Mike D’Antoni knows how talented both Sergio Rodriguez and Rudy Fernandez are. The New York Knicks head coach – formerly of the Phoenix Suns– helped draft and subsequently trade both Sergio and Rudy to Portland at different times of his tenure in Phoenix.
The Suns selected Sergio as the 27th overall pick in 2006 before trading him for cash considerations that same day. A year later, Phoenix snagged Fernandez in the first round (24th overall) only to turn around days later and trade him along with James Jones for cash considerations.
On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, D’Antoni might have been calling for a couple draft day do-overs.
A good hour after the “Rudy-Rudy-Rudy” chants faded from the Garden and a first quarter that saw Portland shoot an abysmal 29%, Fernandez slowly shook-off a case of the “clanks.” He hit his first two shots of the game – both from beyond the arc – only to miss his next three attempts.
Rudy hasn’t delved into too many funks this season. And he didn’t stay that way for long. You just had a feeling he was going to get it going on a big stage like New York with a large Spanish contingent on hand. His two enormous three-pointers early in the fourth quarter contributed to a 14-0 Blazers run, which in essence salvaged another Portland win – their fifth-straight. Very impressive final numbers for Rudy: 18 points, 5-11 from the field, 4-8 from three 4-4 from the line in roughly 21 minutes.
Let’s not forget Sergio’s role in Portland overcoming a Knicks 10 point lead. Setting up Rudy is one thing, but getting into the lane and hitting a stop-and-pop off the glass over Tim Thomas late in the fourth was nothing short of smooth. That is unless you count Rodriguez’s step-back three minutes later. He put together a solid yet non-flashy game: 5 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal and 0 turnovers in 19 minutes.
In the end though, victory over New York didn’t come easy for Portland. There probably isn’t a scrappier eight player team in the NBA than the Knicks right now. They just wore down. For the Blazers, they need to get a good night sleep with Washington up on Wednesday. The Wizards won in New Jersey by 20 points and now both Washington and Portland prepare for a little back-to-back action after a quick flight to D.C.
Can the Blazers make it 7-6 on the road?
Okay, so Portland didn’t make it on the short list of the NBA’s “Biggest Surprises In November” (a rundown story that ran yesterday on HOOPSWORLD). But with their winning ways, Brandon Roy’s wow factor and the typical cliche’ of an all-around nightly team effort, they are worthy of an honorable mention….
pic via: daylife