10 December 2010
There is a pretty good chance Dwight Howard is still at the Rose Garden.
A good hour after the Orlando Magic dropped their third-straight game with a loss to Portland, Howard had yet to address the media, while many of his teammates waited on the team bus. Even the players that did linger didn't have much to say.
Maybe they were thinking about the half-hour talk Stan Van Gundy gave the team after the Magic faltered on national television. Van Gundy wouldn't comment directly on the closed door discussion, but Andre Miller certainly was one of the topics of conversation.
It's been that way a lot around here lately for Miller.
"We were not able to handle Andre Miller at all," a frustrated Van Gundy said after the 97 -83 win by the Blazers.
"We couldn't handle him without double teaming, and we couldn't handle him double teaming because our double teams were poor."
The man speaks the truth. While it took Portland a whole half to make defensive adjustments on Dwight Howard - who went off for 26 first half points and his way to 39 points and 15 rebounds - Nate McMillan made those adjustments and it showed in the third quarter as Howard received double team looks from LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby.
Much too Van Gundy's dismay, Miller made up for lost time and handled his business in the third and fourth quarters. And that is exactly where Portland had been suffering from the past two weeks. But that was then. In this young dramatic season, Portland's six game losing streak feels like forever ago. That's what happens when one headline replaces another.
One headline however seems to have stuck this whole week, easily an anthem with a familiar refrain. After tonight, it's good enough for one more day:
"Andre (Miller) is one of our leaders out there. When he's rolling and playing good like that, I know I feel good and I know the team feels good," Marcus Camby said of Miller, who finished with 22 points and 7 assists in his first game back from serving a one game suspension.
It was a season-high game for Miller for points and rebounds, but another streak came to an end on Thursday night for Miller after missing his first free-throw, breaking his 31 consecutive free throws made streak. But for as vocal as he was earlier this week, Miller was pretty much all talked out after the game and said executing McMillan's game plan is what really led to the win over Howard and the Magic.
Little did Miller know that game plan had Miller's name all over it.
"I played him a lot of minutes, but we had the day off so I felt like he would be able to go," explained McMillan. "We wanted that muchup. He was a guy who really had to control this game, control this tempo. I thought he did a great job tonight."
Van Gundy thought so too, especially in the second half when Miller took over.
"We were up twelve, and then we really let down defensively and let them back in the game. From there they really rolled us," Van Gundy began. "We did a very poor job against the mismatches. Defensively I thought we were bad and offensively I thought we were probably a little worse."
For those that caught Miller after the game, he was pretty much all talked out. From the suspension, to the consecutive streak being snapped, his recent comments about the matter aimed at the league, and even some trade speculation involving Andre, it was clear Miller was ready to move on. Anything to distance this team from a losing streak and all the drama along the way.
It's the start of another streak. That goes for the Blazers. That goes for Miller.
"It was a much needed win before you go on a road trip where you play some top teams," said Miller.
From one streak to another, Portland's upcoming road trip should be very telling for the Blazers who play at Phoenix, San Antonio, Memphis and Dallas. The Blazers have now won three in a row and are now at .500, but the road games have been painful to watch. Real painful. Still hard to believe this is the same team who just rattled off three wins in a row.
Credit should go to everyone from Wes Matthews, to Nicolas Batum, Brandon Roy, and now even Andre Miller.
Still "Dre Day".
And that's the last thing Dwight Howard probably wants to talk about.
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