My God, what a swing.
Portland’s 41 point third quarter—which equaled their first-half output—was their highest scoring quarter of the season. The blistering run turned a 12 point deficit into a 12 point Blazers’ lead.
Emotionally it was quite a turnaround as well. Considering the quality of opponents, had the Blazers fallen to 3-2 on this, the final stop on a five game trip, it would’ve qualified as a failure. And when the Blazers entered the locker room at half time, a loss looked exactly like they where they were headed. Instead, the team exploded offensively behind Brandon Roy and Nic Batum, who hit a combined nine of 11 shots from the field in the quarter.
But as this season has taught us, things are rarely simple for the Blazers—and there would, of course, be another swing.
Up 13 with 9:50 to play in the game’s final quarter, Memphis went on a 15 to 4 run, trimming the Blazers lead to just two points with 3:25 to go. As it has been wont to do lately, the Blazers offense seized. They played to keep the lead, rather than playing freely. The ball stopped. Brandon Roy became isolated as other players stood still and watched. And unlike his former, pre-injury self (or last season’s vintage model) Roy failed on a number of possessions to score. He missed inside and complained about fouls—it seemed unlike the Roy we’ve come to expect, and again makes this writer wonder just how well he truly is. With the Utah’s comeback still fresh in mind—not to mention lead-closing runs by the Nets, Toronto and Chicago on this trip—it was nail-biting time.
Finally, with 2:38 remaining Roy made a scoop shot in the lane. On the next play former Blazer Zach Randolph scored and was fouled. He converted the three-point play and the Blazer lead was down to a single point.
But Portland’s offense began to stick, as Roy drove into the lane the Grizzlies defense collapsed, but streaking in from the wing came Nicolas Batum. Roy dumped him the ball. And one.
After a stop, Roy again isolated, drove for a seven-foot jumper that rimmed out, but a sailing Marcus Camby tipped in the miss. The Blazers found their breathing room, but only for a moment—a bad pass out of a timeout that was stolen by O.J. Mayo in the backcourt would have cut the Blazer lead to a single possession had it not been for a phenomenal block by Batum. The Blazers recovered the loose ball and never looked back.
And finally, after two breathtaking swings—one beautiful, the other frightening—the Blazers prevailed in their trip, the longest of the season, with a record of 4-1.
It’s worth noting that before Nicolas Batum’s 31 point eruption at Minnesota his career high was 21, which he matched Monday. Batum hit four of seven attempts from three (including one in the waning seconds of garbage time).
Roy led all scorers with 25, shooting seven of 18 from the field. Andre Miller finished with another double-double, adding 12 points and 11 assists. Over the five-game trip, Miller dished out 39 assists while giving away a scant seven turnovers.
Zach Randolph had a team-high 22 points, but was held to just seven boards, below his season average of 11.9.
• This is the first time Portland has scored over 100 points in five consecutive games since 1997-‘98, when the team—lead by Kenny Anderson—did it six straight times (2/4-2/17).
• Martell Webster was again a non-factor. He played just six minutes, registering a single blocked shot and three points.
• Monday’s win put the Blazers four games ahead of 9th place Houston. Portland’s 17-14 record on the road is fourth best in the Western Conference.