Andrew R Tonry | Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:09PM
Whether or not that gets the monkey off Brandon Roy's back, we're not sure. But we'll get to that in a moment.
Miller was surely the man of the night, and those catcalls that Philadelphia fans rained down upon him--just as they do to all their players who save their teams from much uglier fates (hello, Donovan)--might have well as been "we miss you's." But Philly, a team in deep disarry, caught in the bermuda triangle between making the Eastern Conference playoffs and missing out on the draft lottery, had their chance this offseason, and said "thanks but no thanks" to Miller's steady services.
Now, The Quiet One's short time in Portland hasn't been all wine and roses. But it's getting to be. After the blow-up between Miller and Coach McMillan two weeks ago, something has changed. Miller is getting the fourth quarter minutes he desired all along, and in general, more room to play his game without fear of reproach. It's been hard on McMillan, who's been dealt inept point guards in Portland up until now, to understand. But the yelling match seems to have done it, evidenced not only by Miller's steady string of recent contributions, but McMillan offering his first public apology ever.
Brandon Roy tweaked his strained hamstring just seconds before entering the halftime break. He would not return. Here, Miller answered the call. He came out and scored 14 of his game-high 24 points in the third quarter. But aside from piloting the offense, one play in particular stuck out. It was beautiful.
On the Blazers' final offensive play of the third quarter, as a shot went up, Miller barreled through the Sixers frontline like a fullback shooting the hole. He stole position from a group of big men, ripped the ball down, and scored admidst the trees. It was pure grit, plus some veteran savvy--also, Miller's not-so-subtle way of flipping the bird to the Sixers brass.
Where Miller carried the third, Bayless starred alongside him in the final quarter. He scored 14 in the quarter, most of which were on knifing drives through the lanes. With 41.1 seconds to play, and the Blazers up 94-92, Bayless knocked down a pair of clutch free throws--not unlike ones he's missed in the past--to give the Blazers a more comfortable lead. Bayless finished with 18.
Which brings us, finally, back to Brandon Roy. Some would argue this belongs higher in the lede, but they're the ones who're surprised that Roy's balky hamstring wasn't all the way healed. It seemed pretty clear though, with the language that Roy's been using as of late. As reported by the Oregonian, Roy was kept out of Monday's game when he told the training staff, "I think I can play." They responded, that without absolution, he would sit. So what did Roy do? He didn't heal completely, but he learned to change his tone. Give him credit for wanting to go so bad, but for now, the Blazers' star player must remain on the bench. And that's exactly what the team will make him do. There'll be no questions next time. He'll return once fully rested. The scare, on the heels of the worst rash of injuries in, perhaps, franchise history, the Blazers will be jolted into dealing with this situation now and with the upmost caution.
Finally, there's that monkey that lives in the Wachovia Center. Unless you're counting tonight--and I'm not--Roy has not won there. I prefer it this way--keep the monkey until next season. An extra bit of motivation is never a bad thing.
- The Blazers did a fine job on the Sixer bigs. They kept pace on the glass, 36-37. - Portland hit their last 14 from the charity stripe.
- Samuel Dalembert played an admirable game after traveling back from his earthquake-torn homeland of Haiti and running into the arena just in time for tip-off. He 10 points and 15 boards.
- LaMarcus Aldrdige was no slouch either. He finished with 23 points and nine boards.
- Martell Webster, on the other hand, fell back to Earth. He had two points (on 1-9 shooting) and grabbed a pair of rebounds. With his recent torrent play, Webster gets a one (and only one) game pass, but his streak of nine straight games in double-figures comes to an end.