up the defensive pressure, get into passing lanes, and up the tempo. The message must have been taken to heart, because the Blazers outscored the Suns 26-9 in the second quarter, and then 31-12. You won't often see a 57-21 beat down in the middle two quarters of a game.
As always, LaMarcus Aldridge set the tone early, and then took over in the second. He finished the game with 23 points, on 10 of 16 shooting, and only had to play 33 minutes. Marcus Camby continued on this roll rebouding the ball. He had 22 against Memphis, 16 at Golden State, and had 20 against the Suns. He became only the second Blazer in team history to pull down 20 or more rebounds in two-straight home games (Bill Walton was the first).
Gerald Wallace, who is a monster at the Rose Garden, had 17 points, and Wesley Matthews hit 4 of his 7 three-point attemps to end with 16 points. Off the bench, Nic Batum had 14 points. And, Jamal Crawford played facilitator in this one, dishing out 10 assists to go along with 9 points.
The Trail Blazers are now 9-1 at home. That hasn't been the issue, obviously. It's road games that have been the problem. Monday night they'll travel to a place that has been a nightmare for them in recent years (much like Golden State)- Utah.
Most importantly, they now have a couple of days without a game to prepare for the game against the Jazz. They are very aware of the road issues, and I expect we'll see a different performance. I've called a lot of games in Utah, so you never flat out predict a win at that joint, but this one already feels different. The Blazers certainly hope it is.