Maybe I should really call this the "Birdman Edition," seeing as how, no matter how minor a role that Denver big man plays with the Nugs, I tend to follow his exploits closely. When I was eating some meatballs over in the media room, a few little kids were chomping down with their mom—guessing she's an NBA mom, but I that's not really my area of expertise—and when the Nuggets ran through the breezeway, one of the little kids said "BIRDMAN!" as if Donald Duck or He-Man had run by. (For the record, I know children don't still light up with wonder at the sight of He-Man...they probably just wonder who he is and where he left his shirt and what is up with that haircut, anyway?)
Point is, he's kind of a larger-than-life character, and character is what makes this league so great.
Now on with the show.
They're really going for "wholesome" on the national anthem these days.
I want to know when and how the fine Portland tradition of playing "Rocky Mountain High" to introduce the Nuggets got started. I'd also like to know how the fine tradition of "Blaze the Nugs" signs got started. God I love that one. So Harold & Kumar. Haven't seen one just yet, but if it's not here, this Portland team has officially sold out. Fingers crossed.
So as the Blazers take the court, it strikes me that the team now has two leading lights in the eyes of fans: LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace. They get about equal applause tonight. You know who didn't get any extra fan appreciation? Wes Matthews. I'm looking for him to have a hot night tonight, though. I know Aaron Afflalo is a good defender, but I've got faith in ol' Wessy Wes and he is due.
12:00 Timofy Mozgov is the first dude on the court. He still looks more like an awkward big brother than an NBA player, but he'll grow into it. With a name like Timofy, it's just gonna take awhile. Felton and Camby go over to the Nugs bench to high five Andre Miller and hug George Karl, then all the other Blazers follow suit. The refs actually have to blow a whistle to stop the inter-team love fest.
11:39 Okay, Afflalo looks a lot more hustle-y than Wes right out the gate. He's the recipient of a loose ball fast break, and Wes is lagging way behind him. Crowd groans confusedly.
10:21 Wes is the second Blazer to score—a nice pull-up jumper in the lane with baby blue jerseys on all sides of him—but next trip up Ray Felton throws a way-ay-ay off alley-oop to a swarmed Gerald Wallace. Not sure who he thought Wallace was. Blake Griffin? Anyway, Wallace had to just grab the ball and hop out of bounds.
9:49 Blazers looking a bit out-hustled at the start and the crowd is so not into that; But little Ray Felton decides to make it a one-man show and lay the ball up. When he makes his mind up, he can dance right through just about anybody. He's having a very up-and-down game thus far, trading bad passes with speedy cuts to the hoop.
8:39 Timofy gets his third foul. That didn't take long. But no Birdman just yet.
7:36 Blazers get off to a 14-6 start. Big start is never a good thing for this team. Zers are slow getting off the bench, and they aren't even moving towards the court when the second buzzer sounds. This is supposed to be a technical foul, but thankfully, no one in black and gray is actually enforcing that rule. Way to go, David Stern.
7:11 Hot start for...who do you guess?...GO-GO-GERALD WALLACE!
6:41 Andre Miller gets a near standing ovation from the crowd and the cameras zoom up on his face. He looks like Andre Miller. Kinda surreal to see him facing off against the Zers, but then, the Blazers have a point guard on every bench, don't they? Next week when they play the Suns it'll be Sebastian Telfair. In New Orleans it's Jarrett Jack. In Toronto it's Jerryd Bayless. Aren't there more? I know Luke Ridnour never played here, but he should have. And where the hell is Aaron Brooks, anyway?
4:23 A small press row disagreement: I thought Rudy was getting "ROOOOOOOOED." Others thought he was just being plain-old booed.
Let's play my favorite game, RACIST OR SILLY: A double-sign, one that says "ALIEN VS" (with a photo of Birdman) and one that says "PREDATOR" (with a picture of Gerald Wallace). Racist? Silly? You be the judge.
2:55 Similar to our last disagreement, I prefer to think that this crowd is saying "BUUUUUUUUURRRRRDDD." Others think they are saying "WHITE TRASH!!!!!" Sorry, was that racist or silly?
1:03 It's a very tall group that Nate has on the floor, and their passing game is like birds floating from treetop to treetop. Some of these Blazer big guys have such good hands, even if Nic Batum's hands can't seem to finish at the rim. Similarly, Rudy Fernandez's three-point stroke looks an awful lot like it did when he was a Blazer.
Zers wrap things up with a ton of back-and-forth: Sloppy play on both sides, but Portland still winds up with a 30-17 lead. That's nothing to sneer at.
Rudy shoulda been a ballet dancer. He just did the whole Dr. J under-the-basket, around-to-the-other-side dunk, except he didn't have the ball and it wouldn't have been a dunk even if he did. Really it was a sweet-ass ballet move.
More nice high passing, but Ty Lawson is really pushing the Nugs' offense and the Blazer lead is down to seven. Put Crash back in and it'll swing the momentum right back to the Zers, though.
Wes Matthews went up over Rudy to try and grab a full-court pass, and he tumbled out-of-bounds. When he stayed down for a moment, Rudy leaned over to ask if he was okay. I don't think Wes replied. Then, when Rudy extended his hand to try and help his fallen ex-teammate up, Matthews wouldn't take it. He also wouldn't accept eye contact. Rudy is a sensitive man—I feel bad that he doesn't understand game face and intimidation.
Being Raymond Felton is just all frustration all the time. He can run, that's for sure. He looks exhausted, though. And frustrated. I think I've seen him clap his hands more than any Blazer from the past seven years. The league should keep track of frustration claps.
I think Nate is trying to figure out if any lineup without Gerald Wallace can get it done for the Blazers. Nic Batum seems to be filling the role admirably. Two big blocks in a row for him and then a very, very nice dish from Ray Felton to LaMarcus Aldridge in the lane. Blazers on track for Chalupas again tonight, but the Nugs are indeed staying in the game. And Andre Miller always takes these things seriously, so watch him—he's gotta get a tech sooner or later, as does "Barking" George Karl.
Wanna hear something weird? I think Gallinari is still growing.
17 fouls thus far. That seems like a lot, doesn't it? Stupid whistle blowing every five seconds. Dre's on the line and he gets the lead down to five. Gerald is back in, though, so I suspect you're about to see some shit.
Okay, Jamal Crawford airballing a three isn't the kind of shit I meant.
Timeout. 44-41 Portland.
LaMarcus Aldridge hasn't been able to get a lot of mileage out of his post game tonight, and that's going to be a tricky point for Nate all season: On one hand, his star forward is getting better and better at posting guys up. On the other, the quick new offense means less opportunities to slow things down and turn them into a post game. Of course, in the first two games, the first half felt a lot slower than the second (especially against Sacto). Now the Blazers are running from the get-go. So will they have the fuel to push an uptempo second half, or will they try to slow things down and get the ball to LaMarc a lot more.
Nic Batum's stats aren't eye-popping, but his hustle has been of high quality this evening.
You bitch enough and the calls will start going the other way. Every Euro player who has touched the court tonight needs to learn when to shut the fuck up. Really, that's something their teammates should be stressing with them. Pick your battles, young foreigners.
Ty Lawson is getting everything he wants. I mean he's just taking the ball to the hoop every time and nobody seems to be able to get in front of him. Denver's going to get to halftime behind by just a few points, or maybe even tied up. Zers fans will have to hope for another big third quarter.
And it's all tied up. Could be worse, but like they say, "the energy got sucked right out of the building." I'd imagine this is how it's going to feel after the Coldplay concert. Does Coldplay go for like six hours? They have a lot of "hits." They are a popular music group.
LaMarcus starts off the Blazers offensively with a nice mid-range jumper. On the other end Gallinari gets fouled and hits two free-throws, and the Blazer guards creep back to the end of the court, as they've been doing in all these early games. Actually it was Wes and Gerald who snuck back this time, and when Gallinari finished his second free-throw, he looked pretty shocked that his man (Wallace) was all the way down court. Of course, Gallinari always looks shocked. It's partly the hair, which stands up on end, and it's partly the wide-open mouth.
Ty Lawson is playing smashmouth offense for the Nugs. He's the guy setting the table for them, and often he just goes ahead and does the dishes as well. He's got 14 now, but only a single assist.
Wes Matthews finds his happy place and gets six quick points from it. Blazers up two.
Fifth Blazer foul? Did he say FIFTH? Dang, these boys are getting called for some reasonably ticky-tack stuff and it's going to mess up the whole quarter for them rather early.
Arena colors by percentage:
Green and/or yellow: 12%
Other (including hypercolor): 19%
Didn't I tell you Wes Matthews was going to have a big game? Four three-pointers in a row now and he's up to 20 points. Wow, that man can heat up quick. Blazers are going to need Wessy Wes to be their third scoring option most of the time, so it's good to see him light up. Blazers up six.
Ray Felton gets in on the three-point act, only his isn't a three. Luckily, neither is the Aaron Afflalo three that follows. Watch yer toes, boys!
They may have similarly bouncy hair, but Gerald Wallace just beat Nene to the hole by about a minute.
"Alright, team, here's the deal I struck up with the opposing coach: If we don't defend their three-point shooters, they won't defend our three-point shooters. I know, I know, it sounds a little crazy but damn if I don't believe in you boys! Offensively, that is. Defensively I don't trust you as far as I can throw you, which is why I struck this bargain."
What have I been telling you about Marcus Camby? They've got to use that guy's magic fingers more often. He can dish a quick, angled post pass better than most point guards. This time it leads to a super-slick LaMarcus dunk.
Kurt again with that mid-range jumper. Sometimes he and Cam look like facsimilies of one another, but then Kurt hits that shot *smoothly* or Cam blocks a shot *with gusto* and it's immediately clear which one is which.
Wes is really looking like the Wes I remember from last year now. Making smart moves and tricking defenders with lots of fancy footwork.
Oh, snap, that's the Andre Miller I remember, too. He's still got moves for days...
Somebody in the luxury box behind us either brought a fishing pole into the game, or maybe a noisemaker that sounds like a fishing pole. Either way, I am terrified of hooks. Childhood accident. More on that some other time.
So is the league being extra lenient about offensive fouls this year, or are the Blazers just getting the shitty end of the stick? I would like to hear from someone who sits at home all day and watches basketball.
Blazers up 83-79.
Worst Birdman edition ever. Where is he? WE WANT BIRD! WE WANT BIRD!
There goes Rudy with his international bitching. It's the same in every language!
Denver is doing some fancy passing now, too. And some fancy stealing. And some fancy layups. They are down one point. Ack, make that up one point. Ack, make that down one point. This is too hard. I quit.
Oh, good, they brought free-throw guy back. Or he brought himself back? Idunno. Anyway, he's here and he's still awfully obnoxious. Which is the point, I understand.
Huey Lewis' "Back in Time" is an excellent choice of a song to play during instant replay reviews. Also, referees still don't understand what constitutes a clear-path foul any better than the rest of us. And clear-path fouls are still fucking stupid.
Wessy Wes is really stuck at 20 points. Can we bring Marcus Camby back in the game? I like his spunk. Oh crap that sounded weird, didn't it. Moxie? Moxie is better. Can never be too careful, lotta homophobic basketball players out there.
So, no Nolan Smith or Chris Johnson tonight. Here comes Marcus, though. Dreams DO come true!
Oh, this is one of the things I've been looking forward to this season: Jamal Crawford heating up. Two real big shots in a row from him, and you can see some swagger in his post-swish stance. Guh, spoke too soon, now he's getting too fancy and losing the handle.
This game is really making me miss Andre Miller.
Good game. Also an overly officiated game. 37 fouls. That's definitely high. That's both teams getting into the penalty every quarter and then some. 46 of the evening's 196 points have been free throws.
These refs (and the last six we've had at the RG) are really letting guys slide in to take charges.
Wes approximates his special spot and lets another three rip. After it swishes, he keeps the hand up but does NOT show us the three goggles.
So now it's Jamal Crawford and Wes Matthews battling it out for the evening's scoring title. The team is 7-19 for three-point range and those two have six of the seven. 104-100 Zers. Gonna be a fun ending!
Now I'm on a numbers tear. I need a stats intern.
So, LaMarcus really wants his numbers and he's forcing shots to get them instead of passing back out from the post. I trust his shot, but nobody should rush shit like he's rushing shit. I think he'll take a deep breath now and do something real good. He backs Nene down, he looks around, the double-team comes, he dishes to Felton and FELTON DRAINS THE THREE! That's what I'm talking about. Patience and good decision making. Great call from LaMarc!
107-100 BLazers in the last two minutes.
I didn't realize Batum had four blocks. That's a lot of blocks, and if you count the magnificent goaltend (which you shouldn't, because it clearly hit the glas first) then he basically has five.
Big Cam Cam throws the ball off Nene (great hustle play) and dives into the crowd, where he lands squarely in Paul Allen's lap. Every girl's dream! Paul's okay, don't worry.
So Ray Felton gets a layup and the only two guys on the court who don't have 20 points or more are LaMarcus—who, it must be said, looks deflated out there at the moment—and Gerald Wallace, the two guys who have been doing the bulk of the Blazer scoring thus far.
And there it is. 111-102 and the Blazers whave won their first three in a row. You know that one is going to bug the shit out of ol' Andre Miller.
Player of the game has to be Wes Matthews, right? So did I call it or did I call it?
See you guys next time. I've no idea when next time is. I hope it's not for a few days. This season is killing my typing fingers.
Oh, next game is Sunday against the Clippers. That'll be fun. I'll see you then.