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15 Most Important Games Of The Season: End Of An Era

08/27/10
  1. Written by: DHawes22  / 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. 6: End Of An Era


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

    Taking part in an 82-game season provides NBA players with a plethora of opportunities to witness every memorable aspect the game of basketball has to offer, from fights to miraculous comebacks. And even in a season where the 2009-2010 Trail Blazers ostensibly saw it all, the date November 14th, 2009 will not soon be forgotten. Call it bizarre, strange, kooky or peculiar, this seemingly routine pit stop in Charlotte had it all wrapped into one 48-minute smorgasbord. Even from the beginning, there was foreboding signs which pointed to an adventurous evening in North Carolina.

    "He had been complaining about his foot for a couple of games now," Roy said of his best friend. "So I was like, 'Trav, you sure you don't have a stress fracture?'"

    Along with Outlaw’s complaints of an injured foot, reserve guard Jerryd Bayless was scratched from the lineup just one hour before tip-off. While nonchalantly leaving the court after taking part in shoot-around, he exited through a poorly lit tunnel only to roll his ankle on a step hidden by carpet. His ankle was dinged up bad enough that team strength and conditioning coach, Bobby Medina and Rudy Fernandez had to carry him back to the locker room.

    Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, the dumbfounding loss of Bayless was only the tip of the iceberg that night. Only 20 seconds into his first shift, Roy’s premonition about Travis Outlaw’s foot came to fruition. While playing defense, Outlaw heard a pop in his left foot. Trying to play through the pain just wasn’t an option for the Trail Blazers 6th man who ended up with a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal, sidelining him for 14 weeks, much worse than the assumed best case scenario of six to eight weeks.

    "I was cursing and everything," Outlaw said while wearing a protective boot and standing on crutches after the game. "I was down; I'm not going to lie. I love playing the game, and just the fact that I'm going to be out, it hurts."

    For the 2010 Blazers, who had to hurdle a lot of obstacles, this was their trial by fire. Down two key reserves, playing their fourth road game in five nights, and shooting the ball poorly, they were thrown into the deep end without any life preservers. It was up to them and only them to decide if they would sink or swim. Regardless of the outcome, they weren’t going down without a fight.

    Immediately after Outlaw’s injury, Charlotte took advantage of a dazed Portland team, reeling off a 15-6 run to take a 28-20 lead half-way through the second period. As if the initial shock of losing Outlaw had worn off, like the fighters they are, the Trail Blazers ended the half on an 18-2 run, taking a 38-30 lead into intermission. Sparking Portland’s comeback was none other than team leader and captain, Brandon Roy, who used his entire offensive repertoire to score eight of the team’s 18 over the last 7:24 of the second quarter.

    Portland appeared to have the game under control after stretching the lead to as many as 16, 49-33, with 8:25 to play in the third, before the wheels fell off and the iron became unkind. Over the span of the Trail Blazers’ last 14 possessions after securing the 16 point lead, they shot 2-for-11 from the field, committed three turnovers, and allowed the Bobcats to claw their way back to only a four point deficit, 55-51, entering the fourth and final quarter where the game continued at a standstill pace until things heated up with a minute left to play.



    With Portland up 73-68, all hell broke loose. Feeling that Raja Bell intentionally elbowed him in the ear, LaMarcus Aldridge approached Bell planning in exchanging more then just pleasantries. Seeing Aldridge heading in Bell’s direction, Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace got in between the two and shoved LaMarcus, escalating the situation. As both coaches tried to keep their players from entering the court from the bench, the ones on the floor all participated in a pushing and shoving match. When the dust had settled, five technical fouls were issued, one each for Aldridge and Roy and the other three to Wallace, Bell, and Tyson Chandler. In the end, Portland won a free-throw shooting contest the rest of the way to defeat Charlotte, 80-74, for their sixth straight win of the young season.

    "I didn't see exactly what happened," Coach McMillan said. "For LaMarcus to get upset like that, someone did something dirty. When I went out there he was pretty upset. Those guys don't play that way. For them to respond that way, someone did something they weren't supposed to."

    Although the scuffle took prominence for the time being, two other storylines will be more memorable when fans think back upon that November night in Charlotte. “All great things must come to an end.” As challenging as is it to handle, the saying rings true. Not only did November 19th, 2009 mark the end of the final victory of Portland’s longest winning streak of the 2010 season (6), but the culmination of Travis Outlaw’s playing career with the Trail Blazers. With Outlaw still on the shelf, Portland missing their two cogs in the middle (Oden and Przybilla) and the trade deadline looming, GM Kevin Pritchard made one of the hardest decisions since taking over the reigns in ’07. On February 16th, 2010, nearly three months after injuring his foot, Outlaw, along with Steve Blake were dealt for the much needed Marcus Camby.

    "I just feel so bad for (Outlaw)," Coach McMillan said, emphasizing the word "bad." "He was doing some good things, and all of the sudden this happens. We don't know how long he is going to be out, but it's going to be a while. It's just an unfortunate situation."

    Over the course of his seven year stint in the Rose City, the once wide-eyed, shy kid from Starkville, Mississippi whom the Trail Blazers took with the 23rd overall pick in the 2003 draft, largely due to his raw potential, blossomed into an outgoing, fan favorite who progressed into one of the league’s most lethal pure scorers. But Travis’ impact went far beyond the instant offense and fourth quarter scoring he provided off the bench. Known for keeping the team loose with his jokes and overall happy-go-lucky personality, Travis had become a staple in one of the NBA’s best locker rooms, even bridging the gap between Roy and Aldridge’s current friendship.

    "For me, that's my best friend on the team," Roy said. "I spend a lot of time on the road talking to him about the team, about the games. So it's going to be different for me. We not only have to fill that void on the court, I will have to fill that void for me off the court. It gets lonely on the road."

    Previous Important Games
    #7 || #8 || #9 || #10 || #11 || #12 || #13 || #14 || #15

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