Almost Live: Rockets at Blazers (With Spoiler Potential!)
So, I always feel a kinship with referees. I was reminded of this a few minutes ago, when one offered a friendly but distant half-hug to Raymond Felton. I know that feeling. I write about music for a living. And you can get close to a band—physically close, until your ears bleed—but you're rarely close to a band. And, of course, if you get too close you've got to stop writing about them. I can't imagine refs are encouraged to get drinks with players after games. And I KNOW that players aren't encouraged to talk to referees in the parking lot after the game. See, that can be construed as threatening.
Maybe that's where the comparisons between music journalists and referees should end, but I know a few music writers who have been physically threatened. I've mostly been cyber-bullied, and occasionally I deserved it. Once or twice I've had things get heated in person. For the most part, I guess, musicians realize that their work is fair game for criticism. Now that's where the comparison stops: Very few NBA players see room for critique in their game. And even when they do, guys are so frustrated with themselves that they don't really want to play nice with the refs after a call.
FIRST HOLYSHIT QUARTER!
Marcus Camby wins the tip and nabs the first contested rebound from Joel Przybilla. I'm thinking Camby wins tonight's matchup at Center, Idunno about you. Like Wallace, the ex-Blazer center got a hearty round of applause when introduced (followed by some really venemous booing for Louis Scola, who I'm a big fan of).
10:00 It's still 0-0.
9:55 LaMarcus Aldridge breaks the drought.
Oh, wait, no he doesn't. Refs get together and decide the foul was before the shot, which seems kinda far-fetched. Big guys really get screwed on continuation. Guards can spin and juke in the lane, take three more steps and lay up the ball and still get the basket and a free-throw. Big guys pretty much have to be in the air, on the way to the hoop.
Courtney Lee scores the first basket of the game. It's a three.
7:59 Houston really has some three-point shooters. In their world, Chandler Parsons is a guy who CAN'T shoot the three, but I've seen his stroke and it's more impressive than most guys on a lot of rosters. Then there's Dragic and Lee out there, and off the bench you get Chase Budinger. On the injured list you have both Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin. When this team's healthy, they can drain it all day.
5:38 So, I thought it was pretty telling that Mike Rice, you is ostensibly a mouthpiece for the organization (and who hasn't taken a sick day in years, it should be noted, despite appearing sick on camera a handful of times), made the comment the other night in Dallas that he noticed Blazer fans talking all kinds of trash when Ray Felton screwed up, but that Twitter went silent when he played well. He was right about that, but it's rare that a voice of the organization will acknowledge that a player is reviled by the fanbase (after all, these guys all ride on the plane together). So it has gotten THAT BAD. We HAVE to talk about it on the Blazer broadcast. Wow. You'd think Ray came to Portland rocking a Laker jersey.
Silly turnover from Ray Felton. Timing, man, timing...
1:04 Speaking of guys Portland loves to hate, it looks like all Luke Babbitt needed to show he belongs in the league was a little playing time, huh? I mean, he's not gonna start any time soon, but he has shown some fine shooting and a really surprising amount of defensive hustle and, occasionally, a passion for rebounding. I kinda like the kid.
Marcus. Camby. For. Three. OUCH.
SECOND OHMYGOD QUARTER!
Jonny Flynn's soundbite went from two seconds of "Johnny B Good" to Jack Nicholson saying "Here's Johnny." Do you think he requested that change himself?
Other guys you shouldn't sleep on because of the color of their skin, you fucking racists: Chase Budinger. That dude runs the court like a deer! And he gets into the passing lanes.
10:16 Nolan Smith and Jonny Flynn on court at the same time, and helping each other out nicely. Jonny scores a three and we're back to "Johnny B Good." All is right in the world. You can sleep soundly tonight.
9:35 Houston has hit five threes in about 14 minutes. That's a pretty good clip.
9:25 And Jonny Flynn is sure excitable.
7:00 Babbitt to Hickson to Nolan Smith to the basket. I've said it before...WHO ARE THESE GUYS!?!?!?
If you had to pick a player of the game so far, I think you'd have to go with Marcus Camby. Though JJ Hickson is starting to get aggressive.
I don't know if I've been clear about this, but wow, this team is a goddamn mess.
5:02 Idunno, Joel, is THAT the hill you want to die on? It was a moving screen. Yeah, Courtney Lee tried to avoid the contact, but you were moving when he stumbled down to his knees going around you. I think you've been around long enough to know that call is gonna go against you.
For the second time this year, a woman has proposed to a man on the big screen. I'm all about it. Well, actually, I have a lot of gripes with the institution of marriage—but I also have problems with the patriarchy, so this shit is right up my alley. When we get some gay marriage proposals, then I'll reconsider my position on the whole thing.
That was definitely not a foul on Marcus Camby. This game has not been called well. Lotta late whistles, a lot of disagreement among refs, a lot of craziness.
We all like it when the underdog succeeds, but let's get one thing straight: Luke Babbitt hitting a three does not require Superman music.
The score is Houston 47, Portland 40
Oh, why the hell not...
THIRD WHOANELLY QUARTER!
Blazers open with an airball, Rockets follow with a Marcus Camby shot that might as well be one. No need to get carried away, big fella!
A defensive stop and a beneficial whistle that puts Jamal Crawford on the line. Could things be turning around for our as-of-late less-than-scrappy protagonists?
Blazers locking down on defense and every time they get a stop it's really, really hard to not think (or say aloud if you're allowed to do such things) "where was this earlier in the season." It's cliche, but it's a thing. Zers down two points...
9:11 Ray Felton evens the score.
If Joel Przybilla is headed off to see the wizard, he is definitely singing "If I Only Had Some Hands." I mean, he has physical hands, of course, but what he's really asking for is a better handle and this comes out elsewhere in the song, I'm sure.
Remember earlier when I talked about the player of the game? Now it would be Goran Dragic. He's good.
If there's a hump, the Blazers are humping it. But they can't quite get into full mount mode. The Rocks hit their eighth three-pointer and it's one of those stories of the season—the BLazers just don't defend very well.
Marcus Camby is playing really well, but he looks combo bored/hurt/depressed out there. We got so many smiles when he was a Blazer. Maybe it's just all business tonight. That could be the case.
Hot damn I miss those Marcus Camby passes. When they were on, they were really on. Nice dish into the post there.
A Ray Felton assist. Think about Ray this way: How would you feel about him right now if Portland never had Andre Miller? God, I can't even remember who the point guard before Andre Miller was. He really didn't matter.
Everybody is hooting and hollering about JJ Hickson's block, and it looked fantastic, but Scola had a point there: Hickson used his body for leverage, pushing himself upward with the off-arm while he blocked the shot with the other. I guess Blake Griffin is making that acceptable for the whole league.
Rough foul from Nolan Smith. Wait, why is Kaleb Canales fighting with the refs on this one!? Oh, oh, because Wes Matthews says he was hacked on the other end. I get it. Not sure if that's true, though. Meanwhile the Rockets' coaching staff can't get the refs attention as they try to make the case for that being a flagrant foul, which it kinda looked like. Horse collar? Do they do that in basketball?
Portland makes a little run and then watches that run recede like LeBron James' hairline. Its okay to make fun of LeBron James hairline—not that there's anything to be ashamed of in balding, of course—but it's okay to make fun of because it's LeBron James and he's a big jerk.
There's a new Blaze who has a giant body and a giant head. I'm torn between calling him Tim Burton Blaze or Cirque Du Soleil Blaze. But the announcer calls him "Giant Dancefloor Blaze." Is this a Burning Man thing? I don't understand. He's terrifying.
FOURTH QUARTER FOR THE WIN!
11:12 Two dunks from Joel in one night! He's back in his prime!
Another thing this Houston team has: Floppers galore! If floppers were flappers, this game would be the roaring '20s!
Uncle Cliffy in the building. Apparently they couldn't afford to get him a seat—he's just hanging out next to Bill Schonely in the corner.
8:24 Some dudes are trying to get a Luke Babbitt chant going. It almost caught on, too.
Blazers straight getting whooped by b-teamers and call-ups. Dudes you've never heard of are beating the Blazers' ass right now.
Burning Man Blaze is back and he's on rollerblades and he's the most terrifying thing ever. Whoever is piloting him is some kind of ballerina, though.
You may have noticed I'm not referencing what's going on on this basketball court much. Sometimes a game like this gets me into a weird sort of daze. All the misses and the turnovers, and my head is just bouncing back and forth and back and forth. I get a little confused and dizzy and then I get veeeerrrrryyyy sleeeeeeepy.
I will say that JJ Hickson, while a fine inside scorer and rebounder, is not yet a good decision-maker. He just rarely has the presence of mind to make special off-the-ball plays. And often he oes quite the opposite.
Blazers getting bailed out by a lot of easy missed Rockets shots, but then they're taking dumb shots on the other end. This is why people think they're trying to lose.
Felton leads the charge and YEAH! Nice fast break with Aldridge getting fouled big. Blazers will come back to take two free-throws. They'll have to make quite a push. Meanwhile, a lot of rich lower-bowl folks are headed for the exits.
I fear that, with that little stretch of rebounds and missed shots, the Blazers just lost themselves some fans. Jamal Crawford is enemy number two around here after Ray Felton, and the organization traded away two of the most popular players. I think now that the reality of no playoffs is sinking in, some of the bandwagoneers are gonna hop off and walk.
That Dragic is real fast, man. Wes Matthews can't stay in front of him and everybody thinks Wes Matthews is a pretty good defender, right?
Gasps and groans as the Blazers give up an easy rebound to Luis Scola. Shoulda played the "BONK!" sound effect. This one's over. The Rockets get one step closer to guaranteeing themselves a playoff spot and the Blazers get one step closer to starting from near-scratch next year.
LaMarcus for three! But the Blazers will need to steal an inbounds pass to make something of substance happen here.
And, no. That is game.
Houston whatever - Blazers whatever is your final score.
Well, Rockets, you won't have the Trail Blazers to kick around anymore.