Aldridge, Batum lift Blazers past Rockets
Portland wins eighth straight at home
Originally published January 2, 2011 at 9:05 p.m., updated January 2, 2011 at 10:54 p.m.
PORTLAND — Dozens of Rose Garden fans not quite as original as they thought wielded signs reading “Houston, you have a problem.”
But the bigger story Sunday night was Portland — which seems to have found a solution.
The Blazers have now played two games since three-time All-Star Brandon Roy announced he’d be sitting out indefinitely with sore knees, and in both instances flow has significantly outshined ebb.
The assists run high, the turnovers run low, and Portland just runs, runs, runs.
Sunday the Blazers strengthened their microscopic hold on the Western Conference’s eighth seed, downing the Rockets, 100-85.
The Blazers featured six players in double figures, handed out 29 assists and extended their home-court winning streak to eight.
But while true feelings of exultation should wait until it can yield similar results on the road, Portland (18-16) is not opposed to briefly relishing the moment.
“Good one, good one, good one,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said after the game. “Tonight we defended a team that can put up points and we scored ... We were pretty sharp.”
Houston (16-17) came into the game averaging exactly 106 points. Portland, however, never allowed more than 25 points in a quarter and limited the Rockets to 14 in the third. Blazers guard Patty Mills figured prominently into the resistance, logging a career-high five steals.
As far as Portland’s offense? Well, it wasn’t so much a matter of if they would score, but whom.
LaMarcus Aldridge continued his clandestine All-Star campaign with a 25-point, 11-rebound performance. Nicolas Batum’s 21 points tied his season high and marked the first time he’d tallied 20 points since Nov. 12.
Wesley Matthews added 14, Dante Cunningham and Rudy Fernandez each pitched in 10, Marcus Camby dished out a season-high eight assists … and then there was Mills.
“Patty was probably the MVP of the game,” said Camby, whose stat line included three points and 13 rebounds.
Mills was asked before the game if he was as fast as Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks, to which he responded with a vehement no. But during the game, it appeared the more appropriate question was: “Just how much faster is Mills than Brooks?”
Becoming the first Blazer to reach double-digits in 2011, the Australian point guard scored 12 first-half points en route to a 14-point night. He added five assists, knocked down 6 of his 12 field-goal attempts and served as a reliable engine for the second unit in all of his 22 minutes.
“That’s the way I like to play. Uptempo … just trying to be creative,” said Mills, adding that he takes more pride in his steal total than his point total. “That’s my role on the team, that’s the job (McMillan) has given me.”
The Blazers are now 12-3 at home, and given how they’re just two games above .500, it’s not difficult to discern where most of their losses have taken place. So as they venture on a three-game road trip that includes Dallas on Tuesday, Houston on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday, just how do they amend their road woes?
“I don’t know. I wish I had the answer. It’s well-documented we’ve struggled on the road. We just have to be consistent for 48 minutes,” Camby said. “It’s been like that all season on the road. Hopefully that can change.”