Former Dawgs duke it out in Rip City

PORTLAND, Ore. - Nate Robinson stood off to the side of the floor down the line from his bench, a towel covering his face and head. His back was to the game. With 4.3 seconds left and the New York Knicks up by one, Robinson was subbed out for the 6-foot-11 Jared Jeffries.

"(Robinson) is 5-8, and we wanted length," Knicks Head Coach Mike D'Antoni would say after the Portland Trailblazers took the heart out of the Knicks' effort on the road with a 109-108 win at the Rose Garden via another ho-hum play by Brandon Roy.

Here's how it all unfolded: Roy took the ball near the half-court line, he went to his left, dribble-penetrated down the left side of the key, split a double-team going toward the cup and rattled home a finger roll that dropped through the net as the backboard showed red.

"I knew I was going to get the shot off," Roy said. "When it was rolling I saw the red light. If I missed, I can't tip it."

And with that buzzer-beater, the Blazers improved their season record to 31-19. "We didn't want to lose three games in a row," Roy added. "Hopefully this will propel us into something special, a real run."

More importantly, the real scoreboard reads Roy 4, Robinson 0. Though older by a couple of months, Robinson has not been treated as Roy's elder. In fact, when Nate went for his current career high - 45 against Portland eleven months ago, the Blazers still won the game. And Roy put together his first career triple-double (20 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists) in a 94-88 overtime win last year.

"It's fun, but he seems to win all the time," Robinson said, matter-of-factly.

"I have bragging rights, so I knew he wasn't going to let me off easy," Roy added with a laugh. "We won by one, so I needed every bit of that 19 (points). It's always fun playing against Nate."

Those bragging rights turned what was already a phenomenal game into something just a little bit bigger for the two former Washington Huskies. Robinson said he still catches hell from his friends out on the east coast because of the Sonics leaving Seattle. With Robinson and Roy both being Emerald City products, the Knicks-Blazers game became a mini-showcase for these Washingtonians. And don't think for a moment the two won't be talking about it during those summer runs at Hec Ed and other spots about Seattle.

The way Robinson tells it, Roy isn't the kind to gloat. Rainier Beach star turned Golden State Warrior Jamal usually starts the banter off, then Brandon will chime in. "Brandon's a little sneaky," said Nate. "He'll throw little jabs in there now and again, but he's a good sport about it."

It didn't start out roses for the visitor; Robinson had two points in ten minutes of play the first half. The Knicks were down nine and on the verge of losing their 29th game of the year.

But spurned by Robinson's energy and run of good play - especially early in the fourth quarter when he scored seven-straight for the Knicks - New York managed to erase their deficit and actually take a 97-84 lead with 8:08 left, courtesy of a Robinson 25-foot 3-pointer.

"Nate played exceptionally well," said D'Antoni. "He gave us the confidence we needed."

"When he got going, I kept telling my guys he can get hot; he can make any shot," Roy added. "I've seen it a number of times - here and at Washington. I always want the best for him, but we needed this win."

Given the fact that Roy and Robinson have been going at each other on the blacktop since the fifth grade, the Blazer guard lobbied Portland Head Coach Nate McMillan to take Robinson on himself.

He got his wish.

"I told coach to let me guard him a little bit," Roy said afterward. "When you are going up against some you know, I was hoping I could psyche him out a little bit. He did get hot. He cooled down a little bit; I was able to talk him out of some of those shots. But he's such a tough little dude to guard. He's so small, nobody really matches up with him very well. I didn't want him to win after he got hot."

And when the 2007 NBA Rookie of the Year had his chance to take the win away from Robinson and the Knicks, he made it pay. All Robinson could do was turn his back, put a towel over his head and pray Roy couldn't do what he's done countless times before. Whether the Arizona Wildcats or the Houston Rockets, Roy has a penchant for the spectacular play when it matters most.

"I didn't want to watch," Robinson said, admitting he didn't know how his former UW teammate scored at the end. "It was going to be hard to deny him the ball, he's so good. He's just magical. You have to hold him in. He's so crafty. There aren't too many people that can keep him from getting what he wants.

"We tried. The last couple of teams have been tough. But we need to keep moving forward and we'll be OK."


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