Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Toronto Raptors. It seems like it was only a few weeks ago that Portland—thanks to the last second heroics of Steve Blake—beat the Raptors in their carnivorous lair (actually it's called the Air Canada Centre, which I believe they totally spelled wrong). Toronto is a frustrating team to decipher, since they are stacked, top-to-bottom, with skilled players at almost every position (and on the bench), yet are currently slumming it at the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
So what is to blame for the Raptors inability to win games? The poor Canadian work ethic? Round bacon? Degrassi Junior High? Who knows, but the Raptors' lone Portland appearance this year is one of those games that the Blazers need to win if they want to maintain any hope of playing in the playoffs.
Toronto, in fourth place? Barely ahead of the lowly Knicks? Well, don't blame Chris Bosh, he's one of the NBA's top big fellas, and a bonafide YouTube superstar. Don't blame Jermaine O'Neal, he dropped 36 points in a Raptors' victory last night, and (allegedly) enjoys grabbing women on their shapely buttocks. Don't blame Jose Calderon, he's the best Spanish player in the game, sort of like Sergio Rodriguez, but with the ability to actually score points and never turn the ball over. No point in blaming Jamario Moon or Jason Kapono, since both are role players with designated skills (Kapono has nice hair and shoots threes, while Moon gets rebounds and isn't named Andrea Bargnani).
Meanwhile in camp Trail Blazers, the press row whispers are all about a possible lineup shuffle coming down the pike due to the team's poor play as of late. Getting punked by the Mavericks' Jose Juan Barea the other night is proof that this team needs a little more on-court defensive presence. Less time for Sergio? More time for Jerryd Bayless? We'll see...
11:00 - Greg Oden had nice positioning and a great angle at the hoop, but that did not prevent Bosh from pushing the ball down his throat. But let's hear it for tenacity, since Oden recovers and finishes with a mighty dunk. 4-2 Portland.
9:12 - Oden reeling off six straight points? And without a single foul? Or turnover? I never thought I'd see the day. 8-6 Portland.
8:08 - Okay, maybe Calderon occasionally turns it over. Aldridge, of all people, bats away his pass and takes it coast-to-coast for a dunk. 12-8 Portland.
6:32 - It ain't pretty—then again, the words "pretty" and "Oden" seldom go together—but Oden gets swatted twice before eventually getting a whistle in his favor. It might have gone on for infinity—like a basketball-themed MC Escher drawing—had the referees not blown the whistle. 14-10 Blazers.
3:05 - Yawn. Brandon Roy. Ridiculous acrobatic move. Two points. Yawn. Seen it all before. 22-18 Portland.
1:16 - Toronto is a fascinating team since they move the ball seamlessly (Did I just count 9 passes on one possession?), and have been able to keep even with a Portland team shooting nearly 60%. 24-22 Blazers.
0:00 - Was that the first period of the season where the Blazers did not even bother attempting a three-pointer? 28-26 Toronto.
11:00 - Rudy hits a three. The drought is over. 29-28 Blazers.
8:59 - Three point party! The Raptors are now 4-4 from the deep end of the pool, and Andrea Bargnani—the greatest number one pick since Kwame Brown—is the leading scorer of the game. 36-31 Toronto.
5:41 - Greg Oden is being covered, poorly, by the walking pile of pasty European softness that is Bargnani. If the Blazers dare pass the ball to anyone but Oden, I will personally walk down to the court and kick someone in the groin. Repeatedly. Then I will be arrested. 43-38 Portland.
2:15 - Bosh goes boom! Under a leaping Oden, over a jumping Travis Outlaw, and Bosh is left hanging from the rim following his big kid dunk. 50-40 Raptors.
0:00 - It was a disappointing half for Portland, but Outlaw makes the trip to the locker room a little more enjoyable by draining a half court (bank shot) three at the buzzer. 57-49 Raptors.
Good news. Bad news. The good news? Greg Oden is playing the best (half) game of his career. He is scoring (14 points so far), rebounding, not fouling, and his hulking body under the basket is leaving everyone else wide open. Too bad those wide open shots aren't falling. The bad news? Um, the scoreboard will do. The Blazers are not able to stop, or even slow down, Toronto's offense.
9:51 - Steve Blake feeds Oden under the basket and the big kid then punishes the rim with another dunk. It sounded terrible—like the metal rim let out a muffled scream—but it looked quite nice. 59-53 Dinosaurs.
8:03 - It's rare you see Brandon Roy give the evil eye to anyone in the same uniform, but after Nicolas Batum dribbled the ball off his foot, he gets the youaredeadtome glare from the team captain. Don't be surprised is Batum dies in a freak hazing incident after the game. Death by towel snapping—it's the leading cause of fatalities at frat houses nationwide. 61-58 Toronto.
4:01 - D-Fence! D-Fence! Oh wait, the Blazers don't play defense (or D-Fence). After crawling back into the game, the Blazers allow the Raptors' offense to posses the ball for nearly a minute straight—one offensive rebound after another—before finally scoring. And this went down with a lineup of five starters on the hardwood. That ain't right. 65-61 Toronto.
2:43 - Brandon Roy (pronounced Brandon Wa, for all our numerous French-Canadian readers in the Great White North) ties things up with a 10-foot jumper. 65-up.
0:00 - After Outlaw's amazing half court shot, I keep expecting more. But sadly that is not how it works. Sergio clanks his prayer heave, but the Blazers exit the quarter with a two point lead, and a dozen minutes to go: 69-67 Portland.
9:49 - Roy with a very reluctant jumper—no one else wanted the ball—and the Blazers keep trading baskets with Toronto. 71-69 Blazers.
8:20 - Not content with just baskets, they now trade threes—Bargnani and Roy both hitting—in an anything you can do, I can do better shooting contest. Jeez guys, it's not a competition. Oh wait, it is. Never mind. 76-72 Blazers.
8:06 - Sergio has looked better than usual—more steals than turnovers—but his defense needs to include more moves than the one where he stands there and watches someone dribble by him and score. 76-74 PDX.
7:02 - Roy just sliced up the Raptors' defense and finishes by switching hands mid-leap and scoring on a layup. A shot totally worthy of the laser sound effects that followed. 82-74 Portland.
6:16 - Former Blazer (more human paperweight on the end of the bench than actual player during his time here) Jermaine O'Neal is stuffed by Oden, then stripped of the ball by Roy. Portland is just not kind to him. 84-76 Blazers.
4:34 - Goodnight sweet Toronto. The Blazers are destroying everything in their path, as Roy pours it on (28 points so far), and a frustrated O'Neal gets whistled for a technical foul. 89-76 Portland.
3:46 - Roy hits the dirty 30 (as in points), then Oden is mysteriously whistled for a foul for...uh...wearing shorts on the court? Really, I have no idea what that was about. 91-81 Blazers.
1:29 - Outlaw with a dunk to more or less officially end this thing. But since Oden is one rebound away from a well deserved double-double, I think the Blazers should clear out and give him a chance of pulling one down. 97-89 Blazers.
It's nice to get a win like this with the Four Leaf Clover of Doom (also known as the Boston Celtics) game lingering just a few days away. From the Rose Garden, your final score: Portland 102, Toronto 89.