Philadelphia 72, Portland 97

Early in the season there was a game I fearlessly predicted, "Portland is a much better team than Philadelphia and should win. If they do not, for whatever reason, then the road struggles will become a thousand pound gorilla and they will struggle on the road for the rest of the season. Conversely, if they they should...then that will build their confidence and lead to a few road wins this season, which they will need to reach their post-season berth which I expect for them.

This is one of those rare nights where if Portland plays an average game, they win by a lot. If they implode, they should still win, just it will be close. They are that much better than the 76ers.Portland by 10+

Everything was in place. Portland was up by 25 at one point. They led by 17 going into the 4th quarter. They were on their way to winning that game. Fresh off the confidence-builder of their win, they would then beat Washington and Charlotte on the road, come home and close it out against New Jersey and be on a huge run. They would have been in the thick, believe it or not, at that point of the division race.

But we all know what happened. Portland had one of those young-team collapses. They gave back all 17 points and more, lost that game, and went into a swoon where they did, indeed, sweep the remainder of the road trip...except they did it in reverse, lost to a bad New Jersey team and the season looked like it was going down the tubes.

Of course, starting with Travis "Charles" Outlaw's game-winner against Memphis, they returned to being the team I thought they were. They have run off 12 straight coming into this game which should be a "revenge game" where a high-flying Blazers squad runs a bad 76ers team off the court.

They finished the first quarter with a 7-2 run to take a 21-16 lead. The rout was on...except then something happened. Philadelphia went on a 16-2 run of their own to close out the second quarter and go into the break with a 45-36 lead. Portland was on the verge of being blown out themselves in a game they should win and win handily. It is a game they should have been "up" for and been blowing out the 76ers. Now they were down 9 and heading into the 3rd quarter, a season-long bug-a-boo. Portland needed someone to step up.

Enter Roy, Blake and Aldridge. Aldridge scored early, Blake hit a pair of 3s and a short jumper and Roy added 9 points. Portland closed to within 63-62 after 3 and were entering their time.

During their win streak...yes, and even before...the 4th quarter has been their time. During the losing streak they often would make up huge deficits but just fall short after digging too big a hole in the 3rd quarter. During the win streak they have played the 3rd close and won in the 4th. This night they played the 3rd well and won the 4th, and not by a little bit.

They scored the first 18 led by Outlaw scoring 7 of the first 10. they never let up. Their offense was explosive (35) and their defense the best they have offered this season (9). This was the intensity I expected much earlier in the game.

And it was that magic 13th game...the last in the best win streak Portland has put together in quite some time. It has been fun to watch and there will be plenty more wins this year...I just don't think I see the next one coming again in Utah.

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