Welcome to Almost Live, where we watch San Antonio play Dallas because you're too cheap for NBA League Pass. Right now, Roger Mason is firing off three-pointers like it's his birthday, and Dirk Novitzki is...well, being Dirk. Score's 84-72 Dallas. Tony Parker pushes off and Dallas has the ball once again.
How strange would it be if San Antonio was throwing its game against Dallas so that it could play Dallas in the first round of the playoffs? Seems like a distinct possibility somehow. The cameras flash on the girl from Scrubs and her anonymous (to me, anyway) boyfriend.
If San Antonio loses, remember, they are locked into playing Dallas, meaning Portland will face off against either the Utah Jazz or the Phoenix Suns (see flow chart below to figure out which).
Here in Portland, there are about 50 kids on the basketball court, jumping rope to Van Halen's famed song about jumping (the name of which escapes me now). Outside the big fountain was actually on, and a truck full of video games was parked near the main entrance, with giddy kids in full relaxation mode inside of it, putting off going to the basketball game as long as possible in favor of its digital equivalent. The Garden is slow to fill, and its hard to say just how loud it'll be.
While you ponder all this information, I'll be chowing down on the extra brownies I grabbed from the media room. I'm always on the clock for you, dear readers.
UPDATE: The Spurs coaching staff might be throwing in the towel, but the Spurs players are not. Dallas makes a stupid foul and puts Keith Bogans in the contest. Dallas is only up by 7 now, and it's San Antonio's ball. I'll keep you updated.
BY THE WAY, playoff tickets go on sale at 2 pm tomorrow on trailblazers.com. You should be aware of this.
The video cameras backstage show what is supposed to be a hyped group of Blazers saying a team prayer before the game, but only a few Blazers are back there—B-team, mostly. Waitaminute! That's the TEAM! No Roy, no LaMarcus...no star power aside from Marcus Camby and cult favorite Rudy Fernandez. Who's going to step up tonight?
UPDATE: Dallas wins. The Blazers will not be facing them in the playoffs.
INSPIRING PRE-GAME FILM TIME! It's a jittery black-and-white video with Kid Rock-style riffage bleeding far into the red. Shots of Roy dunking, Rudy draining threes, Bayless and Batum getting fancy, even Andre Miller throwing down. "UPRISE!" is hollered at the end of the tape. The jumpy black and white footage transforms to a full color shot of the Zers logo on the court. Then an anti-climactic shot of Ronnie Turiaf on the court. It is so on. Warrior players are introduced and their pre-game ritual looks like a hazing: introduced players are shoved around like pinballs between the bumpers.
The Blazers, as usual for this end-of-season fan appreciation night, come in through the various entrances around the court. I want to see Jeff P do his pre-game ritual and bounce into the fans the way he dances with his fellow players, but he's pretty focused on watching his feet so he doesn't trip and fall down the stairs.
Patty Mills takes center court to thank the fans for their support—though he's played less than anyone (except Diener, maybe?)—and the fans appreciate his sultry Aussie greeting, cheering loudly.
In Utah, the Jazz and Suns are a minute in—no one has scored yet, but the Suns already look feisty. We'll keep you updated on that front, as well.
There's a bit of a shuffle in the Blazers' starting lineup, but the end result is Juwan, Dante, Nic, Rudy and Andre. I wanna say that's a first, but you know, I'm not sure it is.
FIRST QUARTER (AND I'VE ALREADY BLOGGED OVER 600 WORDS. GET READY FOR A LONG NIGHT!)
Thus far, it's a basketball game.
Kinda hard to hate on the Warriors. Monta Ellis crashes scooters and Stephen Curry looks about 12 years old. Anthony Tolliver is a D-League success story and, you know, so is half the team. A couple well-traveled vets, blossoming stars and passed-over players: That's a nice dynamic. Deven George hits a three and proves my point. Late in the season, the Warriors are learning how to play together and it's fun to watch.
Phoenix is down one point to Utah with 4:53 remaining in the opening quarter. As both these teams are playoff-bound, we might not know what they're all about until the fourth quarter. If this is still a battle, will one team give extended rest to its marquee players? Will Nash or Deron wind up with more minutes? And who'll come out on top? Remember, if the Suns win, the Blazers—win or lose tonight—are playing the Suns in the opening round.
A deft layup from Tolliver, who's getting his revenge tonight on a Blazer team that didn't want him.
Funny enough, we haven't seen Marcus Camby yet tonight. Is he out for the whole game? Time will tell.
Tolliver strikes again. 21-17 Golden State.
The Warriors are a poor man's Phoenix Suns, so I'm going to go ahead and suggest that if the Blazers can't stay in this game (Tolliver just hurled a gorgeous touch-pass into the corner for Steph, who knocked down the three), they should probably root for the Jazz.
It never ceases to amaze me that some people get pissed off when they're spotted by the "hair cam" or some other such big-screen tomfoolery. Old, bald folks seem to be especially turned off by it.
Was that a Jeff Pendegraph sighting? Oh my god, it was! Still no Camby (maybe someone has done reporting that I didn't do? Press row seems baffled, so I don't think so) [POST-BLOG NOTE: I really should have looked at the flow chart. Nate didn't mind taking the Loss tonight because the Blazers no longer controlled their own fate once San Antonio lost...made sense later on...], but JP with the nice dunk. Nic Batum, however, needs to work on them free-throws. Missing two in a row? That ain't right.
Nice to see the young bucks getting a workout on the eve of the playoffs. Bayless drains a three after the kickout from Pendy, and next time up it's Pendy with another big two-handed dunk. On defense, it's Pendy with the steal and a Rudy-to-Nic alley-oop dunk results from it. Tie game.
Pendegraph proved a difference maker in that stretch. Four points, two rebounds and a dish in just a few minutes. But Portland is playing at Phoenix's pace. If they keep going like this, the game will wind up in the 120-140 range. Not sure if that's the gameplan, but right now it's working out alright.
Not so much defense on the court. But lots and lots of Pendegraph, who just threw down another big dunk. The Warriors tried to get him T'd up for hanging on the rim, but it was pretty clear that he was hanging on the rim to avoid crushing them with his massive body.
A few mental mistakes out there, but you've gotta love the speed and flash of this young Blazer team. Rudy is taking on more point guard responsibilities while sharing the backcourt with Bayless, and for the most part, it's an improvement in ball movement and fast-breaking. 44-41 Blazers.
Sometimes these fratty trike-riding competitions aren't taken very seriously, but this time they're playing for tickets to Cabo, and the contestants nearly kill themselves while bolting to the finish line. "PHOTO FINISH!" Todd screams. "THAT'S THE CLOSEST FINISH WE'VE EVER HAD IN THE ROSE GARDEN!" He seems genuinely enthused. Good for him.
Phoenix is up 37-27.
This dude's sign has Brandon Roy as Captain America, Andre Miller as the Flash (I think), and LaMarcus Aldridge as Green Lantern. REALLY? GREEN LANTERN? I'd be marching up there and starting some shit if I were LaMarcus. He coulda been the Punisher, or Mr. Fantastic or the Incredible Hulk or Wolverine or ANYONE. But the Green Lantern? Really? What does the Green Lantern even do? Shit I'd rather be depicted as Doctor Strange or Nightcrawler than the Green Lantern—at least then I'd know what people think of me.
So Travis Diener is in the game now. He just missed a three as I was typing. I'd like to note that this kind of lineup shuffling (besides the obvious injury-forced shuffling) is not really normal for Nate. And I don't really understand if there's a strategy behind it. Perhaps he's so sure that Phoenix will win tonight (a good bet, as Boozer and Kirilenko are both out) that he thinks tonight's game won't matter, post-Spurs loss. Or maybe he genuinely doesn't care whether the Zers play the Jazz or the Suns in the finals. In any case, it's looking like a genius move right now with Phoenix up big on the Jazz and the Blazers still winning here in the Rose City.
The cheerleaders get down to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance."
It's Pendy's world and we're just living in it. He takes the Zers up by four. Phoenix, if you were wondering, is up 18 on Utah. Barring a fail on the level of the Blazers' epic loss to Utah earlier this year, Portland's fate is looking real warm and dry (vs. religious and dry of booze).
Jeff Pendegraph would win a cage match with Anthony Tolliver, but I'm gonna say right now that it'd be a close fight. Tolliver's real resourceful.
Monta Ellis ends the first half with a drive to the basket and a should-be foul from Nic Batum. He makes the basket. It's 60-22 at the end of the half. Utah, meanwhile has got the Phoenix lead down to 13. The night certainly isn't over.
It's these guys:
Increasingly, it seems, the halftime show is performed by folks from various reality shows.
OMG OMG OMG! Halftime Rootbeer Floats in the Media Room! My heroes! Yum!
I love Rudy the Passer, and these last few games he's had some real beauties. This one's a lob to the cutting Dante Cunningham, and Dante throws it down.
62-62. Dante is looking pretty good tonight, too. It's a quiet double-double he's got. 13 and 10 boards with almost a whole half to go. Dante's the high scorer tonight, with Jeff right behind him. Who'd a thunk it? Well, I wouldn't have, anyway. I'm sure somebody would have.
Wow, the Jazz raised a banner for Larry Miller, their deceased owner, tonight. That's some pressure for ya. Maybe we'll se a run from them in the second half.
Meanwhile, here in Portland, how embarrassed is Golden State going to be if they get their asses beat by the Blazer B-team? C-team, even.
Patty Mills gets quite a rousing applause upon his introduction to the game. Men at Work's "Down Under" plays, which I would find sort of insulting if I hadn't heard Mills endorse every Australian stereotype the other night.
He's quick out there, if a touch confused-looking. But he cuts through the back lane behind Juwan Howard and pops out at the three-point line on the other end. When kicked the ball, Mills drop-steps into the lane and pulls up for a nice Brandon Roy-esque jumper. Swish. Crowd goes wild. But not as wild as they go when Rudy Fernandez pump fakes at the three-point line and then drains one. Niceness.
Still a game, and Rudy's really coming into his own. This time he pulls up at the tip of the three-point line, then kicks to Patty in the corner. Kid Koala drains that shit like it were a big old can of Foster's. It's a bonzer!
Also, take note of the time and date: I have coined Patty's awesome new nickname, Kid Koala.
Deen Castronovo, the current drummer for Journey, is in attendance. He looks so fucking stoked when they show him on the big screen. He also looks kind of like a creepier Tommy Lee.
DUNK OF THE NIGHT! DUNK OF THE NIGHT! Pendy goes right past his defender and gets some real nice air. Granted, there's not a ton of worthy defense tonight, but most of the Blazers are firing on all cylinders. Smart move by Nate to test these guys out. Meanwhile, Phoenix maintains a 16-point lead.
Wow, that was terrible. Todd rightly disqualifies the kid who's last to sit in the Musical Chairs competition, saying that the winner will be decided by a coin flip. The crowd boos wildly (sounded like the Dallas game), and Todd says "It's fan appreciation night, we're gonna let you decide!" The crowd cheers overwhelmingly for the kid that cheated! COME ON PORTLAND, YOU'RE BETTER THAN THAT! I hope the league reviews this game of Musical Chairs, because it was unAmerican the way this thing went down. I'm outraged!
Devean George drains a long two. He has 16 thus far. Looking like a young buck out there. Patty Mills hits a corner three on the other end. I tell you, Rudy as distributor is a beautiful thing. I get the feeling he'll rack up a lot of minutes against the Suns (who are now up 23 points).
A little-kid Michael Jackson impersonator takes the floor and steals the spotlight from the Blazer Dancers. He's pretty good (didn't pull out the moonwalk, but the rest of his moves were pretty dang slick), and gets the second-loudest cheer of the evening (Kid Koala having wooed this crowd the most).
There are eight minutes left, people, obviously you're going to get your Chalupa. Pendy makes sure of this with a long two from the corner.
Stephen Curry's stroke is real damn nice. He hits from three-point range and gives the Warriors a two-point lead before Batum ties it up on the other end. Blazers going a little cold here in the fourth, and two quick GS baskets makes it 104-108 in their favor.
T-shirt shooting time. In Phoenix, Dragic drives to the hole (he looks more like Steve Nash every day) and uses his body to create space and bank in a layup. The guy is a real emerging talent. Check his averages in the last month:
18:42 minutes, 42 percent shooting, 80 percent free throws, 8.1 points, 2.3 boards, 4.2 assists and almost a steal a game.
That's a real improvement and it's a real boost for the Suns to have a reliable bench player while Steve Nash is getting his towel-cocoon beauty sleep. He's gotta have a few inches on Bayless, too. It's going to be an interesting and tricky bench matchup.
Don Nelson is pulling that old trick: Devean George is fouled out of the game, and Don Nelson won't sub him out. I think a coach gets a couple of minutes to put in their sub, but Nelson is about to go over his allotted time. The whole crowd is booing now, and Nelson finally puts Chris Hunter in for George. No techs are given out because Nelson is within his rights to take his time with the sub, but he's been arguing with the refs loudly the whole time, and the crowd wants a tech. Nelson almost looks like he's asking for it—which is strange, because the Warriors are only down four points. Wild stuff. Perhaps they thought the refs had the numbers wrong on George? Or Don Nelson just wanted to be a dick. Mission accomplished.
Nelson keeps arguing the point, whatever the point is. Can someone listening to the TV broadcast fill me in? Crowd wants him thrown out, but he must realy believe he has a point, or he wouldn't be dragging it out this long. Twitters are saying Nelson wants George in because of some obscure sub rule where George can come in if every one of his fouls becomes a tech. I have never heard of this in my life, but maybe it's the case for a team that's decimated by injury. Nelson is still screaming. The refs aren't having it, but they're also not sure enough of themselves to give Nelson the tech. This is a ridiculous fucking display. Get on with the game.
DON NELSON IS BONAFIDE INSANE. HE IS ACTUALLY INSANE. AND HE'S STILL YELLING AT THE REFS. But he has—through a systematic campaign of having his players intentionally foul Blazer players—succesfully subbed Devean George into this basketball game. I've never heard of these rules. I don't think anyone here has heard of these rules. Stephen Curry knocks down a three to put the Warriors up by three points. So the mad doctor of basketball, Don "Drunk as Hell" Nelson, may just win this game after exploiting a loophole that makes zero sense. Curry drives to the hole and gets fouled—he's got the potential to put the Warriors up by five. Hits the first.
The ideal play on the other end would be to drain a three and pick up a foul on Devean George. That would be a possible five-point play.
Bayless scores two. Anthony Tolliver picks up a foul on Pendy. He can get the game back to five. Misses the first. Makes the second. BLazers give it to Bayless on the other end, and he's whacked a bit by George, but apparently not enough to pick up the foul. I really, really want to see George pick up a foul, if you couldn't tell. But now Curry is on the line, and he can make this a six-point game. He does, and Nate calls timeout. Don Nelson has emptied his whole bench, sending them back to the locker room. They must be as confused as anyone. I guess he had to tell them all to pretend to be injured? What. The. Fuck?
Reggie Williams can seal the game here. And he basically does. Blazers will let the clock run out, down by six. They will play the Suns in the first round of the playoffs (barring a two-minute, 18-point run by the Jazz.
Well, it wasn't pretty, but it finished off the season and it got the Blazer bench a lot of game-time experience. The uninjured players will hang out and sign some autographs on fan appreciation night, and we'll all be watching this weekend as the Blazers take on the Phoenix Suns in what is sure to be a really, really fun first round. So many great series to look forward to:
In the West:
Los Angeles vs. OKC
Dallas vs. San Antonio
Phoenix vs. Portland
Utah vs. Denver
and in the East:
Cleveland vs. Chicago
Orlando vs. Charlotte
Atlanta vs. Milwaukee
Boston vs. Miami
Looks like we'll be right here live-blogging the first round for you, fans (got my parking passes today!), so stay tuned for much more fun and ridiculousness. Until next time...