I think there's more purple and yellow in this building right now than there is black and red. Tonight feels like a tipping point, when Californians outnumber natives here in the Rose Garden. I'm worried that means riots. Not to generalize, but most Laker fans are awful, godless people who only care about being number one. You shake them up with a bunch of cynical, fashion-forward Portlanders and I feel like you're going to have a lot of—what's that thing that used to happen before cyber-bullying?—oh yeah, bullying.
See,the Laker fans are bigger, buffer, more militant and downright angrier than the Blazer fans in this building. Many of the away fans are wearing pony tails. There have been studies conducted that dudes with ponytails are twice as likely as non-ponytail dudes to rough up those with whom they have disagreements. Not to mention guys who wear their sunglasses on the back of their necks. The whole purpose of that look is to freak people out. "I've got eyes in the back of my head," the glasses-wearer is saying. "And I will drink your blood to cure my hangover. REST IN PIECES!"
I might be getting a little carried away. BUT THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S BLAZER-LAKER DAY! THE BEST DAY EVER!
First off, I spent about half of the (like five-minute) national anthem thinking about what this government, both in the long-term stars-n-stripes-forever kinda way and in the temporary corporately owned-and-operated kinda way, meant to me. I think that, on the eve of tonight's likely government shut-down. This is something we should all think about. Because that fight—to cut social services and public programs while keeping an absurdly overpowering military killing machine, including all the weapons development programs that go along with it, entirely intact—is a philosophical divide that is shaping our country RIGHT NOW. You can probably tell where I come down on it (of course, I work for an alt-weekly and you probably suspected as much). The point is, you should figure out what you want your government to be and you should fight for it. I should, too—but I'm TOO BUSY GOING TO ROCK SHOWS AND WATCHING BASKETBALL. WAHOOO!
NFL shutdown, NBA shutdown, U.S. shutdown. I think my anarchist friends from college are finally winning! All the money and corruption is shutting down jocks and corporate shills alike!
But seriously folks...
It's that Kobe Bryant guy with the first basket, a leaner near the basket. His fans react like he just parted the seas or turned water into wine. 2-0 Lakers.
Make that 4-2 Lakers. I forgot my bible references so it took me awhile to write that.
I know I'm a little rough on Laker fans, but if you heard all the YEYEAHHHHs and THAT'S ROIGHT, KOBEs that echoed throughout this arena every time the purple and gold do anything, I think you'd understand. They have a right to cheer for whomever they want, but by the end of the night I guarantee you fights will have broken out and fans will have been escorted out of the building. Do they have to be so fucking aggro?
Of course, I'm being one-sided. The thing that keeps this rivalry strong, even when the Blazers are in the dumps, is the deep-seated hatred that the Blazers have for the Lakers. They have to draw from that deep, deep well of ill-will and disgust each time they want to beat them. And frankly I wonder, with this happy-go-lucky Gerald Wallace-era crew, if the Blazers have enough vitriol and spite to really pull this thing off. I wonder if they're negative enough.
The Hornets won tonight, which is bad news for the Blazers. After tonight the Hornets will have three games to the Blazers' two, so they are "in control of their own destiny," as sports folks like to say. If the Hornets win all three, they will be the higher seeded playoff team. Of course, that doesn't guarantee either team a specific opponent just yet. Dallas is winning right now, and that would keep them ahead of the Thunder, but there's still time for the Thunder to take the third spot from the Mavs. It's all pretty confusing, huh?
Kobe is playing some exceptionally soft defense tonight, backing off every time the BLazers attack. I guess he's trying to keep out of early foul trouble, but he doesn't have any fouls yet. Maybe he's just trying to avoid a pre-playoff injury? Man, not a lot of guys I'd wish injury on, but Kobe cuts it close....
Phil Jackson has lost in Portland before. So, seeing Nic Batum get right to the rim without having to fight for it, he calls his second timeout in the last minute. It's funny to me to see Jackson yell at his players. I don't know why. I 'm really quite sadistic when it comes to this Laker team.
Brandon Roy checked in at the break, and he already looks to be wincing in pain after a mild collision with Ron Artest. It may just be that Roy is mad at himself and making a disgusted face. I thought I could tell the difference, but who knows. Patty Mills checked in, too, and he goes straight to the basket on the Blazers' first offensive possession. Steve Blake is his cover, and he leaves him wide open as Mills is caught in a kerfuffle beneath the hoop. Luckily his teammates are there to cover for him.
Brandon Roy dribbles at halfcourt, preparing to end the quarter with one of his famous hold...hold...hold...hoooooollllddddddd. SHOOT! moves. Actually, he passes, but the Blazers can't get anything out of it. They get one more shot at the score after a Roy steal, though, and Patty Mills mis-dribbles a few times before taking a turnaround jumper at the buzzer—and I mean AT the buzzer. The refs call it good but it looks very suspect. The refs check the replay for awhile and, without any sort of physical indication past whatever they're whispering to the scorekeeper, the two points drops off the board.
21-21 going into the second.
Lamar Odom hasn't done anything yet, but he kicks off the quarter with an easy layup. Can't expect him to stay off the scoreboard for long.
This is where the whole no big guys thing starts to hurt. Pau got whatever he wanted down low early and now it's Odom getting his kicks in the layup department. When Odom takes it down the lane a third time against rookie Chris Johnson, he's averted at first...then he's smacked right across the arm. Johnson is taken out swiftly. He's no Marcus Camby. And he's no Gerald Wallace, who takes his place in the game.
LaMarcus vs. Pau and LaMarcus vs. Lamar are both pretty interesting fights. This time Aldridge turns and shoots over Odom, a shot that has been hot and cold for him as of late. I'd like to see him flop a bit after that one, really—looked like he got some contact and still drained it. Maybe he should take Rudy lessons.
...or Patty lessons. Nice charge taken by the Millster. Nice to see that he's got something to contribute on defense even when he's the little man on the court. Nate rewards him by taking him out of the game and putting in the point-guardless lineup: Rudy, Wes, Brandon, Gerald and LaMarcus. Let's see how they do.
Shannon Brown gets a wide-open two to fall and suddenly it's 31-26 Lakers, which feels like bleeding. Before it just felt like a back and forth that was clearly on the "back" trajectory. Now it seems a bit more urgent. But no, the Blazers quickly patch the leaks and tie things up at 31. Everyone—even Roy—is getting into this without a PG.
Hoo, talk about a swing in momentum. Wes Matthews has a quick five points and bazaam, the Blazers are up five. Andre Miller checks in and throws the ball out of bounds. Maybe everything I know about point guards is wrong.
Kobe treatment! Back again! Wes Matthews attempts to high-five the star as he's shooting, never makes contact, but STILL gets the foul because, you know, it's the Kobster! Kobe misses both free-throws, though. What's that thing Rasheed used to say?
And the beat goes on. Gorgeous alley-oop to Nic Batum to put the Blazers up two. Wait, hozabout TWO gorgeous alley-oops that end in Nic Batum slams? You got it.
Three or four Blazer fast breaks in a row and the Lakers just look awful out there. Kobe will try to take over. And, yup.
KOBE TREATMENT! That is most definitely not an and-one play. You think Wes Matthews would get that continuation call?
I admit that this is not the greatest likeness. Though, if Kobe gained 50 pounds I think I'd have a dead ringer.
Blazers are still up eight, but Kobe—mad at himself over missing three free-throws in a row—has drained two threes in quick succession now.
Make that three threes. Youch. Chewing into the Blazer lead slowly but surely. In case you were wondering, it's a bad thing to get this guy going.
It's also a bad thing to get this guy mad, and Andre Miller just hustled the shit out of him with some arm-grappling. Kobe gets called for the inbounds foul, but that's only going to make him angrier. And, yes, he steps up and drains another three-pointer. This could wind up being one for the books. I think it's time to defend that three. But next time up, Kobe's fabled hubris gets the best of him. He takes an even ballsier three from an extra step behind the line, and it bounces off the front of the rim. That's the same play that pisses me off when Brandon Roy runs it, for the record—I don't believe in ending quarters by holding the ball and taking a stupid shot.
Ladies and gentlemen, your halftime entertainment (inspired by the bowl-flipping lady's musical accompaniment, which is kinda like Midi-Enigma).
I think I just saw somebody wearing a Mike Barrett t-shirt. No offense, but really? Really? Yup, that dude is definitely on television now. I just...you know, he's a good TV personality, but that's like wearing a Chris Webber t-shirt...everyone is gonna go Barkley.
Blazers start with a Wes Matthews short-range jumper but Nic Batum hobbles off-court. That's not good. That's not good at all. Matthews lays it up. The Blazers are just fighting harder than the Lakers at the moment, though. They're dumping their bodies onto the court twice as often. And there's no Laker attempt to get the ball to Kobe. I feel like you've gotta keep that guy hot to start the quarter, don't you?
That stretch honestly felt like watching the Blazers play the Washington Generals. Didn't it? They're up 14. Phil calls timeout, but he's not even talking to his players, just his assistant coaches. Let's see how long his conference with players turns out to be.
...still waiting, and this timeout is almost over.
Nine seconds, by my count. He didn't even go over to the players until the buzzer went off. Is that trust or just a communication breakdown? He was definitely drawing up a play, so let's see how it works.
Worked well, but nobody could get the ball to go in.
You think the Blazers watched this whilst in the lockerroom at halftime? By the way, I'd like to wish a special Point Break-themed happy birthday to my best friend Henry.
Blazers go up 16, their largest lead of the game. Kobe is trying to take over, and when he misses the ill-advised shot that he found for himself—ball-hogging and running to an empty spot on the floor got him a still well-defended look—he turns to Matt Barnes and starts dressing him down on the court. That's the kind of winning spirit I like to see. Do everything by yourself and then, when you fail, blame a teammate!
I'm not real good with stats, but if the Blazers have scored at all this quarter, they've scored like two points. Laker fans are all sitting down. Not a lot of chest-beating at the moment. Haven't seen any of them leave just yet, but I'd imagine it's coming real soon. LaMarcus slams home the alley-oop and the Blazers are up 22 points on the defending champions, just a week before the playoffs. This would be the Lakers' fourth loss in a row. I'm not a huge fan of blowouts, except for when the team getting blown out is the Lakers.
Also, remember when the third quarter was consistently nightmarish for the Blazers? That may be changing.
Did I tell you that I interviewed Randy Newman the other day? And that he said he had been talking about retiring to Portland one day? Just loose talk, he said, but still. If the guy who wrote "I Love L.A." moves here, I think it's pretty much over for Los Angeles.
Blazers up 24. They seem to be enjoying themselves.
Finally checked. The Lakers have scored three points this quarter. The Blazers, so far, have scored 21.
I'm anti-violence and I like a good clean game. That said, I've been jonesing for a good old fashioned basketball fight for weeks (you may have noticed the bloodlust in my tone lately). I feel like if the Blazers push these Lakers just a little harder, they might get one started!
Worth noting that Kobe Bryant has been benched and Phil has been known to give up early. So if the Blazers make one more push here, Black Mamba might not get back into the game.
But there's the Lamar Odom three that cuts it down to a 19-point lead. Aaaand here's the Patty Mills shot that gets Nate pissed off at Patty Mills. We'd better not get ahead of ourselves.
Lakers shooting 41 percent from the stripe after Bynum misses his first. He hits the second.
Lakers playing better without Kobe Bryant. Blazers starting to take lots of three-pointers. They need to keep a buffer until the fourth, when a refreshed Kobe comes in and the tone could very well change.
Lakers keep taking bites off of this lead. It's down to 14, and the Blazers' aggressiveness is gone. Three-point miss after three-point miss. The lead is down to 12 when the buzzer sounds. These Laker faithful are getting their swagger back.
So that was a 21-3 run by the Blazers, followed by a 12-0 run by the Lakers. Andre Miller is back in the game for the Blazers, but Phil kept his lineup static from the end of last quarter. And the Blazers start off with more weak sauce. If they don't attack the rim—which is what made their third quarter so effortless-looking at the start—they 're going to keep on losing ground. I don't know if it's a concrete change in strategy or tired legs that has the team phoning it in right now, but they are definitely phoning it in. LaMarcus and Wes check back in, and things change immediately. An alley-oop from Gerald to LaMarcus kicks things off out of the timeout. Still no sign of Kobe.
The Gasol/Aldridge matchup is still working in LaMarc's favor, but the second chance points have drifted to LA plenty of times. And I'm starting to think that Kobe is injured or something. Still on the bench; Still in a warmup t-shirt (also, it's still Green month or whatever).
LaMarcus confirms on the big screen that Rudy Fernandez wets his hair and carefully tosses it at halftime. No secret, but perhaps a bit vain. The cameras cut away to courtside and LaMarcus is walking over to Rudy. He gives him a big hug.
Game on. Kobe back. Starts firing immediately. And a fine defensive stand from LaMarcus keeps the Lakers from scoring. Phil doesn't like it. He's barking away.
Kobe gets a tech for slamming the ball against the court. The crowd starts chanting "Kobe sucks." "Don't start with that shit, it's too early," one of my colleagues says. It's true. You wouldn't like him when he's mad.
FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT! And no one can get a fight started like Ron Artest, who is all up in Gerald Wallace's grill. That's a fight I'd like to see. LET 'EM FIGHT, REFS! LET 'EM FIGHT!
There are enough Blazer fans in here to make a pretty deafening chant of "GER-ALD WALL-ACE." I give it three minutes before the Los Angelinos start exiting the building, barring a KobExplosion.
And Gerald and Ron-Ron get into it again. Oooh, that's sweet. Is it too soon to give the nickname "The Enforcer" to someone new? Yeah, probably, but I think Mo Lucas would be proud.
I'm starting to think Kobe was just looking for an excuse to strike up a conversation with Violet Palmer. Oh, no, he's yelling at all the refs.
Come on, gimme one little fistfight!
Blazers going back to those threes. And Ron Artest is about to lose his shit! Like Randy Newman's oft-bastardized tune says, "We Love It!"
Everybody on this Laker team is throwing elbows, including Bryant. Now there's less than five minutes and you can see that they think they've got a shot at closing the 12-point gap. And the Blazers are once again settling for very long shots. It's like they've never watched the NBA championships before.
Raging Ronnie hits a three and beats his chest. This is why you don't make them mad...you just PUNCH THEIR LIGHTS OUT!
Sorry, that was unsportsmanlike.
82-73 Lakers. Fans of both teams are being real quiet.
Blazer lead still at nine when Andrew Bynum charges into the lane and takes a really nasty-looking foul. The PA guy plays the Nelson "Ha-ha" sound and it's totally inappropriate, even though Bynum is assessed the offensive foul. It looked like a fall that could have led to a really serious injury. More serious than a simple punch in the face, say. Unless it's Kermit Washington's running punch.
Laker fans still not pouring out of the arena with their 12-point defiicit. I'm surprised. Guess they're more sentimental than I thought.
You know why Gerald Wallace makes a good Blazer? Because he hates the Lakers more than anybody! Three stare-downs and counting!
The classic "Beat LA" chant starts again. I think it's done, dudes! Gerald Wallace hits two free-throws (an area where the Blazers have been vastly superior tonight) and makes it a 14-point lead again.
Now we get the shots of the Laker fans exiting. And the shot of Phil Jackson's long face. One more regular season game, dear reader. Should be a fun ride.
Final score is Blazers 93, Lakers 86.