PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)—After the Portland Trail Blazers won their 11th straight game, normally stoic owner Paul Allen looked directly at a camera and jubilantly held up one finger on each hand to signify the streak.
That’s what winning is doing for the surprising Blazers.
“We’re going out there with all the confidence in the world, and a sense of urgency at the same time,” forward Martell Webster said. “It’s resulting in wins.”
The Blazers own the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and it’s their best run since they won 12 in a row during the 2001-02 season.
Joel Przybilla had a season-high 16 rebounds to go with six points, and Portland improved to 13-3 at the Rose Garden this season.
The Blazers all acknowledged this game was big. Not only was the streak on the line, but it was a nationally televised game on a holiday that has traditionally showcased stars such as Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.
“I remember as a kid watching Michael Jordan play on Christmas,” Przybilla said. “This is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I don’t know that I’ll ever get that chance again in my career.”
Portland has played 13 times on Christmas, with a 12-game winning streak.
After shaking off some nerves in the first half, Portland pulled away in the third quarter with a 16-2 run capped by Roy’s 3-pointer that put the Blazers ahead 66-50. Jack’s falling-down 3 from the corner made it 89-75 and sealed it with 2:11 left.
Portland won despite shooting a season-low 38.7 percent (36-of-93) from the floor.
“It really doesn’t seem like Christmas. I’m used to sitting in the house and watching Kobe play,” Durant said. “It’s an honor playing on a great day like this, but it would have been better if we had gotten the win.”
When the NBA schedule came out, this game was expected to feature the top two draft picks: center Greg Oden, who went No. 1 to the Blazers, and Durant, who went second to the Sonics. But Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee and was lost for the season before it started.
Portland’s winning streak brought renewed interest in the game. Oden watched from the bench wearing a festive red sport coat.
One Blazers fan in the sellout crowd waved a sign reading “11 is Heaven.” It is the first time a team has had a 50-loss season, then an 11-game winning streak the following season. Portland went 32-50 last season.
Portland, the youngest team in the NBA, started its streak with a win Dec. 3 at Memphis after going 5-12 to start the season. Eight of the 11 wins have come at home.
“Everybody has just jelled. Everybody is talking on defense, communicating. No one is complaining,” forward Channing Frye said. “This is a really unique team to be on.”
The Blazers were coming off a 99-96 victory at home over Denver on Friday. The Sonics hosted Toronto that night and also won, 123-115.
The Sonics and Blazers have met five times on Christmas, with Portland undefeated in the series.
The Blazers went up 46-41 as the clock wound down in the first half, but Durant hit a 3-pointer to narrow it to 46-44 at the break. Szczerbiak helped keep it close with 15 first-half points, including 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range.
As for the streak, the Blazers are brimming with confidence.
“We’re not looking at it like, let’s not lose,” Roy said. “We can win these games.”
Rookie Taurean Green returned to the Blazers after being recalled from the Idaho Stampede of the NBA’s Development League, where he played in four games. … Seattle center Robert Swift remained sidelined with a bruised right knee. … A pair of Seattle fans hoisted a sign reading “Save the Sonics,” a reference to owner Clay Bennett’s intention to move the franchise from Seattle to Oklahoma City. … The Blazers’ longest winning streak is 16 straight, during the 1990-91 season.