The camera flashes to the hall just outside the locker room, as it always does before games, and most of the players glance sideways at the camera for a minute or ignore it all together. Nolan Smith, though, flashes a smile and a big peace sign, like he's a giddy fan who has falsely assumed he's on national television. I like that. Looseness. I know Nolan probably won't see the court much—if at all—tonight, but the Blazers could use that happy-go-lucky attitude tonight against the Clips, who (with the exception of Chris Paul) always look like they're having fun out there.
Of course, no matter how the Blazers play tonight, we get to see Blake Griffin. And Blake Griffin is the kind of player you'll be telling your grandchildren you saw in the flesh. He's that good. Probably my favorite player to watch in the NBA. If you told me a few years ago that I'd be digging around on League Pass every night, searching for Clipper games, I'd have...no, actually, I liked those Baron Davis-led Clippers, too. But my favorite player those days was Marcus Camby. He's one of us now.
Let's get down to business, shall we? First quarter is about to begin.
Oh, maybe I should explain the image. I made that in GIMP, because I don't have Photoshop nor know how to use it. There's no deeper meaning to it. It's sort of just a random collage. If you'd like to add-a-caption, be my guest. Maybe you will find a narrative where I've found none.
You know, I don't remember players hugging this much a few years ago in the NBA. I think maybe the lockout taught them a lesson about finding power in numbers. Or maybe two men hugging is cool now where it wasn't before. Who knows. But the hugging is honestly kind of out of control.
Clips win the tip. That rhymes!
You can see that this Aldridge/Griffin matchup is going to be a pushy one. It's funny: I noticed not long ago that LaMarcus Aldridge only picks fights with assholes. And while I don't think Blake is an asshole, he sure gets to looking like one when the game is tight. I think you might see a few elbows fly tonight between those two.
Marcus Camby is first to score for the Blazers and Ray Felton is second. LaMarcus has tried twice to snuggle up to his man in the post (Jordan guarded him the second time up), but the post game is a little slow to start. Just so long as it's a threat, the Blazers should keep tossing him the ball in the post.
I don't think Chris Paul could knock Gerald Wallace down with a running start, but he did fling an elbow at Wallace, and that was enough to elicit a big old flop from the Zers' energy man. The ref is in a buying mood. That will be good to know later on.
Okay, eight-year-old-girl, your dad definitely helped you with that "THE NBA: WHERE LAMAZING HAPPENS" sign. I know you're proud, but you should really give props to your pops.
Fouls! Glorious fouls!
Blake and LaMarcus are doing a pretty good job of canceling each other out. Neither man has any points, and they really look pretty evenly matched tonight. There goes my whole "Greatest Player of his Generation" speech. I guess Blake still has some developing to do.
Gerald Wallace, though, has the right idea. Post Blake up, then take advantage of all the oglers staring down the Blake matchup by handing the ball off to a cutter in the lane. Gorgeous.
Gerald Wallace has been considerably better here at the Rose Garden than he has on the road. I think he's into the whole crowd thing. I really do.
LaMarcus Aldridge picks up an early second foul while trying to block DeAndre Jordan's dunk. He did, at least, stop the ball from going in the hole. And Jordan ain't great at the line. He misses the first, then Aldridge checks out.
Jordan misses the second, too, but the Clips get a long rebound. Blake Griffin, meanwhile, looks completely off his game. Blazers lead 20-13.
My boy Marcus Camby is proving that the Clipper frontcourt ain't so big and bad. He has six points and six boards already. We all know the man can pass--maybe he'll go for a triple-double tonight.
The game tightens up a bit on a Blake Griffin jumper that's from out past the free-throw line. That shot is looking better all the time, so it's getting harder to cringe at it. This one swishes. The guy will be un-defendable if he becomes a regular mid-to-long-range threat.
Jamal Crawford with the travel> And I thought that was gonna be big, too.
It's mighty warm up here in press row annex, and seeing as how I haven't had any caffeine since 2011, it's making me awful tired. The game is a close oneâtoo many fouls, I guess, that would put anyone to sleepâbut I am hitting a wall. Hard.
Clips make a little run at the end of the quarter to go up 26-24. UNACCEPTABLE! TRY HARDER!
After missing his first attempt of the quarter, Nic Batum picks up a foul on the nice diving jumper (diver?) here to put the Blazers up three. He looks up towards the sreen a long time, I think he was trying to see his own replay.
Another possible and-one, this time from Wes Matthews, who waited for the defense to come to him before letting loose his jumper. Good plan, Wes. I'm not sure that was actually a foul, but it sure was a nice shot. Clips call timeout in disgust. It's SOOOOO hot in here.
Another three-point play from the Blazers. That's three in the quarter. Not bad. Not bad at all. This game is incredibly slow and overly officiated, but at least it's going in the right direction for the home team, eh?
I would not have guessed that Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge would be non-factors throughout most of the first half, but I suppose it can happen to anyone. It even happened to Dwight Howard a few games ago. Did you see that one? Where he went scoreless until mid-way through the fourth quarter? Wacky, wild stuff folks.
WHOAH! YEAH! DAMN! BLAKE GRIFFIN WITH THE ... Layup? The Layup? Really, Blake? These people have gone almost a half a game without seeing you do that thing you do.
Finally LaMarcus Aldridge hustles in a layup over Griffin at the rim. Actually, he misses one, then gets his own board and knocks in the tip. Blazer fans will take it.
Aaaaaaand that Nic Batum dunk might be the dunk of the night. But that would be sad.
And the NBA's leading alley-oop combo strikes again. Camby to LaMarc for the back-door dunk. Blake Griffin even tried grabbing LaMarcus' jersey to keep that one from happening, but the L-Train's roll was just too pretty. His roll could not be slowed.
These people officially don't like Blake Griffin. I would think there'd be a bit of begrudging respect there. After all, he does a lot of the things that makes folks cheer so hard for Gerald Wallace. He just pouts a bit while he does them.
It's finally happening. The oldest big man tandem in the leagueâperhaps in NBA historyâis out there. Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby are sharing the court. The danger here is that they will fall asleep.
My extremely low hit count this evening (about 1/10th of my readers for the Laker game) makes me think it's okay to just say absolutely nothing of consequence for the rest of the game. So, in summation, yah yah yah yah, yah yah yah yah. YAHHHHHH!!!!
These Clips won't seem to let the Blazers bust loose, and it's a young enough team that a little lead like this (the Blazers are up 54-46) is really nowhere near safe. I've seen the Clippers get rolling a few times this season, and they'll roll right over your face. And your face will be left there, frowning, bruised, toothless. Blazers are going to need some legs underneath them for the second half. Hopefully the old folks aren't feeling it too hard.
Here in the building we get the Last Regiment of Syncopated Drummers. You, however, get the most viewed video on YouTube for today. Someone wanna translate?
Say, the second-most viewed video of the day is actually basketball-related! I guess they almost took away this dude's $1,000 prize because he stepped on the half-court line? Here's the Yahoo! Sports story on it.
Marcus Camby isn't exactly an offensive powerhouse, but he has missed two real basic layups tonight that I bet will haunt him after the game. Then again, he's played a lot of basketball--maybe nothing haunts him anymore.
...And he lays the next one in quite smoothly. Don't count that trip-dub out just yet.
...And he draws an expert-level foul on Chris Paul. It's CP3's fourth.
Now LaMarcus is heating up, and leaving old Blake in the dust. Maybe I shouldn't say that. Oh, what the hell, I'm a purely objective observer: LaMarcus is kicking Blake's ass.
...Blake just nailed the exact shot LaMarcus hit on the other end. I didn't think he had it in him!
Wow, it's a shoot-out between Blake and Aldridge. Between them they've made four...scratch that, make it five in a row. Weird turn. LaMarcus is expected, but Blake with the long bombs? Guess he worked on that in the offseason, huh?
Camby, who has a double-double but remains nine assists shy of his trip-dub, misses two free-throws at the line. Booger. That's what I say. Booger.
All hail Gerald Wallace, tonight's leading scorer and the man who keeps on ticking after taking various lickings.
The Blazers are showing some nice defensive hustle and a lot of good ball movement on the other end. It's pretty, watching a bunch of relatively big men make spot-on touch passes in the half-court and then watching a 6-11 dude knock down a graceful jumper. You don't see that every day in the NBA.
You know what you DO usually see every day in the NBA, though? Blake Griffin dunking a ton. Todays' just not the day. Chris Paul isn't looking for him and he's not looking to make his own shots. Blazer fans will be happy that PDX shut the guy down pretty well, but aren't they also a little disappointed to not see this freak of nature get freaky?
So the big screen played one of those "Geting to Know You" features on Gerald Wallace, and the crowd hung on his every answer. After the segment, they broke into spontaneous "Ger-ald Wal-lace!" chants. It seemed to come completely out of the blue, and Wallace himself looked a little puzzled. Then, about 30 seconds in, he cracked a smile. That's a rare thing for him on the court. As you can imagine, the crowd cranked it up a notch. What a weird town, he must be thinking.
Zers up 74-68 but it should be a real tight fourth quarter. I got a feeling.
All this talk about Chris Paul and what a huge deal he is...I mean, he is a huge deal, but Mo Williams is also very, very good. It still feels strange to me that he's coming off the bench. There are so many teams that would prefer Williams to their current starting point guards: New York, Orlando, Chicago.....
Okay, I just threw Chicago in there to see if you were paying attention. 78-71.
Jamal Crawford is off. Way off. I think it's the weather. Any time this team brings in what it thinks is a "pure shooter," they seem to lose their touch. That's troubling. Hopefully it's not really the case with ol' Jamal, but he's certainly having another down night tonight.
Well now, Jamal's ears must be burning. He's creating some oportunities for himself by getting fouled and making slick moves to the rim. Meanwhile, the Clippers are settling for long jumpers. The Blazers are up nine. Okay, up seven after Caron Butler breaks the spell for the Clips. LaMarcus and Gerald Wallace getting ready to check in. Hard to go a long time without those fellas.
Rose Garden has a pretty good wave going on. It might be too early for that. I saw one at Staples Center during a Clipper game recently, though, so Portland isn't the only town doing it. The PA guy goes with some Beach Boys to match the mood. Good call.
Very pretty hook shoot from Blake. Of course, I think it's entirely uncool that he's showing us the finesse when the raw power game is so much more fun, but what are you gonna do?
I need a statistician. Who wants to apply for the job? No, no--it's a work-from-home type of deal. Here's the application: Find out for me how many consecutive games Blake Griffin has had a dunk in. I think we may be on the verge of breaking a streak here tonight.
This one is coming down to the wire, but for a Clipper/Blazer matchup, it has been exceptionally boring. Whooo, but that Ray Felton three with the hand ON his face helped spice things up a bit.
Blake Griffin, I'm really not happy with you. I paid a lot of hard-earned money to be here tonight, and you're not even climbing the stairway to heaven you call dunksville. Of course, I guess I didn't actually pay any money to be here, but I paid for the â
AW SHIT, that was a dunk. Just an okay dunk by Blake standardsâa two-handed put-back with a bit of rim-hangingâbut a dunk nonetheless. I feel a little better now.
Huh huh huh.
Marcus Camby's dunk is better than Blake's. And I'm pretty sure it's his second. Camby with 12 points, 11 boards and two assists. If you're ever going to give him player of the game, now's probably the time, eh?
Wow, these are the most intense boobirds I've heard all season. And honestly, Gerald Wallace kinda had this foul coming. But the best home crowd in the NBA gets your back when you're giving your all, even if you probably threw an elbow.
Even through the highlights of Nic Batum dunking, they don't stop booing. It's a deep, penetrating booâthe kind that child molesters and wife-beaters would feel shamed by. It's real damn rough.
Clipper ball. 96-88 Blazers. And Chris Paul nails the layup. The booing continues. I'd say it has been a good four or five minutes now.
Oh, that was sweet. Gerald Wallace lets his three-pointer do the talking. Nicely done. Very nice.
Well, the relative lack of jaw-dropping action throughout this game has sorta been erased by this emotionally charged wrap. It looks like the Blazers will hold onto a slim lead, but you'd have thought the refs just handed the Clippers the game from this crowd's intensity level. Save it for Orlando, huh?
And EVERYONE'S unhappy. The crowd, the Blazers, the Clippers. EVERYONE. Ray Felton going to the line. I get scared when he's there.
Felton goes one-for-two, but on the other end, Chauncey Billups kicks out a knee as he lets loose a three-pointer. That knee goes right into the crotch of Wes Matthews.
Lots of little mental mistakes and moments of bad luck going down the stretch here. The Blazers are lucky to be up six, considering. Ray Felton just hasn't been flourishing in clutch situations while wearing the black, red and white.
And that's why they call Chauncey Billups "Sir Large Shots." Wait, that's not right, is it?
"Mister Hoop Jams!"
"SeÃ±or Gigante Basket!"
"Shotsy Billups, Sr."
Looks like Wes Matthews is heading to the line to make this a five-point game. You've gotta like the fight in these Clips!
Wessy Wes bounces in the first shot.
The Clips make a series of beguiling substitutions that look kinda like a Three Stooges routine. The crowd boos loudly. Delay of Game Warning? Is that what they want?
Well, if Marcus Camby isn't the player of the game there's something seriously wrong here. He may not have the most points on the board, but he just made an awful big play to seal the game for the Zers (sorta hard one to describe--it was less a block than a stop; I guess I'd say "he took a ball for his team"?). Maybe Cam Cam and Wallace can share MVP honors.
Ray Felton misses his second free-throw, but redeems himself by getting in the passing lane and stealing the ball back for the Blazers. He goes to the line and drains two. A very nice way to wrap things up.
Blazers win it 105-97. That was pretty much the margin all night after the first quarter. They go up 7-2. Good show.
See you guys tomorrow, then? Oh, good.
Looks like Gerald got the Player of the Game honors. He was great.