Greg Oden is back for the Blazers and thankfully this time, the pressure is off the big man.
Coming off the bench versus the Miami Heat, Oden played only 16 minutes, allowing him to re-acclimatise himself with competitive basketball without the anxiety that came with his initial game against the Los Angeles Lakers. His statistics during the game may not have been impressive (three points, two rebounds, two blocks) but the fact that he was back in the mix was the main concern in this game.
And he didn't get injured.
The Oregonian has more:
He entered the game with 2:45 left in the first quarter and on his third defensive possession he blocked point guard Chris Quinn's shot into the stands. After a Daequan Cook miss, Oden chased down the rebound.
On the ensuing offensive possession, Oden rebounded a Fernandez three-point miss (one of 12 offensive boards for the Blazers), took one step toward the basket and dunked ferociously with 49.4 seconds left in the quarter to give the Blazers a 27-19 lead.
"It was good we won," Oden said. "But I was glad to finally get some points."
After the first quarter flurry, Oden was never much of a factor, except for a fourth-quarter free throw off a zip pass from Fernandez. McMillan said he thought Oden was "OK" and many of his teammates said they were just glad to see him on the court.
But really, the talk wasn't much of Oden afterward. It was of the skinny Spaniard who shows no fear and fluid imagination.
The "skinny Spaniard" of course, was Rudy Fernandez, who was instrumental in the Blazers' 104-96 victory. The rookie has been sensational so far this season and this game was indicative of how valuable he is to Portland.
Fernandez scored a team-high 25 points -- 14 coming in a fourth-quarter blur of spin moves, soaring alley-oops, rainbow three-pointers and thread-the-needle passes -- to lead the upstart Blazers to their fourth win in a row.
Fernandez's play is another example of clutch performance down the stretch for this team, which has already seen some heroics from Brandon Roy get them over the line against the Rockets and LaMarcus Aldridge doing the same against the Spurs (and his childhood idol, Tim Duncan).
Blaze of Love has footage of those anticipated first two points for Greg Oden in the NBA -- a lovely rebound and dunk.
The next big test in a tough start to the season comes for the Blazers on Friday as they travel to the nest of the New Orleans Hornets.
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