Roy is untouchable, and the Blazers continue the improbable
PORTLAND — There were times when Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy was untouchable. Moments when Rip City’s favorite son could do no wrong.
He shook off and burned defenders. He sent up impossible shots and still made the net sway.
And he did it all with a strained left shoulder, carrying the health-challenged Blazers to yet another improbable victory, this one a 107-96 defeat of the Northwest Division-leading Denver Nuggets on Friday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,664.
Roy poured in a game-high 41 points and added six rebounds and four assists. He shot 16 of 26 from the field, and his 16 made baskets set a career high.
“Today I was focused all day long, and I wanted to come out and play well tonight,” Roy said. “And I think the guys did a good job of staying ready, and we got a huge win. It was Christmas and we really enjoyed it. But this was a division game that we really needed.”
Listed as questionable and a game-time decision prior to tipoff due to his ailing left shoulder, there was nothing questionable about the Blazers’ star guard once the game began.
Mixing passion and fire with inner-drive, the black-sleeved Roy did serious damage all night. And he put forth one of his best efforts of the season in the process.
“He wanted this game. He really did,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew when we got back he was going to play. He came out tonight and he was aggressive. He looked fresh. And we played off of him.”
Steve Blake added 17 points and hit five 3-pointers for the Blazers (20-12), while Andre Miller recorded 14 points and a team-high eight assists.
Down 31-24 after the first quarter, Portland rallied from a rough start to shoot 52.6 percent (40 of 76) from the field and outrebound Denver 38-35. In addition, the Blazers dished out 26 assists while committing just 11 turnovers.
It was the fourth consecutive victory for a Portland team many considered left for dead when center Joel Przybilla suffered a season-ending knee injury Tuesday.
“This team is playing basketball the right way,” McMillan said. “They’re playing together and they’re playing 48 minutes.”
Portland outscored the Nuggets 33-20 in the fourth quarter. And the Blazers’ defense tightened down in the final period, limiting the Nuggets to 40 percent (8 of 20) shooting from the floor.
But Roy was the real story. After scoring 25 first-half points, he continued to pour it on in the second half. Roy collected 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting, and he keyed a decisive eight-point Blazers run midway through the fourth quarter that put Portland ahead to stay.
“My message to this team and the coaches is, ‘Let’s just give ourselves a chance every night,’ ” Roy said. “That’s why we still play these games, is because anybody can win with them. We have every opportunity to put our head down, but doing that won’t help us. So, let’s go out that and play hard and let’s play loose. … And we’re doing that right now.”
Carmelo Anthony scored a team-high 32 points to top Denver (20-10), while J.R. Smith added 20.
“They had an urgency to their game and Roy led them at a very high level,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “We never really got control of his leadership; he had a big stat (sheet), but his drive was pretty obvious.”
Denver took a 35-26 lead following a dunk by Anthony with 9 minutes, 29 seconds left in the second quarter.
But Roy proceeded to score six of the Blazers’ next nine points. And the Blazers’ two-time all-star did not slow down.
At times starring as a one-man show, Roy’s energy and hustle kept Portland close. And with 3:06 left in the first half, Roy had scored 19 of Portland’s first 40 points.
Roy then pulled the Blazers within 51-49 heading into halftime, after sinking a pull-up jumper with two seconds left on the clock.
“He was making some tough shots,” McMillan said.
The Blazers received a break when Nuggets starting point guard Chauncey Billups (groin) was taken out of the game before the third quarter began.
And Portland took its first lead since the early first quarter when Martell Webster drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 7:36 left in the third period.
Anthony continued to pound away, though, and the Blazers trailed 76-74 heading into the final period.
But Roy continued his attack.
He hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute and a half midway through the fourth quarter.
A dive to the floor by Roy for a loose ball drew a standing ovation.
And when he swished a 3 from the left wing, making it 93-85 Blazers with 6:01 to go, Portland had breathing room. And Roy ran off the court, shouting, leaping in the air, and bumping chests.
Roy’s 25 first-half points were a career high for him in the first half. Roy’s total was the most recorded by a Blazer in the first half since Darius Miles put up 32 against Denver on April 19, 2005. … Blazers rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph recorded a career-high 19 minutes while collecting five rebounds and two points. … Five Portland players hit double-figures in scoring, with Martell Webster adding 11 points and LaMarcus Aldridge chipping in 10.
Best Blazer: Brandon Roy poured in a game-high 41 points and set a career-high with 16 made baskets.
Big numbers: Portland outscored Denver 33-20 during the fourth quarter.
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