Andrew R Tonry | Friday, January 22, 2010 at 8:36PM
After three-and-a-half quarters against the Celtics, Blazer fans could almost be excused for falling asleep or throwing in the towel. The game was following the predicted script to the letter. Kevin Garnett returned. The Celts, nursing a three-game losing streak, desperately need a win. The Blazers, without Roy, were grossly undermanned. And with just under five minutes left to play, Boston were up, 89-81.
But those who gave up hope and changed the channel missed one of the most vein-bursting rides of the season. Distressingly, it came up just short. The Blazers fell to the Celtics, in overtime, 98-95.
"Leaving Boston with a sour taste in my mouth," Tweeted Jeff Pendergraph after the game.
Still, it was wild, and reinforces the notion that no matter the opponent, or who's in uniform, The Blazers have a chance.
The no-longer-improbable run began with just under five minutes left in regulation. Andre Miller and Martell Webster led the Blazers on a near-heroic comeback to force overtime. Each showed steely nerves, scoring five points apiece as the regulation clock wound down.
Miller did it with an and-one layup, a jumper, and even some defense, drawing a charge on Paul Pierce that fouled out the Celtic star. It was, by far, Miller's best game of the season (and this comes in a run of fantastic performance--we may have written that same sentence Wednesday). Miller scored a season-high 28 points, along with eight boards and eight assists, while playing an grueling 47 minutes. In his postgame comments, Miller admitted, "I was so tired I just shot a three." It was his only lapse. Indeed, Miller just continues to get more comfortable in the Blazers' uniform, and all those calls for trades that earlier filled the air like tweeting birds seem to be disappearing into thin air.
Miller's over-time forcing cohort, Martell Webster hit a three and a deep two during the stretch. In his quest to keep the Blazers alive, the Webster finished with 19. It's one of the first times in as long as this writer can remember that Webster produced in the clutch. It's also reassuring to see how the small forward shook off a two-point first half (and an atrocious two point performance Wednesday in Philadelphia) to get things rolling again.
The Blazer defense too deserves it's own collective credit, limiting the Celtics to just two points in the final 4:43 of regulation.
The man of the hour, though, was the Celtics' Ray Allen, who shook off a horrible shooting night (three of 14) to nail a go-ahead three in overtime. The Blazers had their chances, but were unable to convert. LaMarcus Aldridge clanked a fall-away two from just behind the free-throw line, and Rudy Fernandez missed two three's with the clock ticking away. Fernandez's first was a fine shot, though the second, in the rush and scrum of the game's final seconds, came a bit early and off balance. He appeared to take a hit, but the whistle was not blow (call it a home-court no-call, or a European flop, your choice). In the end though, Fernandez's touch was off all night. He made just two of 11 attempts from the field.
Juwan Howard, on the other hand, played one of his most impressive games as a Blazer. Against the formidable Celtics front line of Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and "Big Baby" Davis, Howard pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds, and played 41 minutes, his most since 2007.
Jerryd Bayless had a fine first half, scoring 12 points, before leaving with an ankle sprain. Early reports seem as if the sprain is not particularly serious, but Bayless could be out a few games.
After all this salivating over what was an impressive comeback, and what could've been the best win of the Blazers short-handed season, this writer wonders when it's time to stop praising good effort in lieu of a win. Not yet--this game was full of grit and improbable play. But soon.
- LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 19 points and 10 boards, but watching the Boston broadcast on league pass, Celtics commentators trashed him all game long, especially early. Check out these quotes:
"You can neutralize his offense by going at him."
"(Aldridge is) putting his hand up to make the coach think (he's) playing defense."
About Aldridge: "The guy isn't even trying to defend him."
- It was nice to see Rasheed Walace playing lazily, and languishing from his lounge at the three point line in a uniform not colored in black, silver, and scarlet. Yet, the Sheed reputation continues. And the Celtic commentators had to add their two cents on the lovable, sometimes laughable forward:
"He got fouled!" They didn't call it because he's Rasheed."