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News » Rout by roster


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Rout by roster
SUMMARY: LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Fernandez lead the way as Blazers have six players in double figures

Rout by roster

Fernandez

scores 23

off bench

JOE FREEMAN

In Thursday night commercials featuring memorable and inspiring game highlights and the slogan "Where Amazing Happens," the NBA promoted on TNT that its playoffs will start April 19.

That might come as a surprise to the sellout crowd of 20,628 at the Rose Garden, because the Trail Blazers game against the Phoenix Suns had the look, feel and atmosphere of a postseason matchup.

And in one of the most anticipated and important games of the season, the Blazers delivered one of their most impressive performances, obliterating the red-hot Phoenix Suns 129-109 to enhance their playoff chances.

The victory, in which the Blazers racked up their third-highest scoring output in Rose Garden history, dwindled the Blazers' magic number down to six with just 10 games remaining, meaning any combination of Blazers wins and Phoenix losses equalling six advances Portland to the playoffs for the first time since 2003.

It also lifted Portland (45-27) into sixth place in the always-changing Western Conference standings, and within one game of the Northwest Division lead behind first-place Denver (46-26).

"We rose to the occasion," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.

The Blazers set the table for their lopsided victory with a blistering first half in which they shot 59.1 percent from the field (26 for 44), including 50 percent from three-point range (6 for 12), en route to registering a season-high tying 65 first-half points.

The 65-57 advantage virtually locked up a victory. The Blazers are 11-0 when they score at least 56 points in the first half and are 22-0 at the Rose Garden and 32-4 overall when they lead at halftime.

The Blazers book-ended their dominant first half with an equally exhilarating second half, in which they led by as many as 29 points, turning TNT's marquee game into a blowout.

At the ROOT of the one-sided performance were several factors. The Blazers' were effective at slowing down the fast break success of the run-and-gun Suns, who led the NBA in scoring, limiting them to 10 fast-break points, including six in the first half. And all the while, the Blazers were able to match the Suns' quick pace and intensity while playing team-first Basketball.

"We did a good job of playing their tempo, but playing a controlled tempo," McMillan said. "We had 30 assists, so we were moving the ball."

At the heart of everything was LaMarcus Aldridge who is playing some of the most forceful, determined and productive Basketball of his career. Aldridge, with a mix of buttery outside jumpers, fast-break dunks and post moves, finished with a season-high 29 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

But while he was the standout, this victory --which seemingly featured a highlight a minute --was a product of everyone contributing. Eleven Blazers scored, six reached double figures and just about everyone had some kind of highlight-reel moment.

There was Nicolas Batum, playing on a tender left ankle, zigzagging the court from the opening tip, snatching up turnovers, dishing alley-oop passes and finishing fast breaks. There was Sergio Rodriguez enjoying his best game in weeks, running the break and finishing with eight assists. There was Greg Oden showing power and promise, finishing with eight points in almost 17 minutes.

And, in the middle of it all was Rudy Fernandez, who was swishing three-pointers from all over the Rose Garden, streaking for fast break dunks and energizing the crowd with one of the most breathtaking 1.7 seconds this season.

At the end of the third quarter, with 1.7 seconds left, Fernandez completed what appeared to be quarter-ending layup underneath the basket on a pretty assist from Rodriguez. But instead of heading toward the bench, Fernandez circled around the court past the-three point line, looping to the opposite side of the floor. The Suns' Jason Richardson passed the ball toward center court, but Fernandez intercepted it before draining a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

It gave the Blazers a 100-79 lead --their most points this season through three quarters. Fernandez finished with a career-high five three-pointers and 23 points.

There was so much by so many Blazers, it was easy to overlook yet another balanced effort from All-Star Brandon Roy, who had 26 points, nine rebounds and six assists.

The balance and dominant performance left at least one visitor impressed.

"They've recaptured the city," Suns coach Alvin Gentry said about the Blazers.

Making things even more impressive is that the Blazers defeated the Western Conference's hottest team. Phoenix, in the heart of a challenging nine-game stretch that includes games against seven playoff contenders, had won six consecutive games and 12 of its last 15.

The playoffs may not have officially started, but it sure looked that way Thursday night.

"We didn't play well in our last game against Philadelphia," McMillan said of the Blazers' Monday night loss. "I told the guys before the game, we can either play our way into the playoffs or play our way out of the playoffs. . . . We're still trying to get that 'X' next to our name."

Notes:

Fernandez, who has 138 threes this season, moved past Ben Gordon into seventh place on the NBA all-time list of three-pointers made by a rookie. . . . The Blazers 29-7 (.824) home record is tied for fifth-best in the NBA and is their best 36-game home record since 1991-92 (29-7). . . . The Blazers ensured their fifth consecutive winning month, something the franchise has not accomplished since the 1991-92 season, when they registered a winning record in every month. The Blazers were 11-5 in November, 8-6 in December, 9-5 in January, 7-5 in February and are 9-5 in March. . . . The Blazers improved to 18-4 against teams playing in the second game of a back-to-back. . . . The Blazers are 9-3 at the Rose Garden against the top nine teams in the West. . . . The Suns dropped to 0-10 when playing on TNT.

Joe Freeman: 503-294-5183; joefreeman@news.oregonian.com

To read his Behind the Beat blog,

go to blog.oregonlive.com/

behindblazersbeat


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 29, 2009

 

 
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