Blazers refuse to fall, erase Magic
PORTLAND — Do not count the Trail Blazers out.
That has been the recurring theme for Portland throughout the first half of an injury-plagued 2009-10 season.
The Blazers drove the point home again Friday, downing the Orlando Magic 102-87, despite playing without star guard Brandon Roy.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Andre Miller and Steve Blake led Portland with a fill-in-by-committee approach Friday evening at the Rose Garden before a sold-out crowd of 20,650. None exactly replaced Roy’s all-star presence, but all stepped up and played bigger than normal in his absence.
“I was asked earlier (tonight), ‘How are we winning? Is it one or two players that are making the difference in this stretch where we’ve won games without players?’ ” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “It’s not. It’s been a collective effort. Not only the players, but the coaching staff. And we just keep stepping up.”
Aldridge lifted his game the highest.
At times running the court and knocking down long-range jump shots like a shooting guard, Portland’s 6-foot-11 power forward displayed passion and a sharp emotional edge from start to finish.
Aldridge scored 14 points and grabbed a season- and game-high 14 rebounds. But it was the sight of him diving for loose balls, leaping upward and fighting for loose rebounds, and recognizing when and where to exploit his at times unguardable combination of talent and size that made the biggest mark.
“I was just trying to be active,” Aldridge said. “I was just trying to do any little thing to give us an edge.”
Webster and Miller were not far behind.
Webster poured in a game-high 24 points and hit 5 of 9 3-point attempts, while Miller recorded 19 points and dished out nine assists.
Guided by Webster and Blake, the Blazers shot 52.4 percent (11 of 21) behind the 3-point line. In contrast, Orlando hit just 23.3 percent (7 of 30) of its 3-point attempts.
In addition, Portland outrebounded Orlando 42-38, and the Blazers recorded 23 assists while committing just six turnovers.
Portland (25-16) has won nine of its past 13 games, and the Blazers trail the Denver Nuggets by one game for the Northwest Division lead.
Asked about his team’s ability to consistently respond positively to adversity, Webster used two words: tenacious, resilient.
“Guys are just, night in, night out, putting forth their best effort,” Webster said. “We have to compensate for a lot of losses, and I think we’ve done a great job at that.”
Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson topped the Magic (26-14) with 15 points.
Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard recorded 11 points and 11 rebounds, but was invisible most of the game.
Howard matched up against three Blazer forwards, due to the fact that Portland centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are out for the season with knee injuries. However, Howard was unable to capitalize, and he was often pinned down and frustrated by a combination of Aldridge, Juwan Howard and Jeff Pendergraph.
“We’ve just got to play harder,” Howard said. “The team that won tonight obviously played harder, which was them. And that’s why they won.”
Roy, who led Portland in scoring in 19 of his last 22 contest, was a game-time decision. He was held out due to a right hamstring strain, and Jerryd Bayless started in Roy’s place.
The Blazers looked smooth and confident while Roy sat on the bench in street clothes.
Even a rough start by Bayless — who was pulled with 8 minutes, 7 seconds left in the first quarter after drawing two fouls — did not shake Portland.
Miller carried the Blazers early, scoring six quick points. And when Miller was not scoring, he was dishing out — highlighted by a pump fake that turned into a swift pass to Pendergraph, whose hard dunk gave Portland a 20-11 first-quarter lead.
The Blazers continued to pound away throughout the second quarter.
Portland stretched its lead to 49-30 after Webster made three consecutive free throws with 53.7 left in the period.
A 3-pointer by Steve Blake followed, and the Blazers took a 52-32 lead into halftime.
“I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard to get back in shape, and I’m just happy to be out there,” said Blake, who recently missed four games due to pneumonia.
The end of the third period belonged to Webster and Blake. The duo combined for four 3-pointers in the final 3:30 of the quarter, sending Portland to a 77-59 advantage heading into the final period.
“We’re playing good basketball,” McMillan said. “We’re playing the game the right way, and we’re playing the game together.”
The Blazers partnered with Mercy Corps to raise $65,000 for the Haitian earthquake response. The Blazers matched donations up to $10,000 made by fans attending Friday’s game. “This is a testament, not just to Blazer fans, but to the people of Portland,” said Traci Rose, franchise vice president of community relations and corporate communications. … The Blazers’ 25-16 record equals the team’s mark from the last two seasons … Portland’s 11 made 3-pointers were a season high. … Webster hit double figures in scoring for the eighth consecutive game. … Portland guard Rudy Fernandez is 4 of 12 from the field in two games since returning to action. … Orlando’s Vince Carter, who returned to action after missing three games with a shoulder sprain, scored five points on 1-of-7 shooting in a rough performance.
Best Blazer: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 14 points and grabbed a season- and game-high 14 rebounds.
Big numbers: The Blazers shot 52.4 percent (11 of 21) behind the 3-point line, and set a season high with 11 made 3s.
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