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Are you ready for Cleveland? Is anyone ready for Cleveland?

PRE-GAME:

The Blazers should be hungry tonight. They were starved of anything resembling an offense against the Suns, and spent large amounts of the game stumbling around, staring into their hands all watery-eyed and confused like Frank Dux in the final fight of Bloodsport.

So Cleveland rolls into town, morphing before our eyes like a Looney Tunes mirage; They're no longer a team of twelve also-rans and castoffs trying to scrape together a respectable season. They're anthropomorphic cartoon hot dogs; bland vittles, offered up on the court to be consumed voraciously, one fast break at a time.

(This is where I'm supposed to insert a couple jokes about Raymond Felton and Craig Smith smacking their lips and rolling over the Cavs like Stephen King's Langoliers, a blizzard of rotundity and teeth, fueled by pure purpose.)

I think the reason Charles Barkley's been so up on this Blazers squad is that they remind him of himself. If Barkley had been a point guard? I bet he'd play a little like Raymond Felton. The Rhino already possesses a few Barkley-ish qualities in his game. I bet he watches these Blazers and flashes back to his '93 Suns, and that's not a bad squad for these Blazers to aspire to.

Cleveland's not gonna just lay there and get devoured, though. Portland's rediscovered their love of the fast break, but Cleveland's discovered an aptitude for stopping it. And I understand someone looking to write off a team led by Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao, owned by a hissy-fit throwing jackass who issues press releases that read like post-breakup journal entries, written in comic sans.

Comic fucking sans. Jesus.

But it could be more of a battle than some might expect. Cleveland's got a 4-3 record. Granted, the teams they've beaten have a collective record that, were it made physical, should be scraped off the bottom of a shoe with a stick, but a winning record is a winning record, and the Cavs (hell, that whole city) has something to prove.

FIRST QUARTER:

11:12 - Wesley Matthews solves the Blazers early problems getting the ball inside without spanging it off someone's knees by simply taking it at the rim all by himself. 2-0 Blazers.

9:30 - Varejao gets an easy, lazy looking dunk off the 4th Portland turnover in 5 possessions. 8-5 Cleveland.

8:59 - Wesley Matthews is the entirety of Blazers offense. I don't know if that's a foul portent. 8-7 Cleveland

7:37 - That didn't look so hard. One outlet pass. One catch. One easy layup by Crash Wallace. If Cleveland is to fast breaks what chastity belts are to teenage boys, I'm not seeing it yet. 11-8 Blazers.

4:08 - Antawn Jamison gets his first foul, sending Aldridge to the line for two. Until the announcer said his name, I'd forgotten he was even at the game. Batum subs in for Matthews, Aldridge hits both free throws. 16-12 Portland.

3:20 - Goddamn this shit is sloppy. It's all elbows and skidding stops on both sides. Wallace breaks free from the defense on a fast break and elects to not repeat his windmill dunk from the LA game. I wish he had. This crowd is as lethargic as hell. 18-14 Blazers.

2:00 - The Rhino enters the game, promptly draws a charge, and the crowd starts to snap out of it. The next two possessions? Two loud clangs from the Blazers and an airball from Cleveland. Ugh 18-16 Portland

26.2 - Jamal Crawford gets his first foul, coming across the front of Alonzo Gee, who is twisting himself in half to get a shot off. The crowd halfheartedly chants "defense!" It's unneccessary. As the saying goes, neither offense could hit water if it fell out of a boat. Blazers shooting 29 percent, Cleveland shooting 30. Gee gets one out of two. Quarter ends. 18-17 Blazers.

SECOND QUARTER:

10:38 - Well, the Rhino's here to play. Recieves the pass on the low block, spins and goes up strong with no hesitation for an easy two. He and Matthews are the only two people on the court who appear to have a pulse. 22-19 Blazers

8:52 - Gerald Wallace returns to the game, Rhino leaves it while Ramon Sessions converts a free throw to tie the score on this bland, plodding game that is currently vying with the Cavs uniforms for ugliest thing in Portland right now. 24-24.

8:19 - Wallace sends Samardo Samuels (that's a wrestling name if I ever heard it) to the line with a blithe chop to his chest, thwarting his dunk attempt. Even our fouls are yawn-worthy tonight.

6:32 - Crowd tries to will the Blazers to life after Tristan Thompson cuts through their interior like nothing and finishes with a two-handed slam. The ball, as if in response to this enthusiasm, flies out of Raymond Felton's hand and seeks refuge in the 3rd row. 28-26 Cleveland.

5:01 - After Wesley Matthews hits a pretty turnaround to tie the score at 30,(team leading 9pts for Matthews) Portland forces a turnover that leaves Marcus Camby at the top of a key. Crash flashes to the baseline, they lock eyes - and as everything has gone tonight, the record skips and the pass comes a full second too late, and flies out of bounds.

The two times this crowd has come fully to life have been when someone is dancing to LMFAO during timeouts. "Every Day I'm Shufflin." It's an apt description of the overall gameplay so far.

3:24 - Matthews sits down, Batum comes in. Hopefully he gets his long-ass arms in front of the one-two that Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao are threatening to get going. He recieves a pass from Crash and immediately chucks it up from about 18 feet. Swish. 35-32 Blazers.

2:46 - Aldridge catches one of Varejao's fingers with his eyeball. Time-out.

1:36 - Wallace to Batum once again, and the crowd starts to shake themselves out of this Cleveland stupor, just in time for a Cleveland three ball to shove a pillow over their hopes. However, we're still winning somehow. 39-35 Blazers.

2.0 - Wesley Matthews receives the inbound pass and immediately spins and jacks up a three. It tastes the sweet nectar only found at the bottom of the net. Real electricity courses through the crowd for the first time tonight. I hope to god Nate chews unhealthy amounts of ass throughout the entirety of halftime. Like someone gave him a roll of bubble tape made out of anger and anus. 42-35 Blazers.

The scoreboard is trying to rile this crowd up by dangling the promise (threat) of free chalupas in their face. The crowd responds halfheartedly. I wish I could say it was because they're above being played for shit-eating rubes who could be manipulated into barking like seals for the culinary equivalent of a rubber diaper filled with infant vomit. But its mostly that watching this game is is like huffing Sominex.

THIRD QUARTER:

9:40 - Kyrie Irving with a slick little backdoor cut and an easy layup. LaMarcus Aldridge wants to work - he's hitting the block with purpose, calling for the ball, getting it, and basically doing whatever he wants to do. The shots just aren't dropping. 3/12 on the night 44-39 Blazers.

8:35 - Irving tries bringing some more of that cute shit into the paint, and Old Man Camby swallows him up like a Hobbit lost in Fangorn Forest.

8:02 - Anderson Varejao on the fast break goes to the rim like lazy cat approaching a windowsill. Crash Wallace bats that softness into the fourth row. First sighting of the crowd leaving its feet.

7:42 - Cleveland calls time-out after Wesley Matthews drains another three as easy as you please. Matthews has 16 points on 6 for 11 shooting, and Portland's got the lead, 50-41.

During the time-out, a man proposes to his girlfriend via the Kiss Cam. She will get to tell her children she married their father after he proposed during a Cleveland game. The guy in the Luchador mask sitting one row behind them seemed almost as happy as she is.

6:53 - Crash Wallace watches the offense sort of grind against itself from the top of the key. Says fuck it. Pops a three. Sinks it. 53-43 Blazers

6:01 - Camby picks up his 4th personal by planting his feet and taking a charge about 5 feet outside the circle. The call is so rancid that McMillan does his best Clay Davis impersonation, stretching a single "Shit" to about 4 syllables.

4:41 - Kyrie Irving daintily picks his way through the Blazers defense and kisses a layup off the glass. McMillan is up off his seat and calling time-out before it even touches net. 55-50 Blazers.

4:28 - I don't know what's pissing off Antawn Jamison more: the fact he's got 3 fouls and no points for the night, or the fact the house announcer Mark Mason keeps calling him "Antwan."

3:27 - Jamison hits a three. The announcer gets his name right. Guess it's a respect thing. 57-53 Blazers

2:00 - Aldridge and Wallace hassle a turnover out of Cleveland. Aldridge streaks straight at the rim, and Matthews lofts a pass at him. He's bodied on the way up, and the ball leaves his hands only to neatly dance off the rim. Dude cannot buy a single break tonight. But he does sink both his free throws. He doesn't want it to be this ugly. Nobody does. 63-53 Blazers

1:23 - It's become a war against ugly with Aldridge. A pretty looking pick in the frontcourt leads him to tear-ass at the rim. He goes up confident. But there seems to be an aura of nasty surrounding our rim, like someone vaporized the water from the wrong grail in Indy Jones 3. He comes down in a tangle of arms, and the ball STILL will not go in. But he hits his free throws. 67-53 Blazers


FOURTH QUARTER:

10:32 - The Free Throw Guy wills Tristan Thompson to miss one of his free throws. He and the crowd are rewarded with the image of a mascot in a wolf costume racking his nuts. A lustful cheer goes up. 73-60 Blazers.

9:45 - Samardo Samuels finds himself in the low block with Kurt Thomas and The Rhino on either side of him. It must feel like being caught in the Death Star trash compactor. He coughs up the ball. 5 seconds later, Smith shows off his 3 inch vertical and lays it up sweetly. Samuels sits down. He looks sad. 79-62 Blazers

7:35 - Cleveland comes out of the time-out looking amped. The ball swings to Varejao. Kurt Thomas immediately bodies him. It's like watching Snuffalupugus headbutt Big Bird in the chest. Big Bird calls time out. The whole thing takes about 5 seconds. Varejao looks dazed. 79-64 Blazers

6:59 - Felton comes off a screen from Matthews, finds Aldridge streaking towards the basket. Threads it past two defenders before they even know the pass was thrown, and Aldridge lays it in. 7 minutes left in the game and we seethe first competently executed offensive play on EITHER side. 81-64 Blazers.

5:56 - Aldridge knocks a rebound to midcourt. Felton barrels after it as Antawn Jamison comes flying at him. Felton taps it to Wallace on the wing. Wallace catches it and goes straight to the rim. As he leaves his feet, so does the crowd, and as he flushes it through, the crowd genuinely erupts for the first time tonight. 85-65 Blazers.

5:18 - Now it's getting pretty. Kyrie Irving overplays Felton out on the three. Felton looks to the interior, sees Crash coming to the basket like a Predator. Pass leaves his hands as if fired from a T-shirt Cannon. Wallace gets another layup while Luke Harangody watches it happen like a dude named Harangody would. 89-65 Blazers

3:23 - Aldridge catches a kickout from Matthews on the baseline. Easily sinks the 15 footer. The crowd begins to salivate for the free dogfood sandwich coupon they can redeem at their local Taco Bell. I don't understand why this is considered a prize. To me, it's proof that David Stern doesn't care about the fans. Only a man that callous would allow his teams to "reward" their fans with a coupon for poop and lettuce. 91-69 Blazers

2:12 - Kyrie Irving is attacking the basket with purpose, dancing around Nolan Smith like it's nothing. Gets himself in the air, twists to get an angle on the layup. Lofts it. Aldridge swoops in and slaps it STRAIGHT down. Not out, not away - it appears to be attached to an invisible string tied to the floor. Everyone seems almost surprised.

1:20 - Nolan Smith pulls up and stabs the Cavs with a three. That's about done. The people behind me are lightly mocking Luke Harangody. He looks like someone hit Bryant Reeves with a shrink ray. If you squint, you can SEE the question marks popping out of his head. 95-76 Blazers

7.6 - Batum pulls down the ball. The crowd lurches to its feet. He stands and lets the clock run out. The crowd reacts as if Commodus has just thumbed down Maximus Decimus Meridius. That chalupa was in their grasp, and laziness has prevented them from their rightful prize. Batum shrugs. It's an apt description of the game. Final 98-78 Blazers.