Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers bring out the nice silverware and host the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder are the best team in the NBA and are so good they are also in first place in the NHL's Western Division, top ranked in men's and women's NCAA basketball, can bake a soufflé without it collapsing, and they collectively took home top prize at the Scripps Spelling Bee (Kevin Durant knows how to spell "Cymotrichous" and Kendrick Perkins can use it in a sentence). But the Thunder aren't perfect—they finished fourth in the Republican primaries in Nevada—and Portland knows this, having handed OKC their lone homecourt defeat this season on January 3.
Let us commence the live-blogging!
In what is bad news for the Blazers—and worse news for Sizzler's formerly well-stocked buffet—Raymond Felton is out tonight. The Blazers' starting PG will sit with a foot injury while Jamal Crawford gets to run the show. The sheer prospect of a shooting—not passing—guard like Crawford captaining the offense is both terrifying and entertaining (terrifytainment?). It'll be disastrous if the Blazers get off to a slow start, since the level of quality at the PG position drops off a cliff when it comes to inexperienced backups Armon Johnson and Nolan Smith. Oh, Patty Mills, where have you gone?
In addition to being so damn perfect (they smell like cinnamon—ALL THE TIME!) the Thunder also have the best road record in the Western Conference. Meanwhile the Blazers have the second best home record in the entire NBA. Something has to give. Unless this game ends in a tie. Which will probably happen.
In other news, the Thunder's former hometown (Seattle, back when they were yellow and green and called the Sonics) is getting over the heartbreak and moving on with their life. The Emerald City is kicking the tires of a few wayward franchises—Jimmer Fredette's Seattle Kings!—and might be back in the basketball game within a couple years.
11:42 - OKC has a great ritual of handshakes and hugs before the game. It's kind of adorable. Oh, and LaMarcus Aldridge hits a turnaround jumper of Perkins. 2-0 Blazers.
10:39 - In lieu of taking the ball to a wide open basket, Crawford dishes to an equally-as-open Marcus Camby for a 12-foot jumper. Evidently sharing is caring. 4-2 Blazers.
9:15 - Crawford helps Felton's job security by airballing a jumper. It missed long by about four feet. 8-6 Thunder.
8:43 - Russell Westbrook has his way—as usual—and converts on a driving layup. 10-8 Thunder.
7:07 - In a move he wouldn't dare attempt until last season, Aldridge skips a turnaround jumper in favor of a slicing drive to the rim, where he converts. 13-12 Blazers.
6:23 - Crawford with a steal. Crawford with a turnover after dribbling off someone else's foot. He who taketh, also giveth away. 14-13 Thunder.
5:07 - Westbrook with a Crawford-esque airball that Camby fumbles out of bounds. One play later, Aldridge plows through Perkins—one of the NBA's better defenders—and converts on a flying hook/layup while getting fouled. That was damn impressive. Someone's gonna be an All-Star in a couple days. 18-16 Blazers.
4:01 - Batum enters the game and stands alone behind the three-point line without a defender anywhere near him. That might not be the best strategy for OKC. 23-19 Blazers.
3:22 - Batum for three, rims off. Okay, that strategy is pure brilliance. 23-21 Blazers.
2:53 - Durant crashes through Gerald Wallace in an attempt to get a loose ball, no call. Crawford gets revenge by hitting a comically high arcing three-pointer. I think the ball touched the prize blimp. 26-21 Blazers.
2:12 - Craig Smith puts his head down, tucks the ball under his arm, and rhinos his way (fittingly) to the hoop for an and-one basket. Smith could have taken a wide-open jumper, but seemed to prefer the chance to get make contact with the defense. 28-23 Blazers.
2:05 - Serge Ibaka with a phantom call and now the Thunder are in the penalty. Nice break for the home team, even if it means Rhino is shooting the free-throws. He misses three in a row. 29-23 Blazers.
0:58 - Great ball movement—with Nolan Smith at PG—and Portland gets an impressive tip-in from Batum. 31-25 Blazers.
0:01 - Durant passes up the final shot and hits Reggie Jackson (What? The guy who tried to kill the Queen of England?) for a three. 31-29 Blazers.
10:24 - Batum runs out of room when he slams into a stationed Nazr Mohammed, so he just tosses up the ball, which goes in, and he is bailed out by a fortunate foul call. Everything is coming up Batum. 33-31 Blazers.
9:38 - All things considered, not a terrible five minute run for Smith. The Blazers were -2 with him in the game, but it could have been worse since he was stuck guarding James Harden the entire time. 33-33 tie.
8:18 - Nick Collison is great on defense. That said, Aldridge just schooled him and converted at the rim. His 11 points lead all scorers so far. 36-35 Thunder.
6:20 - Matthews and Kurt Thomas trap Westbrook, and Matthews ends up scooping up the ball on a breakaway dunk. Next play, Perkins beasts his way through Thomas and hits while getting hacked. 46-41 Thunder.
4:40 - After a period of stalling, where the Thunder took a five point lead (after trailing by as many as eight) the Blazers roar back with points in the paint from Aldridge and Crawford. 48-48 tie.
1:56 - Following a Wallace miss, Camby tips the ball, and tips the ball, and tips the ball, and tips the ball, and then finally tips a pass to Crawford. Then the Blazers turn it over. But all that tipping was nice. 56-52 Thunder.
1:25 - Perkins elbows Wallace twice, then elbows Aldridge and picks up the foul. All-Stars get better treatment. 58-52 Thunder.
0:30 - Thunder have a +15 rebound advantage, nine of which are on the offensive end, hence the shift on the scoreboard. Not a great way to end the half. 60-52 Thunder.
9:59 - Camby comes up big with a put-back slam of an Aldridge miss. One play later he tosses an alley-oop to Aldridge. There is more to him than mustache and rebounds. 64-58 Thunder.
8:05 - After Ibaka ruins two consecutive fastbreaks with massive blocked shots, Matthews converts on a three from the corner. 9-0 Blazers run. The crowd is awake. 64-61 Thunder.
7:33 - Aldridge with a Hakeem dream shake move and now it's a 11-0 run. Make that 13-0, Wallace hits a baseline cutting layup. 65-64 Blazers.
5:32 - Durant quiets the crowd with a jumper and then another. Okay fine, he might be slightly better than Oden at everything but knee surgeries. Actually, he's probably better at that as well. I heard he can operate on himself and recover in a week. 72-65 Thunder.
4:43 - Wallace dives for a steal, smashes into Camby, falls to the floor, and watches the ball slowly roll out of bounds. The entire court is his china shop. 74-67 Thunder.
3:29 - Matthews slices to the basket for a wide open layup but he forgets the ball before taking off for the rim. That was embarrassing. Someone sync that up with a slide whistle. 76-68 Thunder.
2:27 - And then Matthews coughs up the ball and Westbrook takes it the other way for a dunk. Good god, that was shameful. 80-69 Thunder.
1:33 - Westbrook fastbreak dunk. The Blazers might want to stop letting that happen. Raise the rim? Trap door with snakes at the bottom? Or maybe stop turning the ball over. Whatever works. 82-71 Thunder.
1:00 - Harden for a looooong three. The Thunder are a couple stops away from putting this game out of reach. 85-72 Thunder.
0:20 - Batum with a steal that leads to a fastbreak and then he draws a foul on the other end. Thomas helps the cause with a predictable 12-foot jumper that gets the crowd, and the home team, back into the game. 85-79 Thunder.
11:15 - Naturally after playing a quarter that deserves to have him benched, Matthews contributes on both of the plays to start the final period. 89-83 Thunder.
10:30 - Batum picks up a suspicious foul, and then one called on Harden. Make-up calls for no reason. 89-83 Thunder.
9:53 - Craig Smith chases a loose ball into the seats. No one died. Shocking. 89-83 Thunder.
9:06 - Batum and Harden are battling. A surprisingly intense contest that just resulted in Batum being closelined, yet recovering in time to prevent Harden from scoring. On the other end, Batum posts up the bigger bodied Harden and dishes to Smith for the layup. Everyone else can sit down and let's just settle this game one-on-one. 89-85 Thunder.
8:35 - He is 0-4 from deep, but Batum has been the spark in this game. Again. He slips pass Durant and scores on the and-one. 89-88 Thunder.
8:00 - Thomas puts Westbrook in an arm-lock, which results in a foul for the NBA's oldest player and some spirited air punching from Westbrook. Work that invisible body. Work it. Work it. 93-88 Thunder.
6:51 - Batum for three. Only eight more to go. Tie game. 93-93.
6:11 - Aldridge with a jumper that hands Portland the lead as the crowd erupts and OKC retreats to a timeout. This is a playoff atmosphere in February. 95-93 Blazers.
5:34 - Durant with a jumper. Aldridge with a jumper. Huh, guess we're not gonna see Cole Aldrich vs. Luke Babbitt closing out this game. 97-95 Blazers.
5:19 - Aldridge's 33 points are a season high. 97-95 Blazers.
3:41 - Batum with a block (!) of Ibaka from behind. While he was dunking. Hard to do that without fouling. One play later a Westbrook-to-Durant fastbreak is spoiled when Durant lets the ball fly out of his hands. This game is nuts. 97-95 Blazers.
3:32 - Turnaround short jumper for Aldridge. He makes it look easy. And by "it" I mean "carrying this entire team while picking up the burden left by the sudden retirement of Brandon Roy while shedding his image as a soft player." 99-95 Blazers.
2:45 - Aldridge with a season high (35) and the Blazers' defense has held OKC to ten points in the past eight-plus minutes. I have a feeling Mr. Durant will put a stop to that streak very shortly. 99-95 Blazers.
2:18 - Ibaka puts a stop to an easy layup from Aldridge, but he fouls the (future) All-Star in the process. In all five of their losses this season, OKC has given up 100+ points. Portland is now over the century mark. 101-95 Blazers.
2:05 - Durant for three. Of course. 101-98 Blazers.
1:35 - Camby fouls Westbrook and he converts both. One point game. 101-100 Blazers.
1:09 - Poor shot clock management leads to a desperate heave from Aldridge—he's not that good—and a loose ball foul on Wallace. Westbrook splits the free-throws. We're tied. 101-101.
0:55 - Crawford skips all that fancy passing and hits a jumper off the screen. Timeout OKC, ubiquitous Gary Glitter time in the Rose Garden. 103-101 Blazers.
0:54 - Batum! Frenchy #88 draws a foul on an Ibaka screen. Amazing defense. Blazers fail to convert as Aldridge's fadeaway shot rims off. 103-101 Blazers.
0:15 - A miss by Durant, but OKC gets the board. Then a miss by Westbrook, but Batum can't corral the loose ball. OKC ball. Gulp. 103-101 Blazers.
0:12 - Durant gets room off the inbound pass but it closes quickly and his shot gets blocked by the bottom of the backboard. Loose ball scuffle and... uh... no one knows. Looks like it might be OKC ball again, Three misses in a row and Blazers fail to get the ball back. If this game goes to the road time, you'll now know why. 103-101 Blazers.
0:06 - Very controversial goaltending call on Aldridge. And by controversial, I mean wrong. People are pissed here. 103-103 tie.
0:00 - Batum is stopped at the rim, and now we go to overtime. Everyone is still booing. I have a feeling this doesn't end well. 103-103.
5:00 - Oh, they are playing the Smashmouth cover of "I'm a Believer." Way to bum everyone out, Blazers' sound guy.
3:59 - Missed jumpers from Aldridge and Batum. Westbrook gets all net on his shot. 105-103 Thunder.
2:54 - Tipped loose ball off Aldridge's face (ouch) and Harden takes it in for a dunk. Timeout Portland. There is no such thing as free basketball. Overtime is just another quarter where the OKC can beat you. 107-103 Thunder.
2:31 - Aldridge misses a short hook, but gets the rebound and is hacked by Perkins. He makes the first. He makes the second. 107-105 Thunder.
2:07 - Durant misses a jumper, but Westbrook (yes, the PG) with the rebound. Durant fails to miss his second opportunity. On the other end, Portland gets a lucky bounce and Crawford converts. 109-107 Thunder.
1:11 - Portland fouls Durant, yet no call and they get the ball back after a 24-second violation. 109-107 Thunder.
0:37 - He had a chance, but Batum misses a three. Westbrook gets the rebound and OKC can close it out here. 109-107 Thunder.
0:37 - Here is video of the suspicious goaltend call that sent this game to ovetime. You make the call.
0:30 - Durant is wide on jumper and after a few tips, it looks like Portland gets the ball. The play is being reviewed—something they didn't do after the goaltend. 109-107 Thunder.
0:02 - ...and meltdown. Complete and total bedshitting disaster. Portland runs down the clock, somehow give the ball to Thomas, who then panics and hands it to Crawford who gets his wild shot tipped. Thunder recover, Portland fails to foul, and Durant takes it in for a fastbreak dunk. Ouch. It's hard to imagine a final play worse than that. 111-107 Thunder.
0:00 - Phantom goaltending call or not, Portland had a chance to win it late in the game, but their defense gave up three consecutive offensive rebounds. The Thunder had a +20 rebounding advantage. If that series if plays never happens, there would be no goaltend. Or "goaltend." Very frustrating loss, but a clear example of what separates the elite teams in the NBA and those stuck in the middle. Also, the kid sitting in the luxury box above us is bawling. I know this hurts, little skipper, but you did just get to sit in a luxury box, life can't be that bad.
Your final score, OKC 111, Portland 107.