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Must win game in March? Yes, and the Blazers did just that.
Posted By Colin Chisholm On Mar 6 2012 @ 1:04 am In Portland Trail Blazers | No Comments
It almost pains me to say tonight was a must win game for the Blazers. It’s the very beginning of March, and this is the NBA where half the teams in the league make the playoffs. I would argue, though, that it very much was a must win for Portland. Coming into the game under .500, playing one of the worst teams in the league, and seeing that eight seed as well as any confidence slip away, the Blazers needed this one.
However, Portland started off with another subpar first half. LaMarcus Aldridge, the league’s 9th leading scorer coming into the game, had just 2 points in the first half. Lucky for them the New Orleans Hornets played to their usual level of D-League basketball, and the Blazers held an eight point lead at the half.
The Hornets came out of the gate in the 3rd quarter with five quick points cutting the lead to three. They scored just five more points the whole rest of the quarter. I’ll give you a second to do the math… yeah that’s just 10 points in the entire 3rd quarter for the Hornets. The Blazers really locked down on defense (and the Hornets missed some incredibly easy shots), took control of the game, and never gave it back.
Aldridge finally got going and scored eight points in the 3rd period, but finished with just those 10 points. Nicolas Batum had one of his better games leading the Blazers with 19 points, making Blazer fans wish he could do that on a little more consistent basis. The biggest disappointment of the season, Raymond Felton, was put back in the starting lineup and added 11 points with 10 assists. Jamal Crawford, the person he replaced, got back to his usual bench role, but scored only five points.
I’m still unsure how I feel about Felton starting in place of Crawford. I know Crawford isn’t a true point guard, but the added scoring ability is something that Portland sometimes has a hard time with in the early going. It’s hard to argue with a win though, which is what the Blazers needed in the worst way.
Like I said earlier, the defense for Portland really stepped up tonight. Just 24 hours after Deron Williams of the New Jersey Nets put up 57 points, New Orleans had just 56 points with six minutes to go in the game. Pretty ridiculous. And to top it off with possibly the craziest stat of the night, the Hornets got their first and only dunk with five seconds left in the game (Of course I had finished this paragraph with 10 seconds left in the game all stoked that the Blazers had given up zero dunks. Possibly the first time that would have been done since they allowed dunking in the NBA).
So the Blazers did what they had to do and won 86-74. They now hit the road for a season make or break seven game stretch. They have to win at least 3 of the 7 games in my opinion to stay in the playoff hunt. It all starts Wednesday at Minnesota.
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