In the huddle before the Blazers final possession, Brandon Roy was confident. He and coach McMillan shared no words—only a look and it was decided: Roy would get the final shot. Normally this wouldn’t be anything new, but Roy doesn’t normally miss 14 straight shots. His last field goal came in the first quarter.
There were 18.9 seconds to play. The score was tied, 74-all.
Roy caught the ball up top, let the clock run down then pump-faked Alonzo Gee into the air, stepped through and drained a 21-footer with .5 seconds left on the clock to give the Blazers a two point lead. In their final possession, Washington didn’t get a shot off and the Blazers squeaked by, 76-74.
Roy talked about the final play, how, more than simply winning, he was just happy to finally make a shot.
Friday at the Rose Garden felt a little bit like last year—a tight game in the final few minutes, the crowd standing, biting their collective nails and screaming their hearts out before Brandon Roy won it at the buzzer.
But for every bit of reminiscence there was an equal amount of strange—an absolute bore for 45-odd minutes, and a thriller for the final three—one that should have never been.
This Wizards team is shambolic and deplorable. They came in to Portland losers of nine straight. The season, for all practical purposes, has been over for months—ever since Gilbert Arenas was suspend, and maybe even before that.
The Blazers, a playoff team, were supposed to decimate the lopsided match up. At Thursday’s practice Nate McMillan refused to even contemplate a letdown. Vegas agreed—the Blazers were favored by a whopping 12 1/2 points.
Through three quarters, the script was mostly followed. Portland sat on a comfy lead (albeit never moving into potential blowout territory), and limited the Wizards to just 30 points at half time. Nate McMillan said afterwards that the atrocious offensive performance wasn’t the result of a four-day layoff. Over and over again he stressed it: The Blazers just couldn’t make a shot. It got uglier as the game went on.
Portland’s 32.1% shooting from the field was their worst of the season. It set a new franchise record for low shooting percentage in a win. Seventy-six points were also a season low. Wizards coach Flip Saunders said that switching to zone helped his team close the gap in the game’s final six minutes.
McMillan said Saunders “hid” the zone from them until the end in hopes of frustrating the Blazers. Portland still got good shots, he said—they just missed.
Friday’s win was salvaged by a few critical late-game rebounds by Portland, and some steely nerves on the free throw line from LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. Before Roy’s game-sealing bucket, the Blazers had gone 4:43 without a field goal.
And while Roy’s streak of 14 misses was the most futile, no other Blazer player was particularly hot in his place. LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with with a game-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, hit just six of 17 attempts. Miller, who had 14, made just six of 14. In clanking four of 18 attempts, Roy was worst of all, but when the biggest one came, he made it count. Roy finished with 14.
Marcus Camby pulled down a game-high 19 rebounds, his best thus far as a Trail Blazer (Camby’s season high is 25).
Randy Foye had 10 for the Wizards, and hit three big shots late in the fourth that made the game competitive. Nate McMillan said that Foye broke their pick and roll defense.
The Blazers have won five straight and eight of their last nine games. But in that span, only one win (at Memphis) came against a team with an above .500 record.
As the Blazers look forward to Phoenix on Sunday—and a number of more stately opponents to come—this game should act as a wake-up call. Finally coming up against a worthy foe after all this time swatting flies in the cellar could come as a shock.
- Andre Miller celebrated his 34th birthday today by playing in his 600th straight game, the NBA’s longest active streak.
- Rudy Fernandez left the game with a strained quad. He is day to day.
- Tonight’s win moved coach Nate McMillan into a tied with Mike Dunleavy for third place all time on Portland’s head coaching win list (190).