Blazers add another victory to their highlight reel
Portland plays solid defense to improve to 6-0 at home
Originally published January 10, 2012 at 11:14 p.m., updated January 10, 2012 at 11:31 p.m.
PORTLAND — The television in the Trail Blazers’ locker room was showing highlights of their Tuesday night game against the Clippers, when an unidentified culprit switched the channel to ESPN.
The players revolted. They may have already known what transpired in the Rose Garden, but to them — it was worth a second look.
Portland avenged their first loss of the season by downing the Clippers 105-97. All five of the Blazers’ starters produced double-digit scoring while two reserves tallied nine points.
Defensively, they limited Blake Griffin to 18 points, Chris Paul to 11, and Los Angeles as a whole to 44-percent shooting. It was the kind of showing that could get even a coach like Nate McMillan to spring off the bench and high-five his players, which he did after Raymond Felton hit a 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
“You gotta be fired up to play this game,” said McMillan, whose team is now 7-2 and 6-0 at home. “We got aggressive against these guys tonight.”
Actually, both teams may have started off a little too aggressive. Paul and Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge each picked up two fouls in the first quarter and were held scoreless midway through the second.
But the dual absences seemed to affect the Clippers (4-3) more so than it did the Blazers.
Without Paul, whose 11 points all came in the second half, L.A. was down seven at halftime while Griffin had just four points.
And when Aldridge finally resurfaced from the bench, he resumed his All-NBA-caliber play by scoring 18 points and grabbing seven rebounds.
But the way he did it was a bit atypical.
Last year, Griffin and Aldridge were the NBA’s second and fifth most prolific dunkers, respectively.
But at one point in the third quarter, they were exchanging 20-footers as if partaking in a full-court game of H-O-R-S-E.
In a two-minute span, the two had each knocked down three consecutive jump shots of at least 19 feet before Aldridge clanked one.
Not that Aldridge was aware of the contest.
“I didn’t even know he (Griffin) was making them,” Aldridge said. “They’re all the same people out there to me.”
The Blazers led by nine with two minutes remaining, but the Clippers whittled that advantage to three points with 26 seconds to go thanks to a 3-point play by Chauncey Billups.
However, two free throws from Wesley Matthews (18 points) and three free throws from Felton (17) allowed Portland to cement the victory.
Gerald Wallace led the Blazers with 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting while Marcus Camby posted 12 points and 11 rebounds.
After the game, a reporter asked Matthews about McMillan’s emotion in the fourth quarter and whether that offers any hints regarding the chemistry of this year’s team.
“I think so,” Matthews said. “It’s not that we didn’t have a good team last year, but there’s a feeling that there’s something special here.”
The Blazers will host the Magic Wednesday before taking off for a six-game road trip.
Wallace not seeking extension
The Rose Garden crowd began chanting “Ger-ald Wall-ace!” in the second half after the Rose Garden jumbotron displayed a short Q&A session with the forward. The fans might want to make that a routine gesture if they want to keep him in town.
The Oregonian reported Tuesday that Wallace, who can opt out of his contract next year, will not seek an extension with the Blazers this season. In other words, instead of taking the $9.5 million he would earn on the final year of his contract, he may test the free agent market and sign a long-term deal in Portland or elsewhere.
Wallace would not divulge the direction in which he was leaning, saying only that he was focused on getting wins.
However, when asked if he can envision himself ending his career in a Blazers jersey, Wallace said he could.
“You always want to play in front of a crowd like Portland,” Wallace said. “They have one of the most amazing crowds in the NBA.”
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email@example.com