Blazers’ Blake returns to form

TUALATIN, Ore. — The sweat poured down his face, coloring a light-gray jersey darker. His cuts were quick, his passes were crisp, and his jump shot sang.

Steve Blake was back.

And for the injury-plagued Portland Trail Blazers, Blake’s return could not come at a better time.

“He’s feeling much better,” said Blazers coach Nate McMillan, following a Saturday morning workout at the team’s practice facility. “He wants to go.”

Blake said he will do just that, stating that he expects to put on the black and red and be ready if called upon for tonight’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Rose Garden.

While McMillan referred to Blake as a game-time decision and the team listed him as probable, Blake feels certain he’ll receive a green light.

“I’m going to suit up and play,” Blake said. “Of course, it’s coach’s decision if he’s going to put me in. But I’m ready to go.”

McMillan added that if Blake does play, he plans to limit the guard’s minutes as a precautionary measure.

Blake is recovering from pneumonia, and spent several days last week in a local-area hospital. He lost eight pounds due to his illness, and has missed Portland’s last four games after playing in the Blazers’ first 34 contests of the season.

The 6-foot-3, 172-pound Blake is averaging 7.6 points and 3.6 assists this season for Portland (23-15).

Blake teamed up Saturday with forward Shavlik Randolph in taking on Blazers guard Patty Mills and forward Jeff Pendergraph during a highly contested 2-on-2 game that lasted more than 30 minutes.

The intense action drew the notice of the entire team, and Blake blew past and burned Mills several times. Moreover, the former University of Maryland standout now in his seventh NBA season looked like his normal scrappy self, and showed no signs of still being affected by his recent illness.

Still, Blake’s pulse and oxygen level were monitored by Blazers athletic trainer Jay Jensen and a team doctor throughout the session.

“Jay had mentioned maybe telling them to limit my minutes,” Blake said. “And I told him, ‘If I’m going to play, I’m going to play. If there’s something wrong, I’ll let you know.’ “

He added: “If I felt there was something wrong, I would stay out all together.”

McMillan said he plans to primarily use Blazers forward Martell Webster to match up against Cleveland forward LeBron James. Webster handled Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant on Friday, and played a key part in limiting Bryant to 14-of-37 shooting from the field. … Asked what it was like to for Webster and the Blazers to face Bryant and James in back-to-back games, McMillan said, “That is as tough as it gets.” … Blazers guard Brandon Roy (hamstring), forward LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle) and Andre Miller (back) are listed as probable for tonight’s game.

Today’s Game
Cavaliers vs. Blazers, 6 p.m. at Rose Garden
Radio: 95.5 FM
Probable Starters
Blazers (23-15)
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 12.0
G Brandon Roy 6-6 23.2
F Martell Webster 6-7 9.9
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 15.7
C Juwan Howard 6-9 5.2
Coach: Nate McMillan (5th season, 171-195)
Cavaliers (28-10)
G Mo Williams 6-1 17.1
G Anthony Parker 6-6 7.4
F LeBron James 6-8 28.9
F J.J. Hickson 6-9 6.9
C Shaquille O’Neal 7-1 10.6
Coach: Mike Brown (5th season, 239-127)

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