For the Portland Trail Blazers, the youngest team in NBA history, Tuesday night's 97-89 win over the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena was a huge deal.
"No doubt about it," was the reply of Blazers coach Nate McMillan when asked if it was the biggest win of the season.
And they pulled off the upset without their leading scorer and rebounder, second-year forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed his first game of the year with an injury.
"I hadn't gotten a win in this building since I've been in the league," said third-year Blazers guard Jarret Jack. "So that was definitely on my mind. We normally don't play well here."
Actually, the Blazers normally haven't played well anywhere this season except at their home court, the Rose Garden. Portland lost its first nine road games. The Blazers finally broke through and won a game on the road in Memphis in their 10th try.
After beating the Jazz, the Blazers are now 2-9 away from Portland.
"When you come into this building you know it's going to be tough," said McMillan. "You've got to play well and you've got to play hard. It's one of the toughest places in the league to win a game."
Yet the Blazers, whose average age on opening night was 24 years and 26 days, played like a group of veterans. They used a zone defense for much of the night to confuse the Jazz on offense, shot lights out from the field for the first half to take the lead and then held off a furious Utah rally to win the game.
"We had to be scrappy, we had to be physical and we had to execute," said McMillan. "We had to do all those things to win the game."
Brandon Roy, last year's rookie of the year, didn't have an exceptional night by his lofty standards. He scored 16 points with just three assists, but 21-year-old forward Martell Webster had an outstanding shooting night, making 5-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc and scoring a career-high 25 points.
"Martell (Webster) is a guy who hasn't been able to knock down shots (recently), but stayed with it and his shot was falling," said McMillan. "We had other guys step up. Brandon (Roy) didn't have a great game, but other guys stepped up and they played together and that's what you need to win games."
The Blazers have now won four consecutive games, including two on the road. They feel Tuesday's win was a big step for the once-proud franchise's return to respectability."That's our second road win and our second (road) win in a row," Roy pointed out. "We are turning it around a little bit. Everyone came out and played well tonight and we need guys to do that every night."
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