Charlotte 76, Portland 88

In their recent tear the Blazers have been shooting and scoring well, even without stud LaMarcus Aldridge. Into town comes one of the dirtiest teams in the league. Can you imagine the filth if they somehow got Shaquille O'Neal to team with Tyson Chandler?

In their prior meeting Delonte West went nuts. This time he was held in check, scoring 21 points but shooting just 8-19 and pulling down just 6 rebounds. Chandler had an outstanding game, shooting 8-8 and yanking 19 boards.

Roy was up to the challenge, however. On a night when Outlaw was a regrettable 1-12 from the field, Roy shot well, passed well (9 assists) and controlled the game.

Somehow, despite shooting only 41%, Portland outshot their opponents. They struggled on the boards. They struggled to score. But they held their turnovers down, got timely shooting, and took over when the game mattered, the third and fourth quarters.

This has been a trend lately. They still are struggling in the third, but now instead of 10 - 15 point deficits, they are only giving up 2 - 3 points. Then, in the fourth, they are closing out teams. They are letting their hot hands get the ball in places where they can score and winning games. It has been a beautiful sight.

It is also nice to see Outlaw playing with confidence where even if he has a rough night, he still continues to try to make things happen, getting to the line and making his free throws even if the shots aren't falling. It has been good to see his development.

Oh, and...for the first time all year, the Blazers have a winning record.

Portland 116, Denver 105

The first time Portland went into Denver they essentially laid down. They "knew" they could not handle Iverson and Anthony and they played like it. Of course, Iverson is easily one of the most over rated players of the last decade. Yeah, I know, that is not a popular opinion...but dude shoots WAY too much for the number of shots he makes. He is a case where less would be more. Sure, he can carry a team in individual games, but over the course of a series he will cost a team, also. Reminds me of John Starks, another guy who could shoot a team into, out of, into and out of a the same game.

Contrast that with someone like a Garnett. He could score 30 a game if he really wanted to, but instead he involves his teammates and lets the ball move around. I would rather have half a Garnett than 10 Iversons.

It was the second performance of the year for Portland I found disappointing (the first being their loss to the Hornets in what I still believe was a game they should have won. Portland is a better team than New Orleans regardless of where that game is played.)

Despite their win in Utah I was still not a believer coming into this game but Portland proved me wrong yet again. This is the team I thought we had. They can beat any team, any place. Denver in Denver? No problem.

Channing Frye exploded for 20, the first time he has had a dominating offensive performance.Blake, Jack, Jones, and Roy also scored with abandon. They shot 54% for the game. They out rebounded someone...yes, that is right, Portland won the battle of the boards. That does not happen often.

Ironically, Iverson had an excellent game (38 points, 6 assists, 50% from the field). Anthony had an okay game. But the Denver role players disappeared while the Blazer role players stepped up in support of Roy. In the absence of Aldridge they spread the ball around, worked the boards, played defense, and took down a game that shows they can play anywhere. It was a superior performance where they led wire to wire and, when their lead started to evaporate, they stepped up and rebuilt the lead. A very satisfying win.

Jazz 91 at Portland 99

If you had told me the Blazers would beat the Jazz in Utah WITH LaMarcus Aldridge I would have questioned it. If you then told me they would come home on a back to back and hold the Warriors under 100, also without Aldridge, and win I would have been even more doubtful. And finally, for them to beat the Jazz twice in a week without Aldridge...well, that just isn't going to happen. Sure, I am optimistic...I am the only person I know who in the preseason predicted a potential playoff birth for the Blazers, a possible 45 win season, and so forth...but even I was not this optimistic!

So how did Portland beat the Jazz again? It started with defense as they held the Jazz to under 40% shooting. Boozer was 10-20 but other than that the Jazz shot very, very poorly. Meanwhile, Roy, Jones and Outlaw all had very good games, shooting well enough and getting enough help from players like Webster to make things happen.

Once more Portland struggled on the boards, giving up 18 offensive rebounds (and fifty total), but they also turned back 6 Jazz shots.

Once more a scrappy effort by a team few people expected much out of this year.