By Dave McMenamin, NBA.com
Posted Dec 19 2008 6:44AM
PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers celebrated their rich heritage this week by retiring No. 30 two times over, once for guard Terry Porter who manned the point for those special Portland teams of the late 1980s and early '90s, and again for forward Bobby Gross who somehow managed to neutralize Dr. J in the 1977 NBA Finals en route to the city's only professional championship.
On Thursday, Brandon Roy put in the type of performance that makes you think they'll be making room for No. 7 up in the Rose Garden Arena rafters before long.
Roy, who came into Thursday's game averaging 32.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists over his last four contests, exploded for a career-high 52 points in a thrilling 124-119 victory against the Suns, a team he'd never beaten.
There are 10 players who have their number retired by the Blazers. None of them ever scored as many points as Roy did Thursday, falling two shy of the franchise record set by Damon Stoudamire in '05.
It wasn't just 52 points on 14-for-27 from the field, 19-for-21 from the line, five boards, six dimes and a block.
It wasn't just a win that snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Suns.
It was a statement by Roy. This is his team. This is his time.
"It was like a quiet 52 points," head coach Nate McMillan said.
Maybe it was quiet on Roy's part. After all, pull-up swishes and layups that use English off the glass tend to make less sound than a rim-rattling dunk. But his play sure inspired a lot of noise from the crowd:
"MVP! MVP! MVP!"
The chant not only filled the arena, but talk of Roy's night is sure to reverberate throughout the league.
Yup, move over LeBron, Dwyane, Dwight, Kobe and Chris. Brandon Roy has crashed your party of five at Maurice Podoloff's house.
"I felt good in warmups, but I never could have predicted this," Roy said. "Even the shots I missed, I felt confident in them and I just wanted to play my game and trust my shots."
Roy, playing with a right pinkie finger that has a torn tendon and on a left knee that had fluid drained from it on Tuesday, had the outburst just six days after setting his previous career high of 38 points against the Clippers.
Usually the only players that set two career highs in scoring in the span of a week are rookies or guys who move off the bench into the starting lineup all of a sudden, but even then, you don't see them obliterating their previous mark by 14 points like Roy did.
You have to admire Roy's timing. He's like the guy who buys a pack of gum and ends up as the one-millionth customer or pulls off the highway right before the five-car pileup. Both of Roy's seminal moments this season -- the 52 points on Thursday and the game-winning, buzzer-beating 35-footer against the Rockets -- have occurred on TNT's prime-time game with all the basketball world's eyes on him.
"I know he is a very good player and right now he is in a very good rhythm," McMillan said. "He has found ways to improve on his game both mentally as well as physically."
Phoenix held a seven-point lead at halftime and that lead swelled to 12 midway through the third before Roy went on a tear, scoring 13 points and assisting on another three on a made basket by Steve Blake as Portland used a 16-3 run in a little more than three minutes that gave the Blazers the lead.
Before the game a reporter asked McMillan if the recent run by Roy was the third-year guard making the leap to establish himself as the clear-cut top banana on his team, a young squad that only has one player in the rotation (Joel Przybilla) born before 1980.
After the game that was no question. It starts and ends with Roy.
LaMarcus Aldridge (16 points, five rebounds, three steals) has been paramount to the Blazers' rebuilding efforts and is improving by the day. But it was Roy who trusted Aldridge enough to feed him with the shot clock almost at zero for a crucial jumper that Aldridge banked in with 1:25 to go that tied the game at 119-119.
Most guys with 47 points and the hot hand will call their own number in that situation.
Maybe Roy just knew he'd get his chance again.
The 6-foot-6, 211-pounder scored the game's last five points on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:01 remaining and two freebies to give Portland a five-point cushion.
"Not only did he want to be an All-Star, he wants to be a second-time All-Star," McMillan said. "He wants his team to get to the playoffs, he wants us to be a winning organization and I think his goal is he wants to win a championship. I've always said, 'He gets it.'"
The game ended with Steve Nash's last-second layup attempt rolling off the rim and landing -- where else? -- in Roy's hands which had been the right place at the right time all night long.
Roy took the ball with him over to a postgame interview with TNT's Craig Sager before tucking it safely into his locker to keep as a memento of the night.
Next thing he'll be taking over is the league.
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