Photo: Former WW freelancer Devan Cook hanging out with Jared Dudley at the bowling alley last night. Long story.
I was thinking tonight, fans. I was thinking "what if this was the last Blazer game I ever blogged?" Now, I'm not planning on retiring from WW
, or my Blazer-blogging duties, anytime in the offseason. But you never know. And I've certainly treated my body poorly enough this year that a heart attack isn't out of the question.
I was thinking about things that I'd miss as I made my way to the garden on this beautiful afternoon.
I'd miss the buffets. I don't list that first because it's the thing I'd miss the most, but because it's the first thing I normally do when I get here (right after walking by the suspicious-looking garage security guards).
I'd miss the nights that I get here early and watch shoot around. This doesn't happen often enough, but it's one of my favorite things about this gig. I like sitting courtside, watching a great player put up shot after shot and swishing 90 percent of them. I like the ritual that it represents, I like the flow of the movements, I like the inner calm that the players seem to have while shooting, and I like being able to sit so close I can hear the players teasing one another or hollering in frustration after missing a couple of shots in a row. I like that they're less self-conscious and under less pressure.
I'd miss watching the fans funnel in. I'd miss hearing the other reporters josh eachother, talking about anything but basketball. I'd miss the stupid intro videos and, of course, watching the games themselves from a vantage point I couldn't usually afford.
I'd miss leaving out through the garage, watching the pack of autograph seekers trying to figure out who I am—occasionally even mistaking me for some horribly out-of-shape player.
I'd miss the whole thing. So, just in case, I'm going to try and take it all in tonight. Thanks for reading these.
Maybe most of all I'd miss this! The fans chanting Let's Go Blazers right over the introductions, so you can't even hear the Phoenix players being introduced. Sure, some of the other rituals are a little weird (why is there a disco ball in a basket at center court? Why do they need a smoke machine? The 300 level isn't going to be able to see through that shit for a good 15 or 20 minutes. I know. I've been there.
Pardon me if I'm brief tonight. I really want to keep my eye on this game. Otherwise it's just all a bunch of screaming and booing.
You've gotta love Marcus Camby's passing game these past few contests. He starts with a layup tonight, but his second move is an alley-oop pass to LaMarcus.
The Suns, though, are shooting the lights out. They make four of their first five shots.
Game starts 13-4 Suns. It's not real pretty in the early going. I wouldn't call it just yet. The Blazers aren't going down without a fight, I feel confident about that.
So San Antonio beat the Mavericks in six games. I drew a picture of Dirk Novitzki earlier whilst watching the game go down. Not sure I got him quite right. He was moving around too much.
I can say, definitively, that this was what the Rose Garden looked like just before the player introductions.
Two early fouls on Amar'e, and the Blazer fans are letting him hear it. He looks pissed until he gets to the bench, when he starts laughing with teammates over the crowd's intense dislike of him.
Then Jason Richardson hits another three. He might consider moving to Portland, the kind of confidence this town gives him. I believe that's three threes thus far.
Haven't seen much out of Brandon Roy thus far, and it begs the question of whether or not he's strong enough to be out there right now. Earlier he tried to layup a rebound, and he just didn't have the hops to get up next to the basket.
Blazers are starting to play some defense now, and Amar'e looks uncomfortable for the first time. Still, the Blazers have scored 8 points in seven minutes, and are turning the ball over like mad. The Suns are fast-breaking at every opportunity.
Martell Webster checks in for Andre Miller. It seems to me that he should come in for Roy.
Amazingly, Phoenix has turned it over even more than the Blazers. (7 to 5, I believe.) That's a bad sign, not a good one. The fact that Phoenix is up 10 even with butterfingers is a pretty rough stat. The difference is that Phoenix has turned Blazer turnovers into fastbreak points. The Blazers have looked pretty roughin that department, though as I type Jerryd Bayless (who has been a firestarter in his few minutes off the bench) drives to the hole.
A timeout is called and it feels like someone just pumped ten tons of fresh air into the place.
Blazers get another stop in the paint. That has been their achilles heel all series long, and it's not one that's made an awful lot of sense. Besides Amare, none of Phoenix's scorer should really do much damage in the paint outside of the fast break.
Brandon Roy bricks a jumper and he still doesn't look quite right. I wouldn't say that if it weren't true. Meanwhile, LaMarcus goes out of the game with two points and one rebound. Not exactly a great 10 minutes. Juwan Howard and Dante Cunningham are both in the game, but I think I speak for a lot of Blazer fans when I say that Jeff Pendegraph is the guy we want to see. Age before beauty and all that, but JP is a beast when he's angry. I bet he'd be real angry with Louis Amundson pushing him around out there.
Quarter ends 24-17 with Phoenix on top. The Suns have 8 turnovers. Let's keep our eyes on that, eh.
Rudy checks in for Brandon Roy to tepid applause. What a difference five shitty games make, huh? Four, anyway. Four and a half. Four and three quarters.
LaMarcus gets first blood here in the third with a long jumper with an assist from Rudy. Don't get too excited, as it was a bail-out shot rather than a great pass. Martell, though, looks good in his early minutes and he hits another jumper here. Ballsy shot, too: He starts juking his man, then looking up at the shot clock before hitting the pullback J. Blazers down five.
Oh, Blazer fans, you're so sensitive. That was indeed an over-the-back foul committed against Channing Frye.
We see Rudy hit a three, then give one up on the other end. That's the breaks. Next time his man is Goran Dragic, and I gotta say, Rudy doesn't play terrible defense on him, but he still knocks down a three. It's in the scouting report: If that guy's on you, take the three.
But Rudy hits another. Watching this guy is insanely stressful. He turns the ball over and loses his assignment, all within the next thirty seconds. Before the cheering from his tre has even faded, he's missing his assignment. Rough. It's real rough.
Despite his defensive weaknesses, Rudy has his groove back on the offensive end. He just took the ball to the hoop, and narrowly missed a three-point opportunity. Then he missed a free-throw. Oh, Lord.
I'm torn over the sign that says "Arizona: Deport Nash." I'm not sure that's in good taste considering the legislation that's going on there.
Brandon drains a buzzer-beating three after Andre Miller can't get his layup past the Phoenix "big" men. Let's hope this is one of those magic threes.
Dragic hits one of his own. So much for magic.
Once again, I thought this was the playoffs. When a dude my age can get a whistle just for flopping his arms around in the general vicinity of some Blazers, it feels more like summer league.
It's Jeff Pendegraph's birthday. That makes me sad.
And this may sound strange, but the international players are much more prone to staring at big-screen replays than the U.S. players. I've seen it with my own two eyes.
Bayless hits one of two, making it a nine-point game. It's been hovering around there for a while now.
Blazers are shooting on every foul now, so it didn't really matter that the refs called this last one (against Amundson) as a non-shooter. LaMarcus goes to the line and cuts the lead down to seven.
In case you saw Martell nudging the ref with his finger just now, he was absolutely right to do so. Refs have the responsibility to try and get out of the way of the ball, and he didn't do so there. LaMarcus sacrificed his body for the save, and the ref stepped into it rather than away from it to cause the turnover.
Richardson hits a three, Blazers can't get a call, and suddenly Grant Hill can put the Suns up by 13. He does. It gets quiet in here.
53-41 Suns at the half.
Okay, I'd miss Quick Change, too. So cool, man.
So, if you're Brandon Roy right now, you're thinking "Do I have this in me? Am I physically and emotionally prepared enough to to get back in the drivers seat and lead my team right now?" Because if Roy can't explode, I've seen a few other Blazers who can. Martell, Nic Batum, Jerryd and yeah, even Rudy. Who's going to bring it and who's going to give in to the aches and pains and the overwhelming odds?
I'm asking you.
Nic Batum for three. And Steve Nash is starting the quarter a little of. He made a bad pass with no time on the clock to kick things off, and he missed a pretty straightforward jumper shortly thereafter.
Brandon Roy misses the easiest layup of his life, tossing it over the rim and down on the other side. If you're Nate, is there a point at which you pull him, or do you keep riding that train wherever the tracks are headed? I'm asking you.
I think if I'm Nate, I just showed my squad the last quarter of the Bucks/Hawks game from last night—in fast forward, of course. I mean, do the Blazers really want to fail at something that the BUCKS accomplished?
Granted, I really like the Bucks.
Uh-oh. I just had a vision of walking out of here, bummed that I won't get to see the Blazers play in Phoenix. It was a flash forward, like that terrible tv show.
A jump ball for Brandon, who can't jump. Let's se if he even tries.
He tries, but he can't jump.
Crowd starts cheering again. Brandon has the ball. He's double-teamed, so he kicks it to LaMarcus, who knocks down a jumper so long he probably should have taken a step back. For about ten seconds, it's a seven-point game. Jason Richardson, the Blazer Killer, makes it nine again.
The Blazers are playing about 18 seconds of great defense on most of the Suns' possessions. It's not quite enough. This time it's Channing Frye who steps back behind the line and lets it go. 14-point game. 17 minutes to get this thing back into shape. Greg Oden's on the big screen doing a promo. Not now. Don't show him now. Couldn't he be here tonight? Shouldn't he be here? Even if he has to get here in a wheelchair, where is the guy? And where's Joel?
Right now the Suns just look smarter. They don't look bigger or badder or more talented, the just look smarter. Getting a call or two here and there, perhaps, but mostly just doing a better job of playing lockdown defense and getting to the hole.
Brandon Roy for a potential three-point play. I hesitate to even say that. But he makes the free-throw. It's 13.
That's it, Blazers, one last run. Give 'em something to cheer about. Bayless on the fast break—he's learning but he looks good here.
It's 11. Then it's 12 when Amar'e splits a pair. Who's stepping up? Roy takes his man one on one but trips over his own feet. It's isolation every time. No fluidity, just isolation and hopefully a scrappy rebounder to pick up the miss or bounce an outgoing ball back in off a player from the other team. But the Blazers string together a few stops and get a few calls. Brandon Roy at the line. The Blazers look to be getting some momentum and you can feel the desperation, not so much from the players but from the fans.
Martell with a three to make it seven. It's loud. It's REALLY loud. The Suns turn it over and it feels like the beginning of the game again. Everyone clapping in unison. Martell's hot and he gets the ball again from the corner. Can he connect? Everyone's dead silent. It couldn't possibly—but IT DOES! Everyone is up (well, except media row). The place is crazy. It's a four-point game!
A foul called at the buzzer against Portland (after the crowd thought Brandon Roy had been fouled while letting a three-point shot fly). The crowd starts in with the "These Refs Suck" chant. WHich would be great except that Dan Crawford, Sean Corbin and Bob Delaney are some of the best refs in the biz.
Phoenix goes to the line to shoot two. Crowd don't like it, obviously. He can get this to nine if he hits them both. Hits the first. Crowd goes silent. Duds hits his second.
Well, this is why we watch basketball, right? A crazy series, a tight game, the underdogs coming into the fourth quarter with a nine-point deficit.
The crowd has been oceanic tonight. Sometimes it's calm waters and sometimes it's a storm—not always coinciding exactly with what's going on on the court, but close. There's lag time: An earthquake hits Hawaii and it's a few hours before the tsunami gets to Astoria. Up in section 225, Blaze is atop a giant ladder. The crowd likes the trick (kinda looks like the world's largest penis inside the world's largest Magnum), and Martell Webster immediately hits a three. I'm not connecting the dots directly between the two, but it worked out, whatever it was.
Two quick fouls against the Suns (WHAT HAVE I BEEN SAYING ABOUT AMUNDSON. JUST GET NEXT TO HIM AND FLOP! WORKS EVERY TIME!), and the Blazers kick all the way over the top of the key to Rudy Fernandez. He hits a three. Crowd is going out of their minds. It's a three-point game. Rudy kicks to Martell in the corner. He can't make that, no fucking way. But Jared Dudley hits him from behind and gets him to the line. No one's sitting down.
Martell to the line for three. Brandon Roy is out of the game, and he should stay out of the game unless these guys cool off.
Marty bookends his free-throws with makes and puts the Blazers down just one point. Suns get bailed out with a cheap foul call on the other end (the discrepancy was growing, you get the idea they had to call one), and wind up with a nice easy look for Barbosa. He gets his layup. The score keeps hovering between one and three.
Rudy, that's a terrible three. I understand that you think you're hot, but that was just not smart.
Guessing Brandon will check in for Rudy down the stretch, but for the record I don't like it. I think you keep your boys in while they're hot. In any case, you certainly can't take Bayless out. He's been the Zers best catalyst all game long.
Most refs would have called that a jump ball, I gotta say. But as a guy who'd really like to see some second round games, I don't mind that it was called a shove against Amar'e. LaMarcus hits one of two to tie the game up.
Things moving very slowly now. Verrrrrrrry slowly. The suns hit two in a row to make it a four-point game. This is without Steve Nash. Feels like a boxing match out there, and you get the feeling they're letting Portland keep swinging and swinging, wearing itself out.
I think the Blazer Dancers are doing a routine to Nickleback. But I'm not quite sure. Whatever it is, it's terrible and uninspiring. The crowd doesn't even try to cheer.
Let's see who Nate picks with seven minutes left.
Wow, Nate chooses the no point guard lineup. And they're fighting the good fight, even if they look a little nutty out there. Can Brandon Roy play point with that bum knee? We'll find out!
In a word? No. How long will Nate keep this squad out there if they can't move the ball?
Jason Richardson gets to the hole and it's a six-point game. The cheering sounds mournful now, and the Blazers are going cold. They need a timeout. Shot clock is running down to nothing. Phoenix scores again. It's back up to eight. Nice experiment, Nate, but it didn't work. BRANDON ROY DOES NOT BELONG IN THIS GAME. Make the hard decision and sit him down. You need Camby back in (because the Suns are getting everything they want in the post) and you need a real point guard.
The Suns know they have five minutes to win this series. The Blazers know they have five minutes to extend it to another agonizing game in Phoenix. They need to be shaken up. I think they need fresh blood, but Jeff Pendegraph is not getting in this game.
It's Miller, Roy, Martell, LaMarcus and Juwan Howard.
Fuck if I understand that lineup right now. I'm not sure why Camby can't get into this game, and if Bayless doesn't check in when there's more bleeding, I'm not sure I understand this coach. He's been the heart of this game. Andre Miller has been off.
Now, if Juwan is in to drive Amar'e to getting two quick technicals, that would make sense to me. They're chopping it up a bit right now. And Bayless checks in for Andre.
Jason Richardson hits a three. Martell misses a layup. It's a nine-point game. It's not looking good. Phoenix takes a timeout.
PEN-DE-GRAPH! PEN-DE-GRAPH! PEN-DE-GRAPH!
You want me to start eulogizing the season, or should I wait until it's over over?
Lineup stays the same, except Rudy comes in for Juwan.
Grant Hill gets to the foul line and misses his first. MIsses his second. Where is this going?
Brandon Roy hits a long jumper. Seven point game. Emotional game. Caveman blogging. Amar'e lays it in. Dagger?
I know it's all about matchups, and I'm smart enough to know I'm dumb. But I can't wrap my head around Camby being out. The Suns are taking it to the rim every time, and scoring like it's the easiest thing in the world.
This time they choose another weapon and kick to Nash for three.
This is how the season ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Amar'e dunks and the Suns bench is up, cheering fanatically. The Suns bobble a bit, but it's not going to be enough. Fans file out. Nate's still standing on the sidelines, hands in pockets, like a conductor about to fire up the band. Blazers keep fighting down the clock, as they a,ways do. Rudy gets a rebound, there's a last glimmer of hope. Brandon Roy lines up the three, he's hit from both sides but not enough to pick up a foul.
Half the fans file out, the other half cheer. "Let's Go Bla-Zers." They know it's over.
This is the team they wanted, right? Cause Dallas is looking pretty good right about now.
The good fans start the cheer up again while the bad ones (overwhelmingly in the 100 level, by the way) go out to beat traffic. The team hears the chant and stare up blankly into the crowd. Jerryd Bayless shakes his head and purses his lips. A Phoenix assistant coach looks up and around the arena.The Blazers foul, let Nash hit his free-throws, call a timeout. "Tonight, appetizers are 50 percent off at the tap room." Yeah, they'd better be!
What are we gonna talk about if we can't talk about the Blazers?
Brandon Roy tries a three and misses. Nate and company finally give up. Most of the Blazers head offcourt before they have a chance to give hugs and high-fives to the other team.
A few fans, as always, just keep sitting in their seats, in shock or just tired.
And everyone's saying "that was quite a season," and shit like that. Maybe I just remember the bad stuff (I've had ex-girlfriends accuse me of this), because I remember the miserable stuff.
But I have had a lot of fun, despite all that. I hope you have, too. I'll probably be back next season.