It's nearing 2 pm on a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I'm hanging out indoors: It must be the NBA Playoffs!
must-win games go, tonight's is about the must-winniest. The Blazers
don't play a lot of these afternoon home games. That should probably
make fans nervous. Also, don't you think that the players that are 1,000
miles from home, isolated in their hotel rooms and from a time zone
where it's 4 pm have an advantage? I could be wrong, but to me that
sounds like an advantage.
Over in Indiana, the Pacers are
scrambling to win a first game in their series with Chicago. Looks like
Chicago is being Chicago and fighting like hell for a comeback win.
Here in Portland, the lights go dark and the cheering starts up. Let's get it, huh?
Summation of the first three minutes: Swish! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! Bonk! ...Bonk! Swish!
7:58 Sorry, we were having some technical difficulty. So...things not going real great for the Blazers, who are shooting zero percent from the field and haven't yet made a trip to the free-throw line. If chalupas are on your mind—and they really shouldn't be—I am telling you now that today is not your day. The Blazers WILL eventually get on the scoreboard, but this isn't looking like a race-to-100 kind of game.
7:07 Defense is keeping the Blazers in this one (if you can really be in a 2-5 game), but L.A.'s jumpshot is really not looking so hot right now. He's so consistent with that midrange jumper that it's really quite a shock to see the ball veer left. Maybe it's good to miss early and save that weapon for later.
5:24 Andre Miller, who gave the Blazers their first points, also gives the team its first lead. He has six of the Blazers' first nine points. The Mavs take a timeout.
A sampling of this game's signs: *Man in monkey mask holding sign that says "Bananas!" *"RIP CITY" *"Playoffs: Believe!" *"RIP CITY: TOGETHER." *Four men in green-yellow jerseys holding up iPads that spell out "STAND UP RIP CITY" *"Cuban, can't you afford a bigger shirt?" (Mark Cuban gets a good chuckle out of that one) *"Cry more, Dirk" *"No Kidd wins in OUR HOUSE"
5:01 Jason Kidd for three. I thought we talked about this. That man's quest for glory has to end at some point. He should really not be a productive point guard at this stage in his career, but then neither should Steve Nash. Marvels of modern science, those guys.
4:18 The first thing that endeared Wes Matthews to me was his ability to finish at the rim. It's a trait the Blazers needed so desperately this season with an ailing Roy and a Batum-in-training. We see that move from Wes again here, and he makes the Mavs defense look...well, like it used to look. Awful.
2:52 Tyson Chandler is doing everything for the Mavs—he's a rebounding machine. Meanwhile, Camby winds up on the wrong side of a couple foul calls and Nate has to take him out. Chris Johnson gets the ovation he deserves—in fact, he probably deserves a little more than that after he kept the Blazers afloat on Thursday night.
1:30 Roy's looking to pass in the early going, but the Blazers are still having a real hard time hitting shots. He crosses over and cuts to the hoop at 1:19, but there's not much lift there and Brendan Haywood is able to block his shot easily. Lots of fire on the defensive end for the Blazers, but they're really not aggressive enough in taking it hard to the hoop.
JJ Barea, however, is aggressive. Mavs go up 16-11.
0.0 There's something really Memorial Colosseumy about being able to see out the Rose Garden's windows. I can see trees and traffic. It's kind of miserable.
10:37 Dallas pulling a way a bit—their shots are going in and they just look like they know what they want to do on the court. There's also a bird flying around the arena—everybody loves that. Blazers take a timeout. NATE WANTS TA TALK ABOUT IT!
Jason Kidd has hit a dozen threes through four playoff games. He's on the bench at the moment. He can't score from there. That bird is dive-bombing people. Good luck charm. If it poops on Mark Cuban, this place is gonna go crazy. Poor bird.
8:54 Lots of calls going against Portland, but most have seemed pretty fair to me. I mean, really, they could have called a goaltend on multiple Blazers just now.
8:18 Brandon Roy takes a very big foul and hits the ground hard. Nothing intentional, but you can tell that Brandon is shaken up. He's grimacing as he goes to the free-throw line. Roy is a pretty compelling storyline, obviously, and I'm sure the TV guys are talking about him now (I saw the caption "BRANDON'S BACK" on the screen), but the fact that he was key in Game Three doesn't necessarily mean he's going to be key tonight. Or that he's going to fail miserable. Thus far he's been involved and he has seemed focused—maybe that'll be enough.
7:01 The kid in the Jason Terry jersey is getting a real talking to! He's pissed! One usher talking to him and another two ushers coming down to meet him. Pretty sure he's going to have to be escorted out. Too early for this stuff! Whatever happened to friendly competition?
6:39 Amid the distractions—the bird, the Dallas fan, the Mark Cuban bashing—there is actually a game going on and it would be getting really good save for the fact that the Blazers can't keep the Mavs from draining shots. It's a 10-point lead and the crowd is getting real quiet. Long game, folks...
3:21 Dirk has been throwing some fits, and now there's a-scufflin' between Tyson Chandler and LaMarcus Aldridge, too. LaMarc will likely end up with a tech, or they could call it a double-tech—really, Aldridge was the one overreacting (he shoved Chandler after Tyson tied him up), and he should probably consider himself lucky to get away with a single tech. It is indeed called a double-tech.
2:36 Dirk throws Andre Miller on the ground after the two are tied up for a jump ball, then Miller trips the big German. Nothing gets called, but this is a pretty funny jump ball between the two of them. Dirk wins, but he looks really silly doing it, so it's kind of a moral victory for Blazer fans.
And after the fighting and the falling, then a LaMarcus steal and an alley-oop to Gerald Wallace, this crowd is finally back in it. The Blazers are clawing their way back in it, too. It's the playoffs, man! The music gets way too loud, just in the nick of time.
1:24 LaMarcus better chill it on down. He's kind of important to the Blazers.
This time up the court he channels his frustration into a strong move near the hoop. Shot won't go, but he's fouled and he can put the Blazers within two.
38.9 I know I said this on Thursday, but crowds really do matter. And this one is getting real loud. After spending most of the game draining everything that left their fingertips, the Mavs are missing everything now and they've stopped picking up fouls, too.
Still no Chicharones? I thought it was a done deal, boys!! Oh well, at least the folks at home can get their fix.
Sometimes the huddles at the end of the half feel like those nervous early moments of a high school prom. Both teams are talking amongst themselves, getting way too excited about their prospects for the evening. Two little camps, like boys and girls at the dance.
The Blazers start off cold—not a good thing considering these are the first 24 minutes of the rest of their lives. The Mavs keep them in it by making some mental mistakes of their own, but Wes Matthews really needs to heat up—hell, anyone needs to heat up—to get this thing going. Maybe this is all leading to another epic Brandon Roy stretch?
Shawn Marion hits a cold-blooded turnaround jumper. It's a four-point game.
9:03 The bird almost killed me. I knew it would come down to me and this bird. I knew the moment I saw it.
Lots of screaming from the Mavs bench every time the Blazers bring the ball down to that end of the court. The Mavs are taking it away here and yet they're complaining like total losers.
Speaking of losers, we all lose when they play tic-tac-toe at center court. Looks like we may have yet another stalemate here. NO! THERE'S A WINNER! OH MY GAWD!
Mavs up 45-37.
8:19 Jason Kidd for three. I think that's 14 now? Blazers down 11. They're going to need a real big run here. Crowd isn't helping much at the moment. Lots of grumbling. Gerald Wallace takes it baseline and gets hit...by Tyson Chandler. It's Chandler's fourth foul so he's headed to the bench. Mark Cuban's head is technically on the bench, too: He's listening in on the Mavs coaching staff.
6:08 One of my esteemed colleagues tonight said he thought that whoever won the first five minutes of the third would be the winner tonight. Mavs have taken a pretty decisive driver's seat spot here. And the Blazers are shooting 27 percent on the game. TWENTY-SEVEN PERCENT!!!!! You can't win a hockey game shooting 27 percent.
5:43 In true Portland fashion, the locals are blaming the refs for this one. But as Dirk Nowitzki lines up and lets the three loose, then makes his patented BIG DIRK UGLYFACE, it's pretty clear that the guys in blue should get credit for busting this game open. So what's the story gonna be? Home team shows some spark, then burns out or home team goes on a rousing, 16-point comeback down the stretch?
4:46 B-Roy checks in for Miller. I'm not sure taking out your floor gneeral is going to lead to scoring. The first offensive possession looks horrific, with Wes Matthews settling for an awkward corner three without getting his feet set. The Mavs go up 18. Brandon dribbles the ball off his foot. This is pretty gross, man.
2:57 Not a single Blazer field goal in this quarter. It's one of the worst—if not THE worst—quarters I've ever seen a team play! Timeout Blazes! All the talking in the world can't get back these last nine minutes, though.
2:57 That Brandon Roy comeback narrative has just gone completely down the shitter. Peja gets a good look at a three and drains. Brandon winds up on the free-throw line and he goes one of two. Camera pans the bench and it's all long faces. How often do teams go ten minutes without a field goal? Bet they're talking about that on TV. Jeez, I kinda wish I was watching TV right now. Then I could just turn it off as soon as it was over.
Dallas is red-hot.
31.1 With thirty seconds left, the Blazers get their first field goal of the quarter. It is a 30 to 11 quarter.
Brandon Roy hits a three to close things out. Lotsa fans deciding to choose sun over a Mavs blowout. We'll stay here and see if there's a 20 to zip run in this Blazer squad huh? Huh? Or you can go get a beer on some patio somewhere. I don't mind.
FOURTH QUARTER. 67-49 DALLAS
A giant Blaze the Trail Cat extends to the top of section 225. It's more than a little phallic. I've seen it before, and there's something desperately sad about watching extendo-Blaze come back down to Earth. But the crowd seems to enjoy it. They're really looking for anything to enjoy at this point.
10:09 So, some crazy shit happens in the Playoffs, I'll give you that. But the Blazers are down 15 and the team they're playing is all about scoring. Scoring is their "thing," you see? So even if the Blazers can load a few tons of scoring onto this game-train, there's another train loaded with scoring coming at them on the same set of tracks. And you know what happens to two trains loaded with scoring when they collide? They explode.
Okay, that made no sense. Blazers down 13. Crowd in it.
8:27 Perhaps it's time to stop doubting Brandon Roy. Blazers still trail by 11, but it's the playoffs. Who knows...
7:35 Man, the desperation here is just rough. Almost too thick to type through. Blazers are keeping the Dallas lead around 11, but Dirk is not letting it slip and the Blazers are fighting like hell to cut into it. It's the two train thing, I think.
5:32 Just when I'm thinking "Man, Nate needs to pull Brandon out of this one," Brandon hits another huge shot.
Dirk gets fouled and the crowd absolutely hates it. But when you get down 20-odd points, you're basically handing the officials the key to the city. Missed calls and borderline calls are going to happen whether you're closing the gap or getting blown out completely.
It's a full timeout here, and it's all idle chatter. Blazer fans realize that if the Mavs win, this could be the last time they see the team this year. So even if it's a futile cheer, they're going to cheer. Some empty seats after that horrible stretch, but not as many as you'd think. I think the remaining fans will make up the volume difference.
5:21 to go with Dirk at the line. He looks all Elvis Costello when he shoots, but he really can shoot.
4:34 Andre Miller cuts it to nine again. Blazers got away with some very, very suspect defense from Brandon Roy on the Mavs' last trip up, but now Roy is going nuts on offense once again. He sinks a jumper. Seven-point game. Here we go.
3:18 Jason Terry with a HEARTBREAKER three. Just mean, man. There's no need for that.
But the Zers keep it up. As much as I hate the Brandon Roy isolation game, he is SO BRANDON RIGHT NOW.
Blazers trail by six with 2:32 to go. They can't make any mistakes if they're going to steal this one now. So many cliches to use for this moment that my gears are jammed. HELP ME, IPAD GUYS!
2:32 I'm no coach, but I'm thinking that, aside from getting stops, the key here is to draw some fouls. And just like that, Gerald Wallace draws an ABSOLUTELY HUGE charge from Dirk Nowitzki. Timeout Mavs. Stretch this thing out a bit longer, why don't they... 2:16 left, still an 80-74 game.
2:02 No way. No way. No way. Roy to LaMarcus for the hook, and now the Mavs turn it over!?!? No way.
Brandon lets off another jumper, and it swishes. Unfortunately, he was fouled just prior to the shot. Hate to see him waste one like that.
BUT HE HITS THE NEXT. A LOOOONG TWO in the corner.
1:06 Okay, this is officially the craziest game I've ever seen. I HONESTLY THINK this is the craziest game I've ever seen. It's like Roy thrives on all the bad shit that's been said about him. He is single-handdly putting this whole team on his back and just going NEXT. LEVEL.
I never thought we'd see this from him again. He has 22 points, 16 of them in this quarter when you include that FOUR. POINT. PLAY.
49.4 If you wrote this second half into a movie, it would be the cheesiest basketball movie anyone has ever seen. It's too much. They have to win, because cheesy basketball movies never end with the good guys losing. The officials are reviewing the last out-of-bounds play. They're taking their sweet time.
The cheering that's going on here isn't just loud, it's loud tinged with absolute disbelief. I mean, complete and utter amazement at what is happening. I have never seen a game like this. I've seen some crazy games, but I've never looked down press row to see every mouth agape and every eye wide.
How many Blazer fans are being made right now? Here and across the country? How many Brandon Roy jerseys are going to sell this weekend? This is incredible. I'm so glad I'm here. I feel like the double rainbow guy and his rainbows. That's how amazing this is to me.
39.2 And, of course, it could all go to hell real quick.
0.0 Breathless, man. I can't even type. Blazers win, and there's a huge crowd around Brandon Roy. I wish I could watch this post-game interview. No one wants to leave. That was some of the most incredible basketball I've ever seen, and the most emotional comeback I've ever seen, hands-down. Strangers are hugging—not just because their team won but because they just experienced, together, everything they could possibly hope to experience in a basketball game. Incredible stuff. There was something spiritual about that one. That's really the only word that comes to mind.