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15 Most Important Games Of The Season: Roy And The Ghost Of Christmas Past

08/04/10
  1. Written by: caseyholdahl  / avg. rating: 5.0

    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. 13: Brandon Roy And The Ghost Of Christmas Past


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

    There's sometimes a reluctance, both among NBA players and the public at large, to engage in honest self-evaluation. There are a couple reasons for this. Maybe that person has achieved a certain level of success, leading to self-satisfaction that convinces one there is no need for evaluation and the expected improvement that comes along with it. Or maybe it's because it's often uncomfortable to ponder your own personal foibles.

    Long story short: it's hard to critique yourself, especially when there are scores of others more than willing to point out the mistakes you've made. So when Brandon Roy, a player who could easily rest on his laurels, takes a hard look at himself, finds room for improvement and then takes specific steps to achieve that improvement, the event easily ranks as one of the most important events of the season.

    The Trail Blazers, like crowded department stores, egg nog and stockings hung with care, have become a fixture of the holiday season by virtue of their recent and consistent inclusion in the NBA's Christmas Day broadcasts. The Trail Blazers have hosted a game at the Rose Garden on December 25 for the past three seasons and while it's a nice present for fans to be able to watch the Blazers in between their other Christmas activities, it's also a good day for the Red and Black to get a win. Portland is 14-2 in games played on Christmas Day.

    Despite their historic success on Jesus' birthday, Christmas Day 2008 was an unhappy one for the Trail Blazers as they lost 102-94 to the Mavericks. Portland lead 80-77 going into the final quarter of that game, only to be outscored 25-14 in the fourth. Brandon Roy, who finished the night with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, was particularity upset with the way the night ended.

    "(Dallas) didn't let up," Roy said. "We thought we had them down and they weren't down. Coach said they outhustled us, and you can't dispute that."

    A year later, Roy hadn't forgotten the feeling of being outworked on Christmas. And it wasn't the loss that bothered him as much as it was the notion that he allowed the holiday to change his approach to the game. So when it came time to take the floor for the NBA's 2009 Christmas Day nightcap against the Denver Nuggets, Roy was ready. Despite being a devoted father and family man, Roy removed himself from most of his regular Christmas activities. He wanted to make sure that this time around the Trail Blazers would have to be beaten by a superior opponent, not the specter of St. Nick and all of the responsibilities that come with his arrival.

    From the jump, Roy played with a focus most wouldn't be able to muster on a regular day, let alone the on Christmas. He went 3-for-4 and made both of his attempts from the free throw line, finished the first quarter with 9 points. Then he really turned it on with a 16-point second quarter, finishing the first half with 25 points, the most points by a Blazer in the first half of a game since Darius Miles went for 32 first half points on April 19, 2005, also against the Nuggets.

    “(Roy) looked like he was really focused out there," said Steve Blake after the game. "He was playing great and looked really smooth the way he was getting people involved and making shots himself. He was great for us.”

    Roy cooled down ever so slightly in the second half, scoring "just" 6 and 10 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. Blake picked up the slack with 14 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Blazers put away the Nuggets 107-96 in what would be Portland's only win against Denver during the 2009-10 season.

    Roy set a new career-high on field goals made (16) on the way to scoring 41 points. He also added 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The victory would cap Portland's most impressive win streak of the season at four, with previous wins coming on the road against the Heat, Mavericks and Spurs. The win also allowed the Blazers to keep pace with the Nuggets in the race for the Northwest Division title, which the Nuggets eventually went on to take.

    Overall a very night win, but in the grand scheme of things, isn't wasn't beating the Nuggets that made this game important. The lasting takeaway from that Christmas night was Roy's recognition that he couldn't take a game lightly and still produce at a level sufficient to fulfill his obligation as the team's leader and best player. Holiday or no, his duties as a basketball player had to come before all others if the Trail Blazers were to prosper.

    “I felt like I didn’t prepare the team last year – when we came out, we enjoyed the day a little too much," said Roy after the game. "Today I was focused all day long and I wanted to come out and play well tonight. The guys did a good job of staying ready and we got a huge win. It was Christmas and we enjoyed it but this was a division game that we really needed. I wanted to be focused and the guys did a great job of staying ready.”

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