- Nathan Preston | nathanpreston.com
Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the Phoenix Suns in game three of the Western Conference playoffs. Since this is a special occasion, we broke out the only Blazers artwork fitting of an ELO cover. How important is this game, you ask? In the Blazers' history, every single playoff series tied 1-1 has been won by the team victorious in game three.
One important lost and found note before we get started: If anyone has seen Rudy Fernandez's ability to play the sport of basketball, please return it to: Rose Garden Arena, One Center Court, Suite 100, Portland, OR 97227. Thank you.
Nicolas Batum, shoulder bandage and all, will play tonight. Nate McMillan hasn't specified if Frenchy#88 will have his minutes capped, but I doubt he spends significant time on the court.
Another question that remains is how Portland will react to Andre Miller being swarmed on every inch of the court by Phoenix defenders. Following his 31 points in the series opener, Miller was met by Grant Hill (instead of Jason Richardson), and any Suns player with a pulse in game two. He never was able to establish his pace and finished the night with a quiet 12 points.
It's supposed to be a "Red Out" inside the Rose Garden, but by the looks of it not everyone got the memo. It is loud though, so there's always that. Also Spike Lee is here. I hope that means Reggie Miller is playing for the Blazers.
The pre-game intro took a jab at the Phoenix fans that supposedly left game one early. "Welcome to our house, where our fans stay for the entire game." Oh, burn! The intro continues with an arena-covering blanket of fog, lasers, and a giant disco ball at center court. Nothing says intimidation like laser disco.
11:45- Rudy with a charge foul to open the game. Well, at least he drove the ball. But that was still a terrible way to open this game. He'll be on a short leash tonight. 2-0 Suns.
9:48 - Shoulder = Fine. Batum dunks on the baseline. Not bad for a guy who was getting an MRI this time yesterday. 6-4 Suns.
8:57 - Rudy passes up a layup at the rim, misses a three, then commits his second foul in a little more than three minutes. And he gets the hook. Not sure what has rattled him, but he's been—without a doubt—the worst player on the court in these three games. 8-4 Suns.
6:06 - No one bothers to box out Amare Stoudemire on three consecutive tip-in attempts, the last of which finds its way in the basket. One missed jumper later, Nash hits a layup. This crowd isn't going to stay loud if the Blazers can't stay close. 16-6 Suns.
4:44 - Hate to say it, but this game is looking a whole lot like the first Rose Garden game of last season's series against Houston (in which Portland lost 108-81). The Blazers offense is stagnant, and frustration is starting to set in. Jerryd Bayless gets entangled with former teammate Channing Frye and gets a technical for pushing Frye. It might be a long night. 21-8 Suns.
3:01 - Bayless with a runner and the Blazers' consecutive baskets mark their best offensive run of the night. The lead is down to 10. That's good, right? 24-14 Suns.
2:47 - Two fouls on Miller. Not to worry, Patty Mills has got this shit down. (Honestly I'd rather see Mills than Fernandez right about now.) 24-14 Suns.
2:30 - No one cares what I think, Rudy checks into the game. 25-14 Suns.
1:30 - Webster throws a terrible fastbreak pass to a wide open Bayless, which leads to a turnover and a Nash alley-oop to Richardson. In that one play we saw the best and worst worlds of the pass. This game is getting ugly. 32-16 Suns.
0:00 - Leandro Barbosa with a layup in an empty key. Christ. We have been here for every single game this year and that was probably the worst quarter of the season for the Blazers.16 points. Hang your head in shame, Blazer fans. 34-16 Suns.
11:41 - Louis Amundson's ponytail just rebounds in front of three Blazers. Someone on press row just threatened to go home. 36-16 Suns.
8:27 - The Suns defense is swarming, while the Blazers is... what's the word to describe letting the opposing team to score at will under the basket? Well, whatever it is, that is what's happening right now. 44-21 Suns.
6:15 - The Blazers are being killed not by Nash or Stoudemire, but by Goran Dragic. Let that sink in for a minute. 49-24 Suns.
5:08 - I feel like slamming my head repeatedly into the press row table, but I know that it wouldn't be enough to kill the pain. I'd only end up with a headache and maybe some blood on my laptop. 49-26 Suns.
3:23 - At this rate, the Blazers will be cleaning out their lockers on Tuesday morning. You can just feel the series sliding away from them. Losing is one thing, this is something else. 58-30 Suns.
0:00 - The crowd has turned. They are now booing the Blazers. Who, to be fair, absolutely deserve it. Martell Webster randomly fouls Nash with 11 seconds to go while he was nowhere near the rim. I think he did that because he liked the sound the ref's whistle made. There is no other excuse. 66-37 Suns.
12:00 - Batum is done for the night. So are the Blazers, technically, but they didn't make an announcement about that. Yet.
11:05 - LaMarcus Aldridge, who didn't score a single point in the first quarter, dunks to open second half. Fifteen more of those in a row and we'll have ourselves a game. 68-39 Suns.
7:11 - Webster gets in on the dunking game, which triggers the slightest of pulses for this crowd. Well, at least they stopped booing. Baby steps. 70-45 Suns.
5:54 - Can we sum up this debacle in a single play: Webster just airballs a layup. So, I guess we can. 73-47 Suns.
3:37 - Richardson has eight of the Suns' 10 points this quarter, and 29 on the night. While Portland is chipping away at this lead, it's akin to tunneling out of prison with a spoon. They'll dig through this Rita Hayworth poster... in 20 years. 76-53 Suns.
1:40 - Bayless with a pass to Miller, that slips between his legs. Then Richardson hits another three. The Blazers wouldn't come back from this game if there were eight quarters. 81-57 Suns.
0:18 - Frustration boiling over, Aldridge and Stoudemire both pick up technicals. I admire the toughness, too bad it came 81 points too late. 81-57 Suns.
11:48 - They blared the music, got the announcer to request the crowd "get loud," and then the Blazers commit a useless offensive foul in the first 12 seconds. You could literally hear 20,000 people groan in unison. 81-60 Suns.
10:40 - While we rag on Rudy (He's useless! He smells!), it should be said that Bayless is playing like a man who has no idea what the score is. 81-63 Suns.
9:17 - Bayless has ten points in the second half—Jason Richardson scoffs at such tiny numbers—and if anything, it's given this crowd an excuse to be loud. 86-69 Suns.
8:01 - Rudy checks into the games with his zero points. That is Nate McMillan waving the white flag, right? 89-71 Suns.
6:22 - It only took about 17 minutes but Rudy hits a three. Then another. And now we have ourselves a game. Please don't be toying with our emotions, Portland. You cut a 31 point lead to a dozen, keep going... 89-77 Suns.
5:59 - This game has been 42 minutes of sadness that can be fixed in the next six minutes. 89-77 Suns.
4:29 - That was a waste of 90 seconds. Portland is immersed in foul trouble, and while their offense is no longer sleepwalking through this game, their defense is not helping matters by fouling the Suns on three consecutive possessions. 95-80 Suns.
3:50 - Ugh. Richardson for three, which follows a pair of missed free-throws. The Blazers have made a dozen from the line, and they've missed a dozen. Those are 12 points they sure could use right now. 98-80 Suns.
3:11 - Aldridge shots a three. Sure why not? He misses, and we're back to the depressing acceptance that the Blazers just got embarrassed on their homecourt. Plus the whole "our fans stay for the entire game" thing is really coming back to bite the team; it's empty in here. 102-80 Suns.
1:39 - Travis Diener on the court. I want to die. 105-85 Suns.
0:00 - Oh merciful God, it's over. In the worst performance in recent memory, the Blazers are shamed by the Suns by the final score 108-89. I fear all the liquor in the world won't make this memory go away. We'll see you here on Saturday.