Just when you think this crazy season can't get any crazier.
I guess we should know better.
Absolutely no one, nationally, gave the Trail Blazers a shot in game one of this series. Even fewer have given them a chance to win this series (that one probably hasn't changed). Clearly, there is still a long, long way to go. But, the undermanned Trail Blazers cleared a gigantic hurdle on Sunday night at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.
Taking on the hottest team in the NBA, on their home floor, where they went 32-9 during the regular season, the Trail Blazers controlled the tempo, controlled the pace, and during a wild final two minutes, beat the Phoenix Suns 105-100.
The Suns, who closed the season winning 14 of their final 16, and 28 of their final 35, were listed as a huge favorite in this opening round series. They would have been a favorite even if Portland would have had it's leading scorer, Brandon Roy, in the lineup. Without him? Forget about it. Right?
Andre Miller, Jerryd Bayless, Marcus Camby, and company, clearly don't give a damn what anyone else has assumed.
Before this game, I have to admit, I was very worried about the first quarter. The Suns, who usually hit you quickly and very hard, have had it on auto pilot in recent weeks. We figured if Portland can just hang around, and stay within 10 or so, they could find themselves in the ballgame in the fourth. "In the ballgame" seemed to be about the most confident prediction anyone would give.
But, even though the Blazers didn't exactly come out red hot, they turned the game into a halfcourt grinder- exactly what they wanted. They built a nine-point lead, and still managed to lead by one at halftime.
The Suns, however, rallied back to take the lead after the third quarter. On the season, the Suns had been 43-5 (26-2 at home) when leading after three quarters. And, they were starting to get the game in their tempo.
About then was when Andre and Jerryd answered the biggest question going into the series- who would step up and provide the fourth-quarter punch with Brandon Roy back in Portland? Miller scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth, and Bayless added 10 in the quarter, and 18 for the game. Huge.
How about Nicolas Batum? After helping frustrate Amare Stoudemire by returning the blows he was receiving, Batum scored 18 points, pulled down five rebounds, and took several shifts guarding Steve Nash. Marcus Camby? We're staring to expect this stuff. He scored just four points, but pulled down 17 rebounds, and blocked three shots.
Still, it wasn't easy down the stretch, and no one expected it to be. This is the road, and this is playoff time. The Trail Blazers had a seven-point lead with 1:29 left. But, had to hang on for dear life in the final 90 seconds.
Some shaky free-throw shooting, and an odd missed dunk by Marcus Camby, kept the Suns alive in this game, even though half of the crowd had left. Steve Nash actually had a three pointer to tie the game, but missed it. Miller then iced the game with 3.7 seconds left, and the Blazers danced off the floor and into a raucous locker room.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here.
This series is far, far from over. But, I don't have to tell you that. The numbers, and history, however, greatly favor Portland's chances now.
Since 1946-47, the team that has won game 1 in a best-of-seven series has won 309 of 393 series (.786).
The Trail Blazers came into this game having lost five-consecutive game ones (I know that's not proper grammar, but it's very late). The Blazers hadn't won a game one, on the road, since 1983, and this was Portland's first road playoff win since game five, in Dallas, in 2003.
Finally, on this opening weekend of the playoffs, the Trail Blazers became the only road team to win a game one.
The Blazers are now 9-9 in games without Brandon Roy this season. Remarkably, two of those wins have come IN Phoenix.
Game two is Tuesday. The Blazers now own the homecourt advantage in this series.