Fernandez returns, and almost healthy Blazers beat down Bucks
PORTLAND — Health is everything. Especially if you are the Trail Blazers.
Looking and playing like a normal, healthy team for the first time in more than a month, the Blazers showed off the talent and depth that had long been promised but seldom seen Wednesday night at the Rose Garden.
Brandon Roy led Portland with a team-high 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting points and added four assists and three steals, guiding the Blazers to a 120-108 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks before a sold-out crowd of 20,465.
But it was a unified team effort that keyed Portland’s win. One that saw the Blazers (24-16) at times play seamless basketball in which the team’s offense flowed smooth and cool, while its defense clamped down hard.
“It was good. I love our energy,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “I loved what I saw with both groups tonight.”
Six Blazers hit double figures in scoring. LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists and two blocks. Andre Miller scored 19 points and dished out six assists, while Martell Webster scored 15 points and knocked down 3 of his 4 3-point attempts.
The Blazers shot 60.3 percent from the floor and limited Milwaukee to 45.3 percent shooting.
In addition, Portland sent out 25 assists while only committing 11 turnovers.
But the biggest number — 33 — came with 5 minutes, 48 seconds left in the third quarter. That was when Roy sank a 21-foot jump shot that gave the Blazers an 87-54 lead — Portland’s largest positive margin of the season.
“We got out there and we had a lot of energy; both units,” Webster said.
Milwaukee pulled within 103-92 midway through the fourth period, taking advantage of the fact that Roy spent the entire quarter either on the bench or in the locker room.
But Miller took control, scoring seven fourth-quarter points to keep the Bucks at bay.
“That team plays hard and they play for 48 minutes,” McMillan said. “We knew that we were going to have to put them away.”
Ersan Illyasova scored a game-high and tied a career high with 24 points for Milwaukee (15-21), while rookie Jodie Meeks scored a season high 21.
“The Blazers’ awareness of what was going on in the game compared to ours was somewhat frightening,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said.
Energized by the return of guard Rudy Fernandez — who had missed 19 consecutive games following back surgery — Portland held a 31-16 lead after the first quarter.
Led by 12 first-quarter points from Roy, Portland’s offense ran on a smooth wire, easily moving high-low and then stretching the loose boundaries of the Bucks’ defense.
The Blazers jumped ahead 48-24 after Jerryd Bayless completed a three-point play from right wing with 7:02 left in the second quarter.
Portland’s sharp, efficient first-half performance peaked at the end of the second quarter.
Roy stole a pass, found Webster gliding toward the basket, and Webster proceeded to slam the ball home, driving the Blazers toward a 66-46 halftime advantage.
McMillan said Fernandez’s return to the lineup made a huge difference, producing ball movement and an overall flow that had been lacking during the past month.
Roy also credited Fernandez’s first outing since Dec. 1, 2009 for inspiring the Blazers.
To Roy, the biggest factor in Portland’s recent inability to put teams away has been because of a lack of depth. Now, with Fernandez and guard Steve Blake healthy and ready to go, the Blazers look like the Blazers again. And they are performing like a team with nothing to lose and much to gain, Roy said.
“We’re just playing good basketball,” Roy said. “I think we’re finally understanding this is the team we have, and we’ve got to keep trying to improve with it.”
Roy (tight right hamstring) left the court midway through the fourth quarter and did not return. “It’s seen better days,” said Roy, referring to the status of his hamstring. … Fernandez entered the game with 41.8 seconds left in the first quarter, and was greeted with a standing ovation. He finished with two points in 15:22. … Portland’s 66 points in the first half tied a season high. … The Blazers’ 33-point lead during the third quarter set a season high. … Portland forward Shavlik Randolph entered the game with 1:41 left in the first quarter, making his first appearance since being re-signed by the team to a 10-day contract.
Best Blazer: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 21 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out six assists and collected two blocks.
Big numbers: Portland scored 66 points in the first half, tying a season high.