Once again, Blazers answer adversity with victory
PORTLAND — The Trail Blazers cannot be counted out.
Even after missing 307 games due to injury.
Even after losing All-Star guard Brandon Roy for the remainder of the regular season and possibly throughout the playoffs.
And especially not after defying another seemingly unavoidable roadblock during an already surreal season and downing the Oklahoma City Thunder, 103-95, Monday night at the Rose Garden
before a sellout crowd of 20,691.
Resilient, energetic and spark-filled, the Blazers proved once again that, no matter how bad their luck might appear, they can create a winning opportunity out of any situation.
“It was special,” Portland coach Nate McMillan said. “We knew that it was an important game.”
Marcus Camby — serenaded by a fourth-quarter chant that honored his name — scored a season- and co-game high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting and collected 13 rebounds to lead the Blazers (50-31).
Andre Miller added 22 points and seven assists, while LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 15 points.
“It’s just one of those nights,” Camby said. “I just happened to step up and try to rise to the occasion, especially hearing that B-Roy wasn’t going to be able to play.”
Kevin Durant topped the Thunder (49-32) with 30 points. But Durant was held to just nine points in the second half and shot 3 of 13 from the floor during the final two quarters.
Martell Webster gave Durant the most trouble, but a halftime defensive adjustment that saw the Blazers double team Durant with a tenacious attack played the biggest part.
“That’s kind of the motto of our defense, night in and night out,” Webster said. “We didn’t want him to get the ball.”
Less than an hour before tipoff, the Blazers learned that they would be without Roy at least until the playoffs.
The three-time All-Star has a slightly torn meniscus in his right knee. Roy’s status will be re-evaluated Friday, and he acknowledged that he could miss the first few games of Portland’s upcoming first-round series against an opponent still to be determined.
“A lot of the life kind of (dropped) out of the team,” Webster said. “Just because we love having him on the team. His presence is definitely felt. Not only this team, but around the league.”
But once the game started, the Blazers did what they have done all season — the team controlled what it could and let everything else fall away.
Portland entered the contest in a tie with Oklahoma City and San Antonio for sixth place in the crowded Western Conference playoff chase.
With the win, the Blazers now hold tiebreakers over both teams with just one regular-season game remaining for each. Moreover, Portland ensured that it would not finish in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and face a first-round matchup against the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.
The lowest Portland will be seeded is seventh. And with a Blazers win over Golden State on Wednesday at the Rose Garden, Portland will finish an unpredictable, at times unbelievable season with the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
“Whoever we face, whether it’s Dallas or Utah … it’s going to be a tough matchup,” McMillan said.
The victory over the Thunder marked the second consecutive hard-fought win for Portland. The Blazers downed the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday in a road contest, despite playing the second half without Roy.
To obtain the win, Portland was forced to overcome a sluggish start.
The Roy-less Blazers initially matched Oklahoma City in energy, execution and points.
But the Thunder ended the first quarter on a 10-0 run, and held a 28-22 advantage at the end of the period.
While the Blazers’ offense momentarily struggled, Durant and the Thunder soared. Durant recorded 21 points in the first half, and Oklahoma City took a 51-43 lead into halftime.
But Portland found new life after the break. The Blazers opened the third quarter with a sparkling 8-0 run, and a running hook shot by Miller made it 53-51 Portland with 9 minutes, 5 seconds left in the period.
Miller, Camby, Aldridge and Nicolas Batum then carried the Blazers home.
A made free throw by Miller with 6:49 to go gave Portland an 85-84 lead. And a 19-4 fourth-quarter run by the Blazers put Durant and the Thunder away.
The Blazers are 19-7 after the All-Star break, and since acquiring Camby. … The Blazers are an NBA-best 15-4 (12-3 on the road) in the second game of back-to-backs. … Portland has posted two consecutive 50-win seasons for the first time since 1999-2000 and 2000-01.
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