So, Blake Griffin and Joel Przybilla are going to get in a fight tonight, right? I mean, they'll at least get in a really wicked stare-down. And I can't wait. Even if it incites Blake and gets him playing ridiculous basketball, I want it to happen. Because I crave violence. Because I was raised on it. Because I'm an American, damnit.
I've talked to a few people today who think this game will be an outright ass-whooping, and that Portland will be the team getting whooped. But folks who've followed this crazy season know that anything can happen with this Blazer team, and folks who've followed the Blazers in the past few years know that they occasionally play their best basketball in the most unlikely of circumstances. So I won't be bold enough to make predictions—after all, the uncertainty is one of the things I love about this game.
And the game is about to begin.
So, Baron Davis is late to the game, which is problematic because he's starting. Everyone stands around as he takes off his warmups and gives a couple rocks to Blazer players. He winds up getting the tip from Deandre Jordan, and if you've been watching Baron lately you know that he's starting to hit his stride. He's not heavily involved in this game, tossing the ball to Blake, who misses a hookshot. Blazer fans are hoping to see a lot of that tonight. And it is, for the record, LaMarcus defending Blake Griffin and not Joel, who is starting tonight. We'll see if that keeps up (it may have to, as Joel's minutes are still going to likely be in the 20s and not the 30s or 40s).
Nic Batum misses a layup, and only Baron has got anything to go thus far. 2-0 Clips.
This time downcourt it was Nic Batum guarding Griffin, and he tangled him up pretty well (could have been a foul, for sure). So maybe there's a "fog of war" defensive strategy being employed here? Or maybe Nic is just the only Blazer fast enough to get back on Griffin, who tends to get out on the break conspicuously fast.
Surreal! They just introduced Typhoon, Y La Bamba, Drew Grow and the Portland Cello Project on the big screen. They have luxury boxes tonight. I might have to go blog the second half of the game with those guys, huh? My two worlds are colliding!
That throttling people have been predicting looks a little too likely at the moment. Blazers aren't getting many good looks, and when they do, they're not going in. Miller misses a mid-range fadeaway jumper and the Clips outlet immediately to Griffin, who runs the floor for an easy dunk. The crowd is half-silent and half oohs and ahhs. Someone behind the basket holds up a sign that just says "10," an allusion to the upcoming dunk contest, which Griffin will completely dominate.
Clips are off to a 14 and 2 start. This could be a harbinger of things to come this season—the Clippers are on the way up and the Blazers...well, we'll see about the Blazers.
Wes Matthews forces a twisted-body layup to drop and the crowd rejoices. But the Clips are out fast on the break again, and narrowly miss the opportunity for an alley-oop to Jordan. Some improved D from the Zers, though, with Miller the recipient of a couple of loose balls in a row. Look for Dre to set the tone here...
...he misses his first free-throw. Hits the second.
Wes Matthews hits a three. I know what the Mikes are saying: "WES-LEY MATTHEWS with a timely three, and they sure needed that one," Barrett says. "You said it partner, and the Blazers are HEATING UP against this young Clipper ball club!"
One teenage boy has an "I HEART CHARLES BARKLEY" sign. His friend's sign says "MARRY ME, RUDY FERNANDEZ." Either they're holding their girlfriend's signs while they're gone or Blazer games are getting outer and prouder by the minute. Or it's a joke, in which case, I don't really know what to say about it.
Patty Mills checks in to some pretty impressive applause, but the Blazers are still down 10 points after LaMarcus hits a pair of free-throws. Let's see if Mr. Mills can help make this a game.
Can we make a list of our most favoritest incensed coaches? Because Vinny Del Negro is right up there with Stan Van Gundy on the top of my pile. It must be the three-name thing. They've been angry since birth because they couldn't just have two names like normal kids.
Crowd getting into it after a Wes Matthews three and a Rudy dunk—now Patty Mills lines up to fire a straightforward jumper and it's good. Roar! I heard a roar! 23-20 Clips.
Wow! What a game-tying three for Wes Matthews. The crowd is loving it until the alley-oop to Blake Griffin silences the room. That kid can jump. Maybe I need some knee surgery!
Well, the Griffin dunk, followed by an Eric Gordon tip-in (he must have rebounded his own miss three times—you can see what's happened to the Blazer rebounding game since losing Camby. 27-23 Clips.
So, I was feeling sentimental this morning, and I thought about different ways to look back on this Blazer season thus far. I decided the best way to look back was to run the subject line of every Blazer press release from the last year. So here you go, from the most recent to the oldest (because that's the way my inbox sorts things):
In retrospect, some of those are kind of hard to read. But get a teenager to read them for you.
Hot damn, Eric Bledsoe is quick! ANd I think this team ought to play Al-Farouq Aminu more. He's a sharp kid and he's a good shooter. He tips in the basket as I type, over Joel Przybilla. Did I mention he can jump? He can jump.
Joel has a rebound bounce to him, and after outletting to Rudy, the ball winds up with Nic Batum, who finishes at the hoop. It's only Joel's second rebound, and he's really getting dominated by the taller Clips tonight.
People already love and hate Blake Griffin with a real passion. I don't remember the last rookie who got this kind of divisive attention (not even LeBron, who was pretty widely loved upon arriving in the NBA). It feels like a slow game for Blake thus far, but he already has 10 points and 7 rebounds—which, remarkably, IS kind of a slow game for him these days.
Patty Mills with the nice forced turnover on Blake, and both of them look completely winded.
As if granted to them by supernatural forces, the Blazers have got their offensive rebounding groove back. Joel, Rudy and LaMarcus have all gotten into the act these past few minutes, and that's really, really key for the Blazers. Still down 40-35 with seven minutes left, and Nate wants to have a chat. I wonder if he'll use the word "ENERGY" which is tonight's Sesame Street word of the day, projected on the Southwest wall of the arena.
The Clippers have some pretty raw young talent in the big man department, plus ex-Blazer (well, ex-everything) Ike Diogu, who is playing well as of late. So instead of going small without Joel, Sean Marks will check in for Joel Przybilla. With his new haircut, he is harder to distinguish from Joel than usual.
TEEVEE TIMEOUT! WAHOO!
Sean Marks' game is looking more like Przybilla's, too. Let's see if he's adopted the Thrilla's fiery disposition, eh?
His gather is like ten seconds long, but Baron Davis can still dunk. I have a chubby kitten that does the same move before he tears up the couch—little butt-wiggle, eyes get big and he sticks out his tongue in heavy concentration, and he uses every ounce of ENERGY in his body to reach the apex of his bound.
Wes Matthews is up to 12 points, and he's doin quite a lot to keep these Blazers in the game. 45-44 Clippers as we barrel towards the half.
Wes-Matt's hot streak continues with a three. The goggles go on.
Also, I can't tell, is Baron Davis wincing in pain or just making a Dave Chappelle face? No, he's wincing. Trainer comes out to check on him.
Blazers up 47-45.
Blake is getting a little frustrated, but instead of picking up his aggression level and risking an offensive foul or a tech, he gets smarter, kicking the ball out to cutters.
Portland doesn't seem to believe the Blazers have committed a foul on Griffin yet, but the truth is that they keep meeting him in mid-air, and it's real tough not to call those.
Okay, that one may have been a little silly. LaMarcus Aldridge picks up a cheap foul on Blake Griffin (Griffin stopped moving and LaMarcus ran into his butt, basically), and the crowd is kind of insanely angry about it. They really hate either Griffin or this officiating crew...or both. And while I firmly believe that Griffin will in time be the bad guy (he's just too confident and smug to keep from becoming a villain in this league), he hasn't done anything too nasty in this game. He does already have 13 points and 12 rebounds, though. LaMarcus is the Blazers' high rebounder with 7.
HALFTIME! Get real cozy, drink some whiskey and watch this Blake Griffin highlight reel while wishing fate hadn't been so cruel to Greg Oden.
Blazers start of with more action from Wes Matthews, and Joel Przybilla, bless his heart, is setting some very nice screens out there (ala Joel circa 2007).
Andre Miller pokes the ball from a showy Eric Gordon, who gets the ball again on the inbound, and promptly drains a three. What is that, four three-pointers for Gordon? Wait, lemme tell you—nope, just two.
Now THAT'S four three-pointers for Gordon. What a rapscallion. Someone ought be guarding that man.
Wes-Matt and LaMarc are getting up there in the scoring department, the former with 19 to the latter's 18. They're playing of eachother a lot, too—Marc draws a double-team that draws a defender off Wes; Wes offers a quick inlet pass to Aldridge and he scores quickly—there's some nice chemistry building between those two. On the other end, you'll see Blake Griffin wandering around, setting half-assed screens and asking for the ball out near the three-point line. He's a good enough individual scorer that sometimes he deserves to get the ball in less-than-ideal positions, but right now the Blazer offense is a bit more fluid.
That's the play everyone was waiting for: LaMarc backing Griffin into the paint, spinning and turning on him to drop the jumper, take the foul and head to the line. If LaMarc is going to get into the all-star game over Blake (and that's still a longshot at this point), he's going to have to embarrass the kid tonight. He did it there. After the play, Blake stood beneath the basket and stared up at the big screen, watching the slow-motion replay straight-faced. He might have been looking to see where the foul occurred, but it looked like he was watching to say "what can I learn from this guy."
LaMarc misses the free-throw.
The longest timeout ever took my head completely out of this game. What's happening? Who are the Clippers? Why is everyone in the same general color scheme? Is it Valentine's Day? Am I dead? Are you dead?
It's not so much that Andre Miller's layup was short, it's that Andre Miller is short. That's something he needs to work on in the offseason.
Blazers up 72-65.
I'm no genius, but I did just say (aloud) "You can't give him that much room" when I saw Wes Matthews hanging off of Eric Gordon. I mean, it's his fifth free-throw. You're gonna give him that shot?
The Blazers are going to need a bit more out of Nic Batum—he had a couple nice games before this one, and while the Blazers don't seem to need his scoring at the moment (they're en route to about 110 points), he needs to get something going. A nice big blocked shot looks promising...except that it's a pretty clear goaltend. I like his spirit there, though.
Everyone on the WW website is talking about pot. No one is talking Blazers. That's okay.
Nic Batum answers my call, drops a cold-blooded three on 'em to make it an 11-point Blazer lead. On the other end, Randy Foye is sizing up Patty Mills, and LaMarcus Aldridge is playing some very nice defense on Blake Griffin. The crowd starts a chant of "Al-dridge All-Star" as LaMarc heads to the bench—the cheer eventually becomes a big wave of general applause instead of a specific cheer.
Marks picks up a foul, but the Blazers are looking really, really invigorated on defense all of a sudden. Over on the bench, LaMarcus is chugging Gatorade and shaking and twitching. He looks like he's ready to get back in the game. Nic Batum drops another three and Aldridge gets up off the bench, nodding his head to some music unheard and giving big-ups to his boy...
...what's "boy" in French?
Huge applause here, and high-fives all around on the Blazer bench. They've managed to grab a 13-point lead. Unexpected!
Just for kicks, I looked to see if there were any Sean Marks highlight reels on YouTube.
I found one.
Man, the kids in the back of the 300 level just look FERAL! They are going crazy up there, it's like the cubs in Logan's Run. I wouldn't dare go up there--I know they'd smell fear and come at me with pocketknives.
This is KINDA what I'm talking about...
Nice ball movement from the Blazers, though it's sorta Globetrotter-esque in that they actually make five or six too many passes. The ball winds up in Rudy Fernandez's hands and he gets a glimpse at the shot-clock, heaving it up from the shoulder. Swish. Like they say, sometimes you're good, and sometimes you're...
Still kinda upset that I can't find more fan-art of the cubs from Logan's Run. Them kids is vicious. Vicious like...hangonasec, I'm gonna tie this all in...Blake Griffin on the fastbreak.
This game has been amazingly serene, considering the Clippers' last VERY CHIPPY visit to Portland (remember, technical fouls all over the place and Andre Miller's eventual suspension?). DeAndre Jordan picks up a technical from the bench here—kinda looked like he was muttering more than yelling, but from my vantage point his head is a backboard, so who knows—and his teammates turn and look at him like he's a real jackass for stepping out of line. Six points and seven rebounds for Jordan.
You can hear the cheers bubbling up slow when LaMarcus backs down Griffin in isolation—this time he pushes against him twice, gaining about a yard, then turns and hip-fires to Wes on the three-point line. Wes is a bit of with the shot, but it was still a heady move from LaMarc. It's just that, the way he's scoring, you wonder if he shouldn't just take all of them to the hole himself.
Fill in the blank: Eric Gordon ______s his _____th ______-pointer.
Clips closing the gap, and Blake Griffin is getting his confidence back. He's 18 and 16, with the Blazers leaving him wide-open from midrange. I guess that's when the sportscasters say "you live with that," but Blake's hand is getting a little hotter.
Multiple choice this time.
Which totally undefended Clipper just hit his seventh three-pointer of the game?
A. DeAndre Jordan
B. Chris Kaman
C. Eric Gordon
D. Ricky Davis
If you answered A, you are an idiot. If you answered B, you are really, really confused. If you answered D, you haven't been watching basketball for like four years. If you answered C, you're totally right and thank you for reading my liveblog.
Blazer lead shrinks to three.
Blake misses his first free-throw. That's relatively big.
Gordon with the easy layup.
Now for story-time. Arya Imig just texted me to say the following:
"Did you meet Marv Albert? Once when I was a kid I went into Supercuts with a Mike Fratello trading card and told them I wanted my haircut like his."
Me: "Dude, that is the best story ever."
Arya: "Haha! I read Marv Albert's autobiography in the 5th grade!"
That was a very cool moment. LaMarcus backed down Blake once again, spun around him and got in close for the easy layup. Punked him, really. The crowd, knowing this is a nationally televised game and knowing that LaMarcus is fighting for a pot in the All-Star game, went ape-shit, then offered the Blazers a standing ovation. I'd love to see how all of this is coming across on TNT. This night has the potential to change a few minds in the MVP voting. If nothing else, LaMarc has a longshot chance as a coaches' pick, right? Does he qualify as a center yet, since he's started a couple games there this season?
In any case, my ill-informed ass is pretty stoked on watching this great game unfold. Look for my wordcount to decrease as the game wears on.
And, for the record, I have not met Marv Albert. I did high-five Reggie Miller last time TNT was in town. I didn't even mean to, it just happened. I'm a huge Reggie fan.
Mr. Griffin gets his come-uppance with a very big dunk over Nic Batum.
Wes Matthews gets his come-up-on-the-come-uppance with a nice easy three-pointer. And Blake misses—holyshit, Eric Gordon misses, too—on the other end. Blazers holding strong. 99-91 with Wes Matthews headed back to the line.
The LA Times reporter next to me asked if I thought Blake looked tired. Definitely. Especially here, late in the game. He best get a second-wind going now if the Clippers are going to get it going.
WOW! Rudy Fernandez nuttiness!
This might be the most fun I've had all season.
Rudy puts the nail in the coffin and he knows it.
Crowd is still here and still pumped up, and I don't blame them. There has been a lot of fun stuff in these last few minutes. But the Blazers use the clock and finish things off with a very big lob from Andre Miller to LaMarcus Aldridge. The Zers will go to 24 and 20 and the Clippers will go to 16 and 26. The Clips have to be feeling just a teeny bit less optimistic about their playoff hopes, and the Blazers a touch brighter.
I've said it before and I'll say it right now (if you don't mind): This team is more fun to watch when it's beat up than it is when it's healthy. I can't explain it, but it has been true for quite some time. And they come away with a nice win against a rolling Clipper team tonight. The final lines, if you must know, for the two All-Star candidates, are these: