Brandon Roy: “What’s our road record? We’re road warriors!”
Blazer Road Swag +1,000,000.
I’m not sure Roy and LMA are going to be doing the Doomsday Device anytime soon, but if he thinks the Blazers are road warriors that’s all that matters. No better time to feel that way than right now. I’ll acknowledge the criticisms out there. Sure it’s only Portland’s second road win against a Western Conference playoff team in 13 attempts. And sure it came against a battered and bruised San Antonio team (as Jon Barry kept pointing out over and over and over). My counterpoint is this. No matter how you slice it…there is no denying that this win was special. It was the first Blazer win in San Antonio since 2002. It was the 50th win of the season, the first time the Blazers have reached that mark since the 2002-03 season. It was a win that capped off a fantastic 3-1 road trip. It was Portland showing up in a must-win game…and winning it. No one can discredit that fact. Portland went out and won a must-win game on the road for what felt like the first time in ages. Both teams needed this game. You don’t think so? Tim Duncan wouldn’t have played if this wasn’t a must-win for both teams. Portland came from down 19 points, took the lead and made winning plays to win the game. How is that not impressive? Tonight was the Blazers showing a level of execution and passion that had not been showcased on the road. This win was the exact opposite of last night’s win. Last night, there was no rhyme or reason to Portland winning. Tonight, the Blazers went out there and won it. And won it in impressive fashion. Those are the kind of wins that get people’s attention.
Again, the most impressive part of the win was not its existence but how it happened. Tonight was not full of sweet smelling roses. The first 12 minutes were incredibly frustrating. The Spurs were up 17 at the end of that time-span. They shot 70%. It was so painful to watch, I’d much rather watch any of Jessica Simpson’s straight-to-DVD movies than that quarter again. It was just a vicious reminder of the second quarter in Memphis. My house was reeking of disappointment as I fumed. Five turnovers on top of settling for jumpers…and bricking them. On the Spurs side, you have Michael Finley having flashbacks to the early 00’s and Roger Mason having to flashbacks to whenever Roger Mason was really, really good. He had 11 in the quarter and Finley had 7. It looked like it was going to be a rough night on the surface. We were playing like doo doo, the Spurs were up big even though Tim Duncan had yet to do anything. Ditto for Tony Parker. And we were down by 17 regardless. I guess this was the disadvantage of being an “old” fan whose gone through the ups and downs but 17-point deficits in San Antonio are like death. It’s like flirting with a girl at a bar all night but calling her by the wrong name right when you’re about to leave. You don’t recover. Little did we know Timmy didn’t have his best stuff…and that the Blazers were ready to play some ball. In the second quarter…the jumpers were replaced by the Blazers getting to the basket. Oden layup, Sergio layup, Oden dunk, Travis dunk, B-Roy layup. It loosened everything else up. Then you add the two biggest shots of the game in my opinion: Rudy’s three and Blake’s half-court buzzer-beater. The funny part is I cursed at Blake for jab-stepping in the backcourt and wasting time with such little tick on the clock…and of course he drained it.
During that comeback it became apparent that the Blazers could win this game. Not only were they able to score…San Antonio was struggling. What else explains getting out-scored 21-8 in the last 7 minutes at home? Tony Parker was somewhat off, Timmy was clearly not Timmy…and there was no creator to fill Manu’s absence. And that’s what tonight showed. A big part of this was Timmy not being Timmy. Things might have gone differently if he makes a couple shots early in the the 3rd. But with him struggling and hurting, Parker could only do so much. It didn’t help the Spurs that the game temporairly turned into LaMarcus’ playground. Is he ballin’ yet Chuck? laMarcus Aldridge was absolutely big-time in this game. 14 of Portland’s 23 points in the third quarter and was a huge reason why Portland wins. Anytime San Antonio had an answer…LaMarcus struck right back.
In the fourth…it was dagger time. And more impressive than anything was how the Blazers put the Spurs away. The swagger that has been missing on the road all year was there. Sitting on my couch, there was a different feel to it. They just looked like nothing was going to stop them and played like it was well. Everyone took turns hitting daggers. Guys stepped up and hit big shots to make sure the Spurs were not coming back.
A great team win in every sense of the word. Everyone in red stepped up and put in work. How many teams go into San Antonio, shoot 52% and out-rebound the Spurs 43-26? I don’t know. But I’m definitely impressed by how this team showed up. And I’m also impressed with how this team keeps fighting. ESPN kept throwing the ‘Portland’s won x amount of times from down 10′ like it was porn to a 13 year old group of boys. Credit Nate tonight. You have to. And if you don’t know why you’re a dumb-dumb. It was great to see Brandon Roy finally play like Brandon Roy in that building. I felt like Greg Oden had a very nice impact when he was one the floor. Definitely one of his better performances against a really good team. That might not be saying much but it is saying something. Rudy stepped up and hit some big shots. All in all, everyone contributed. That kind of balance is what you need this time of the year.
More importantly…50 wins. The return to respectability is complete. Winning in San Antonio. Still fighting for home-court. It was just really fun to watch this game. It was fun to get wrapped into the comeback. To get out of my chair and scream when Rudy’s three cut it to 6 or disbelieving Blake’s three-pointer. Fist-pumping with all of LMA’s points in the third and enjoying every dagger of the fourth. I almost feel like a kid again watching these Blazers. Just a huge win. 3-1 on the road trip is fantastic and with only one road game left…it was time to get a big one.
This is what we live for, Rip City. Moments like these. And I’m going to cherish it because after the past few years…you just never know.