A late-arriving crowd here at the Rose Garden (and I'd hate to think that some of them missed the sweet-ass national anthem as performed by members of the Oregon Symphony), but they're filling up the place again, now. And though I just wolfed down a "Jumbo Cheeseburger" (it actually was pretty jumbo), I'm feeling pumped on America and pumped on basketball, so let's get into it, shall we?
Let me first warn you that I'm trying out the first live-blog of the new-WW-website era, and that it may be a bit stop-and-go. Just like this tip-off, which begins with a false start and a second bad tip that the referees let slide (because, you know, fuck it, right?). Spurs go to few offensive options, picking up a handful of early offensive rebounds, but it's Duncan that slows things down and takes his usual mathematical approach, missing one of his famed angular bank-shots. Ugly stuff from both teams, and even the officials, in the early going.
Brick City, U.S.A.! Maybe this is Blazer rust—they have had the last few days off, and it's showing in the early going. Spurs are getting everything they want, but luckily they're only shooting 22 percent so far, giving the ol' Zers some time to get it together. 5-0 Spurs.
There's ol' man Duncan. You can set your watch by that guy. Everyone keeps saying "his numbers are down this year—but they should keep in mind that his minutes are down, too (the NBA, and its followers, are funny that way—the Most Improved Player Award is generally the Most Increased Minutes Award, as well...). The guy has got the mind of a watchmaker and the hands of a...watchmaker. Shit, I guess you've gotta be pretty hardcore to be a watchmaker, don't you? Maybe Tim Duncan should take up watchmaking when he retires.
Well, halfway through the first and it's 11-5. Blazers getting outrebounded and outhustled, and it's hard to tell whether the crowd is booing the officials or the players at this point. Portland's not a big boo the players town, so I'll assume it's the former. Hell, maybe they're just booing the team's bad luck. Make that score 13-8, by the way. Yeah, that little paragraph of cliches took me a minute to finish...
Surprise, surprise, it's LaMarcus Aldridge leading the Blazer resurgence. Spurs still up 15-12. A fan holds up a sign that says "LaMarcus Aldridge on All-Star Team 2011." Signs just don't get more matter-of-fact than that. I'm not sure LaMarcus is going to make the All-Star team until his supporters think of something clever to say, though.
San Antonio continues to impress on the offensive boards. Curiously, that's not a big part of the Spurs' game. While the team is 9th in the NBA in rebounding, it's tied for 16th in offensive rebounds. The Blazers are second in that department. Of course, the Spurs hit a pretty good field goal percentage (fifth in the league), so offensive rebounds aren't a huge issue. Did you have to ask? Portland is 27th in field goal percentage.
After all that stat-whoring, I neglected to tell you that the Blazers were playing pretty nice ball and Tim Duncan was missing his free-throws. Score's Portland 20, Spurs 18. Credit LaMarcus for a large percentage of that.
It's Patty Mills with the Blazers' last score of the quarter, a high-speed flail into the lane that gets him an easy look at a layup. He's a firestarter. A twisted firestarter.
Well, we saw quite a quarter from LaMarcus Aldridge there (16 points, 4 rebounds), and now we get anohter treat—FChris Johnson checks in for the first time for Portland. He's a long, slender dude who looks a little jumpy on his first couple of possessions, but also looks energetic as hell. His D-League numbers were insane, but that doesn't always translate to NBA supremacy (Blazer fans know this well, having had their fair share of injury replacement call-ups in the past few years). He's setting fevered screens on the offensive end, and I'd imagine we'll see a moving screen called here before long if he keeps it up. But we'll keep an eye on him here. and see how he looks for ya.
Joel is set to check in, which may signal the end of Johnson's first small run. But not before the young big man narrowly misses a layup and heads to the free-throw line. Nope, Joel's checking in for Dante, so we'll get a bit more Chris here in the second.
Johnson hits his two free-throws—a nice sign for the kid in his first run as a Blazer. He's in a sticky situation, contract-wise, but solid NBA minutes will mean that other teams with big man problems might take a look at him.
We got some DeJuan Blair fans in the suite behind press row. He keeps trucking along, grabbing those offensive boards. Pretty impressive stuff on that front, still. What we haven't seen tonight is lots of Manu or Tony Parker—Ginobli picked up 5 points in this quarter, but Tony is still scoreless. LaMarcus is up to 18 and 5, not quite picking up the monster pace from his first quarter, but he's not had much run here, either. If you were expecting lots of crazy throwdowns from the Spurs' international lobby, you're a bit disappointed right now.
I'm not crazy proud of this cartoon or anything, but I figured I'd have it show up a little larger than it did in the opening. I miss being able to have a big picture at the start of the blog. Like I said, still working out the kinks.
Speaking of kinks, that totally didn't work. Speaking of Tony Parker, he finally scored. Speaking of Wes Matthews, we haven't spoken of Wes Matthews enough tonight. He made the rookie/sophomore game! Expected, but good. Too bad Blake Griffin is with the rookies...
LaMarcus Aldridge has tried to take it to Tim Duncan a few times here in the second, with poor results. This time he picks up a late, bail-out whistle, but you can see that Timmy is still this rock of a defensive player despite his inability to jump and contest. He doesn't really have to—he's big and he's smart.
Nothing dropping for the Blazers at the moment, and the Spurs are up 7 with just 21 seconds left. It's no accident that the Spurs are the best team in the NBA this season—that mix of veteran leadership and young energy is a tough one for teams to beat. With the exception of DeJuan Blair, who has an uncharacteristic early double-double, no one on this team is dominating the game—they just have so many weapons, as the saying goes.
Manu narrowly misses a wide-open layup to start the quarter, and Wes Matthews makes him pay with a long two-pointer. Then a Spurs' three-second violation on offense. So, hey, things are looking up! Somebody has to beat these guys and it might as well be the Blazers, right?
Tony Parker's still got it. And by "it," I mean a very compelling flopping technique. But he's also got a great floater and catlike reflexes. Good band name, Catlike Reflexes.
You ever think that maybe—just maybe—Joel Przybilla is one of the bad guys? Because everyone seems to hate him, even Tim Duncan, who has given Przy a few shoves that might fall into the unnecessary roughness category. Joel picks up a foul here, and you can almost hear the whole Spurs team sighing "finally!"
The lead keeps bouncing back and forth. This Blazer team finds a way, doesn't it? The fourth quarter curse has been rearing its ugly head as of late, so a lead would sure be reassuring. A George Hill three-pointer would not be reassur—ugh. There it is.
Joel is struggling to grab even the easiest of rebounds, with Spurs raining fire down upon him from all sides. Nate pulls him in favor of a smaller lineup involving Dante Cunningham, which should make rebounding even harder, but hopefully makes scoring easier.
Tim Duncan looks like LaMarcus Aldridge. Or, rather, he looks like Tim Duncan.
Kid with a sweet-ass Mario hat. You think I'm too old for a Mario hat? I would wear the shit out of that Mario hat. Hell, I'd wear a Mario hat one day and a Wario hat the next day, just to fuck with people. "What side is this guy on?" "I DON'T KNOW!!!"
DaJuan Blair picks up his fourth foul, and it's a good call for Blazer fans. Pop don't like it much, he's nearly got the ref in a headlock, throwing his arms hither and thither to indicate whatever latest travesty the guys in white wrought last. He gets his day when the refs call a real borderline (at best) offensive foul on Andre Miller.
But it's the Spurs who have gone cold now, and not even sympathetic referees can fix that. Blazer fans, meanwhile, are moaning, groaning and booing as loud as they can. Pop has shut up. The tables have turned.
The Manu/Nic matchup has been a hoot, with Ginobli sizing up Portland's Frenchy on offense and testing Nic's commitment level at every opportunity. This time Manu bosses up and takes an ill-advised shot from a couple feet behind the line. Swish. Tie game. Big fourth quarter coming up.
Website went down for about ten minutes there. I was really excited. I just got to sit back and watch the game like a normal person. I miss that, turns out. So you won't be hearing from me a ton here in the fourth. Just turn on the TV, radio, whatever, and imagine me saying awesome things.
I will say that Patty Mills came in and changed this game completely--partially for the better and partially for the worse. He's pretty fascinating to watch on the court when he gets all hyperactive like this, though.
Your overdue halftime entertainment: This shit makes Four Loco look pretty weak!
I'm not saying Andre Miller looks bad right now, but he came into the game and everything came to a screeching halt. Rudy Fernandez pulled a big rebound from the wreckage of a Spurs miss, and began to speed up the court when he caught Miller in his peripheral. Miller was walking up the court and calling for the ball at the same time. Every other Blazer was already at the three point line or fighting for position in the paint. One...two...three seconds—Miller starts calling plays, a floor general commanding his troops to move laterally and find some halfcourt scoring option. Only, this Blazer team can't score in the halfcourt. They can barely score at all. The only time they rack up the points is when they push off opponents' misses, and that's the one thing Miller tends to take away. Maybe it's wise to slow a game down when your team is up six against the best squad in the league, but honestly, I think the Blazers have had far more success in pounding the gas pedal and going as fast as fast can go.
Miller finds himself an angle, gets to the hoop and connects, stretching the Blazer lead to eight. Suddenly my whole diatribe seems off-base.
Then he takes a stupid mid-range jumper without bothering to move the ball first. Suddenly my whole diatribe seems spot-on.
There's always Rudy Fernandez.
It's as if the Spurs saved up all their mental mistakes for this game! The lead is 10 incredible points, and the SPurs can't hit anything. With three minutes left, the crowd starts to feel a win coming their way. Andre Miller takes the same dumb shot he tried and missed last time.
This time it hits. The A/V crew can't help but pump up Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Number 2." Which is exactly what you are going to do at home right now.
So, does this impending win (alley-oop from Andre Miller to L.A.) make you more confident in the Blazers playoff chances this year? Do you still think the team needs to make a trade before the looming deadline? Whassup?
Crowd chants LA-MARCUS AL-DRIDGE. He has a redonkulous 40 points and 11 rebounds.
As if to rub salt in the wound, Wes Matthews completes a ridiculous three-point play in the paint, and the Blazers go up 16. LaMarcus Aldride leaves the court to a standing ovation, the loudest cheering in the Rose Garden this year that I can remember. It is quickly cheapened by chants for Chalupas. Patty Mills and Chris Johnson get a chance to wrap things up with Wes, Nic and Rudy. 99-86. No chalupas for you. LA finishes with 40, a career high. More impressive, perhaps, is that he did it taking just 23 shots from the floor. The Blazers sell out their 139th consecutive game, and with play like this, that streak may just last the season.
We'll see you soon. Drink a shot for me, wouldja? Just stay away from that weed soda...
Oh, and LA really, really needs to be an All-Star. I now think he will be.