Aldridge toughs it out and the Blazers step up
PORTLAND — Change came to the Rose Garden on Tuesday Night.
It just took two quarters and a friendly halftime reminder for it to arrive.
LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy tied for a game-high 25 points, leading the Portland Trail Blazers to a 95-88 victory over the Sacramento Kings before a sold-out crowd of 20,588.
Roy was his normal all-star self, dishing out a season-high 10 assists and grabbing five rebounds, and playing smooth ball throughout the contest.
But it was Aldridge who stole the show.
He gave an inspired effort in the second half, scoring 19 points in the final two quarters and helping Portland rally from a 54-43 halftime deficit. And he did it all after twisting an already-bruised ankle twice, and then turning to pain medication to relieve the soreness.
Aldridge had just one rebound at the half, and Blazers (15-11) coach Nate McMillan said he challenged the forward to step up his game.
Aldridge did just that. He mixed power moves and mid-range jump shots with sleek drives to the basket, and he added nine rebounds and five assists to his impressive all-around outing. More importantly, though, Aldridge displayed the heart and fight Portland will require as it navigates its way through a season filled with injuries and setbacks.
“We’ve got a lot of guys injured around here, as you know,” McMillan said. “And he keeps playing through it. We needed him. We don’t win tonight if he doesn’t do what he did late in this game.”
Tyreke Evans scored a team-high 16 points for the Kings (10-13).
“They got some tough baskets,” Evans said. “Brandon and Aldridge turned it up. They turned the game around.”
McMillan started the contest by shaking up his team’s starting lineup. Andre Miller began the game as the Blazers’ starting point guard, while Steve Blake began the game on the bench. It marked the first time this season Blake has not taken the court as the team’s No. 1 ballhandler.
But Miller struggled with his new role and never looked fully comfortable on the court. He shot 2 of 10 from the floor, and several of his misses came off ill-advised shots.
Meanwhile, Blake’s season-long slump continued. He scored five points in more than 24 minutes of action, and did not record a basket in the first half.
However, McMillan’s move still paid off.
Portland jumped out to a 17-8 lead. And Miller and Blake were able to feed the ball to Aldridge and Roy as the game unfolded.
In addition, reserve guard Jerryd Bayless used the opening in the Blazers’ lineup to record a season-high 14 points. Bayless played energized, scrappy ball — the type of performance McMillan requests — and he keyed a Portland second-half rally in which the Blazers outscored the Kings 52-34.
“We (were) rolling with him,” McMillan said.
But in the end, it all came down to the Blazers’ star duo of Roy and Aldridge.
A basket by Aldridge off a Roy assist gave the Blazers an 86-85 advantage with 2 minutes, 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Roy and Aldridge then connected again on a broken pick-and-roll. As Roy held the ball near the free-throw line, Aldridge stepped up to set a pick. He quickly stopped and cut toward the basket, though, and Roy lobbed an overhead pass to the Blazers forward. Aldridge then banked in a shot, and he followed through with a made free throw to complete a three-point play.
Roy and Aldridge combined to score scored 13 of Portland’s 23 fourth-quarter points.
“I felt like tonight we had to get this one,” Aldridge said.
He added: “I came out and tried in the second half to do what I could to help us win the game.”
McMillan coached the game from the bench, despite wearing a cast on his right foot. He is recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles tendon. Tuesday marked McMillan’s first game with the team since his injury. He missed Portland’s recent four-game road trip. … Aldridge left the court briefly in the second quarter due to his injured ankle. Former Blazer Sergio Rodriguez scored two points, while ex-Blazer Ime Udoka had eight points and two rebounds.
Best Blazer: LaMarcus Aldridge tied for a game-high with 25 points, adding nine rebounds and five assists.
Big numbers: Portland attempted 26 free throws, making 19.
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