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15 Most Important Games Of The Season: Andre Miller's First Start

  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    It's easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of an NBA season. There's little time for reflection when the focus is always on the next game.

    With the 2009-2010 season behind us, now is a good time to count down the 15 games that shaped the season and, possibly, the future of the franchise. Game No. 15: Andre Miller's first start as a Portland Trail Blazer.

    Links: Game Recap || Game Notes || Video Highlights || Photo Gallery

    Andre Miller, by his own admission, did not sign with the Portland Trail Blazers to come off the bench.

    “If I was told right out when I had my meetings that I would be a backup, then I wouldn’t have come here,” Miller told Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears back in October 2009.

    But backing up Steve Blake is exactly what Miller was asked to do in the early days of the 2009-10 season. Maybe Miller, who had started 768 of the 815 career games he had played prior to the start of the 09-10 season, should have known there would be some reluctance to immediately change the starting lineup of a team that had won 54 games the prior season. Maybe he should have been starting from the get go. Either way, after coming off the bench for the first five games, Miller was inserted into the starting lineup for the first time of his Trail Blazers career in a home game against the Spurs on November 6, 2009.

    But rather than remove Blake from the starting lineup, Nate McMillan opted to send starting small forward Martell Webster to the bench to open up a spot for Miller. It was a move that seemed odd at the time, but it was hard to argue with the result. The Trail Blazers would beat the Spurs 96-84 for their third victory of the season. It was also the first time since 1997 that Portland had beaten the Spurs the third straight time.

    The Trail Blazers outscored the Spurs 12-2 in fastbreak points, possibly thanks to Miller’s ability to push the pace on offense.

    “I’m happy to see the movement,” said McMillan after the game. “That felt more like a flow, more like a rhythm on both ends of the floor. What we wanted to see, I thought we saw. I thought (Andre Miller), we got more from him. He got everybody involved, a lot of communications, and just looked in sync even though that team hasn’t played a lot together. We got the ball movement.”

    Miller initiated the offense for most of his 33 minutes despite playing alongside both Blake and Brandon Roy. Miller’s running of the Portland offense seemed to benefit Greg Oden the most, as he scored what was then a season-high 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting.

    “What I was hoping for was with Miller in that game, he would be able to get Greg (Oden) the ball,” said McMillan. “A lot of the calls tonight, (Miller) called those sets. He did a nice job of mixing it up. He got Blake involved; he got Greg involved with deep post position.”

    The addition of Miller into the starting lineup helped the Blazers build a 17-point lead, but the Spurs, despite losing Tony Parker to an ankle injury in the second quarter, rallied to pull to within three with 2:55 to play in the game. Portland would go on to outscore the Spurs 16-7 from there, with seven of those points courtesy of Blake, who finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two assists.

    “The good thing about this one was that they made a run in the fourth quarter and we held them off,” said Roy, who finished with a game-high 24 points. “It gave us confidence that, look, we’re starting to get back to what we’ve done in the past and that’s close games out.”

    That confidence, along with the insertion of Miller into the starting lineup, helped spark a six-game winning streak, Portland’s longest of the season.

    After the game, Miller would downplay the importance of his place in the starting lineup.

    “I feel better that we got the win," Miller told The Oregonian’s Jason Quick after the game. "I couldn't care less about all the other stuff. Everybody is happy with the win, so I'm not going to get caught up in the individual stuff, the selfish stuff. A win makes me feel better, it makes everyone else feel better."

    Miller would go on to start the next eight games in McMillan’s three-guard lineup before being replaced by Webster on Nov. 21, 2009. Miller found his way back into the starting line 11 games later, this time replacing Blake permanently as Portland’s starting point guard. As was his wish when he joined the team as a free agent, Miller started every game of the season thereafter.

    Portland's record was 7-9 when Miller came off the bench and 43-23 as a starter.

    Message Boards: Your Thoughts On Miller's First Start As A Blazer


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