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15 Most Important Games Of The Season: Bayless' Opportunity

  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. 12: Jerryd Bayless gets his opportunity.

    Links: Game Recap || Notes || Photo Gallery

    Watching Jerryd Bayless, one gets the sense that he could go off at any time and in any number of ways. The omnipresent look of pent up ferocity that seems to define the way he carries himself could give you the impression that he's a ticking time bomb, a malcontent just waiting to happen. But that's really not the case.

    What is true is that no one is quite sure who Jerryd Bayless is as a player yet except for Bayless himself. He's convinced there's nothing on the court he can't do when given the opportunity, and when he performs as he did on December 17, 2009, it's hard to argue with his contention.

    The Trail Blazers were in one of the worst funks the team had endured since the '06-'07 season when they hosted the Phoenix Suns for a nationally televised game on TNT. They had lost six of their last nine games, including a 1-3 road trip in which head coach Nate McMillan stayed behind in Portland as he recovered from surgery to repair a torn achilles tendon. Greg Oden's patella had snapped in half six games earlier and the inhabitants of Rip City had just been informed of what a microdiscectomy was and that it was going to keep Rudy Fernandez out of the lineup for some time. In a season full of hardship, mid-December was arguably the nadir.

    The sinkhole the Trail Blazers found themselves in looked as though it was only going to widen through the first three quarters against the Suns. Amare Stoudemire was having his way in the post, scoring 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds through the first 36 minutes. Grant Hill and Channing Frye had 18 and 17 points, respectively. Steve Nash had only scored eight, but had almost as many assists (11) as the Trail Blazers put together (13). Add in Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge shooting a combined 10 for 27 from the field and Andre Miller taking a shot to the nose courtesy of Hill during the second quarter and it was easy to see why Portland trailed 81-70 going into the final 12 minutes of the game.

    Bayless, who had played a little over 17 minutes at this point, was a bright spot. He had already scored 13 points on 4 for 8 shooting and had three assists at the start of the fourth, but there was still plenty left in the tank. The chance to play significant minutes, let alone fourth quarter minutes, was the break Bayless had been waiting for.

    "I was just excited," said Bayless after the game. "It’s been a long time coming I feel like. Now I get an opportunity and I’m just trying to make the best of it and help this team win.”

    His best was scoring 16 points in the fourth, including two three-pointers and four free throws, to help the Trail Blazers overcome a 13-point fourth quarter deficient and beat the Suns 105-102 for their 16th victory of the season. He finished the night with 29 points, which was at the time a career-high, and had help from Roy, who scored 11 points in the fourth, but when it came to the heavy lifting, Bayless was "the man" for the first time in his professional career.

    “It felt great," said Bayless. "I can’t even lie – you know – this last year and a half has been tough for me. Coach has given me an opportunity now and I’m just trying to make the best of it so I don’t have to go through that again."

    "We knew Jerryd could put some points on the board and with all the guys we have out, we need that," said Nate McMillan. "He’s getting the opportunity to play and he’s taking advantage of it. I’ve told him for the last two years, be patient – be patient, the opportunity is going to come. I don’t know when, but it just does in the NBA and that opportunity has come in the last two games. He’s shown this at times, but the last two games he’s shown what he’s capable of doing with that opportunity.”

    Bayless would get other opportunities throughout the season, but what made this game important was that it was the first time the world got to see Jerryd Bayless as he sees himself: a man capable of anything.

    Previous Top 15 Important Games Of The Season
    • No. 13: Brandon Roy and The Ghost of Christmas Past
    • No. 14: Letting The Jazz Come Back
    • No. 15: Andre Miller's First Start


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