Camby delivers, and the Blazers survive

PORTLAND — What a difference a center makes.

Just when the Trail Blazers looked like they were about to fall apart against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, Portland’s Marcus Camby stepped in and stepped up.

Camby delivered a much-needed jolt of energy, guiding the Blazers to an 88-81 victory over the Kings on Tuesday evening at the Rose Garden before a sellout crowd of 20,587.

“I was honestly just feeding off the energy of the crowd. They were really into it and really got us going. It was more adrenalin than anything,” said Camby, who finished with six points, eight rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal.

The all-around statistical game was impressive. But it was Camby’s focused intensity and experience that made the most difference.

Late in the fourth quarter, the 14-year veteran stripped a Kings
player of the ball, dove to the court to pick up the loose object, and immediately called a timeout once the ball was recovered. The play said everything about Camby’s on-the-court-wisdom. And it highlighted a renewed effort from the Blazers, who watched Sacramento rally from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game at 74 with 8 minutes, 11 seconds to go.

“I thought he was huge,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “We don’t win tonight if he doesn’t make some of the plays he made.”

Brandon Roy’s game-high 19 points and eight rebounds helped Portland (38-28) deny the Kings. Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum added 14 points apiece for Portland, while LaMarcus Aldridge scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds.

With the victory, the eighth-place Blazers moved a half-game behind San Antonio in the Western Conference playoff chase. Sixteen regular-season games remain for Portland, and the Blazers hold a four-game lead over ninth-place Memphis.

Save for a slow start and near late-game meltdown, Portland appeared recharged following a disappointing 12-point defeat to Denver last Sunday — a game Camby missed due to an ankle sprain. And while the Blazers’ defense still showed signs of stress, the team’s overall performance was at times characterized by an undercurrent of confidence and intensity.

Still, McMillan and Camby said Portland knows it can play better, and that the Blazers must do so if they hope to make a serious playoff push.

“We’ve got to have everybody,” McMillan said. “If we’re going to get to that level of play that we want to get to, everybody has to play with the same focus, same intensity, same scrappiness. And once you get that as a unit, then we’re going to be stronger.”

Down 73-62 heading into the final period, Sacramento tied the contest at 74 after Jason Thompson sank a running jump shot in the lane. But Portland outscored the Kings 14-7 down the stretch, riding Camby and Roy.

“I thought we were standing around too much,” Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. “We were fighting the shot clock too much. We had forced shots, and it was not as smooth as it needs to be to get a win against a team like the Blazers.”

Rookie point guard Tyreke Evans topped Sacramento (21-43) with 19 points, six assists and six steals.

Portland jumped out to a 10-2 lead, but the advantage was quickly erased by a Kings team that initially played with speed and precision. Sacramento forward Carl Landry (17 points, eight rebounds) exploited the Blazers’ soft defensive middle, while Evans easily glided through the lane and burned Portland with layups.

Portland rallied with its bench. Reserves Rudy Fernandez and Martell Webster provided the Blazers with energy and fight, and a fast-break dunk by Juwan Howard made it 34-33 Portland with 8 minutes, 40 seconds left in the second quarter.

An improved offense that saw the ball swing high-low until an open shooter was found continued the Blazers’ surge. Portland outscored the Kings 27-13 in the second quarter, and the Blazers took a 52-42 lead into halftime.

“You are always concerned with how you’re winning,” Roy said. “But right now, we’re in a tight race, so we’re taking these wins. We know we have to get better if we want to make a push and win a game in the playoffs.”

The Blazers honored their teams from the 1990s during Tuesday’s game. Ex-Portland greats Terry Porter and Jerome Kersey were interviewed by former Blazer announcer Bill Schonely during halftime at center court. … Webster finished with 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, recording his highest point total since tying a career high with 28 on Feb. 16. … Portland failed to score 100 points for the first time in seven games. … The Blazers have been outscored in the third quarter just once in the past 13 contests. … Camby’s five blocked shots tied Greg Oden for the most by any Portland player this season.

Best Blazer: Marcus Camby recorded six points, eight rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal.
Big numbers: Portland outscored Sacramento 27-13 during the third quarter.

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