Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers host the
Anaheim Sacramento Kings!
Get ready for some tired, sloppy basketball, as both teams come into tonight having played their first game of the season less than twenty-four hours ago. The Blazers knocked off the 76ers (as quasi-chronicled here) while the Kings defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, a victory apparently so inspiring that owner Gavin Maloof felt like he wasn't going to survive unless he got a little crazy.
Sacramento comes into tonight with one secret weapon, and no, it's not the basketball Tebow: the team now has intimidating black jerseys, as opposed to majestic purple. So scary. So slimming.
Need more jersey tips? Follow along after the jump!
The biggest takeaway from last night's victory for Portland was their speed. Last year, the team ranked dead last in pace, and were a grind it out half-court offense that averaged about eighty shot attempts a game. Last night, Portland hucked it up a whopping ninety-seven times, and after one game, are first in the league in terms of pace. Yes, first. It's a tiny sample size, but still.
If you watched the game, this probably comes as no surprise. The team finally made good on years of preseason vows to run more—rather than looking for a point guard immediately after a rebound, the big men were flinging the ball down the court in hopes of generating a fast break. There was more gambling on defense, jumping into passing lanes, which resulted in eleven steals and more fast break opportunities. Portland is a team built to run, and it looks like Nate McMillan is finally loosening the reins on the offense.
The Kings are a good, rebuilding, team. They're still not in playoff contention, but are explosive enough to give every team in this league fits. They have a talented young big in DeMarcus Cousins, former Rookie of the Year slasher Tyreke Evans (looking to bounce back after an underwhelming sophomore campaign), a competent gunner in Marcus Thornton, and a decent bench unit featuring former Blazer Travis Outlaw. Throw in Chuck Hayes, John Salmons, J.J. Hickson, and everybody's favorite Mormon, Jimmer Fredette, and that is the making of an okay team.
The second night of a back to back is always a tough endeavor, and with Portland trying to run more, it'll be interesting to see how quickly they tire. My guess is they revert to a slow half-court team four minutes into the first quarter. I mean, really, do you expect anything less from Kurt "I'm Older Than Juwan Howard" Thomas?
11:41 - Foul on DeMarcus Cousins. I have a feeling I'm going to be typing that a lot tonight. 1-0 Blazers.
9:22 - Well, three minutes in and Portland is still moving quickly. Too bad they can't hit anything. 1-4 shooting early, but the looks are there. Also, there are a lot of Kings fans in the building tonight. Are they just getting ready to migrate when they eventually lose their team? Too soon? 6-3 Kings.
7:18 - It really must be the black jersey. DeMarcus Cousins has looked incredibly active thus far, driving to the hoop and consistently beating the defense. He's a sulking head case, but man he could be a special player. Four points and an impressive block on LaMarcus Aldridge thus far. 10-7 Kings.
5:45 - Gerald Wallace just leaked out in transition, beating the entire defense for the easy layup. He then immediately caused a turnover on the other end. And then he said he would be my new boyfriend and love me forever. 11-11 Tie.
5:05 - Jimmer! For three! To massive applause! Portland sure does love their unathletic white guys. 14-11 Kings.
3:18 - Another Gerald Wallace leak out, another Gerald Wallace layup. I will never get tired of typing those words. The energy is there on the offensive end so far, but the Blazers need to do a better job of staying in front of their man on the defensive end. They also getting out-rebounded 12-7, which is not good. 16-15 Kings.
2:23 - Dear Jimmer—That was Jamal Crawford's crossover. Look out for it. Signed, your ankles. 17-16 Blazers.
0:00 - It's Jimmer time. He just picked his spot on the floor with the shot clock winding down, put up a rainbow over Chris Johnson's outstretched hand that hit nothing but net. That was pretty. Johnson made up for it by knocking in a tip back at the first quarter buzzer on the other end. 25-23 Kings.
11:05 - Jamal Crawford has seven shot attempts off the bench. LaMarcus Aldridge, the starter, has three. The Blazers are losing. 27-23 Kings.
8:52 - Portland is just getting killed on their defensive glass. The Kings are hustling to missed shots, and almost have as many offensive rebounds as Portland has total rebounds. It's time to get Camby and Aldridge back into the game to clean up those boards, otherwise Sacramento isn't going to be giving up this lead anytime soon. 31-26 Kings.
7:48 - The Blazers look winded. Raymond Felton just put up an airball on a twenty foot jumper. Things are not looking good. 35-26 Kings.
6:00 - As soon as I started complaining about rebounding, Gerald Wallace picked up three boards in the span of a minute, one on the offensive glass that led to a jumper by Aldridge. At least somebody out there for Portland looks alive—Wallace now has ten points and three boards. 38-30 Kings.
4:30 - LaMarcus just missed two point blank layups. Portland is now shooting 38% on the night. Ugh. 44-32 Kings.
3:00 - An offensive board, a second chance three by Raymond Felton. Scientific proof that good things happen when you rebound. 44-37 Kings.
2:00 - If I could have any wish, it might be to go all Being John Malkovich on Gerald Wallace. I just want to see what's it's like to go that fast just for once. Dude just picked up an and one, and then forced a turnover on the other end. He's playing out of his mind right now. 46-42 Kings.
0:00 - Portland found their legs to end the half. Once the energy picked up a bit in the arena, the team got out and pushed the tempo more than they had all game. Aldridge scored an and one, Wallace picked up a block, and there was a foul on Chuck Hayes as time expired. The best part of everything? As the refs went to see if the foul was before the buzzer, Wallace took a seat next to some fans in the stands across from the Blazer bench. The place exploded when they showed his on the big screen. After Aldridge made one of his two free throws, the score is now tied! 46-46 Tie.
10:42 - Uh oh. Wesley Matthews just went out of the game, straight to the locker room, holding his lower back. That cannot be good. Updates as they come. 48-46 Blazers.
9:49 - Camby just picked Cousins's pocket as he tried to drive by the old man. Wallace picked it up and went coast to coast for the easy layup. I think Wallace should just go pick up his key to the city (because clearly he's earned it after tonight's performance) and wear it around his neck the rest of the game. The playing field needs to be leveled, because he is clearly just too good at this point. 50-46 Blazers.
8:23 - Gerald Wallace for mayor. (Photo courtesy of @elyoregonian on Twitter). 52-48 Blazers.
7:47 - Looks like Matthews has a mild back strain, and will return to tonight's game. 53-48 Blazers.
5:41 - Wallace just picked up a rebound and threw a half-court alley-oop to Batum on the break. That was so, so pretty, and something this team truly has been lacking. I can't even describe how happy this new transition offense makes me. 60-54 Blazers.
4:03 - Jimmer just silenced the crowd with a step back three as the shot clock expired. Too bad the Kings were too busy celebrating and didn't notice that Kurt Thomas was underneath his own basket, ready for the easy assist and layup. Yep, fast break points off a made three pointer. Welcome to your 2011-2012 Portland Trail Blazers, everyone. 66-58 Blazers.
2:50 - Hey hey, it's the Rhino everybody! Craig Smith with his first minutes as a Blazer this year! I love Smith. Too bad he just air balled his first shot by about eight feet. 70-65 Blazers.
0:50 - Yeah, that's more like it Rhino! His first bucket! It came under the basket, and he jumped about two inches off the ground. Perfection. 72-65 Blazers.
0:00 - Gerald Wallace juuuust rimmed off a three as the quarter expired. That would have brought the house down. No matter—Portland still finished on a mini-run, and are making it pretty clear that they are not giving this game up. I would not be surprised if Portland opened the fourth with a fast break explosion, putting this game away for good. 74-65 Blazers.
11:02 - The Rhino with the offensive rebound and put-back. Matthews with the jumper at the free throw line. Tyreke Evans with a contested airball from twenty feet out and fifteen seconds left in the shot clock. Here comes your Portland run. 78-65 Blazers.
8:52 - Portland is one big shot from putting this thing away, but they've had a couple bad attempts on their last few shots. On the plus side, the Rhino is really making the case for more playing time with his fourth quarter minutes. He's banging bodies, diving on the floor, and looking like the best backup big man Portland has. I shouldn't say that too loudly, though, or he might blow out a knee. 80-67 Blazers.
8:28 - Wow, Kurt Thomas just put Cousins in his place with a most block. That was impressive. Nice to see the old man can still get up. Thomas just left the game to an incredibly loud ovation. 82-67 Blazers.
7:45 - A steal on one end, a behind the back assist to Aldridge on the other, and Raymond Felton might have just provided the momentum to put this one away. 84-68 Blazers.
6:46 - Wallace just thought he had an and one, but picked up the offensive foul (and subsequent technical foul) instead. This place almost just rioted. 84-71 Blazers.
5:35 - The Kings just don't want to go down. DeMarcus Cousins has picked up a couple of really smart charges on Portland's offense, looking a lot like a wily vet. Cousins, despite some iffy shot selection, has really looked good. He's trying his best to get his team fired up to try and make a run here, and there is still a lot of basketball left to play. 85-73 Blazers.
5:18 - And Cousins just picked up a stupid foul. I take bake everything I just said. Camby was only able to drain one of his two free throws. 86-73 Blazers.
4:38 - Wow. Tyreke Evans just broke Jamal Crawford's ankles, only to be met at the rim by a soaring from out of nowhere Gerald Wallace. Wallace was able to get the skying block, secure the rebound, and start the fast break. One Ricky Rubio-esque bounce pass later and Nicolas Batum had the easy layup in transition. I love you, Gerald Wallace. Dude now has eighteen points, eight rebounds, five assists, and is an astounding +17. That might have just been the game. 88-73 Blazers.
3:53 - Wallace just took a hit to the face that would have put me in the hospital, and was able to get up like it was no big deal. Oh, and he then hit both of his free throws. 90-73 Blazers.
2:38 - And here comes the calvary. The Kings are sending all of their scrubs in at once, officially giving up on this game. I really hope McMillan pulls Wallace soon so he can get the ovation he damn well deserves. 94-73 Blazers.
1:51 - Luke Babbitt just checked into the game without telling anyone to check out of the game. I don't know when the last time I saw a six men on the floor technical, but man, if anyone was going to get called for that, it was Luke Babbitt. 94-74 Blazers.
1:22 - Wallace just hit a three (putting him at twenty-five points for the night) and got yanked, getting a standing ovation upon his exit. The crowd then broke out into a "Ger-ald Wall-ace" chant. A fitting ending to an amazing performance. 99-76 Blazers.
0:00 - After a strong fourth quarter, the Blazers finish with a 101-79 victory. Gerald Wallace deserves every game ball ever, and almost single handedly propelled that victory. Portland is now 2-0 on the year, and we'll be back at it again on Thursday as Portland hosts the Denver Nuggets.