Before you ask, no, I didn't wrangle Andrew W.K. into live-blogging tonight's Blazer game. I suspect I might have been able to land him for the first half of this evening's contest, were I to have thought about it a bit further in advance than just now, but, alas, that didn't happen.
I will, however, be leaving this game immediately after the final buzzer to try and catch the end of Mr. W.K.'s set at the Wonder Ballroom. I'll be late, but I'm thinking a half hour worth of W.K. is enough for any one lifetime.
Now let's switch gears a bit and talk about the Blazers. The team is on the very edge of NBA irrelevance. That's a pretty stark contrast from the last time I was here (God, when was that? Pre-All Star break, I guess.). The fact is that these dudes haven't looked together on the court. Yes they've been missing shots; yes they've been getting beat on the glass; yes they've played some really inexcusable team defense. Most of all, they just don't look like they hang out off the court. Even now, during shootaround, the body language isn't great. I just watched like eight shots in a row bounce off the rim, and nobody is palling around. Yeah, that's partially because these dudes really want to win tonight and they're nervous about it. It's also because this team just isn't having any fun. And that is a gigantic change from a year ago. That's day and night.
Why should I bring all this up if I don't have an answer? I do have an answer, actually. The team starts a seven-game road trip tomorrow. They should rent rooms with double beds. They should play a lot of poker on off-nights. They should get in some fights with each other. They should play slugbug on the bus. First and foremost, the coaching staff should institute a "no headphones" policy while the team is traveling. Sleeping? Cool. Each player living in his own little world? Definitely not cool. These guys are not homies, and if this team is going to go anywhere in what little time is left this season, they're going to need to get real close.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Now let's do some blizzogging, which is a fancy way of saying blogging.
The Hornets have five points and they should really have seven, but Chris Kaman missed an early layup. It's gotta feel pretty awful to be the Blazers in that situation, as their first quarters have been total shit lately and they've dug too deep of holes to climb out of, as the cliche goes. Tonight, though, the shooters have some unexplained confidence. First Ray Felton drains the three, then Nic Batum next time up. After three minutes, LaMarcus aldridge hasn't touched the ball and the Blazers are up 8-7. The general, Basketball For Dummies playbook would say "go to your big man and then work the ball outside," but the Zers' strategy seems to be "keep them double-teaming your big man and pass it to everyone but him, thus giving you the advantage." Can't argue with the early success.
Marcus Camby takes his perimeter passing game to a new frontier: THE FRENCH FRONTIER. He dishes to Nic the way he usually alley-oops to LaMarcus, and it's a beautiful thing. I love the idea of Camby a) passing more and b) having a second option around the hoop. Give that man more perimeter touches!
Day turns to night; The sun shines; Cats meow; Dogs bark; Trevor Ariza misses his shots. These are the inevitable truths of the place we call Earth.
Who's coming out first, Wallace, Camby or Nic Batum?
Shame to take any of them out, actually. This is really smooth basketball. Maybe they took my advice and went out drinking together after the loss the other night.
It was Nic "Hottest Man on the Floor" Batum that went out. I guess Nate's thinking Batty will come even more in handy once the Hornets are forced to go small. Joel was moving towards the court a minute ago, but then he was called back to the bench. Blazers take a timeout. So we'll see Joel in a minute, will we also see Jamal Crawford? Again, it would be nice if you could just leave this starting squad in for the whole first half! They are playing like, uh, basketball players. Let's not get carried away. It is the Hornets they're playing.
What's the over/under on Joel Przybilla retiring in Portland? What's the over/under on him retiring this summer? Seems like a guy who could play backup for a couple more years, but I know he has talked about calling it a day. Przy gets yet another hearty applause checking in this time, though I can't help but notice that the announcer is sorta egging them on when he says "Jooooooooel Pryz-BILLA!"
Elliot Williams gets like a minute of frantic running around before the quarter ends with the Zers up 27-17. That's the best start since the San Antonio game. I'm not looking at statistics when I say that, I'm talking about spiritually.
Ugh. Hope the second quarter isn't the new first quarter.
Elliot Williams finally gets to handle the ball a bit and it ends with him swishing a mid-range jumper. It's the getting it to him that seems hard for Jamal Crawford and company. Really, though, there are only three scorers on the floor right now, and Williams is the one who has made something happen. I'd rather see him taking it to the hole than settling for real long jumpers, though.
Like that. Kid is good.
Yikes, everything is really better with Nic Batum. He knows where to be on the floor on offense and he exerts an awful lot of defensive pressure. And he's just so handsome.
It's kind of like watching a mirror image: The Hornets pass and pass and pass with the goal of getting the ball to the hoop. The Blazers pass and pass with the intent of getting a lousy three-point shot at the buzzer. It's not a talent problem we got here, it's just a distance-from-the-hoop problem. I'm sorry, but Chris Kaman isn't THAT big of a problem in the paint.
Nate goes with the starters again.
I love Marcus Camby's game more than anybody I know, but DAMN. How do you get to be 38 years old without figuring out the finger roll? For real? He's the only guy his size—save for maybe Ben "Tiny Hands" Wallace—who can shoot 20 percent from point blank range for an extended period of time.
The Hornets are quick to double-team LaMarcus, and LaMarcus is perhaps just a little too quick in passing out of it. He's not really reaping the benefits of the double-team scenario, which include getting fouled and-or freeing up a teammate. He kicks out as soon as he sees the second guy running towards him, and the shooter he kicks it to often hesitates, giving that second defender time to go back and cover his original man again. It's a messy situation, compounded by the fact that the Blazers look really awful at the rim right now and shooting long-balls seems about the only option.
The first unit has really cooled off here. Has anyone ever made a Bill Clinton/First unit joke? I suppose it would really only be appropriate at the rare Washington Wizards game. "And speaking of the First Unit, here's ex-president Bill Clinton." Well, I thought it was funny.
We got a pretty impressive screamer in the crowd. I thought he was screaming "BENNY!" at referee Benny Adams, but Adams isn't working this game. Maybe he's talking about heading to the Bennihana after the game? Or saying "Bellinelli!"? I'm not sure. I'd better listen a bit closer. Yikes, Kaman already working on a double-double.
That may have been Raymond Felton's prettiest drive of the season. Not that there have been a lot of nice drives to compare it to. It caps a mini-run. Blazers up 46-38.
In case you were wondering what happened last time Nickleback "rocked" the Rose Garden, in 2010. Nickleback is due back (with Bush in a supporting role, OMG) this summer.
I hope the third quarter isn't the new first quarter.
Come on now, Blazers, are you partying hard or hardly partying? Hornets getting niece looks at the basket. It's a regular Mardi Gras for them. But the Blazers look over-eager. They look like balls of nerves. Balls filled with nerves. I don't understand that phrase, actually.
Even after having some offensive success in the first half, Ray Felton looks scared to shoot the ball here in the third. Of course, if he'd let those threes fly and missed them, I'd probably talk about how he should never shoot another three in his life. What can I say, I'm fickle.
7:21 I've got to tell you the truth, I just don't know who number 15 is. I mean, I'm looking at the box score now and I see that he's Gustavo Ayon, but I really don't know that guy. Maybe I should be paying more attention.
LaMarcus starting to leave his LaMARK on this game. WHOOOOOOOOO MUTHAFUCKA I GOT JOKES!
Now I know that Ayon is from Mexico, and that he won a lot before coming to the NBA. Not a lot of personal information about the guy on the internet. I want to know what his favorite ice cream flavor is. What's his favorite Mexican soap opera? What's his favorite cartoon character. I would like Gustavo to be humanized for me, please, because right now he's just a big broad-shouldered dude who keeps getting grabbed on the court.
Ray Felton having a good game. If that means what it used to mean, he'll come off the bench again next game. Blazers up 14 points all of a sudden. Guess I was googling "Gustavo Ayon" while the run happened.
Trevor Ariza, sure as the Northern Lights and the march of the penguins, misses both free-throws. Man, that guy is about as big a disappointment as they come. At this point in his career I guess it's just accepted that he's gonna shoot like 35% for the rest of his career. Bummer.
BIg third quarter thus far. All the starters are in except Gerald Wallace, and errybody is playing pretty sweet ball. The ball, actually, is the thing that's helping. It's moving, see? It's bouncing and moving East/West, as they say.
The Kings just tried a Jimmer way-back three for the win. I love it. He missed, but let's see a lot more of those crazy threes in the future, please.
It's funny that the Blazers subtitle anything Gerald Wallace says on the big screen. It's also kind of necessary. These speakers are not accustomed to the bass in his voice.
You think somebody told Marcus that I goofed on his layup skills? Because that was a Kobe-esque move at the hoop right there. Graceful and tricky.
Credit where Credit be due. Ray Felton is having a great game. Bigger than the numbers would suggest. Maybe the benching scared him straight? God that's a rude way of putting it.
The Blazers get their 20-point lead back on a back-door alley-oop from Felton to Batum. This is what we've been looking for, Ray! Saw a few of those during the epic opening home stand, but it has been far too long. Seems like all we see Ray do is pound his fist against the palm of his hand and grimace. He needed a good flashy move there. 11 points and 10 assists for Felton.
Wes Matthews with the block on Aminunderachiever, and this is a 19-point lead. All the Blazers who've been having a hard time are doing pretty well (save for Wallace, who makes up for it by talking in a really low voice) here tonight.
The Blazers go to the fourth with a 22-point lead. Not bad at all.
And there's Gerald getting in on the act.
I feel bad for Monty Williams. Remember how that ex-Blazer assistant started last season? Man, his team had like ten wins in a row, he had Chris Paul, he had a future, god damnit. Now look at this rag-tag group. What is Williams supposed to do? Cry, I suppose.
The crowd oohs and aahs to Joel Przybilla's block, and Kurt and Marcus are getting a really long chuckle out of it. I wonder which part made them laugh? Maybe that Joel showed absolutely no interest in getting back after the block?
Yeah, that was a big Nic Batum putback. Dude plays like a Center sometimes.
Sooooo there's one thing I've never done while blogging a Blazer game. I've never left early. And I might do it tonight. As much as I want to bring you the final score, the Blazers are up 26 and Andrew W.K. is probably doing his pre-show stretches as we speak. So howabout this: You turn on the TV and turn me off. I know, it seems unfair somehow—and I really am the consummate professional most games, you'll agree. But tonight? Tonight I gotta embrace fate.
So, final score? Let's say 98-76. I'm sorry, no Chalupas for you.
Shit, missed my opportunity to leave on the sly. Gonna try again at the next timeout. I love ya, Blazer fans, I really do. Check the Twitter for updates: twitter.com/caseyjarman or whatever.
Anything can happen in an NBA game. Now I'm paranoid. I'm wondering if I might be making a mistake. I've revised my scoring prediction, as nothing is going in the basket. Final score will be 92-78. Jarrett Jack and company will make a mini-comeback.