Before that...unfortunate Wizards game unfolded (and by unfolded, I mean splattered like a diaper dropped from 15 stories), I ran into the crew from TrailBlazerTV's "Sportlandia" program as they were packing up their equipment. We expressed mild boredom and disinterest in the certain decimation we were about to witness (What hubris! What foolish, misplaced pride!) but began jabbering like Tamagotchi Jawas at the prospects of Lob City returning to Rip City.
I repeat: we were honestly, legitimately excited that the Clippers were coming back to town.
It's 2012, a passel of idiots, scared to death of the reproductive system, are occupying congress to honestly argue the validity of birth control, religious zealots unironically drop lines about packing "Blessed Weapons" in their drawers for the same God that apparently approves of birth control that includes an aspirin and your knees, Whitney Houston's funeral is being livestreamed, Vancouver WA has legal gay marriage before Portland does, fucking NEW JERSEY will probably get it before we do, Michael Bay is producing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie - and the Clippers coming back to town is one of the most important games of the season.
These are strange times.
Strange times indeed. Would that Hunter S. had lived to see them. He'd have loved this. Or loved hating this.
But we can't stop here. This is Hot Live Blog Country.
So let's take stock of the state of things. There was that Wizards game, which caused certain sportswriters around town to legitimately speculate that Coach Nate is on his way out, maybe before the season is up. Personally, I feel that he hit his ceiling as a coach here about 3 years ago, but I don't want THAT game to be the one that starts the wheels in motion towards his termination.
That game also took LaMarcus Aldridge off the roster with a nasty ankle sprain less than an hour after fresh new "LaMarcus Allstar" placards were distributed to all attendees.
That was followed by skin-of-the-teeth win against the Golden State Warriors that depended largely on the 3-point prowess of Crash Wallace (a perfect 4 for 4 from the behind the arc) combined with Nate Robinson getting a timely case of butterfingers so bad that Raymond Felton had to be restrained from going all Bart Simpson on his digits.
Meanwhile, in Clipper-Land...
That's Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan putting down more alley-oops than a typical game of NBA Jam, on the team that left the Rose Garden one point shy of putting 125 points on the scoreboard.
(also, I like DeAndre Jordan's post dunk move, where his body language is screaming the phrase "Say WHAAAT" as he slightly recoils from the filth he flushed through the hoop. It feels old-school. I could see him doing it in a tweed jacket w/ Sherman Helmsley's haircut.)
So, in the spirit of the insightful analysis of walking liver spot Mike Rice, tonight's keys to the game?
1) Raymond Felton needs to stop fucking up.
2) Some defense would be nice.
3) Score more points than the Clippers.
4) Don't feel too bad when the freakish ginger threatening to steal the title of "Human Highlight Reel" posterizes you.
5) Why the fuck is "posterizes" still a term that gets used? Does the NBA even make posters still? Are basketball posters even still a thing?
6) You know what else isn't, and has never been a thing? "Boom-shaka-laka." It was some stupid shit a video-game announcer coughed up in a vocal booth for NBA Jam in an attempt to pander to 1992's youth. That our main announcer (and shit-poor replacement for Bill Schonely, who got cheers on the jumbotron when he was shown) has turned it into his main catchphrase is almost as lazy and distasteful as the diarrhetic-grade culinary offerings from noted international dogfood suppliers given to fans as a "reward" for their team cracking 100 points.
The crowd just cheered Chris Paul's introduction like we could still somehow convince him to come here. "It's not too late, Chris. We'll be here. Waiting."
Blazers are rocking their "Rip City" pseudo throwbacks tonight. Maybe that'll make a difference? I still see no reason not to go back to the 83-88 vintage. Let's stop half-assing it.
11:23 - Gerald Wallace shuts down a timid Caron Butler, who doesn't get his 20-footer off in time. Shotclock violation. Raymond Felton crosses up 2 LA defenders only for Gerald Wallace to botch the easy finish at the rim. Camby secures the rebound from a Clips miss on his end, only to airball his own 15 footer on the other end.
10:01 - Batum goes right at Blake Griffin, and slides sideways in midair to lightly put it off the backboard for the first points of the game. 2-0 Blazers
9:22 - Caron Butler is having problems out there. Wesley Matthews pretty much shut him down just by breathing hard in his general vicinity. He somehow coughed it up to Griffin, who botches his finish, but DeAndre Jordan is there for the putback. Nicolas Batum answers on the other end with a forceful dunk off 2 feet. 4-2 Blazers
8:02 - Griffin misses the 2nd of 2 free throws. He's not too good at that. I'm not saying we should slap at his arms every time he looks to be going up for one of his helicopter dunks, but everytime he misses one, and Batum gets an easy layup off the feed from Camby? That's good for us. 6-5 Blazers.
6:54 - Griffin with his first sick putback of the night. CP penetrates, kicks out to Butler, who clangs the three just softly enough for Griffin to come swooping through the key and return the ball to the bottom of the net, with force. 8-7 Blazers
6:12 - Wallace stab steps, shakes the defense off, leaves a perfect pass to a backdooring Wesley Matthews, who kisses it off the glass for two. Blazers recover on the other end after Camby pins a CP layup agaisnt the glass, and Raymond Felton airs out a Tebowish pass to Nicolas Batum. By Tebowish, I mean overthrown and floaty and off target - Batum has to try throwing it off a defender's foot, but it just sticks to his leg. There's a scramble, a blocked shot, but somehow, Portland keeps the ball, and the crowd explodes as a timeout is called. It's the kind of mad chaotic scramble that Portland fans always seem to love more than anything. 10-7 Blazers
5:36 - Gerald Wallace & Wesley Matthews harrassing the living hell out of Mo Williams, who almost uses all of the shot-clock shitting his pants at the top of the key before getting bailed out on a garbage foul call to put him at the line for an and-one. He hits it. Camby to Batum once again is the answer. 13-10, Blazers.
4:30 - Kenyon Martin been drinkin some of Griffin's highlight juice. An ANGRY putback off a Clippers miss causes the crowd to let out a whoosh like he just kicked their mother's stomach. Wesley Matthews answers with his own putback off a miss, but it's a little more gentle. Martin takes offense to this weaksauce game of horse. The next ball that goes screaming off the Clippers rim is snatched out of midair by Martin and rammed through the hoop. 16-14, Blazers
2:44 - Griffin just tied the game by basically jumping straight up in the air 10 straight times in a row until the ball bounced off his hands and through the hoop while 3 Blazers just kinda stared up at him. Someone's gonna have to put a butt in his lap soon. 16-16
2:03 - Batum is left open. Batum floats a three at the hoop as calm as you please. It drops through politely. Timeout. 19-16 Blazers
1:51 - Randy Foye with an ill-advised drive through three Portland defenders. It is deflected off someone's armpit or something. Luckily Blake Griffin is doing his pogo-stick thing. Batum answers at the other end w/ another 3. Dude's got 15 already. 22-18 Blazers
:10 - Crawford holds the ball for 10 seconds. Dribbles to his right. Jacks up a three. It drops. Building explodes. I'm sure that's exactly how Nate drew it up. "Stand there. Then dribble. Then hit a three so the people will yell." 27-20, Blazers.
11:13 - Crawford stands around for 10 seconds. Dribbles to the left. Jacks up a three. It drops. Building explodes. I guess if they're not gonna defend the play... 30-22 Blazers.
10:39 - So the Clippers finally come out to contest McMillan's most successful play of the night. Crawford drops it off to Craig Smith, who finds himself COMPLETELY alone in the middle of the key. He rushes to the basket, just in time for Kenyon Martin to come alive and HASSAN CHOP his entire upper body. Smith misses the first as his arms heal. Gets the 2nd. 31-22 Blazers.
9:57 - Gerald Wallace finds a cutting Elliot Williams sprinting backdoor full speed. The ball reaches Williams as he comes to a dead stop. He catches it, springs straight up off two feet and smashes the hell out of the rim. 33-22 Blazers.
9:40 - Kenyon Martin just tried to get tricky, spun into the waiting chest of Kurt Thomas, who looked down at him with Entish contempt. He answers on the other end with a none-too-hasty jumper, feet rooted to the floor. 35-22 Blazers.
6:30 - Reggie Evans got called for a loose ball foul. That's like calling Zangief for a loose ball foul in Street Fighter II. What Evans did has more in common with that game than it does basketball. Wallace repays his bullshit with a sweet little layup. The Clippers airball a layup on the other end, Craig Smith scrambles to keep the ball inbounds, Blazers recover, timeout is called, the crowd cheers because once again, even though no points have been scored, plenty of skin has been left on floor, chasing after loose balls like crazed dogs. 37-24 Blazers
4:55 - Batum is definitely feeling it tonight. Caught a pass near the top of the key, stutter stepped in excitement before squaring up and shooting. Swish. Blake Griffin answers on the other end the only way he's had any answers all night. By jumping straight up in mid-air and bouncing a ball off the heels of his hands until it falls through the net. 39-26 Blazers.
3:20 - Wallace goes straight at Blake Griffin, ducks under the basket, dishes to Wesley Matthews, who takes a step, fumbles the ball, recovers, and puts up a weak runner. It dinks off the front of the rim, but Camby is sprinting at it from under the basket, flies past it, and flicks an arm out as he goes by. The ball bounces off his hand, an arm bounces off his body, the ball goes in, the whistle blows. 41-28 Blazers.
2:58 - CP just got cheesedicked into an offensive foul call by some nice Blazers flopping. He complains all the way down the court. Vinny Del Negro gets up and starts giving the ref an earful. It's gotta be like having oatmeal yell at you. You know the Clippers are hoping McMillan gets fired so they can pour Del Negro's employment down the garbage disposal and snatch up Nate in a second? I don't know how Nate would do down there, but it'd be interesting to see.
1:46 - Felton has the ball. So far tonight, that means nothing's going to happen on this possession. 6 seconds left on the clock, he throws it into Randy Foye's hands. Foye throws it into Blake Griffin's hands. Blake jumps straight up, leaves the ball in the net. 43-30, Blazers
:34.9 - Griffin goes in on Wallace. Spins, leaves the ball for Butler. He goes up at the same time Kurt Thomas does. Thomas swipes, misses. Butler reaches the top of his arc. Thomas swipes again, because he hasn't really jumped so it's not like he needs to worry about gravity. He blocks the shot. Haroom harooom.
:10 - Mo Williams hits a contested runner with 3 seconds left. Crawford can't get his halfcourt shot off in time, it's about 15 yards wide anyway. 43-32 Blazers.
So far, so good: Clips are shooting 33.3% (I can't see that number and not think of this song. Thank you Chuck D) and the only player in double digits is Griffin, who is having kind of a crappy game. The next highest scorer is Kenyon Martin. More impressive: The best PG in the league (Hold onto your Linsanity, kids) has only 1 assist on the half. Really, the only thing the Blazers have been weak on is boxing out. But when almost everyone on the Clippers is capable of sproinging about 15 feet into the sky with the power of thought, it's not so easy to keep them off the boards.
Batum's got 17, shooting 70 percent from the floor, and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. Felton's got 1 assist and 2 turnovers, and considering Crawford's got 3 assists, 1 turnover and they haven't been able to stop his one offensive play all night, I'm curious as to why Felton is going to start the 2nd half.
11:07 - DeAndre Jordan's got four fouls already? Damn. Far cry from last night when he was Air Helmsley. He just picked up the fourth trying to shove Camby out of the way for a rebound. On the other end, Camby patiently waits at the corner of the key for Batum to cut backdoor. He lobs, Batum floats under the basket and sticks a hand into the air on the downward arc of his descent. It drops. It's' pretty. 45-32 Blazers.
If I had hair, I would be ripping it out of my head during this timeout game: Two fans are pulled in front of the camera, and made to guess the names of movies based on photoshopped posters with the titles removed. There's a douchebag looking fratbro who has just missed COMING TO AMERICA, TRADING PLACES in a row - but shoved his hand in the air like someone poked his pucker with a lava bidet the INSTANT he saw a poster for Dodgeball.
He lost. However, the winner got Tower Heist on DVD, so really, there were no winners.
8:40 - Blake Griffin has decided he's going to shove his way to the rim regardless of how graceless and awkward he's going to be. He hurf-durfs his way into Marcus Camby's chest, vomits up a one-handed jumper, and goes to the line. Hits em both. 50-36, Blazers
8:14 - Griffin will not be deterred from his clumsy plans. He tries to back down Gerald Wallace after an attempted crossover dribble doesn't go quite right. He smashes into Wallace's lap with his ass. Wallace falls down. Griffin looks confused as the offensive foul (his 3rd) is called.
7:35 - They're booing Raymond Felton here. He missed a wide open Gerald Wallace on the baseline. He's got 2 assists on the night.
6:20 - Felton takes his man off the dribble, goes to the air. Blake Griffin makes a move at him. He releases the shot early, putting enough arc on it that the ball is coated in a thin sheen of frost as it descends from the stratosphere. It binks off the front of the rim. They are booing him again.
The entire game has gone inert.
5:55 - Jamal Crawford takes two defenders to the left side, double clutches, floats up a jumper. It drops through. The crowd is happy a) he is in b) something happened. 52-40 Blazers
5:10 - With 2 seconds left on the shotclock, Crawford puts the flim-flam on Randy Foye. He bites hard when he shouldn't, and fouls stupidly as Crawford puts a shot up that caroms off the side of the backboard. Head Coach Oatmeal of the Clippers gets pissy. Crawford hits his freethrows. 54-42 Blazers.
4:23 - Mo Williams just attempted to lob it to DeAndre Jordan, who had his dunk all fucked up by Wesley Matthews throwing his body at Jordan's elbows. I'm pretty sure I'm not mistaken - that's the first alley-oop attempt by the Clippers all game. Jordan gets 1 of 2. 54-43 Blazers.
2:30 - Foye tried to jackknife up an ugly layup. Batum meets him at the apex of his ungainly attempt, and just pats the ball straight down. The fastbreak conversion on the other end doesn't go as well - the Blazers layup is sent into the first row in the finest of Karl Malone-ish fashions.
1:32 - Yet another really, really shitty goaltending call has soured this crowd. Nicolas Batum just smiles ruefully. Jamal Crawford is hassled unmercifully on the other end. he runs his yap, gets T'd up for it. The Clippers come down the other end sensing that the mood could shift. A lob is tossed in Griffin's direction - Craig Smith pretty much headbutts it out of the way. Coach Oatmeal is at halfcourt trying to call a time out. Nobody can hear him. Oatmeal isn't the most vocal of breakfast foods. 56-48 Blazers.
:50 - Elliot Williams goes to the rim with 2 seconds on the shotclock, lets a runner go. It clangs, but Craig Smith is there to pull the ball from the air. Blake Griffin is there, going over Smith's back. Whistle blows, Smith goes to the line, Griffin leaves the game with his 4th foul. He has some shit to say on his way out. The ref makes a T with his hands. This is a nice little gift to close out the quarter. 58-48 Blazers.
:30 - Mo Williams to DeAndre Jordan FINALLY connects. This isn't so much Lob City as it is Oop-Shantytown. A couple buckets are traded in the last 30 seconds, and we head into the fourth with the Blazers, playing half-asleep, and the Clippers, annoyed as shit. 60-52, Blazers
11:00 - It's getting frustrating watching a whole lot of clumsy nothing going on.
10:35 - Somehow, Crawford has decided his go to guy is the completely immobile Kurt Thomas. His last 3 possessions have featured him dribbling, getting pressured, winding up about 2 steps from the half court line, chucking it to Thomas, who tosses a brick or two at the rim.
9:52 - Caron Butler finally puts a ball into a basket with a 15 footer from the left side of the court. 60-54 Blazers.
9:15 - Chris Paul just broke Wesley Matthew's ankles. TWICE. Wesley just sorta goggled up at the jumper as it flew over his head. As the ball cleared the net, Nate was stomping out onto the court, barking for a time out. 60-56 Blazers.
9:03 - Gerald Wallace backs down Kenyon Martin. Martin's so into the back & forth he doesn't notice Wesley Matthews streaking behind him. Wallace does. Leaves the ball for him at the center of the key. Matthews picks it up out of midair and flushes it with two hands. 62-58 Blazers
7:30 - Jamal Crawford spins on a Mo Williams who was overplaying him so hard you'd think he had a stroke and could only LEAN one direction. Crawford leisurely jogs towards an uncontested layup. 64-60 Blazers
6:21 - Chris Paul tries to get tricksy, and cross up Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford at the same time. Matthews has learned from his previous mistake. He sticks a hand out, dislodges the ball, falls on it like a recovered fumble, and calls timeout. 64-62 Blazers.
6:17 - Why the fuck is Raymond Felton back in? Batum misses a wide-open three, but gets his own rebound. Crawford gets the ball at the top of the key. Guess what play he runs? It's his favorite. 66-62, Blazers.
4:34 - Chris Paul loses his handles once again. Unfortunately, it lands directly on Kurt Thomas' feet, and rockets out of bounds. The inbounds juts barely gets to Paul, and Paul barely gets the shot off. It just BARELY hits the backboard. 24 sec violation. Felton puts up something ugly, gets his own board. Gets mauled. There's no call because he hasn't earned that tonight. Mo Williams answers on the other end with a three. He celebrates all the way back to his sideline. 67-60, Clippers.
3:17 - Chris Paul just worked the shotclock to 3 seconds before stepping back behind the three, and hitting a fadeway. A fucking fadeaway three-pointer. Ugh. 70-66 Clippers.
2:47 - The Blazers are 2-8 when down with less than 2 minutes to go. Luckily, Chris Paul just barfed up an ugly ass 3, giving the Blazers a chance to knock down a three and make this situation less dire. Unfortunately, Kenyon Martin saw the pass going towards Batum, as we all did, and knocked it into the Clippers frontcourt, where Chris Paul dutifully feeds it to Griffin, who dribbles it off his leg, where it rolls out to the three, where yet another Clipper airball leads to a 24 second violation.
1:08 - Chris Paul turns on his afterburners and runs straight at the basket. Batum is with him sep for step. Paul just hits reverse. You can hear the cartoon-like "RRRRRRRRRTT!" Batum goes flying backwards, Paul sets up and floats his jumper through the bottom of the net. 72-67 Clippers.
:27 - Crowd is flowing through the exits like water through a colander.
:19 - Wesley Matthews tosses to Camby. Camby waits for Matthews to curl around behind him, tosses him the ball. Matthews goes up with no hesitation from about 24 feet out. The three is good. Mo Williams is immediately fouled on the inbounds. 72-70 Clippers.
Apparently somewhere in all that mess, Nicolas Batum got his clock cleaned. He just went into the locker room with blood flowing out of his face. Would be nice to have our leading scorer and 3pt threat on the floor. But nope. Williams hits both his free throws. Matthews penetrates to the basket, cocks back the dunk, gets smacked in the torso with Griffin's torso. Misses his second free throw. The ball goes loose. He recovers behind the three. Jacks up something desperate. It doesn't go.
GAME. 74-71 Clippers.