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. Let me open up my big book of sports cliches—actually I just stole this copy off John Canzano's seat—to properly explain the situation the Blazers are in: Back against the wall, do or die, must-win, Braveheart moment, behind the eight ball, this is for all the marbles, there's no tomorrow, If they lose they go home... phew. I think that is enough to get me a job at ESPN. So long suckers, I'm going to Bristol!
If the Blazers lose tonight, the season ends. If they win, it ends on Thursday. Okay, maybe not on Thursday, but before we worry about that game, there is tonight...
Both Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge started today as being listed as "probable," but the pair have been cleared to start. Aldridge has a bad elbow—and a case of brickatosis—while Roy has the swine flu, which means he will single-handily infect the entire city of Portland tonight. He can carry this team on his back, and a pandemic in his infected lungs, like a true all-star. Dude is just that good.
How important are the first dozen minutes of this game? This important. (You can't see it, but I'm totally holding my hands out as far away from each other as possible. It's quite impressive, actually.) The team that has won the first quarter has also won the game, and not only in this playoff round, but in each of the team's regular season head-to-head meetings as well. If Portland claims the first 12 minutes, well, the season just got a few days longer. Maybe more. If Houston comes out strong, we might as well look forward to a lazy off-season of draft day speculation, Summer League, and Kevin Pritchard trading Sergio Rodriguez for a new t-shirt gun (For Blaze, not himself. The man already has a t-shirt gun arsenal, and a bandolier full of 100% cotton tees, in an underground bunker somewhere.).
The big news around these parts—other than the media buffet being relocated to make room for the press conference room (The horror!)—is the disparity in fouls between the two teams. It's not a shadowy global conspiracy to keep the Blazers down (trust me, I am a card carrying member of the Jew-run media, and the Illuminati, and I know my conspiracies. This is not one.), but the league has taken interest in the Rockets getting 27 more free-throws than the Blazers. So much so, that the NBA slapped Nate McMillan with a $25000 fine for his statements regarding the officiating. They're sensitive like that. Well, there goes that new kitchen remodel and that bumper pool table for McMillan rumpus room.
Here's the truth hurts portion of the blog:
Teams facing a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs lose the series 95.6% of the time. I'd like those odds if I was Luis Scola. But I'm not. (I don't have head lice.) Regardless, it does not look good.
11:28 - Aldridge clanks a jumper, and Shane Battier scores on a layup as Portland's defense fails. At least this game has started out exactly how we all expected it to. 2-0 Rockets.
9:40 - Roy knocks back a three to tie the game back up. After a stop, Aldridge takes the most difficult shot of the series and hits as well. Maybe he's been too open? 11-9 Portland.
6:13 - Enter the Spaniard. The good one, not Sergio. 14-11 Blazers.
5:07 - Rudy hits on his first jumper, then comes up with a steal and a fast-break that Steve Blake ruins. Seriously, find me another playoff team with a worst point-guard situation and I'll buy you a pony. Oh, Rudy just hit a three. 21-13 Blazers.
2:43 - Aaron Brooks just did that fancy reverse layup thing. It was awful pretty. I used to break out that move on the Nerf hoop mounted on my bedroom door. Am I saying I'm better than Brooks? Yeah, kind of. 23-17 Blazers.
0:00 - Well, that's good news for the "team that scores the most in the first quarter wins the game" stat. Portland steered clear of foul trouble, let Scola score 15 points (!), and they look a bit more lively than they have their past few games. After one, it's 29-26 Blazers.
Way to be progressive, Blazers. For the mid-quarter entertainment, a woman is shooting a ball into shopping carts to win a crock pot, or vacuum cleaner. Men shoot baskets for cash, but women, they be shopping!!! Am I right? Hello? Hello?
10:26 - Sergio with a good pass (I know, right!) to Aldridge for the dunk and the foul. He did miss the free-throw, but let's blame Sergio for that. Why not? 33-26 Portland.
8:23 - Christ. Oden posts on Carl Laundry, a man about four inches smaller (and who was recently shot), but has the ball stripped away. Oden then gets it back, and travels. It's like a giant slice of sadness and disappointment every single night with him. 35-30 Blazers.
5:54 - His shooting has yet to adjust to the playoffs, but Outlaw was able to hold is own while guarding Yao Ming—a man about 115lbs heavier—on a pair of unfair mismatches. He even got a rebound over Yao. Travis, I'm sorry for all those horrible things I said about you the other night. I was drunk. Hell, you were probably drunk. My apologies. 37-32 Blzrs.
4:40 - LaMarcus once again. He's Portland's top scorer with a dozen. That does not explain why he just passed on a wide open eight foot jumper and instead wildly drove the ball straight at Yao to miss a dunk. He was fouled, barely. 39-34 Blazers.
2:25 - Blake for a three and Portland goes up nine. And not only that, they are doing it against the Rockets' starting five. 45-36 Houston.
0:12 - Roy gets a facefull of Scola. Chest, stomach, lord knows what else. He also travels on the play, but the Scola contact is far worse. Roy now needs his shots. 48-43 Blazers
0:00 - Roy's face is fine. He hits a driving layup as time expires in the half. Two quarters down, and Portland is up 50-43.
10:28 - LaMarcus once again. His shot is officially back. Now let's see if it works in Texas as well as it does here. 52-43 Blazers.
8:51 - Props go out to the Blazers' PA folks who just played "Dude Looks Like a Lady" after Scola got whistled for an offensive foul. Well played. 54-45 Portland.
7:56 - The Vanilla Gorilla with a dunk and Portland is up 11, their biggest lead of the game. 56-45 Blazers.
5:08 - That sure was a nice 11 point lead. It's now five points. Panic! 56-51 Blazers.
3:13 - Yao with a jumper and that big fat lead is now down to a measly one point. Didn't this just happen to the Blazers in game four? 58-57 Portland.
2:07 - Brooks for three. Tie game. Someone call a timeout so I can slam my head into the press table. I need to feel something, anything. 60-60.
0:56 - Aldridge over Yao with a short jumper and Portland is back on top. 64-62 Portland.
11:16 - Oden picks up his third foul in less than six minutes of play. He also got a block on Yao, so we're cool with all the fouling as long as he keeps that up. Wait, he just got one more. Never mind. I take it all back. 64-64 tie.
9:32 - Von Wafer gets revenge on his former team with a jumper and now Houston has their biggest lead of the game. 68-64 Rockets.
7:45 - Roy? Fourth quarter points? Shocking, right? Well he just hit a pair from the charity stripe and now it's tied. Plus the Rockets are in the penalty, so Portland is shooting a lot of free-throws here on out. 68-68.
6:32 - Oden can't foul a free throw, so instead he makes them both. 71-68 Blazers.
6:10 - After being denied by Yao, Outlaw gets his revenge by knocking back a three from the far corner. 74-68 Blazers.
5:15 - Roy tops that by hitting is own three while getting knocked to the floor. 77-68 Portland.
4:42 - Roy again, and now this game is broken wide open. Gas up the invisible jet (Paul Allen bought it at Wonder Women's estate sale), the Blazers are going back to Houston. 79-68 Portland.
2:23 - Roy splits a pair of free-throws, but Brooks answers right back. The lead is a little slimmer than Portland would care for. 80-75 Blazers.
0:57 - Przybilla with a block and that will do it. You now have plans for Thursday, the Blazers have one more chance to win in Houston. 86-75 Portland.
0:00 - And that will do it. Your final score: Portland 88, Houston 77.
Pray for a miracle in Houston.