Blazers tough it out, keep the Nets winless
PORTLAND — It was not pretty and it definitely was not perfect.
But the Portland Trail Blazers picked up yet another early-season victory, and they pushed the winless New Jersey Nets one step closer toward history.
Greg Oden scored a team-high 18 points and recorded eight rebounds to lead the Blazers, carrying Portland to a 93-83 victory over the Nets on Wednesday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,322.
Oden was 7 of 11 from the field and 4 of 5 from the foul line. He led the Blazers in scoring for the second consecutive game, and added four blocks to another solid performance.
“It was a team effort,” Oden said. “All the guys played well, especially in that fourth quarter when we came through and brought a lot of energy. I thought we just all came together and pulled away and kept it going.”
Six Blazers (12-5) hit double figures in scoring, while Brandon Roy scored 13 points and Rudy Fernandez added 12, including four made 3-pointers.
Portland is 10-2 in its last 12 contests, and the team is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season.
Blazers coach Nate McMillan said his squad looked like it had “heavy legs” and played in “slow motion” for three quarters. Then Portland turned it on, recording 31 points in the final period.
“We did what we needed to do to get through the game,” McMillan said.
Brook Lopez scored a game- and career-high 32 points and recorded 14 rebounds to top the Nets (0-15). He connected on 13 of his 25 shot attempts and more than held his own against Oden.
“(Lopez) is probably one of the most skillful centers we have in the league,” McMillan said. “He scored from everywhere. He’s a big body that can face up (from) about 15 feet. On the block, he’s patient; he takes his time and gets to the rim. He’s a tough matchup.”
New Jersey outscored the Blazers 52-28 in the paint. But Portland hit 50 percent (35 of 70) of its field goals and outrebounded the Nets 42-39.
New Jersey is two losses away from tying the NBA record of 17 consecutive defeats to start a season, which is shared by the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers.
“You don’t want to be the team that is the first to lose (to them),” McMillan said.
New Jersey pulled within 34-33 midway through the second quarter. Twenty four of the Nets’ first 33 points came from inside the paint, and Lopez dominated the Blazers’ interior defenders.
“He’s very strong,” Oden said. “He has big, heavy legs and he’s very hard to move. He has a very good touch around the basket. Somebody like that is very tough to guard.”
But Portland grabbed a 43-33 lead following a swished 3-pointer by Martell Webster from the left baseline with 4 minutes, 51 seconds left in the second quarter.
The Blazers then took a 49-44 lead into halftime.
Still, Lopez and the Nets hung tight. And a layup by New Jersey guard Rafer Alston tied the contest at 54 with 6:13 remaining in the third quarter.
“They were able to run their stuff and score,” McMillan said. “They just buried us in the paint.”
But the Blazers found a spark in the fourth period. Reserves Andre Miller and Fernandez added energy, and a 3 by Fernandez from the left wing gave Portland a 69-59 lead it would not relinquish.
Fernandez scored nine second-half points, all off 3s.
“He’s a big shot taker,” McMillan said. “Two of those shots, it looked like he was flipping them up, but he shoots the ball like that. They were big shots, because the team at the time was making a run and those were 3s. That’s Rudy. What can you say?”