Live from the sold out Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. After years of live blogging an endless array of absolutely meaningless games, we've reached the promised land. Tonight counts.
We've been haphazardly blogging the Trail Blazers' games since way back when Nicolas Batum was a teenager, so as the original live blogatologist of the Blazers—accept no WWimitations (Hmm, I seem to have misspelled "imitations" as if to make a heavy-handed crack at a rival publication. That's odd.)—I'm thrilled to be here with you. I'm less thrilled to be sharing this arena with the Houston Rockets, seeing as they are one of the few teams that can easily deflate the Blazers' party balloon.
The Blazers don't have a shot of winning a game in Houston, so they'll need to win the (possible) four games here at the Rose Garden. In fact, they should just stay home during the Houston games and accept a dignified forfeit. (Being French, Batum approves.) I'm serious. Have you ever been to Houston? The Rockets' Dikembe Mutombo is from the war torn République démocratique du Congo, and he is frightened of Houston's Fifth Ward. If I'm not mistaken, this man is that town's mayor. Don't blame me, I voted for Willie D.
To beat the Rockets, they'll have to topple the 7'6 Yao Ming. This involves a defense strategy known as "fronting," (Why you fronting on Yao?) in which the Blazers defense lines up both in front, and behind, the monolithic Chinese superstar. This will also work if the second Portland defender squats really low to the ground, and then they push Yao over him. Or the Blazers can just dig a hole and put leaves over it. Once Yao falls into the hole, his scoring ability will be greatly diminished. Plus, there will be a tiger in the hole. The tiger will eat him.
Sadly my suggestion to Coach Nate McMillan that the Blazers should confuse everyone by signing Sun Ming Ming for the series, was answered by silence. That silence was followed by the question, "What is this guy doing here?" That question was followed by a personal security escort outside the building. I'm a big deal like that.
On the non-Yao front (Seriously, stop fronting on Yao.), the Rockets are structurally sound and one of the few teams that utilize fundamental defense—which basically means they are boring as fuck. Like a cancer upon fun, the Rockets keep the score low, the plays predictable (unless the volcanic temper of Ron Artest finally erupts), and have been known to smother Brandon Roy with every defensive move in the book. They even placed a Safeway bag over his face one time. I think someone got whistled for a foul on that one.
Oh, and if this night wasn't important enough as it is—I'm wearing a tux over a Vera Wang gown—the puppetmaster himself, NBA commissioner David Stern, is in the house. I can't wait until the halftime break, where he will be blindfolded and given a chance to win an appliance from Standard TV. He really needs a new dishwasher.
Greg Oden, a game time decision, seems fine and will be in the rotation to collect fouls and fall over. Channing Frye will also see extended minutes. We're 15 minutes before tip-off and this place is already packed. It's so loud that my ears are bleeding a soft trickle of Blazers' red.
Hey, let's start some playoff basketball:
11:36 - It took 35 seconds, but Ron Artest has already stormed into the crowd... chasing after a loose ball. I knew this would happen. Someone throw a beer on him. 2-0 Rockets.
10:33 - Quick summary of the past 90 seconds. Yao is unstoppable and Brandon Roy has been knocked down twice without getting the call. Panic. 7-0 Rockets.
9:01 - Evidently whistles do not work in the post-season. Steve Blake gets barreled over, but no call. Meanwhile Yao scores again. Again. And again some more. It's over, Rockets in four games. 11-2 Houston.
8:37 - When was the last time Portland was down nine points at home? Especially after three and a half minutes? Perhaps my pushing Yao down a hole idea wasn't that crazy? Okay, it really was. 11-2 Rockets.
7:27 - Roy goes straight up Yao's grill for one layup, then hits a runner, and another driving layup on top of an outstretched Yao. Six straight for B.Roy. 11-8 Rockets.
6:03 - Batum dunks it. Partially for the points, and partially because he doesn't want Roy to hog all the glory. On the other end, Yao scores his 14th point of the night. Christ. 18-14 Rockets.
3:07 - While I doubt they'll keep shooting 79% (!) all night, the Blazers should look into playing some defense, or at the very least, put a hand in someone's face. 30-20 Rockets.
2:03 - Yao's line: 10 minutes, 16 points, seven-for-seven shooting. 30-23 Blazers.
0:00 - Let us never speak of that quarter again. The Rockets look scarier than ever, while the Blazers look stiff and uncomfortable. That hurt. 34-23 Rockets.
10:44 - The Portland bench has had little luck in stopping the Rockets, and the only thing worse than their defense has been their offense. Father time, Dikembe Mutombo, looks more spry and agile than Oden—now here is the part where I point out that Mutombo was a rookie when Oden was three years old. 40-26 Houston.
8:55 - Yao is back. Oden fouls him before he even touches the ball. We all saw that coming. 40-28 Rockets.
6:43 - Rudy Fernandez, thank you. Driving through Yao, hitting the layup, and getting the whistle as well. Since Yao isn't going to be stopped by defense, maybe fouls will be his achilles heel. Or, if you want to play dirty, his weakness might literally be his achilles heel. 44-33 Rockets.
4:14 - The method of Yao "fronting" has yet to be employed, and Joel Przybilla's dramatic flopping job didn't earn anything other than another wide open look for Yao. He now has 20 points. 47-39 Blazers.
2:19 - Yao, nine-for-nine. Then again, a wide open dunk is pretty hard to miss. Unless your name is Greg Oden. 53-39 Rockets.
0:10 - In the scrum for a loose ball, Roy gets elbowed by Artest and looks a little out of it. Now he knows how the rest of the team feels. Two road team have already won their playoff games today, no reason to believe there won't be a third. This game is veering dangerously close to blowout territory. 60-41 Houston.
Your halftime score: 62-44 Rockets.
It wasn't the case of a few lucky breaks or bounces, for the past 24 minutes the Rockets have been a significantly better team than the Blazers. On offense, on defense, and just in general. It's not an issue of homecourt, experience, or momentum: right now, the Rockets are the best basketball team in this building.
12:00 - Now that we have stopped crying uncontrollably, let's try this again. Only down 18, Rip City Downslide!
10:28 - Third quarter, worse than the first. And the second. The Rockets drop the first six points of the quarter. But the good news is that if this keeps up, Michael Ruffin will add to his team leading playoff minutes. See? Always the silver lining with me. 68-46 Houston.
8:02 - The Vanilla Gorilla picks up a blocking foul and heads to the bench. To make matters worse, the replay made it appear as if he was crying when he arrived at the bench. It's like my entire world is crumbling around me. I no longer know what to believe. 72-49 Rockets.
7:35 - Blazers fans, you camped out for this?
6:28 - Spinal Tap is here. Seriously. Like the band. Does their appearance coincide with the mockery this game has become? The Blazers have spontaneously combusted. I guess it beats choking "on vomit of unknown origin." 74-53 Blazers.
2:37 - The highlight of the past five minutes came when an excited Yao chestbumped Luis Scoia and almost knocked him over. Other than that, the lead is still 25. Rockets up 80-55.
1:13 - Mutombo swats Roy and does his patented finger wave. Because, you know, tonight wasn't bad enough as is. 82-58 Rockets.
0:00 - Pull the starters, please. The only thing that would make this massacre interesting is to see Jerryd Bayless fuck thing up for the next twelve minutes. The bad news, it's 85-58 Houston. The good news, I'm dyslexic and I think the score is tied.
10:57 - Aaron Brooks > Every Blazers PG put together. 88-60 Rockets.
8:46 - I get my wish. Not the one about the team winning. But the one where Bayless comes into the game. Break some shit J Bay. 93-67 Houston.
8:02 - Aaron Brooks is unstoppable. Well, not that anyone is actually trying to stop him, but the supposed weak link for the Rockets now leads all scorers—including Yao, who did not miss a shot all night—with 27. People are now leaving. 98-67 Rockets.
6:00 - StudRuffin! Somehow his appearance does not make this any easier. 100-71 The Rocketeers.
2:34 - Michael Ruffin gets two rebounds. Yay playoff basketball. 104-77 Blazers.
0:00 - Oh sweet mercy, it's over. Well, that sure did suck. It's hard to put into words how something so promising ended up being so miserable. But there's always Tuesday. Your final score: Houston 108, Portland 81.