Deciphering the NBA playoff tiebreakers is like trying to figure out the rules of Fantastic Mr. Fox’s whackbat (“Basically, there’s three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners…”). But following an impressive 92-87 victory over Oklahoma City in the Thunder Dome Ford Center, the Blazers now hold a decisive tiebreaker (at least for a few more days) against the Thunder.
Now 14-3 in the latter half of back-to-backs, Portland’s tempo was consistent throughout the night; the Blazers took a respectable lead (about eight points or so), then blew said lead (usually on Durant slicing the key and dunking through/over anyone in his path), and then Portland regained the lead once more. The two teams kept it close into the final minute. Portland had the ball and a three point advantage—following James Harden scooping up a clutch block from LaMarcus Aldridge (read that again, it sounds so weird) and converting it for an easy layup—so naturally the ball was given to Brandon Roy. Off the dribble Roy came up with a faceful of elbows but not the basket or a whistle. Following his miss, Roy pounced on the loose ball in the scrum, and the Blazers had the possession arrow. Oh sorry, too much NCAA tournament watching. It was actually a jump ball, which Marcus Camby tips in the Blazer’s favor. It didn’t result in any points, instead it was an equally-as-valuable clock killing double possession. On their last look, Kevin Durant was initially covered by Camby (denying him the ball early), then Miller when he launched up a three that didn’t fall. The rebound fell to Portland and that was it.
While not as impressive as last night’s pop-a-shot shooting performance against the Hornets, Portland starters were a model of consistency against a Thunder defense that held the Blazers to 77 points (on 40% from the field) the last time these two teams crossed paths. All starters hit the double digit mark except Nicolas Batum (he had nine), and Portland was lead by Miller’s 26 points, plus 14 for Aldridge, and 20 from a cold shooting Roy. The product of wide open looks off the double teams, Camby’s shots were falling all night (his tattoo is Japanese for “ugly jumper”), and he notched his third straight game with a double-double. The team has now won 12 of the 14 games that the newest Blazer (um, sorry Travis Diener) has started. While Roy struggled throughout the night, it was Miller and Camby that directed the team to victory. Thanks to acquisitions like that, Portland GM Kevin Pritchard should… “get to the end of the season and you evaluate what has gone on.” Oh sorry, I let Larry Miller finish that sentence for me. My apologies.