Win-loss mark is out of red for Blazers
Portland beats Howard, Magic to get back to .500
Originally published December 9, 2010 at 11:06 p.m., updated December 9, 2010 at 11:41 p.m.
PORTLAND — There was a “Red Out” in the Rose Garden Thursday night, the entire arena donning red shirts in a promotion presented by Google.
Appropriate sponsor, because the Blazers were searching for answers all night — and eventually, they clicked.
Trying to get back to a .500 record, Portland spent the entire first half trying to solve the riddle that was Orlando center Dwight Howard.
But when the second half rolled around, it was the Blazers who couldn’t be stopped, rolling past the Magic, 97-83.
And after dropping six straight games, Portland has now won three in a row.
Was this the biggest win of the year? Blazers guard Wesley Matthews was asked after the game.
“Yeah, we think so,” he said. “We were tired of losing. Have you ever lost (six) times in a row in anything? It’s not a good feeling.”
Howard scored 39 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. Twenty-six of those points came in the first half, in which he hit 10 of 12 shots, sunk all six of his free throws and essentially got any shot he wanted.
In fact, at one point in the first quarter, Howard singlehandedly led Portland, 16-14.
But if the 6-foot-11 center is “Superman,” Thursday, he had to contend with the Fantastic Four.
The Blazers quartet of Matthews, Andre Miller, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum kept the Blazers in the game — cutting a once 14-point deficit down to one by the end of the half. Then Portland locked down on defense and unleashed its offense.
Between Aldridge, Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla, Portland’s big men kept Howard out of the paint and forced the MVP candidate to shoot jump shots and jump hooks, which weren’t nearly as effective.
At the same time, Howard’s teammates embraced their team name and essentially disappeared — Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis combining to hit just 10 of 36 field goal attempts.
“We knew (Howard) was going to get his points ... but we were trying to keep the guys around him down, especially protecting the 3-point line,” said Camby, who tallied 13 rebounds. “And Dwight was hitting his free throws in the first half (6 for 6 in the first half, 13 for 18 for the game). We had it on the board that he shot 54 percent from the line, and it seems like whenever we put that on the board, they play well from the free-throw line.”
The Blazers, meanwhile, got a little something from everybody.
Andre Miller, who missed Tuesday night’s game due to a suspension, scored 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting, dished out eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. Wesley Matthews added 20 points, Batum 15 and Aldridge 14.
Thursday marked the Blazers’ second consecutive victory over a team with a winning record. However, there will be plenty of plus .500 teams to come.
Portland (11-11) begins a four-game road trip in Phoenix today, and then will play San Antonio (18-3) Sunday, Memphis (9-14) Monday and Dallas (18-4) Wednesday.
“(This) was a much needed win before you go on a road trip where you play some top team,” Miller said.
The Magic (15-7) lost their third in a row.
• Miller said at shootaround Thursday that while he couldn’t appeal the one-game suspension the NBA issued him after pummeling Blake Griffin on Sunday, he did appeal the lost money. Miller, who called the league “soft” in a seething tirade Wednesday, said he researched a host of videos, including Derek Fisher elbowing Houston’s Luis Scola in the 2009 conference semifinals, that appeared equally violent but did not result in a suspension.
“I’m going to make a big deal of it,” Miller said.
• Blazers coach Nate McMillan acknowledged before the game that getting back to .500 was significant.
“It’s something we’ve been trying to get to,” McMillan said. “When you fall behind .500, you want to get back, and then you want to go beyond it. But getting to .500 is something we’d like before we go back on the road