Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers meet the New Jersey Nets in a spirited round of five-on-five roundball. As the Blazers continue their descent down the super fun happy slide towards mediocrity—last night's heartbreaking 115-111 loss in Phoenix only expedited things—a visit from the lowly Nets just might be what the doctor ordered. (Finally, a doctor who orders something other than knee surgeries.)
The Nets only have ten wins on the season, have come up short in nine of their last ten games, own the second worst offense in the entire NBA, and are about a week away from being "It's not me, it's you" rejected by Carmelo Anthony (he's going to New York). Plus, Portland hasn't dropped three consecutive games in this building since 2008.
Will that streak end tonight? Will New Jersey's Travis Outlaw get his revenge on his former team? Will I be too distracted by the Packers and Falcons NFL playoff game to follow along? The answers to all these questions after the jump...
Wesley Matthews rolled his ankle in practice on Thursday, played like a "warrior" (according to Coach Nate McMillan) last night in Phoenix, and will once again start tonight. If he really played like a "Warrior" he would have broke that ankle in a moped accident.
I'm excited for the return of Outlaw, the NBA's very own Chauncey the gardener. Despite his spastic jumper and underweight skeleton frame, Outlaw was one of my favorite Blazers from a couple seasons back.
Tonight's pre-game activities on the court include a speed reading contest. Nerds.
Blaze the Trail Cat gets a pre-tip hug from Outlaw, who looked delighted to see his old friend. I don't have the heart to break it to Outlaw that the cat is not real. Speaking of, a mighty ovation for Outlaw when he was introduced. Less so for Devin Harris, who very well might be wearing a Blazers uniform this time next month. Maybe.
10:42 - Outlaw with a turnaround jumper. Then another. He's shooting 37% on the year, but 100% on the night. 4-2 Nets.
9:48 - Brooke Lopez was doubleteamed in the post by LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby, but shocks both of them by just casually dribbling through the pair and dunking the ball. Not exactly aggressive defense. Or defense in general. 6-4 Nets.
8:00 - Lopez looks a bit unstoppable at the moment. Bigger and stronger than Camby, he just slide by his defender for another dunk. That's six straight points for him. Ironically the Blazers played yesterday against his twin, Robin Lopez, in Phoenix. The pair are working on a parent trap to get their parents back together. 10-8 Nets.
6:51 - Oh crap, it's mascot night. Mascots from everything from Great Clips's shampoo bottle to "Slamson" of the Sacramento Kings. My Furry desires can no longer stay repressed. 14-8 Nets.
6:20 - Miss, rebound, miss, rebound, and finally Camby finger rolls in a layup. The Blazers would be winless if it wasn't for their uncanny ability to control the offensive glass. 14-10 Nets.
4:24 - Miller and Aldridge hook up for a great fastbreak/dunk transition. But plays like that are rare so far, hence a score that looks like this: 20-12 Nets.
3:07 - The world just became a softer place after Sasha Vujacic guards Rudy. If ever a tickle fight were to break out on the court, it would happen there. 20-16 Nets.
1:32 - Portland is 0-3 from beyond the arc so far, which is probably enough to push them into 30th (out of 30 teams) in three point shooting percentage. As much as I want to see three goggles, this team should realize it's not the shot for them. 24-16 Nets.
0:06 - Oh Joel Przybilla, you just had Kris Humphries take you off the dribble and dunk atop your head. Oh Blazers, you just let the Nets shoot 60% on you. Not a promising start. 26-18 Nets.
12:00 - During the break I spotted Sean Marks watching the Fred Meyer "Price Match" game on the big screen. He might not get minutes, but he did get to see a man win a new recliner. 26-18 Nets.
9:47 - Rudy bypasses a three and instead finishes with a spinning layup at the rim. Degree of difficulty: 8.5. Sadly the lead is still in double digits. 32-22 Nets.
8:56 - Mills might want to at least attempt some defense. When Jordan Farmar takes you to the basket with ease, it's a problem. 34-22 Nets.
8:40 - Nice one handed putback dunk from Batum. More of that, please. 34-24 Nets.
7:00 - Rudy misses a three (stop shooting), but Camby tips back to Rudy, who whips the ball to Batum, who is stripped, but the ball flies right to Aldridge who misses a dunk while getting fouled. Okay, that play was just a bit crazy. 39-28 Nets.
6:15 - The Nets cannot miss a shot. Not all their looks are as easy as Farmar-over-Patty, but New Jersey is riding a hot streak that has them at 61% from the field. 41-30 Nets.
5:44 - Batum is an inch away from a driving layup and he still clanks it, leading to a fastbreak bucket for New Jersey. So it goes when you are trailing the Nets in a bad, bad way, 43-30 Nets.
3:45 - 30 points in the paint for the Nets. That means a staggering 64% of their total has come near the basket. The Blazers' defense is clearly dragging from last night's loss in Phoenix. 47-38 Nets.
2:55 - Nets are now up to 65% from the field tonight. That is 22% better than their average. Hang your head in shame, Blazers defense. 51-42 Nets.
1:44 - Aldridge is fouled and swatted by Lopez, but only the block was called. Aldridge barked at the official and punched the air. Yeah, that'll show that stupid air. 53-44 Nets.
0:32 - Momentum! Finally! Miller leads a fastbreak and finishes with a layup, and thanks to an uncalled foul on Matthews, Portland has two more looks, but no more points as we go into the half. A slight gasp of life after about 24 minutes of terrible basketball. 53-46 Nets.
HALFTIME: Not many highlights, other than the parade of dunking mascots. The Blazers' interior defense has been shameful, hence the reason Lopez is 8-11 on the night. On the other end, Miller is shooting 6-9 for a dozen points, while Aldridge leads all Blazers with 13.
10:23 - Old man Miller starts the quarter with a jumper, prevents Harris from scoring on the other end, then controls the clock back on offense and eventually getting the ball to Batum for a three. Batum gets the points, but that was all Dre. 55-51 Nets.
9:44 - Batum to the basket and the foul. Hey, one point game. Impressive for a team shooting 13% worse than New Jersey. 55-54 Nets.
9:20 - Aldridge powers his way through a missed jumper and scores on a baby hook shot to put Portland back on top. Well, that was quick. 56-55 Blazers.
7:23 - The home team is awake. The Blazers now control the pace of the game and are keeping the Nets out of the paint. 60-55 Blazers.
6:51 - In what looked like a Twister move, Milkler wraps himself around Lopez and kicks to Matthews for a corner three. 65-55 Blazers.
6:01 - Watching 71-year-old NBA official Dick Bavetta run up and down the court makes me so happy. He looks like a Ray Harryhausen skeleton out there. 63-60 Blazers.
4:32 - Outlaw misses a monster dunk, which leads to a Matthews fastbreak, which results in nothing more than a charging foul drawn by Harris. Missed opportunities for everyone. 65-63 Blazers.
3:09 - Lopez has carried New Jersey back into this game. He has 25 on the night. Make that 26 after that and-one free-throw. 70-65 Nets.
2:20 - Ouch, there's that big putback dunk from Outlaw. I don't remember many of those from his Blazers days. But I won't forget that one. 72-67 Nets.
1:05 - Pryzvilla hasn't had a decent game since his return last month. Tonight would be a good time for him to return to form, since the duo of Humphries and Lopez is killing the Blazers under the hoop. 76-72 Nets.
0:23 - Tough traveling call on Mills who was about to ignite a fastbreak. Let's see if the obligatory makeup call is on the way. 76-72 Nets.
0:01 - No call, but a helluva steal from Matthews which results in a dunk. He stripped the ball from Harris and dunked it, while hanging far too long on the rim. Portland is very lucky he didn't get a technical for swinging from the basket like that. Maybe that was the makeup call. 76-74 Nets.
11:41 - Pryzbilla draws a looseball foul under the basket. But the good times don't last as Mills' pass to Pryzbilla slips through his hands. 78-74 Nets.
10:23 - Mills got bailed out by fate when Farmar again torched him off the dribble, but missed long on the layup. 78-76 Nets.
9:27 - Wow. It was after the shotclock, but Batum scooped up a one-handed 40-footer that was nothing but net as the buzzer sounded. That should make the highlight reel, although it didn't count. 79-78 Nets.
8:16 - Lots of Batum energy have kept the score close. Same can be said for Jersey's Humphries. He's drawn plenty of whistles and overpowered the Blazers in the paint. 79-78 Nets.
7:55 - Humphries "pulls out the chair" from Aldridge but LaMarcus still converts while frantically back peddling and nearly tumbling over. That's an old Karl Malone move, just like driving a big rig. 81-80 Nets.
6:47 - Batum taps in a wild pass for the world's ugliest alley-oop. Following a Nets basket, Aldridge answers with a thunderous dunk, Back and forth we go. 84-83 Blazers.
4:39 - With the fear of Batum in his eyes, Farmar misses yet another layup. No one wants to be blocked by a Frenchman. No one. 86-85 Blazers.
4:15 - Aldridge misses a pair of free-throws. Excellent timing there. 87-86 Nets.
3:20 - I question the loyalty of Sacramento Kings' mascot Slamson. Sure, he just danced on the court with his bestie, Blaze, but he should be rooting for New Jersey. The Kings and the Nets will be fighting for lottery position—as two of the worst teams in the league—so he his cheering for the wrong team. DId I just read too much into the gestures of a lion mascot in a tank top? 87-86 Nets.
2:39 - And then Aldridge travels and turns it over. No points in a couple minutes for the home team, nice strategy down the stretch. 87-86 Nets.
1:56 - Batum misses long on a jumper but somehow Camby slaps the ball loose and it lands in the hands of a wide open Aldridge under the basket. Lucky break for Portland. 88-87 Blazers.
1:32 - Batum comes up on the defensive end, stripping the ball and drawing the whistle. He makes the first. He makes the second. 90-87 Blazers.
1:13 - Aldridge pokes the ball from Humphries and Matthews takes it coast-to-coast for the layup. After sleepwalking through most of this game, the Blazers defense has made an impressive show in the past minute. 92-87 Blazers.
1:13 - Just spotted, a "Lighten up Canzano" sign. I admire the restraint in using "lighten up" over "shut up." 92-87 Blazers.
1:01 - Matthews with another steal, but he can't convert on the fastbreak. 92-87 Blazers.
0:47 - Vujacic misses a three and the Blazers tip the ball to Cunningham, who hands it off to Miller, who is fouled. Smart play by Dante. Although Miller only hits one of the free-throws. 93-87 Blazers.
0:34 - Harris hits a pretty spinning jumper in the lane, and again Miller is sent to the charity stripe. He makes the first. He the makes second. 95-89 Blazers.
0:28 - Harris plows through Aldridge and is hit with a charge. That might do it. Matthews is sent to the line and misses the first, but converts the second. 96-89 Nets.
0:00 - Miller gets a rebound and runs down the clock to finally polish off this game. I suppose the good news is that the Blazers made this normally-dreary matchup into a damn exciting game. They also overcame a 13 point deficit to pull out a victory, even if it was against the bottom dwelling Nets—who finished with just 13 in the final quarter. Batum finished with a season high 23 points, while Miller had 19 and Aldridge added 27 and nine boards, missing another double-double by a single rebound. Your final score, Portland 96, New Jersey 89. See you on Monday when Minnesota comes to town.