Game 23 Recap: Blazers 101, Suns 94

It wasn’t always the prettiest, but we can more or less call the Blazers out of the woods at this point. In some ways, tonight’s win over the Suns was more impressive than last night’s besting of the superior Magic. The Blazers were on the second night of a back-to-back, had landed in Phoenix in the wee hours, and were playing a team known for pushing the tempo. Everything was in place for the team to not show up and blame it on fatigue. And just as recently as a week ago, when they were at the lowest point of a six-game losing streak, that might have happened. But tonight, they kept it together, hit their shots, and held the high-scoring Suns under 100 points for the second time in four days.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing about tonight’s game was the play of Brandon Roy. He’s ranged lately from good but hobbled to downright ineffective, but tonight, he looked an awful lot like the Brandon Roy of old. Granted, he was playing against Phoenix, a team not exactly known for its aggressive defense, but he was seemingly able to get any shot he wanted tonight. This game was won by the starting unit–the bench more or less no-showed. Andre Miller played heavy minutes last night against Orlando, so there was talk that Patty Mills or Armon Johnson would carry the bulk of the point-guard minutes tonight, but Miller’s steady play, especially from the free-throw line, proved to be the glue even without the scoring outburst he enjoyed last night. Marcus Camby (16 points, 18 rebounds) and LaMarcus Aldridge (23 points) also had terrific games.

The Suns simply didn’t have the energy to match Portland tonight. Once again, the Blazers’ defense was key, as they were able to limit Phoenix to midrange jumpers and three-pointers and control the glass enough to prevent any real damage. Camby’s performance was huge, especially given that Joel Przybilla missed the game to attend his grandmother’s funeral. Add all of this up, and you get one of the most satisfying Portland wins of the year, if not the most satisfying. They have now won four in a row, have a winning record once again, and kick off a four-game road trip already in better shape than they were on the last one. San Antonio will be among the toughest teams they play this year, but the fact that the Blazers lately are playing 48-minute games for a change is encouraging.

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