Four game win streak! It always seems like the Trail Blazers play well in the month or so before the All-Star break, and despite everything that's happened the last few months—five knee surgeries, a few ugly losses, and possibly the end of Greg Oden's career—Portland finds itself four games over .500 and with a great show at making the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers started off the season really strong, but have faded of late, but still find themselves in 8th place in the East.---
30 minutes before tip off, and it's really quiet in the arena and on press row. I figured I'd loosen up the mood by talking about former Trail Blazer Josh McRoberts' chances if he ever made the dunk contest, but then realized that this White Men Can't Jump spoof isn't very funny.
But it does bring up a good question: Why hasn't someone in our PR department made an "LA to LA" All-Star campaign video yet? And what happened to Patty Cakes On the Street? If you thought Patty was funny then, wait till you see him crack a joke now that he's playing and has something to brag about. BALLA! Tonight's warmup music is Young Jeezy, which is pretty rad, and definitely gets me excited to play baksetball (Re: Pop-A-Shot at Slabtown after the game). I'd give it an 87 on the Aaron Mesh scale. Let's play some Saturday night ball!
11:06 – Well, this is a promising start for the Blazers. Two trips down, two made jump shots on the same play: a curl that takes the wing across the court and ends up with a wide open shot. I love it. I also love that Przybilla is starting and setting those great screen. Just solid fundamental basketball.
10:23 – Just realized I sound like Coach Taylor (I've been watching a lot of Friday Night Lights lately). Still happy to see Przy starting instead of Cunningham, though.
9:30 – I just saw on Twitter that Larry Bird is in the house tonight. I feel nervous just blogging this game.
9:18 – Andre Miller ran to the locker room during the timeout and Patty Mills is in the game early, which could be awesome or could be the omen of a long, long night. Word is he might have the flu? It's OK, Andre, I'm also allergic to Tyler Hansbrough.
7:03 – Roy Hibbert's post game isn't pretty, but he's playing really well to start the game. Hypothetically it's a good matchup for Przy, because Hibbert is easily one of the slowest players in the NBA, but his arms are so long that he can get off a little baby hook pretty much any time he wants. He started off the season in a big way (like 16 and 10 a game big) but has really tapered off lately. He's killing the Blazers right now.
5:26 – Not enough touchers for LaMarcus. 14-11 Pacers lead.
3:44 – Hansbrough is straight beasting LaMarcus, and the Blazers look really flat without Miller on the floor.
So there's a rumor going around NBA circles that the Pacers have some interest in Kevin Pritchard for their GM job this summer. As a 'zers fan, how do people feel about that? Pritchard was hailed as a genius during his tenure, but now with all this news about Roy's achey breaky knees and the team's injury history, it appears that his gambling style (drafting and trading for players with questionable health backgrounds) might lead to a series of mediocre seasons. What are the chances that Pritchard gets the job and then signs Oden to an offer sheet? Crazier things have happened.
1:10 – Watch out for Paul George this year. The kid was a first round pick who hasn't played that much in the early part of the year but he has a ton of talent and can jump out of the building. Definitely a possible late season fantasy steal if he ever gets regular minutes.
0:20 – You know the injuries are starting to pile up when your last possession of the first quarter ends in an Armon Johnson/Sean Marks pick-and-roll. Pacers 28-19 in a sloppy 12 minutes.
10:20 – A.J. Price is dominating the battle of the 3rd string point guards. Blazers down 16, and there's a guy behind us in the luxury boxes who's already blackout drunk and yelling at Armon Johnson.
8:19 – Where at the Blazers going to get energy from this bunch? For the first time this season Nate's playing a lineup with no true point guard, and I think this might actually work, if Rudy can keep making good plays. And at least he's an offensive threat. I don't think Armon Johsnon has hit a shot since late November, and Patty's shot (and mind, probably) are in Australia.
6:47 – Ya know, I kinda admire Rudy Fernandez. I know it's easy to mock his greasy hair, crooked jaw, and the fact that his summer trade demand was either because he is whipped (still not sure if it's a girlfriend or his mom) but he's playing hard this year. His stats are much better at home, but he's one of the few Blazers who can make plays even when they aren't hitting shots. Every winning team needs that gritty guy off the bench, and with Wes Matthews starting, Rudy has done a great job as this team's sixth man.
5:58 – ROY HIBBERT!!! The all caps is in anger because I should have drafted him over, like, JeVale McGee. Indiana back up by 11.
4:45 – Wesley Matthews, distributor? My brother mentioned that Matthews, even though he's scoring like 18 points a night without Roy, rarely passes the ball. But he's got four dimes, including a sick lob to LaMarc.
2:58 – It's Greg Oden's birthday tonight. He looks happier than I've seen him since the injury, smiling and making a peace sign to the crowd. I feel for the guy.
2:07 – Dante Cunningham misses too many easy layups.
0:10 – Another bad shot at the end of the quarter from the Blazers, as Rudy takes an iso, spins into the lane, and barely hits the rim on an off-balance jump shot. Pacers lead 53-46 at half.
LARRY BIRD IS IN THE PRESS ROOM EATING POPCORN AND TALKING HOOPS. I'm usually not star struck, but Larry Legend is Larry Legend. I almost spilled my soda when I realized it was him.
10:45 – So the Blazers are starting the same lineup that played most of the second quarter: Wes and Rudy at guard, Batum and Dante at forward, with LaMarcus roaming the middle and trying to draw Hibbert outside with his jump shot. Still no point guard, and consdiering the 'zers first half struggles I still have a hard time picturing an Andre Miller trade.
8:22 – Wes for three (goggles) again cuts the lead under double digits. Every time the 'Zers make a run Danny Granger or Dunleavy or Collison hits a jump shot.
7:34….and Granger hits a three. I bet Larry Bird is smiling right now. When Granger's shot is on it's one of the most beautiful things to watch on the court.
6:14 – LaMarc and Hasnbrough are starting to really go at it. You can tell that Hansbrough picked up a few tricks from Roy Williams at North Carolina, and a few from his foreign and veteran teammates. He also flops a lot, which makes him easy to hate. But the story so far tonight has been the job that three unheralded Pacers (Hibbert, Hansbrough, and Jeff Foster) have done on LaMarcus, limiting him to 14 points on 4-11 shooting.
3:33 – Joel Przybilla, people. He's clearly not 100 percent healthy—for chrissakes, he's basically running around on one leg! But he's all hustle, all heart, and still willing to chase down loose balls and fight inside on Hibbert and the Pacers' other big men. Indiana still leads 66-60, but it would be at least a few buckets more without Przy.
0:45 – Finally, some inspired play from the home team. Patty's shot has been off all night (looking broke, even) but a huge three is a huge three, especially when it pulls a lifeless team and crowd into the game. Pacers still lead, but it's down to a three point game.
11:08 – And, whaddaya know, the 'Zers have a lead for the first time since about four minutes into the first quarter. The crowd—which was totally quiet for the first two hours—is getting loud, which might contribute to Hibbert missing two free throws. Or maybe that's just his bad stroke.
10:13 – A.J. Price? I didn't even know he made it to the league. But he's scrappy and has 7 points tonight. Good pickup for the Pacers. I give all the credit to Larry Bird.
9:48 – Wait, Larry Bird also drafted some duds. Freddy Jones, anyone?
8:49 – If you're Rich Cho, don't you try to make up for Pritchard's bad draft by dealing Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson for Paul George? Babbitt has to have a little Larry Bird in him. Or Mike Dunleavy.
7:52 – So Nicholas Batum tends to sleepwalk through huge stretches of a basketball game. But when he wakes up—and it's almost always a question of when, not if—I see why he's basically untouchable. Out of every Blazer, he just looks the most natural on the court, gliding around and draining threes and blocking shots like some super combo of Scottie Pippen and Rashard Lewis. Two three pointers in a minute, four in the quarter, and possibly his first three goggles of the season. Everybody's gogglin'!
7:16 – Confirmation: Casey Jarman just texted me saying "Nic finally did the goggles!"
6:58 – Granger gets whistled for traveling, and the Pacers are breaking down. Blazers lead 85-77. I'm feeling this fourth quarter.
6:20 – After three quarters of bricks, the Blazers CAN'T MISS in the fourth. Lead is up to 10, and it's looking like a potential blowout. So much for those fourth quarter struggles!
3:37 – Who needs a point guard when you have Rudy bouncing these gorgeous passes through the lane. Actually, what am I saying, this might be more about the Pacers awful perimeter defense than Rudy's transformation into the next Manu Ginobli. Still, a solid line from him tonight: 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists, which might be his NBA career high.
2:26 – Three straight trips with no points for the Blazers. These two #8 seeds are gonna battle to the end.
1:26 – The Return of the Three Goggles. The Blazers have struggled from the field all night but this final quarter is all about the long ball. Four for Batum, and now Rudy hits a three to put the Blazers up 93-87 and starting that stretch of every game where they play music so loud that it gives all the music critis subbing as basketball analysts on press row (yes, there are three of us!) a headache.
0:24 – LaMarcus misses a good look inside after muscling his way for a quality shot. Tonight has been a weird game for LaMarc: He still has his 25 and 12, but most of his baskets have been long jump shots and not post ups in the lane. Still, imagine reading this a year ago.
0:18 – Dante Cunningham! This has to be his best game of the year, right? Collison had him beat to the rim but he played some great D and somehow got his hand up for what's looking like a game-clinching block. He's only hit 5-14 shots, but 10 points and 5 boards and some great defensive plays earn him the coveted Michael Mannheimer Scrappy Bench Performer award.
0:05 – James Posey: Cold Blooded Assassin. Huge three pointer, but as Brent Knopf sings, it's probably "too little, too late." Don't know why I'm quoting random Ramona Falls songs on a basketball blog, but that's what you're getting tonight. Knowledge!
0:04 – Wes hits two free throws and that's it, folks. Tough but hard earned W for the Blazers, who are now 25-20 and have a nice little win streak going. I'll be back Monday for a game against the worst team in the West, the
Las Vegas Sacramento Kings. Night!