PORTLAND — The compact schedule has made it incredibly difficult for teams to hold practices this year. But Friday, the Trail Blazers had a 48-minute one.
Call what transpired between Portland and the Phoenix Suns on the Rose Garden floor what you will. But with the Blazers winning 109-71, it’s tough to label it a game.
Portland (12-8) dominated every aspect of Friday night’s contest — especially the second and third quarters, in which it held Phoenix to nine and 12 points respectively.
All year long, Blazers coach Nate McMillan has been seeking a game where everyone on the roster contributes. Against the Suns, that quest was temporarily satisfied.
“That was it. I thought from start to finish, our effort was good,” said McMillan, whose team’s margin of victory was the largest it has ever been against the Suns. “It seemed like we got stronger as the quarters on…this is what we were looking for our guys.”
The 38-point win marks a 63-point swing from the last time Portland met Phoenix, when the Suns rolled to a 25-point victory on national television. This time, the Phoenix starters slipped on their sweats for good midway through the third quarter.
All but one active Blazer scored Friday night, and the one who didn’t — Marcus Camby — pulled down 20 rebounds in 23 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge led all scorers with 23 points while Gerald Wallace added 17 and Wesley Matthews 16.
There is no statistical category Phoenix won Friday — not field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throws, rebounding, turnovers, assists or blocks. Meanwhile, the Blazers’ 58 points, 28 assists and 62-second half points were all season highs — and Phoenix’s 71 points were the fewest they’ve ever scored against Portland.
And while this performance was certainly an exaggeration of the Blazers’ typical success at the Rose Garden, it does highlight the disparity between their home triumphs and road failures.
Portland’s home record improved to 9-1 Friday, just a half a game behind San Antonio for the best in the NBA. Last year, the Blazers were tied for the second best home record in the Western Conference but managed only a No. 6 seed.
Asked after the game about his team’s Jekyll-and-Hyde nature, Camby said that he frequently asks himself the same question. Jamal Crawford, on the other hand, is optimistic that change will come.
“To take that next step, we gotta balance up. To be a really good team, and to be an elite team, you gotta win on the road,” said Crawford, who scored 14 points off the bench. “It’s a process. We gotta bunch of new guys, but we’ll get there.”
The Blazers next play Monday at Utah, which means they will have consecutive days off for the first time this month. Before Friday’s game, McMillan said that this season’s unusual schedule makes games double as practices in certain respects. Perhaps that’s why, despite his team leading by 33 at the end of the third quarter, he didn’t clear the bench until midway through the fourth.
The sole Blazer that conspicuously struggled Friday was Raymond Felton, whose play has been inconsistent at best throughout the season. The point guard finished with four points on 2 of 7 shooting, and after he was subbed out with his team down four midway through the first quarter, Portland went on a 30-14 run.
The other subplot taking place was Camby’s not-so-unspoken quest to surpass Aldridge for the club’s season-high rebounding mark.
Aldridge pulled down 23 boards against Toronto January 20, but Camby has since answered with a 22-rebound night last Tuesday and, of course, a 20-board night vs. Phoenix.
Asked after the game if Camby was going take the crown, Aldridge answered frankly: “No, he’s not.”
“I only played 23 minutes tonight.”