Roy plays like an MVP, and the Blazers keep doing the improbable
PORTLAND — With everything that has gone wrong for the Portland Trail Blazers this season, so much continues to go right.
The team has answered a mind-numbing series of injuries and setbacks with courageous, inspired play.
Rookies, role players and veteran journeymen have stepped up and filled in at a moment’s notice. And stars such as Brandon Roy have polished their shine.
All the while, Portland has continued to unearth victories and remain in the early hunt for the Northwest Division title and an NBA playoff spot.
But the Blazers’ 105-89 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,507 might have been the team’s most unlikely victory of the season.
Playing with only eight healthy players and missing big-time contributors LaMarcus Aldridge and Steve Blake, Portland shook off a 17-3 deficit to outscore Golden State 74-48 after the first quarter.
“It’s amazing what you can do when no one cares who gets the credit, OK?” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “And I think early in the year, we were concerned about minutes and rotations and shot attempts. … And this team is just playing, and they’re playing free.”
Roy scored a game-high 37 points on 12-of-16 shooting and added six rebounds and five assists to lead the Blazers (22-13).
An “MVP” chant honoring Roy’s effort broke out late in the fourth quarter. Portland’s star guard said it was the loudest refrain he’s ever heard attached to his name.
“I do like to be depended on. I mean, yeah, that’s what every basketball player wants,” Roy said. “And I think, right now, the guys know that when we need a basket, I think they know that I’m definitely ready to try and get one.”
Martell Webster poured in 21 points and four 3-pointers and grabbed 11 rebounds to aid Portland, while Andre Miller contributed 23 points and six assists.
Four of the Blazers’ five starters Saturday were not first-unit players on a Portland team that won 54 games and made the playoffs last season. Meanwhile, rookie forward Jeff Pendergraph — playing in place of an injured Aldridge — recorded his first-ever NBA start.
Factor in that Blake is hospitalized with pneumonia, and one of the Blazers’ eight serviceable athletes, Shavlik Randolph, was recently added to the team via an NBA hardship exemption, and it was another improbable win for a Portland team that refuses to allow the uncontrollable to dictate its season.
“On the outside looking in, it’s kind of like a movie, man,” Webster said. “You just can’t believe it. It seems like everything possible that can go wrong has already happened. So, inside of that, we’re just laughing.”
But the deciding factor was not Roy, Miller or Webster.
It was Portland’s defense.
After allowing Golden State to shoot 68 percent from the field in the first quarter, the Blazers held the Warriors to 33-percent shooting the remainder of the game. And Portland limited Golden State to 17 points or less in the second through fourth periods.
“I thought we got up and we played,” McMillan said. “We got closer to those guys.”
Monta Ellis topped the Warriors with 30 points, while Corey Maggette added 22 for Golden State (9-23).
“We never responded,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said. “Never gave ourselves a chance in the second half.”
Down 17-3 with 7 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first quarter, the game could not have started any worse for the shorthanded Blazers.
Golden State then increased its lead to 29-16, led by sharp shooting from Maggette and Ellis.
But 13 first-quarter points from Miller helped pull Portland within 41-31 heading into the second quarter.
Then Roy found his touch, pouring in 13 second-period points.
A foul-prone Warriors team aided the Blazers chances, as four Golden State players recorded three or more fouls by halftime.
And when Roy sank a four-foot jump shot with 1:37 left in the second half, Portland had pulled to within 56-55 heading into the break.
The Blazers’ spark continued in the second half.
Portland then took a 60-58 advantage — its first lead of the game — after Webster drilled a long 2 from the left baseline early in the third quarter.
“Our effort out there on the court is just fun to be a part of,” Roy said. “That’s the thing I’m most proud of: We just continue to fight.”
With the victory, the Blazers remained in a first-place tie with the Denver Nuggets in the Northwest Division. … Golden State’s 41 first-quarter points were the most allowed by the Blazers this season. … Roy has scored 23 or more points in 15 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NBA. … Portland rookie forward Dante Cunningham set a season high with 10 rebounds. … The Blazers have won 8 out of their last 10 games.
Best Blazer: Brandon Roy poured in a game-high 37 points, scoring at least 23 for the 15th consecutive game.
Big numbers: The Blazers outscored the Warriors 74-48 after the first quarter.
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