This is why you have Brandon Roy. On the road, you just hope enough guys can contribute to keep the game close enough so that your superstar can take over. Then you get a few stops, hit a few free throws, bada-bing- bada-boom you have yourself a nice on, quite literally, the other side of the league.
Ironically that’s exactly how Miami gets most of its wins with Dwayne Wade. You could say Portland beat them at their own game, if you wish.
Pretty much anything that didn’t go well against Orlando the night before went at least marginally well in this game. The Blazers shot 51 percent from the field, 11-of-19 beyond the arc, out-rebounded the Heat, dished a good-hardly-great 20 assists on 38 makes and got games out of LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points) and Martell Webster (15 points, three 3′s) that reminded us they were both still alive and had not had their power sucked out of them by space aliens.
That’s all the difference, regardless of the quality of opponent. Aldridge doesn’t score eight points in the second half of the third period and the Blazers don’t win. Webster doesn’t make a late triple to knot things up at 92, and the Blazers might not win. Without those things you lose to an Orlando team that didn’t always take Portland seriously, they lost. And back-and-forth and back-and-forth we go. I’m repeating myself for the effect of showing how dependent the Blazers are on their few remaining shooters and scorers, if you hadn’t noticed.
Let’s fast forward.
Roy found success both on and off the ball, both shooting (28 points on 14 shots, 5-of-5 from three) and passing (8 assists). Those are maestro numbers. Efficient, effective and deadly. He deserves all the praised that will be heaped on him tonight and tomorrow, but how rewarding that is we can’t know. It must be ever so slightly dampening for Roy, like Wade, to look down the road and realize just how many times he’ll have to do this for Portland to make the playoffs. Since Roy is not a commercial megastar like Wade or LeBron or Dwight, appreciation for him will always be in accordance with Portland’s win total, no matter how many fourth quarters he dominates. Call it the Paul Pierce zone.
I’m more interested in seeing what Aldridge does as a follow up to the follow up of a crappy game than I am in praising him for scoring 23 points on 23 shots. So sue me.
If you can get 15 points on 3-of-6 shooting from downtown out of Webster for every night the rest of the season, that’s a success. Throw in his five boards and in the future a few more defensive stats and you have yourself a starting small forward. I am starting to wonder whether McMillan just lacks trust in Webster’s defense, or if Roy is asking for the tougher defensive assignments.
Andre Miller was Portland’s best point guard tonight and didn’t really have any negative effect on the game. His occasional penetration into the paint balanced Roy’s offense well, even if the two still don’t always seem like they are playing with one another.
Joel Przybilla showed yet again why he is so valuable to this team, and why there’s virtually no chance he is going anywhere. He altered a large number of shots and benefited from the non-Wade members of the Heat putting little pressure on Portland’s guards, allowing him to roam and destroy.
Steve Blake played pretty good defense on the Carlos Arroyo/Mario Chalmers duet, staying in front and fighting through screens better than we’ve become accustomed to. His role on this team is beginning to get very blurry, but by no means did he hurt the Blazers. He just didn’t add much either.
Jerryd Bayless played a little less that he appeared to deserve, but he did get the quick yank in the fourth quarter for letting his man go backdoor on him. I continue to be impressed by how much he looks like a working cog in the offense rather than just a burst of energy that becomes the center of Portland’s solar system whenever he has the ball.
Here is where I mention Juwan Howard for doing how he do.
Anthony Tolliver got burned badly by Michael Beasley twice in one minute of play.
This team doesn’t need to find ways to win. There is still enough healthy talent to win simply by executing the same offense night in and night out. As a result, things are going to feel a little flat for the next month and change, even with Roy getting his Jack Ryan on, but there’s nothing wrong with that as long as wins come in at an acceptable clip. Nobody ever said we have to be dancing in the street after every single victory.