Blake saves the Blazers, and Portland holds on
PORTLAND — Finally, one went in. And as soon as it did, the Portland Trail Blazers were safe.
Blazers guard Steve Blake sank a 3-pointer from the left wing with 25.2 seconds to go, giving Portland a four-point lead that turned into an 87-81 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,391.
Blake’s swished shot killed a 19-point fourth-quarter rally by the Pistons. And it saved the Blazers, who watched three quarters of success nearly turn into a major meltdown.
“It was a good game for us, a good lesson,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “That you play the game for 48 minutes, and you play it the right way. And you don’t relax, because it’s never over.”
Blake missed his first attempt at a game-sealing 3.
But a wave of streamlined ball movement followed.
Blake grabbed the rebound and kicked the ball out to Brandon Roy. After Roy was doubled, Blake received the ball again. He then fed LaMarcus Aldridge inside, but Aldridge was also doubled. Soon, the ball was back in Blake’s hands. And this time, he made the net sway.
“I was able to make a good shot,” Blake said.
Portland (9-4) led 70-50 heading into the final period.
And prior to the fourth quarter, the Blazers pounded a shorthanded Pistons squad playing without standouts Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.
“I thought for three quarters we were good,” McMillan said.
But Detroit answered with energy, confidence and passion. And while the Blazers slept, the Pistons pounced.
“You start launching quick (jump shots) and playing loose and turning the ball over, as opposed to playing that game the right way, anything can happen,” McMillan said.
Following Blake’s 3, Detroit pulled within 83-81 after Charlie Villanueva dropped in a putback basket with 10 seconds to go.
But Blake answered with two made free throws. And the Blazers were finally able to breath deep.
“He stuck with it,” Roy said. “You can tell Blake is tough.”
Portland has won seven of its last eight contests, and the Blazers are 7-1 since point guard Andre Miller joined Blake in the team’s starting lineup.
Miller dished out a team-high 11 assists and added 10 points, while Blake finished with 17 points.
Miller said he is feeling more comfortable playing for a new team while also learning a new offense.
“I’m trying,” Miller said. “I’m trying not to force it. Things will come as the season goes along.”
Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge tied for a team high with 20 points.
Rodney Stuckey recorded a game-high 21 points for the Pistons (5-7), while Villanueva added 20.
“Our players worked so hard in the fourth quarter, they gave themselves an opportunity,” Detroit coach John Kuester said. “We just can’t put ourselves in such a big hole.”
Miller and Blake set up a Portland scoring attack that connected on 47.1 percent (33 of 70) of its field-goal attempts.
Meanwhile, a steadily improving Blazers defense held Detroit to 38 percent (31 of 80) shooting from the field. The Pistons did not score more than 21 points in the first three quarters, and were held to just 12 in the third period.
“Our defense has been great for us,” Roy said.
The Blazers watched a 72-52 lead with 8:52 remaining in the game dissolve into a slim three-point advantage after Villanueva sank a 3-pointer from the right baseline with 1:29 to go.
“We were right there,” Villanueva said. “We were so close.”
Portland travels to face to the Golden State Warriors at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Blazers owner Paul Allen attended the game. Allen, who was recently diagnosed with having non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was recognized and cheered by the crowd before the start of the contest. … Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. also sat courtside.
Best Blazer: Steve Blake scored 17 points on 5-of-10 shooting and hit a key 3-pointer with 25.2 seconds to go.
Big numbers: Portland held Detroit to just 12 points in the third quarter.