Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets in the final game of the (regular) season. This weekend marks the start of the second season known as "the playoffs," a glorious time of the year unfamiliar to Portlanders not aware of such names as Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, Jeff McInnis, and Chris Dudley. Those were three esteemed members of the last Blazers team to make the post-season, back in a strange time (2002-03) where the economy was strong, LeBron James was still in high school, and our popular (63% approval) president was named Bush. Who knew such a strange time ever existed?
Without getting too deep into the playoff seeding craziness, Portland needs to win this game to secure homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs, which is important since they don't have a prayer without it. Denver only cares about tonight's outcome if the Houston Rockets win their game (they are up by three points with twelve minutes to go).
The players are not scoreboarding watching, but I sure am. As of right now. New Orleans and San Antonio are headed to overtime, and Houston is probably going to lose to Dallas. That's bad news for Portland. The Blazers match up the best against the Spurs, and to play Houston would be a nightmare, and even getting the 3rd seed and drawing New Orleans is onlt slightly better. Ugh.
This just in: Dallas has beat Houston. That means there is a chance that the Rockets will come here in the first round. Booooo.
Okay, so here is the breakdown (right before tipoff): The Spurs have won, the Rockets have lost. That means the Blazers are drawing the worst possible matchup, the Houston Rockets. If Portland wins tonight, the series will start in town. If not, they're going to Houston.
10:42 - Steve Blake misses his 12-foot jumper, but tips the rebound to Przybilla for the dunk. Don't try that this weekend, Yao Ming will block it. Twice. 4-0 Blazers.
7:56 - Blake hits a three from the corner and now we can all start watching the Denver bench. No point in them playing their starters since they have clinched the second seed and are playing New Orleans in the first round. 12-7 Portland.
5:37 - Houston? Ugh, I hate Houston. Other than the Geto Boys, what has that city ever given us? The Rockets are a terrible matchup for the Blazers. Plus, all the international media that shadows Yao means the odds of me getting press credentials are smaller than the odds of Tracy McGrady ever playing for that team again. That's pretty small. So who wants to invite me over to watch the playoffs? 16-9 Blazers.
3:38 - Chris "Birdman" Anderson gets poked in the beak by Oden. Thankfully he can't feel a thing right now He also thinks Steve Blake is an actual muppet. You and me both, Birdman. 16-9 Blazers.
1:14 - Rudy for three from the corner (how many times have I typed that this season?). 21-17 Blazers.
0:08 - Kenyon Martin nearly pushes Anderson (his teammate) over, then seconds later, puts back a rebound with a tough one-hand dunk. He also took the time to get four new tattoos during that play as well. That is real multitasking. 23-22 Portland
11:20 - Forty seconds in, and Portland has already knocked back a pair of three-pointers. Travis Outlaw was first, Rudy followed. The crowd delivers the "Rudy! Rudy!" chant, yet no love for Outlaw. Clear evidence of Portland's beard bias. 29-22 Blazers.
10:02 - 'Lil Sergio Rodriguez ruined a fastbreak by getting swatted at the rim, but he gets his revenge on the following play when he fakes out Anderson (this isn't D.C. comics, I can't keep calling him "The Birdman" unless he starts cleaning up the streets of Gotham), and hits the layup. 33-22 Portland.
8:15 - Sergio once again goes directly at Anderson, avoids the block, and lays it in. There is a bit of David vs. Goliath between these two. That is, if Goliath looked like a man who made homemade porn and cooked meth in his broken down Winnebago. I think I read about that in the bible. It's in Leviticus: The Unedited Edition. 37-25 Portland.
5:35 - Roy gets faked out by Chauncey (I always think of Being There when I hear his name, and that makes me happy) Billups and hits the floor. His knee bent in a funny—meaning completely unnatural—way, and he hobbles off the court, but stays in the game. No Roy, no wins. 42-32 Portland.
3:39 - Let me just copy-and-paste this from earlier: Rudy for three from the corner. I might get carpal tunnel from typing that so much. 45-32 Portland.
3:06 - FIGHT! FIGHT! Not really, but the Vanilla Gorilla gets tangled with Carmelo Anthony and the two receive a pair of technical fouls for all the sailor talk. 49-32 Portland.
2:08 - Good lord, Steve Blake. Gummo tips a lose ball over Billups head and guns a pass to a running Outlaw. He was eventually fouled (hard), but Blake's hustle made the play. 49-32 Portland.
That'll end the first half. The Blazers are keeping the pressure on the Nuggets and are up 53-34. 24 more minutes before Portland clinches homecourt advantage. 24 more minutes before Chris Anderson gets denied from entering Barracuda because of dress code. 24 more minutes before George Karl drinks scotch alone in his hotel room!
11:50 - Denver is still playing their starters, for now. Steve Blake cares not about starters in powder blue uniforms, he quickly hits a jumper to push the lead back to three touchdowns. 55-34 Portland.
7:53 - According to NBA supergenius™ Wendell Maxey, of Hoopsworld, the league will release the playoff schedule immediately after this game. Unless there is a ridiculous Nuggets comeback, the playoffs will start here in Portland on Saturday. The time is TBA, but will probably be 5pm. Clear your schedules. 59-40 Blazers.
4:21 - Billups for a three, then he follows with another bucket while getting hacked by Outlaw. He makes the free throw. Hey, what happened to that big lead? 61-54 Portland.
3:20 - After a series of missed jumpers, the Blazers resort to the safer offensive option: Oden dunking the ball. 63-54 Blazers.
2:02 - So much for resting their starters, Denver must really want Portland to play in Houston this weekend. Billups and Nene both have played north of 28 minutes, which is more than any Blazers player. It's working, since the Nuggets have pickaxed their way back, 64-58 Blazers.
1:30 - Command C, Command V: Rudy for three. 67-58 Blazers.
0:00 - Chris Anderson is easily the most embarrassing looking player in the NBA—Wally Szczerbiak agrees—but now that he is playing with a bloody tissue wedged in his nose, he's even more freakish. Just looking at him makes my soul hurt. 71-60 Blazers, a dozen more minutes to go.
11:31 - It's either a tribute to the bench, or a worrisome sign, but no Blazer starter has scored in double digits. In fact, the only two Blazers to score over ten are Outlaw (13) and Rudy (12). 73-60 Portland.
10:00 - Travis Outlaw, you just hit a three and then followed with a dunk. Oh, and you are also the game's leading scorer with 18. 80-62 PDX.
8:12 - My poor, precious fingers. How will they ever endure me typing this once again? Rudy for three, and the blowout has once again begun. 85-62 Blazers.
6:41 - Rudy again. He just set the NBA rookie record for threes with that shot. This game is a total massacre. Bench the starters and the last one out should turn off the lights. 94-64 Blazers.
5:28 - Other than Dahntay Jones (I would enjoy Divine Comedy more if it was written by a man named Dahntay) , the Nuggets have yanked all their starters, Portland too. Enjoy that extra five minutes before the playoffs. 94-66 Portland.
4:19 - Zero Portland starters are in double figures, yet four bench players—Rudster, Outlaw, Frye, Oden—are. The crowd is now chanting "Bring on Houston." Look who is cocky all of a sudden. 99-71 Blazers.
2:08 - Rudy leaves to a well deserved standing ovation. It seems like it was only yesterday that Andrew Tonry and I were at his introduction press conference. We really went primarily for the lunch buffet, but we stayed for the big serving of Rudy. 99-74 Blazers.
0:23 - And that will do. 82 games down, and the playoffs are next. Thanks for stopping by, we'll (hopefully) be here on Saturday night. Final score: Portland 104, Nuggets 76.