Aldridge steals Blake Griffin’s showcase; D-Rose downs Dallas

It should be considered a borderline miracle if the Portland Trail Blazers hang onto their 8th-seed playoff spot in the West, especially with Marcus Camby‘s knee surgery basically cutting their winning formula in half. Back when the roster was (mostly) healthy, Portland had a routine: Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge did the heavy lifting for three quarters, then Andre Miller and Camby would contribute clutch plays throughout the fourth/overtime, and B-Roy would handle the really heroic duties. Now it’s down to just LaMarcus and ‘Dre, but the Blazers are still winning … Last night’s Blazers/Clippers game was the first L.A. game in a long time without any real Blake Griffin fireworks, but thankfully Portland put together one of their better performances of the season and made it worthwhile watching their 15-point win … Blake’s first bucket of the night was a perfect example of what makes him such a spectacular talent. Yes, he can jump and run and is quick and is learning how to shoot. But sometimes all it takes is effort. Just a few minutes in, Griffin (20 points, 18 rebounds) beat everyone down the court by about 10 feet before receiving a pass and finishing with a dunk … The Clips jumped out to a 16-2 lead, but that was the high point for them. Aldridge (28 points, 8 rebounds) did what he wanted all night and punctuated the win with a big alley-oop in the final seconds. Down the stretch, LMA forced Griffin into a few costly mistakes while finishing inside over the more-heralded power forward. Does Aldridge deserve an All-Star spot? He’s averaging 27 points per game since B-Roy got hurt … Eric Gordon (35 points, 7 threes) kept L.A. close, but a big third quarter by Portland that opened up a 13-point edge for the home team was too much to overcome … So can the Clippers make the playoffs? Using the “If they keep playing like this” argument doesn’t really work, because do you really see L.A. winning 11 out of every 15 games? With a young team like this, inevitably they’ll hit another skid or two where they go 3-7 or 4-10. Then we’ll see how they bounce back. It’s going to be a tough uphill climb either way … Portland’s Rose Garden is one of the few arenas in the League where the fans get so rowdy, you can sometimes hear women screaming on the crowd mics like it’s Nightmare on Elm StreetRead More>>

Bulls vs. Mavs was billed as a matchup between two leading MVP candidates and two darkhorse title contenders, but it was really just, well, kind of boring for long stretches. Both offenses were stuck in neutral in the first half, and aside from his one contractually-obligated acrobatic reverse layup, Derrick Rose (26 points, 9 assists) wasn’t even his usual explosive self for most of the first half … The Bulls finished the first half with a flurry, though, sparked by a crazy hustle play that led to Rose finding Ronnie Brewer for a baseline dunk over Jason Terry. Then Rose hit a step-back three in front of Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) to put Chicago up nine at the break … Things picked up in the second half, as Dallas took the lead but then D-Rose hit a bunch of shots down the stretch to pave the way for a Chicago win. The Mavs have won just once in their last eight games, and are still struggling to score without Caron Butler in the lineup. Rolling out Jason Kidd and Dirk and three random dudes just isn’t good enough anymore. But maybe Peja Stojakovic can help when he shows up. Oh wait, this isn’t 2002 … Should Dallas look into a trade for Rip Hamilton? Troy Murphy? Andre Iguodala? Carmelo? Relying on Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stevenson to make big contributions offensively is a losing plan … Reggie Miller called Rose the “quiet baby-faced assassin.” Something tells us that drawn-out nickname isn’t going to stick. Let’s keep “D-Rose” for now and work on something else … In the only other NBA game of the night, Charlotte outlasted Philly behind D.J. Augustin‘s 31 points and 8 assists. Off the court, though, the Bobcats learned that Tyrus Thomas will be sidelined for two months after an MRI revealed a tear of the lateral meniscus of his left knee … We want all 13 of our Spurs fans to weigh in: Charles Barkley said your city has fat women and a dirty river. Thoughts? … We’re out like Chuck’s San Antonio vacation …