Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets in a really important basketball game. The reason tonight is so important—other than it being Winona Ryder's birthday (Happy 37th, babe.)—is because the Northwest Division will most likely come down to Portland and Denver, and the margin between the two teams will be slimmer than Winona in Jarmusch's Night on Earth. Since someone has to win the division—and it ain't gonna be Oklahoma City—the Blazers need to put as much distance between them at the Nuggets as possible.
Come on in. Nerdy basketball jokes and Heathers references await.
Since tonight is a TNT game, that means Craig Sager is in town with his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It also means that people outside of Portland city limits—and some within the city limts (die in a fire, Comcast Sports NW)—will finally be able to see this Blazers team.
What will they see? Hopefully more than two points from Greg Oden. What's your damage, Oden? Also, unlike opening night against Houston, if Travis Outlaw leads this team in scoring once again, Portland will lose. Badly. Denver is on a back-to-back, but they looked downright dominating—see the video that haunts Paul Milsap's dreams—in a victory over Utah last night. While they might not have the division championship banner in their rafters by the end of the season, the Nuggets might be the better team this early in the year.
The prize blimp/SUV thing is dropping coupons good for the new Train CD. Swear to God, if one lands anywhere near me I will down that blimp like it's the Hindenburg. Oh, the humanity.
11:44 - Oden's first foul came 16 seconds into the game. That is a whole 15 seconds later than expected. Good job, Greg! 0-0.
9:49 - Oden and Steve Blake share a steal, which leads to driving layup from Martell Webster. 4-0 Blazers. Shutout!
7:13 - Carmelo Anthony posts on Roy. Scores on Roy. And while the shutout is lost, Webster pads the lead with a three from the corner. 9-2 Portland.
6:15 - Oden decides not to wait until the 47th minute before scoring. He slams home a putback dunk. 11-9 Portland.
4:14 - It's nice to have Martell back. Nicolas Batum is missed—always and forever—but Webster has hops (it's all dunks and threes) and is far more aggressive for balls under the basket. He dunks home another lose ball. Then again, he's guarding Carmelo who already has seven points. Nevermind, I miss Batum. 15-13 Blazers.
2:18 - Clearly under the haze of Chris Andersen's roofies, Outlaw fouls the Birdman. Two shots later, the Nuggets have the lead... and Outlaw doesn't know where he is. 19-17 Nuggets.
0:05 - Live by the jumper, die a horrific death by the jumper. The second unit deflated any momentum the Blazers once had in this game, and now the team is shooting a pathetic 25% from the field and 16% from three-pointville. 24-17 Denver.
12:00 - In the first half Carmelo Anthony did not miss a shot from the field, the freethrow line, or beyond the arch. All that while Brandon Roy, Outlaw, Przybilla, and Rudy Fernandez were a combined 0-8. That might explain the score. 24-17 Denver.
11:03 - A very interesting Blazers lineup to start this quarter: Oden and Przybilla on the court at the same time. If the fouls don't pile up—it's been a minute without a whistle—this might slow down Denver's offense and force Portland to shoot the ball from under the basket. So far, so good. 24-24 tie.
9:50 - Well, it lasted for 2:10 until both big men pick up a foul each. Not bad, all things considered. 24-24 tie.
8:24 - Chris Andersen is the Spencer Pratt of the NBA. There, I said it. 28-24 Blazers.
6:15 - Webster dunks over Birdman, than swats 'Melo at the rim on the other end of the court. Woah. His nine points are better than all Blazer scorers. His enthusiasm is better than anyone in this arena. 32-29 Blazers.
4:56 - The 'lil sparkplug that is Martell Webster gets tossed to the floor by 'Melo. Guess he does not appreciate the fist pumps and enthusiasm of Webster. Please make a note of it. 34-29 Portland.
3:56 - After a series of missed layups and tip-ins, the charm school graduate Kenyon Martin tosses the ball down the court and gets a technical foul. In shock from the whistle against him—clearly, the first of his gentlemanly career—his monocle falls from his eye as he proclaims, "Why, I never" while sipping a cup of tea. 36-31 Blazers.
1:10 - Denver comes back to tie it, so Steve Blake panics and fires a three from 4 feet behind the line. It missed. Well played, Gummo. 39-39 tie.
0:33 - Juwan! Howard! The man who is so old he invented this game—I'm gonna need to fact check that—hits his first jumper as a Blazer. 43-40 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers fail to convert on the final play of the half, and Portland goes into the locker room up by one. Not bad for a team shooting 31%. 43-42 Blazers.
12:00 - I know what you are thinking: Ezra, how are the Blazers winning while shooting barely over 30% from the field? Since I can read your thoughts, I am experienced to answer this question: Portland is out-rebounding the Nuggets by 11, including 12 offense boards compared to Denver's zero. (I just read that off a piece of paper that was handed to me. Where's my fucking journalism award, Canzano? Huh? Huh?)
9:57 - The Blazers seem hellbent on getting LaMarcus Aldridge back into this game. He's taken their last three shots, hitting two while missing a wide-open jumper. He was 2-7 coming into the half, so anything helps right now. 47-43 Portland.
8:01 - Blake clanks a three. Remember when he used to be a Denver Nugget? Yeah, you're right, those were good times. 51-50 Blazers. Oh, and Przybilla just picks up his 5th foul. Bayless will be playing center by the fourth quarter.
6:46 - 32% shooting, nine fouls between Oden and Przybilla, Juwan Howard playing center... and somehow Portland is still winning? What. The. Fuck? 53-50 Blazers.
5:43 - The entertainment during the break featured the players explaining what their favorite Halloween candy was. Outlaw did not know what candy corn was, or how to describe them, but he explained that those were his favorite. None of that surprised me. 53-52 Blazers.
4:15 - Every time Chris Andersen scores a point, an angel gets a faux-hawk and neck tattoo. He has three points. 56-54 Blazers.
3:00 - Roy just put a highlight reel play on 'Melo. It wasn't quite an Allen Iverson ankle breaker, but it was close (Ankle sprainer? Ankle twister?). One play later he hits a three in front of George Karl, who looks like he needs a drink. Timeout, Denver. 61-56 Portland.
1:08 - The Nuggets radio guy—picture a slightly less rotund Brian Wheeler—just did a double fist punch in the air after Brandon Roy missed a free-throw. That was the most athletic thing that man has done in 20 years. 62-61 Blazers.
0:29 - Nene hits a free-throw to tie the game. On the other end, Roy is fouled and knocks back both from the charity stripe. He has 13 points this quarter. That is more than any Blazer has scored all game. 64-62 Blazers.
0:00 - Make that 16. Roy hits a bank shot three (he better have called that) from about five feet behind the three-point line. Insane. George Karl now looks like he needs about a dozen drinks. 67-62 Denver.
10:57 - The Blazers first possession of the quarter has yet to yield any points, but it has netted Denver two fouls. Those will help down the stretch. 67-64 Blazers.
10:35 - Nevermind. Portland just got their two fouls, as did the Nuggets radio guy for excessive air-punching. 67-66 Blazers.
9:38 - Birdman mows down Rudy at the rim. Fernandez is fine, but he now has Hep-C from coming in contact with Andersen. Sorry, ladies. 71-68 Blazers.
9:10 - Make that Hep-THREE. (Um, Rudy just hit a three). 74-72 Blazers.
8:34 - Denver is already in the penalty. If this keeps up, Portland is about to shoot a lot of foul shots. 76-72 Portland.
7:18 - Rudy for another three! George Karl's bartender calls timeout for him. And a cab. 81-74 Blazers.
6:38 - A fancy spin move by 'Melo, followed by a Ty Lawson's layup, and Denver shaves the lead down to three. 81-78 Blazers.
6:07 - Rudy has scored a dozen points in the last three-and-a-half minutes. Make that 14. He just hit a jumper while falling to the floor. 85-80 Blazers.
4:51 - Oden collects foul number five, and Portland joins Denver in the penalty. 85-83 Portland.
4:13 - Roy misses a mid-range shot—it happens—then 'Melo nails a long jumper in Roy's face to put Denver in the lead and give him 33 on the night. 87-85 Nuggets.
3:24 - Roy tries to just grab 'Melo as a keen defensive strategy, but picks up the whistle. I would have gone with the defense of digging a hole, putting leaves over it, and waiting for him to fall in it. Anthony hits both foul shots. On the other end, Roy gets fouled by Anthony—he returned the favor—and now it's all tied up, 89-89.
2:43 - Phantom foul on Miller for coming too close to 'Melo's glowing aura. Despite not touching him, two shots for Anthony. He now has 37 and his team is winning. 91-89 Nuggets.
2:25 - Anthony picks up his fifth foul to accompany his 37 points, but Roy misses one of the shots. 91-90 Denver.
1:40 - Miller kamikazes to the basket and gets fouled in the process. That is 55 (!) fouls tonight. He clanks the first free-throw, hits the second. 93-91 Nuggets.
1:05 - The Nuggets get one... two... three... four chances on offense. They eventually come away with a pair of points from Nene. Portland might have won the overall rebound battle, but they lost it when it mattered most. 95-91 Denver.
0:35 - Roy hits a layup while getting knocked to the floor. 'Melo misses an impossible shot, and Nene grabs a loose ball foul and a trip the showers in the process. Aldridge on the line for Portland, with a chance to tie...
0:35 - Missed the first. OUCH. He makes the second. 95- 94 Nuggets. Way too many missed free-throws this quarter for Portland.
0:10 - Billups passes on a three for a wide open jumper... and he missed. Portland ball with a chance to win, tie, or lose in dramatic fashion. I wonder who should get the ball. Here's a hint: BRANDON ROY. 95-94 Denver.
0:04 - The play was ugly, but thankfully for the home team Kenyon Martin bails them out by fouling Oden. Martin is done for the night. Oden on the line... Misses the first. Misses the second. ODEN FAIL. Huge choke job by Oden. 95-95 Denver.
0:02 - Anthony makes two free-throws, so Portland has a prayer to tie it and save Oden from a complete mental breakdown. 97-94 Denver.
0:00 - Roy airballs it, and that will do it. This game was not pretty, but the last minute was dismal. The Blazers had more than a few chances to close it out, but Oden's pair of misses sank any hope that they might have had. Once again, Oden = Fail. This one hurts. Your final score: Denver 97, Portland 94.