Portland 106, Memphis 105

I thought going in the game would be a blow-out one way or the other. I figured one team would build a lead early. It it was Memphis, the delicate Portland psyches would implode and they would get run off the court. Conversely, if they came out angry and put up a lot of points, I thought they would take the lesson of the Philadelphia game and build the lead, finishing the game.

I was wrong.

This was the Portland team I thought we had at the beginning of the year.

They got contributions from a couple role players and their stars produced. Roy finished the first quarter with 5 points and 3 assists, Aldridge added 10 points and had 2 steals inside the last 38 seconds leading to 5 of the 8 points Portland scored in the last 50 seconds to take a 31-24 lead into the second quarter. But the key is they battled back and forth all quarter, coming back after trailing by 7 early at 12-5. That was the bad moment, when they could have laid down and gotten crushed. But Blake and Webster stepped up, each dropping in treys, and Portland was right back in the game.

James Jones, back from injury, had a hot second quarter with 8 points. Good thing he was scoring because hardly anybody else was for Portland. After a nice 31 point first quarter they could only put in 19 in the second. Once more the second unit struggled mightily. Meanwhile, the defense disappeared for Portland as they gave up a 33 point quarter. That is a huge swing and they found themselves down 7 at the half in a game they really need to have.

They started off hot in the third quarter, scoring the first 9 points to take the lead. They traded baskets for a bit, then Memphis extended to a nine point lead with less than 2 minutes in the quarter and they traded baskets to make it 80-71 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter. Then Portland rose up. Aldridge scored his 20th point, they produced a turnover, Jack made a layup, then with 2 seconds left Jones stole the ball and Outlaw made a ridiculous half court trey to make it a 2 point game going into the 4th.

But neither team wanted to lose, so the 4th would be exciting. Memphis built the lead back to 7. Portland came back to take the lead. They traded buckets and 1 or 2 point leads until Memphis scored 4 straight to take a 103-99 lead with 1:10 remaining.

Travis Outlaw then took over. Despite having his last shot attempt blocked, he made a jumper, rebounded a Stoudemire miss, drained a three with 15 seconds left to give Portland a 1 point lead. Then they got what they wanted, a last-second shot by Navarro. They did everything right, keeping the ball away from Gay, Miller, or Gausol. When you take away a team's top 3 choices, you should feel pretty good about your chances...

Of course, all year rebounding has been a bugaboo for Portland. And it struck again. Gay got the offensive board and scored with 2 seconds left.

Portland had some pretty good players on the floor for the last shot. Two mighty fine options would be Brandon Roy or LaMarcus Aldridge to take the last shot. Both had big nights. Both have shown they can make that shot. But Portland could not get the ball inbounds. We were watching, yelling "Get it inbounds!"

And they did. To Travis Outlaw.


Not our first choice. Or second choice. Or, for that matter, third or fourth choice. He was probably the fifth choice of the guys we had on the floor. And he dribbled for an interminably long time. I thought the shot clock had to have run out. He elevated, he shot from a bad angle off right...and made the shot.

They reviewed it about 100 times the rest of the night because it was that close to being too late. In the end the bucket stood and Portland had a win.

I thought for Portland to win they had to have production from their stars and 2 or three role players step up. Well, Aldridge went for 23, Roy had his best game in a while with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists, and Outlaw was probably the star of the game with 21 points and 7 boards. He was studly when Portland needed him most. James Jones also was key as he shot the lights out, 6 of 7...including 4-4 from downtown. His 16 points were a huge boost to the Blazers.

They never really slowed Gay or Miller, each of whom dropped 30 on them, and Gausol was hardly held in check as his 15 boards attest. But they got stops when they had to, made key shots, and came away with a badly needed victory. It will be interesting to see if this once more turns their season around. They still have time to return to the promise once shown if they can develop some consistency. Jones will help a lot if he can keep providing that sort of spark to the team. He is an exciting player. And Outlaw has really come on in the last few games. He has shown flashes before, it will be interesting to see if it lasts this time.

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