Portland 115, Chicago 109, double OT

Oh ye of little faith, why do you doubt? When I wrote my review, I referenced a conversation I had the night before in which I said Portland would win, admitting, "My first thought was this was a should-win game for Portland."

But the more I studied the game, the more I convinced myself these were 2 very even teams and that the home court was going to make the difference. Ultimately, I made the craven "Portland loss" prediction, saying, "In Chicago, I actually think the teams are pretty close to even, no huge advantages either way. If the game is in Portland, I think Portland wins it. But since it is in Chicago I suspect the Bulls will pull it out, probably in the 4 - 8 point range. So my official prediction is a Bulls win...but I will not be shocked if Portland pulls out the minor upset.

Allow me to address myself for a unbelieving coward! Get behind this team, will you?

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. The game started out ragged, going back and forth. Aldridge was struggling mightily from the looked like he wanted to follow up on his monster night against Utah rather than the struggles he had against Minnesota , but he was forcing things...shooting from unusual places, battling into the teeth of the defense instead of going with the normal flow...but he was still indispensable to Portland in the early going as he was controlling the boards, racking up 5 in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, Webster and Blake picked up the scoring load with 8 and 5 respectively. Webster was playing very well, doing some of the things Jones does...moving without the ball, just subtle things to get free for open shots, that sort of thing. Webster was doing that in this game. He was moving without the ball, he was posting up smaller players, and scoring well.

Chicago was also getting good balance as Hinrich, Gordon and Smith combined for 20 of their 22 points in the quarter and a 22-20 Chicago lead. About this point I was kicking myself for not going outright with a Portland win.

Then came the second quarter. The first few minutes were a disaster. If Portland was a whale and the basket was the water, they could not hit the water even with an effort from their blow-hole. A low-flying blimp would have intercepted it before it could hit or something. And that was when they bothered to throw the ball in the general direction of the basket...they had 3 turnovers before they scored. They were on the verge of being blown out if Chicago could score. Fortunately, the lead only grew to 7, 28-21, as Chicago also started cold. Then Outlaw and Roy took over, scoring 13 combined points in the remainder of the quarter. Outlaw had more, 9, but Roy's were the type that set up his late-game heroics.

Portland had to feel pretty good at the half. Aldridge was scoreless, they were struggling to score as a team (they followed up a 21 point first quarter by decreasing their scoring by 1), could stop neither Gordon nor Smith...and were only down 7.

Whatever McMillan said to them at the did not work. They gave up a 7-0 run as Aldridge twice turned the ball over, Webster missed a couple of shots, and it was on the verge of being a once-winnable game they then lost. About this point I was feeling better about my Chicago win prediction. That 55-41 lead looked huge, especially with as much trouble as Portland was having scoring. I think it was about this point that TNT showed a statistic that Portland had 10 turnovers and 9 assists.

But Outlaw and Roy would not be denied. If they were not scoring (6 and 7) then they were passing to the open guy who then scored. By the time they closed the quarter on a 7-2 run the game was just 1 point, 70-69, the entire 14 point deficit had been erased and the 4th quarter is Blazer time.

Some guy named Aldridge stepped up, hitting key shot after key shot. This was the Aldridge I am such a huge fan of...working the pick and roll with Roy to hit that foul line extended jumper, grabbing the offensive board and scoring on the put-back, playing in the flow of the offense. He got little help, however...he scored 8, the rest of the Blazers just 11. They had their chances...3 times in the last minute Roy had shots, but Wallace blocked one and the other two he missed. This game was going to overtime.

Chicago built a quick 4 point lead. This was gut-check time round 2. They were up to the task. Outlaw hit one of those drive/step back jumpers he loves, Jack stole the ball and laid it in, Roy scored and was fouled...and suddenly Portland had the 3 point lead.

Neither team would quit, though...Chicago fought back as Gordon and Smith continued to score at will. When Portland got anyone else to shoot they would miss...but Portland could not grab the board. Again and again they got the stop, only to have their heart ripped out as Chicago got the offensive rebound and then Gordon or Smith, Smith or Gordon...oh, they were awesome.

Finally, with 18 seconds Outlaw hit a shot to give Portland the lead yet again. Then they got the stop, inducing a tough Gordon shot and miss...only to see Smith get a rebound over 3 Blazers and get fouled. He hit both free throws, the only shot Portland could get was a hotly contested trey by Jack and we were heading to a second overtime.

Chicago got the first three cracks at it as Wallace and Smith rebounded missed triples by Gordon and Nocioni. You would think Chicago would look at Gordon again or maybe the unstoppable Smith. Nope. Hinrich for, and now Portland finally had the ball.

They traded baskets until a mini 5-0 run gave Portland a 3 point lead with just 19 seconds remaining. Smith missed a free throw, Jones hit 2 free throws to make it a 4 point lead, then he blocked a Nocioni 3. When he hit 2 free throws Portland finally had an insurmountable 6 point lead.

It was an excellent game and a great time to have it, on national television. Aldridge came back from his 0-7 start to finish 6-16 with 14 points and 13 vital boards. His 4th quarter and overtime play were huge.

Roy had another standout game with 25 points and 11 assists...and some key defensive plays. Outlaw was huge...every time Portland was struggling to score it seemed like it was Outlaw with that drive left, step back jumper. Portland finished with 6 guys in double figures, and despite the 18 offensive rebounds they allowed Chicago, they won the battle on the boards 51-49. That is huge against a Chicago team that is top 5 in the league in rebounds.

Oh, and remember that 10 turnover, 9 assist stat? Portland ended with 10 turnovers and 23 assists.

They took care of the ball, despite the way it felt watching during the key moments of the game, they actually did a really nice job on the boards, they did not get flustered when Chicago built a significant lead, they trusted the role players to help them...and those players came through in spades.

This was a game this Portland team can be proud of and build on. It makes a difference for more than just one game in the standings...this will give them confidence. Chicago was hot coming in, playing at home, and had a sizable lead. Portland kept their poise, worked their way back, and came away with an impressive win.


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