Long Story Short: Andre Miller played like he had something to prove and Marcus Camby was in the right place at the right time more times than you can count as the Blazers held off a strong second-half push from Kevin Durant to pull out a huge road victory.
Andre Miller came out of the gate looking to physically and mentally punish Russell Westbrook. Taking the promising youngster into the post and off the dribble, Miller unveiled the whole arsenal in accounting for Portland's first 11 points through his scoring and assisting. Oklahoma City's offense couldn't keep up, plagued by missed jumpers and turnovers and generally looking out of sync. As the first quarter wore on, Brandon Roy continued his hot jump shooting from Saturday night, extending the Blazers lead and attracting extra attention from the Thunder defense. This helped free Marcus Camby, who finished with 7 first quarter points by finding both his outside touch and taking advantage of some room to work around the rim.
Down 30-21 at the end of the first quarter, the Thunder stepped on the gas to open the second period. Ultra-intriguing big man Serge Ibaka began to impact the game on the boards and with his energy, and Kevin Durant got the crowd into things with an alley oop dunk. When Durant capped an 18-6 Thunder run to start the period with a 3 pointer the stress level on the Blazers bench ratcheted up. Portland settled down, absorbing the run by smartly going back to Roy and Miller, who hit a number of creative shots to secure a one point halftime lead.
It became clear shortly after halftime that Miller wasn't going to let up on Westbrook. He continued to pound the shorter, smaller player in the point, using crafty moves to get clean looks. Everyone's favorite Andre Miller -- summertime blacktop swagger Dre -- was in full effect and he pushed out Portland's lead by leaning into a long three pointer. While Dre was doing his thang, the Thunder turned their whole show over to Durant, who threw down a number of spectacular dunks through an invisible field of Blazers defenders and drew fouls any time a Blazer defender managed to step in front of him.
The Blazers struggled to stop Durant (who finished with a game high 29) but the Thunder struggled to support him. Aside from Ibaka, who finished with 10 points and Jeff Green, who had a silent 15 and 5 before fouling out, the Thunder were essentially a one man show in the second half. The Blazers threw a number of defenders at KD -- including Nicolas Batum, Martell Webster and even Marcus Camby -- and he seemed to tire, settling for outside jumpers. On offense, the Blazers (especially Roy, who finished 8 of 22 for 20 points) fell off their hot shooting pace from the first quarter but effectively slowed the pace down, milking clock and drawing fouls as they clung to a small lead down the stretch. Camby was a big factor in extending possessions, pulling down 12 rebounds to go with 11 points and securing an extra possession off of a jump ball tapped out by Brandon Roy.
On the game's critical possession, Blazers up 3 with less than 10 seconds to play, Camby again showed his rare combination of versatility and intelligence. The Thunder looked to free Kevin Durant for a potential game-tying three pointer but it was the long and physical Camby who worked actively to make his catch difficult. After using a high screen to get open, Durant settled for a long, contested look that rimmed out. Never hesitating, Camby turned from the top of the key where he had worked to deny the initial catch and headed, as if guided magnetically, to a spot some 15 feet away where he collected the defensive rebound and smartly passed the ball to Andre Miller, perhaps the best Blazers free throw shooter on the court at the time. Miller calmly sank the two free throws for his 25th and 26th points of the game (to go with 6 rebounds and 4 assists) and the Blazers left the court to triumphant handshakes from coach Nate McMillan.
This was a playoff type performance, especially from the veterans, that carried playoff seeding significance. The Blazers are now essentially tied with the Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs in the 6th/7th/8th spots. With the ability to go 3-1 or 4-0 over the next 10 days the team is well positioned for upward standings movement.
While the Blazers starters carried the day again, Nate McMillan can't like seeing only 12 points on a combined 5-13 from his subs. Perhaps the bench unit's bad mojo can be pinned on Martell Webster's hair.
More on Tonight's Game
- Hear the Thunder side at Welcome To Loud City.
- Check out Portland Roundball Society's reaction.
- Don't miss Royce Young's take over at DailyThunder.com.
- Nick Poust has a recap over at Fan Huddle.
- Here's the AP recap.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter