Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Sacramento Kings. The Blazers come in riding a five game winning streak, one of those being an overtime victory over the lowly Kings last Wednesday.
Tonight marks the official beginning of the Chris Johnson era in Portland, as he was recently recalled from the D-League to
replace Sean Marks give the Blazers more depth in their frontcourt. Johnson is available to sign two consecutive 10-day contracts, but after that the Blazers will have to cut either him or another player to get the roster down to fifteen bodies. Seeing as how Sean Marks was recently called the worst player in the NBA, don't be alarmed if he's the one being released here soon. Plus, Joel Przybilla already has the slow, awkward, and white center position on lock—much like Highlander, there can be only one—making Marks more redundant than newcomer Johnson.
As for Johnson himself, he's a skinny defensive specialist known for
having two healthy knees his shot-blocking prowess—he ranks second only to Shaq for most blocks in LSU history. Judging by the history of Portland bigs and their bones made of dust, hopefully Johnson's knees are made out of iron, rubber, or adamantium. If not, that 10-day contract better have come with insurance.
References to both Highlander and adamantium before the game has even begun? Yeah, tonight is going to go well.
In other news, LaMarcus Aldridge was named Western Conference Player of the Week, after notching over 28 points and 10 rebounds during Portland's current winning streak. Before he can even think about an All-Star nod, Aldridge will have to get through the Kings' backup center, Samuel Dalembert, who did a fantastic job guarding him in the last contest between these two teams. Aldridge finished with 23 points in the overtime win, but it took him an inefficient 24 shots to get there.
For the Kings, their team is just an absolute mess. Sitting at 9-32, they are the worst team in the Western Conference, behind even the perennially downtrodden Timberwolves. Reigning Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans has both been injured and hit a sophomore slump, and despite some solid play in January, is nowhere near the level he was at last year. Rookie DeMarcus Cousins has yet to put it all together, and despite flashes of goodness he has so far made his mark in the league by arguing with his coach, being late to practice, and getting threatened to be demoted to the D-League.
And, hey, Andre Miller is back in the starting lineup! After missing all but three minutes on Saturday's game against the Pacers due to a stomach virus, the veteran looks like he's ready to give it another go.
The Blazers should have no trouble with the Kings tonight, even though Sacramento pushed them to overtime in the last meting. Sacramento is just too young, with not enough depth, to challenge Portland on their home court.
10:55 - DeMarcus Cousins looks like he's out for revenge tonight, scoring the first three points of the game and picking up an early foul on Joel Przybilla. He's already made half as many field goals (1) as he did in Wednesday's contest (2). 3-0 Kings.
8:05 - A strong move with the left hand for DeMarcus Cousins, who made Przybilla look as slow as he actually is. He now has as many field goals made as he did all last game. The Blazers have been funneling everything through LaMarcus thus far, with mixed results, as he's missed two shots in a row. 8-4 Kings.
6:26 - Nicolas Batum just got the entire Portland bench on their feet with an amazing baseline cut and slam over two defenders. That was about as tough as Batum has looked all year. On the plus side for the Blazers, Cousins picked up two quick fouls and will be on the bench for the rest of the first quarter. 10-8 Kings.
5:26 - Michael Jordan is in the house tonight, and got an incredibly loud ovation. Don't these people remember the shrug? 12-10 Blazers.
3:39 - Beno Udrih with two quick steals and two made baskets on the other end. Another pull-up jumper for Udrih, and he's tied the game by himself. 16-16 Tie.
2:07 - Rudy and LaMarcus missed on the wide open running alley-oop. Had they connected, that would have been the highlight of the night. On the end, Dalembert out jumps Przybilla (get ready to hear that a lot tonight), and stuffs the rebound over Joel. That was ugly. 24-18 Kings.
0:30 - Cousins is back on the floor with two fouls. I guess I was wrong about that whole not sitting on the bench the rest of the quarter thing. 24-20 Kings.
0:00 - Well, that was ugly. The Blazers tried to get a shot off to end the quarter, but it ended with Przybilla on the floor, two Kings on top of him, and the buzzer sounding. I think points are usually scored by putting the ball in the basket, not laying on the ground with the ball in your hands. More troubling than the end of the quarter, though, is that the Blazers didn't attempt a single free throw during the first twelve minutes. Ugh. 25-20 Kings.
11:22 - Dante Cunningham just had two huge blocks on Cousins (one from behind), but DeMarcus was able to get the ball back and stuff home the third attempt. Normally two out of three ain't bad, unless it comes to blocks leading to baskets. 27-22 Kings.
10:15 - Carl Landry would look good in a Blazers uniform. 29-22 Kings.
7:47 - Well, it only took sixteen minutes, but the the Blazers are finally going to the free throw line! Even better, though, is that the aggressive move by Matthews was contested by Cousins, who picked up his third foul. Cousins already has 9 points and 5 rebounds, more than he totaled in the overtime contest last week. 31-24 Kings.
7:47 - Aaaaand Matthews missed both free throws. Perfect. 31-24 Kings.
7:00 - Tyreke Evans has 11 points after draining a three. The three was a second chance point, coming off of another offensive rebound for the Kings, and now their lead is in double digits. Too early to call on Chris Johnson? 34-24 Kings.
6:13 - It's a three party, and the Blazers are not invited. Rudy misses on one end, Beno Udrih hits on the other. 37-24 Kings.
5:24 - Matthews with five quick points, and the Blazers are only down by a very manageable eight points. Wesley has his hustling shorts on tonight, and Portland is slowly trying to mount a comeback. 37-29 Kings.
3:28 - Miller with the pretty drive down the lane, and he's amassed a quick and quiet six straight points. He must be feeling better. 39-35 Kings.
3:21 - The Blazers just announced Chris Johnson on the big screen. The only problem is they showed Elliot Williams. Foreshadowing for future knee injuries to come? 41-35 Kings.
1:30 - The Kings left Aldridge completely open as they tried to double-team Miller, who was backing down Beno Udrih in the lane. An easy pass from Miller, and easier lay-up by Aldridge. I'm pretty sure Sacramento's scouting report consisted of one line, and one line only: do not let LaMarcus Aldridge touch the basketball. Fail. No wonder they are last in the league. 45-39 Kings.
0:00 - Rudy Fernandez had a wide-open three pointer towards the end of the half, and promptly air-balled it. Badly. Luckily, a cutting Batum was there to clean up Rudy's mess, and he collected the rebound and reversed it in for a lay-up with two seconds left on the clock. The Kings were able to get a dunk on the other end, but missed getting it off in time by about two-tenths of a second. No basket. 45-43 Kings.
11:17 - The Blazers are just all about movement off the ball tonight, which is nice to see because it inevitably leads to things like that Matthews three. Blazers lead! 46-45 Blazers.
10:11 - Cousins just tried to run a fast-break and called for the carry. That sounds about right. 47-46 Kings.
9:30 - Wesley is about to go all Batum in the fourth quarter last Saturday, as he drained his second triple of the quarter. More of those, please and thank you. Adding insult to injury on the other end, Omri Casspi just put Przybilla on a poster. That isn't fair because Joel can't jump. 51-49 Blazers.
7:38 - Joel does what he does best, picking up the charge on Cousins. That's his fourth foul. Out of the game you go, rook. 53-51 Blazers.
6:45 - Wesley for an almost three! With his foot inside the line, Matthews drains another jumper from the outside. He's got his shot working in this quarter, and the Blazers are putting together a nice little run. 55-51 Blazers.
5:41 - Omri Casspi will see your Wesley Matthews and raise you ten straight Kings points, with six of those coming from back to back three pointers. He's fired up, pounding his chest with authority like he just won a playoff game. I never thought I'd say this, but I think I like the three goggles better. 59-55 Kings.
4:03 - Aldridge and Cunningham just had a joint block on Carl Landry. Awww, sharing is caring. Wesley drove the lane on the other end, and implored to crowd to get fired up after banking one home off the glass. Did this turn into a playoff game an nobody tell me? 61-60 Kings.
2:38 - Patty Mills just got his invitation to the three party, draining a wide open triple to tie the game. 63-63 Tie.
1:14 - Dante Cunningham just came swooping in off of Matthews miss and stuffed it home in highlight reel fashion. That got the crowd fired up (after they collective gasped), and is just the kind of momentum buster that could shift this game back in favor of the Blazers. It was that good. 68-65 Kings.
0:00 - Donte Green got bailed out on a spin move in the final seconds of the quarter, picking up a foul on Cunningham and draining both free throws. The Kings finish the quarter strong after a couple of near-makes by the Blazers, and start the final frame with the lead. The way the Blazers have been playing as of late, the fourth quarter is when they'll put on the jets and pull away for the victory. Hopefully, at least, because losing to the Kings would be disastrous. 70-65 Kings.
11:20 - The first possession for the Blazers was a thirty-foot fadeaway heave from Rudy as the shot clock expired. Uh oh. 73-65 Kings.
10:41 - 5-0 run for the Kings to start the fourth, and a 12-2 run dating back to the last quarter. I think this is right where Portland wants them. Or, you know, not. 75-65 Kings.
10:22 - Cousins picked up his fifth foul, which is about the only good news the Blazers have gotten in the last few minutes. 75-65 Kings.
8:08 - Miller with four straight Blazer points, and two straight turnovers for the Kings. Portland is showing some life on defense, with Matthews doing an excellent job bothering Tyreke Evans on the pick and roll. 75-69 Kings.
7:50 - Miller with the steal and almost dunk! Come on, you can get up for that dunk. I've seen it happen before. 77-71 Kings.
7:10 - Rudy airballed another three (his third by my count), but luckily Miller was there to bail him out and put in the easy put-back. LaMarcus had an easy point blank shot on the next possession, but missed it. He's shooting a woeful 4-13 on the night, and only has eight points. 77-73 Kings.
5:18 - Nicolas Batum picked up a foul, and drained both free throws. The Kings were on a mini four point run, and the Blazers offense can use points anyway they can get them tonight. 81-75 Kings.
4:24 - Batum for three! Hopefully some of his Saturday magic will work its way into this game, as the Portland offense is struggling mightily. Case in point? Aldridge picked up a foul on the next Blazers possession, and could only manage one of this two free throws. 83-79 Kings.
2:40 - Dalembert picked up a huge block on Miller—and then promptly stared him down while the two made their way up the floor. Tyreke Evans picked up the foul, and made both free throws. On the next Blazer possession, Matthews passed it directly to Miller's feet, and the ball went directly out of bounds. Portland is running out of time to mount a comeback in this game. 85-79 Kings.
2:18 - Tyreke Evans drains a three out of the timeout. The Blazers turn it over on their next possession. Sorry, folks, but this winning streak may be over. 88-79 Kings.
1:36 - Yep, it's definitely over. After an Evans miss, Casspi comes flying in to put back the rebound. The crowd is leaving, and my consecutive run of winning live blogs appears to be complete. I blame Michael Jordan. 90-79 Kings.
0:55 - When Beno Udrih is making acrobatic lay-ups like Tyreke Evans, there's some definitely wrong. 94-81 Kings.
0:00 - Player of the Week Curse—Aldridge finishes with 9 points on 4-14 shooting, adding in four turnovers for good measure. The tired Blazers just couldn't mount another fourth quarter comeback, and hand the Kings their tenth win of the season.
FINAL SCORE: 96-81 Kings.