“We relaxed,” he said simply.
Miller had 10 points and 11 assists for the Trail Blazers in their 87-81 victory over tenacious Detroit. Portland led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but the Pistons closed to 78-77 with 1:05 left.
“They could have easily laid down, but they fought and got back in the game,” Miller said. “We could have easily lost that game.”
The Pistons chipped away and made it 78-75 with 1:29 to go after Charlie Villanueva(notes) hit a pair of jumpers. After Steve Blake(notes) made a bad pass on Portland’s end, Villanueva’s fast-break layup cut it to 78-77.
Blake redeemed himself, however, by hitting a 3-pointer with 25.2 seconds left.
The teams traded free throws before Villanueva’s tip-in made it 83-81 with 10 seconds remaining, but that was as close as Detroit got.
Blake and Miller hit four straight foul shots for the final margin.
Brandon Roy(notes) and LaMarcus Aldridge(notes) each had 20 points and Blake scored 17 for the Blazers, home after a 4-1 road trip. Portland has won eight of 10 to improve to 9-4, its best record after 13 games since opening 11-2 in 1999-2000.
“That fourth quarter, we turned it around,” Villanueva said. “But we need to play like that the whole game. We were right there. We were so close.”
Portland had won six straight games before a 99-95 loss in overtime at Atlanta on Monday night.
Blazers owner Paul Allen, who is being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy, attended the game—his first since his battle with cancer was announced. Looking thinner, Allen gave a thumbs-up to fans when he was shown on the video scoreboard before the game.
His Blazers built on an early lead, going up 38-29 on Roy’s 3-pointer midway through the second quarter.
Portland broke it open in the third quarter. Roy’s one-handed dunk made it 65-46 and Blake’s 3-pointer extended it to 68-48.
“We just blew that lead,” Roy lamented. “We tried to get our starters back in there late and we did the best we could to get back in the flow of the game. We held them off.”
Detroit was coming off a 106-93 loss to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. The Pistons are hurting without Richard Hamilton(notes), who has a sprained right ankle, and Tayshaun Prince(notes), who has a ruptured disk.
“Some of it is missing Travis,” Roy said about the fourth quarter. “That’s his time to come in and get some easy baskets for us in that fourth quarter to keep our rhythm. We’ve just got to learn that he’s not going to be there so we need guys like Martell (Webster) and Rudy to continue to step up.”
NOTES: Ken Griffey Jr. attended the game. Earlier this month, Griffey and the Mariners agreed to another one-year contract that will keep the popular player in Seattle for what could be his final season. Griffey turns 40 on Nov. 21. … Jonas Jerebko(notes) fouled out for the Pistons with less than a minute left.