The Trail Blazers should petition for a change of venue.
If the Philadelphia 76ers are the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, Portland would do just fine in the East -- at least if beating the Sixers twice in a week means anything.
And to Portland, it certainly does. The two wins may have been the best games the team has played this season.
The Trail Blazers did it with balance and three-point shooting, knocking down 17 of their 38 shots behind the arc and getting significant contributions from all nine who played en route to a 118-114 win.
“I told the team this,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Everyone -- we played nine guys -- and every one of them made a substantial contribution to the game. You go up and down the roster:
“Derrick Jones, who got in early foul trouble, was a big part of what we did in the fourth quarter. Robert Covington obviously made the play (at the end of the game). And Enes Kanter continues to just do what he does -- he goes after every rebound -- and he took three stitches tonight.
“Gary Trent keeps making shots, Dame is Dame and then our bench. I’d really like to mention Harry Giles. I thought the energy he gave throughout his minutes on the floor... He gave a lot of energy. He got in foul trouble, but it didn't deter him from playing, I thought the energy Harry Giles gave was terrific.
“And obviously, the other guys who got in the game -- Rodney and Anthony and Melo. So it's one of those games from a coaching standpoint, it's easy to point to every guy on the floor -- every guy who played, and what they were able to contribute.”
The Trail Blazers held the lead a good part of the game, opening with a stretch of hitting seven of their first eight three-pointers.
The Sixers finally wrestled the lead away in the second half and the game see-sawed in the final quarter. Carmelo Anthony dominated that fourth quarter, scoring 17 points, including three of four from distance.
Kanter had a big game, as Stotts noted -- getting 10 points and 14 rebounds, half of them at the offensive end. As well as the stitches over his left eye, after running a Robert Covington elbow under the basket.
A man who aspires to a pro wrestling career when his playing days are over, Kanter did what the veteran grapplers do -- he didn’t wipe away the blood dripping down his face, but rather, wore it like a badge of honor as he trudged off to get stitches.
“It was actually really cool to be out there with all that blood,” Kanter said with a wide smile. “I'm thinking about the Undertaker and Triple-H. I'm thinking about, you know, all those guys with blood coming out of their face.
“I like that a lot. I must send it to Triple-H and Mr. McMahon and see what they think.”
This was a quality -- if bloody -- win against what is obviously a good team.
“The definition of a team effort,” said Damian Lillard, who finished with 30 points. “Each guy on the floor was just scratching and clawing and just trying to find a way.”
After Anthony’s two free throws with 3.1 seconds to go that lifted the Blazers to a two-point lead, Covington knocked an inbound pass away and pushed the ball to Lillard, who salted it away with two foul shots.
And how, exactly, can this team get into that other conference?