mikebarrett

Apr 12

I know what you're thinking.

I can't say that I blame you. But, I still don't think this Trail Blazer team wants any part of the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs.

Neil Diamond, who was in attendance at the Staples Center on Sunday afternoon, had a great song called "Don't Think... Feel." The Trail Blazers appeared to take that to heart in this game. Perhaps that should be the theme song for next season. And, yes, Neil did sing the song "Play Me," but I still don't think the Blazers will take L.A. up on the offer, if given the opportunity to choose. (I tried to make up something to incorporate the song "Cracklin' Rosie" but fell short. I'm sorry.)

What this 91-88 win over the Lakers does is give the Blazers the chance to choose. With two games left in the regular season the Trail Blazers now control their own destiny. If they beat Oklahoma City on Monday, and Golden State on Wednesday, Portland will finish sixth in the west. That still doesn't mean they avoid Utah, but does mean they avoid the Lakers.

L.A. has now lost 6 of its last 9, and with Kobe Bryant still not quite right, they are nothing close to unbeatable. I don't know. Given Utah or the Lakers, who do you pick?

There is some troubling news that came out of this big win. Brandon Roy injured his right knee in the first quarter, and after attempting to fight through the pain, shut it down at halftime. He'll undergo an MRI right when he gets home, and we should know more by Monday morning. I'd love to say that I don't think this is any big deal, but I'm not so sure. The way he acted, and the things he said after the game are very concerning.

Without Roy for three quarters of this game, the Trail Blazers were able to get the job done anyway.

Martell Webster went from hero to goat, and back to hero in the closing moments of the contest. After getting confused, and taking a foul on Bryant (when the Blazers had long been in the penalty), Kobe returned the kind geture and missed a pair of free throws. But, the Lakers got the offensive rebound and Derek Fisher was fouled. After he made just one of two to tie the score at 88, Webster was fouled going up for a three-point attempt. He nailed all three. Pau Gasol missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer and the Blazers held on for the win.

Webster ended the game with 16 points off the bench, which has taken heat lately for being unproductive. Rudy Fernandez, who appears to be getting his stroke back following a dreadful slump, scored 9 points and dished out 6 assists. And, Jerryd Bayless had 8 points and 5 rebounds off the bench.

Leading the way, once again, was LaMarcus Aldridge, who is playing his best basketball of the season. He had 24 points and 11 rebounds. And, Marcus Camby had another double-double, and another huge game on the backboards. Camby had 17 rebounds (7 offensive), and also added 10 points, including a huge tip-in basket that would have been the game winner. Andre Miller had 15 points and 7 assists.

It was another great effort by Portland's defense, that held the Lakers to just 88 points. Kobe was held to 20 points on just 8 for 23 shooting. The Lakers, as a team, shot just 43 percent.

Make no mistake, the Lakers played the game to win it, and chose not to rest anyone. That's the way it should be, and I give Phil Jackson a lot of credit for always taking that approach to late-season games, even when his team doesn't have a lot to lose or gain. Was this the same intensity the Lakers will show in the playoffs? Probably not. But, they had better be able to flip a switch by next weekend, because they don't look good right now. They feel they can do it, and perhaps they are right.

But, the Trail Blazers don't really care. They broke through at the Staples Center for the first time since 2007, and at least partially erased the memory of Friday night. They also clinched the season-series win over the Lakers.

Monday night they can clinch the season series against the Thunder, with a win. But, that'll be another game with playoff intensity. And, the road team has won the first three games in this series this season.

Brandon Roy's status is up the air, not only for Monday, but beyond. But, for the moment, a win over the Lakers in L.A. is enough to carry Blazer fans through the night.
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