Consistency is the key, Pritchard says
It all comes down to consistency for Portland Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard.
Pritchard said the Blazers had been “fluid” all year. A slew of injuries and lineup changes had forced Portland to react and adapt on the fly through the NBA All-Star break. But as the final part of the season has arrived, so have the Blazers.
The ascension of forward Nicolas Batum and the addition of center Marcus Camby have given Portland two sharp, new pieces. And Pritchard said the Blazers are finally locking in, playing in recent games like the team he and coach Nate McMillan envisioned when the 2009-10 campaign began.
“I think we’re playing well. But most importantly, we’re healthy and getting the most out of our roster,” Pritchard said. “But that’s going to still take some time. I don’t think we’re playing our best basketball. But we’re playing good basketball. And what I like more than anything is that we’re grinding it out.”
After running up an impressive 4-1 record on their recent five-game road trip, the Blazers sat just four and a half games behind first-place Denver in the Northwest Division heading into Tuesday’s NBA action. More importantly, Portland held a four-game lead over Houston and New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Now, just 19 games separate the Blazers (36-27) from their second consecutive extended season.
“This league is challenging and you get tired toward the end,” Pritchard said. “But we’ve showed some great strength here, and it’s been fun to watch. I’m really proud of this team.”
Batum has made the biggest jump of late. After pouring in a career-high 31 points and knocking down five 3-pointers in a win over Minnesota last Saturday, he added an efficient 21 points and hit four 3s during a victory over Memphis on Monday. During the road trip, Batum averaged 14.2 points on 61.9 percent shooting, 3.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
But while Batum and the gradual return of a healthy, explosive Brandon Roy have made the biggest waves, Pritchard said Camby’s presence has made the largest difference.
Though the 14-year veteran’s impact on the offensive end has been minimal, the ex-Los Angeles Clipper has been a defensive force. Camby is averaging 8.0 rebounds, 2.5 blocks and 1.3 steals during his six games with the Blazers, after being acquired Feb. 16 in a trade for Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw. In addition, Portland has held all but one of its opponents below the century mark since Camby put on black and red.
Pritchard stated that Camby does all the little things that help a team win. Sometimes Camby’s contributions show up in the box score. Other times, the big man’s greatest achievements are only seen by those who know where to look.
“We had a huge whole there without Joel (Przybilla) and Greg (Oden),” Pritchard said. “He’s a crafty veteran who brings us exactly what we needed.”
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Pacers vs. Blazers, 7 p.m. at Rose Garden
TV: CSN (37)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 13.6
G Brandon Roy 6-6 22.1
F Nicolas Batum 6-8 10.1
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 17.5
C Marcus Camby 6-11 3.8
G T.J. Ford 6-0 10.8
G Earl Watson 6-1 7.6
F Danny Granger 6-8 23.0
F Brandon Rush 6-6 8.7
C Troy Murphy 6-11 13.8