We're live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Atlanta Hawks.
Things haven't been going our way lately. We've dropped 5 of the last 7 (those two wins coming against Golden State and a few of the bench players from last year's Hornets). Despite three solid quarters, we were only able to put up 71 points against the Clippers; we allowed the Wizards to score 124. Lamarcus Aldridge is suffering from a hurt ankle, and Raymond Felton is suffering from hurt feelings.
A win tonight puts us just ahead of Utah; a loss puts us at .500 and one Minnesota win away from last place in our division. This is a good Hawks team that's battling Orlando and Philadelphia for the third spot in the East. We're going to need more than three mediocre quarters to get a win.
It's cold and wet and ugly outside, and the Mercury's no longer paying for my dinners. I don't think I can stand being last place. Follow along after the jump to see whether or not I decide to hibernate until mid-June.
Looks like Aldridge—who was listed as a game-time decision—will start tonight, along with Camby, Wallace, Batum, and a sad, chubby little boy. The Hawks—still down two big men (Al Horford and Jason Collins)—will start Zaza Pachulia, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson, and Jeff Teague. I like seeing Batum at the two spot tonight—Atlanta's backcourt (particularly Joe Johnson) frightens me. Here's to hoping Crawford can share some helpful hints on how to D up his old teammate (might not be a bad idea to get the ball in his hands too...looks like he's averaging 23 points a game in his last five match-ups against the Hawks).
11:15: My suspicion was correct. Joe Johnson can score. He backs Batum for the first bucket of the game. 2-0 Hawks.
10:30: Felton dances around at the top of the key, before handing the ball off to someone who knows what to do with it. Aldridge hits a deep 2. 4-2 Hawks.
8:10: Felton drives hard to the hoop and throws it up high over the backboard. Out of bounds. But the blazers keep it and inbound and wheel to Batum outside the arc. Three is good. Joe Johnson answers with another quick two on the other end. We're at 10-9, Hawks.
7:20: If Aldridge's ankle is bothering him, he's showing no signs. Moving quickly and playing physical. Backs down Josh Smith for another two. And credit where credit is due, Felton hits from deep next time down. We're at 16-15, Blazers.
5:38: Both teams shooting very well. This time it's Camby from the top of the key. two points. Wallace gets a steal and dishes to Felton in the open court. 22-17, Blazers.
4:36: And it's Batum, at shooting guard tonight, that's cleaning up the boards. He's got two second-chance buckets already. 24-17, Blazers. We're capitalizing on the Hawks minimal mistakes, and we're making our shots. That day off did us good.
4:00: Marcus Camby gets a dime from Batum at the top of the key and takes it hard to the hoop. Gets the foul and the bucket (misses the free throw). 26-17, Blazers
3:20: Probably should guard Josh Smith under the basket. Then again, you ought to step out on Wallace at the arc...three pointer. 31-19, Blazers.
2:20: Josh Smith hits Willie Green under the basket in transition. Beautiful reverse layup in traffic. 31-21, Blazers
1:00: There's a confidence booster. Matthews hits him in transition, and Felton sees Wallace streaking under the hoop. THreads a pass through the defenders, and Wallace kisses it off the glass. Crowd is on their feet. How's that for support, Ray? 33-25 Blazers
0:00: Not sure you want to set up Kurt Thomas to take the last shot, but the Hawks are shooting 66% and we're still up 8. Gotta feel pretty good about that.
11:00: Great ball movement from Atlanta. First possession, I think everybody touched the ball twice. Eventually Willie Green was open in the corner. Knocks down the three. 33-28 Blazers.
10:30: Not since Rasheed Wallace have I felt so sure that someone could kill me with their eyes. Nice job, Kurt.
9:46: Nice to see some production from a little deeper down the bench. Nolan Smith spots up for three. 38-28, Blazers
8:25: I'm really impressed with Batum's hustle tonight. He's getting boards, going after loose balls, and playing good help defense.
7:45: Crawford inbounds to Matthews, who hits smooth fadeaway jumper. Blazers increase their lead to 11. 4-29, Blazers
6:55: Josh Smith tries to back down Aldridge, but Nolan Smith sneaks up and wraps it up. Jump ball (you can imagine how that goes). Zaza grabs the tip and goes hard to the hoop, drawing the foul. He knocks down 1 of 2. 40-30, Blazers.
5:20: Felton's doing a nice job working the ball inside. I take it he and Nate had a heart to heart. ALdridge for 2. 42-30, Blazers
4:30: Great work tonight from the JumboTron graphics team. Aldridge makes a free throw, they put of a bunch of cartoon money signs with the caption: "On The Money." Classic. 43-30, Blazers
4:10: You know in pick-up basketball when you're REAL tired and you just kind of hack someone from behind on a fast break because you need a breather and don't feel like running just then? Camby just did that.
2:21: Pretty little runner from Batum in traffic. I'm going to say it again...I like him at the two. 45-32, Blazers
1:38: Remember when Michael Jordan had his own cologne? Free idea: Some hippy should start marketing a a patchouli oil called Zaza. It would kill at some of the Eugene YMCA pickup games. Anyone Pachulia for two. We're at 49-37
0:00: Felton goes coast to coast! Floats a layup over Jeff Teague with .8 on the clock. I'm pleasantly surprised with the way this game is unfolding. Halftime score: 52-37, Blazers
I know you think it's cheaper to stay at home, watch the game with people you like instead of a bunch of assholes from Beaverton. You can drink your reasonably priced beer and eat your decent food, but you don't get to hear this Jimmy Buffett cover of a Cat Stevens song. That comes free with the price of your ticket.
Batum is leading all scorers at halftime with 14, and he's contributed six boards to boot (four of them on the offensive end). Aldridge has 11, and Felton has contributed 9 (with 5 assists). Joe Johnson is leading the Hawks with 11 points, with Pachulia adding eight points and six boards. Shooting dropped off in the second quarter, both teams are hovering around 45%.
The offensive glass has made a big difference...the blazers are leading that particular battle 10-2. But lets not forget that Atlanta's still got the fresh legs of Jerry Stackhouse and Erick Dampier on the bench...if they look anything like they did in 1997, look out!
11:45: Marvin Williams gets the Hawks off to a quick start. Three pointer from the corner. 52-40, Blazers.
10:18: Felton feeds the ball in to Aldridge, who forces a post up move. Bricks, but Camby follows with a tip. He gets the bucket and a foul. 54-40, Blazers.
8:00: Camby works the ball into Aldridge, who orchestrates a nice little up and under on Joe Johnson. Hawks throw up a quick brick, and Felton quickly converts for three. 61-42, Blazers.
A whole row of lucky fans just won Tower Heist on Blu-Ray.
5:28: There's a particular kind of drive Wallace pulls when his shot isn't going in from the field. He tucks the ball in like a running back, and he's either going to get the call or commit a charge. This time it was the former. He knocks down both free throws. 63-47, Blazers
4:38: Joe Johnson breaks a Hawks cold streak. Three from the corner. 65-50, Blazers. Also Marcus Camby prefers Star Wars over Star Trek, and, sheepishly, the Backstreet Boys over The Jonas Brothers.
3:30: Wallace gets a pass in the corner and dishes to Felton at the top of the key. He drives and dishes to Aldridge underneath. two points (this is how it should work). 67-50, Blazers
2:00: SO: Felton looks good. he drives again, draws the defense and last minute finds Matthews open on the wing. Three is good. 70-54, Blazers
0:50: Wallace tucks and drives, but Joe Johnson rips it away. He finds Josh Smith who pushes it up court to Willie Green and a layup. 72-56 Blazers.
0:00: Felton gets one last chance to spot up. It clinks around a few times, but to no avail. Wallace flies through for a worthless rebound, and picks up a technical foul for—I guess—throwing the ball? We're still at 72-56, and the Hawks have freethrows coming.
10:00: Technical difficulties, but we're back...Blazers leading 76-61.
9:00: Matthews gets a dish from Wallace in the corner and goes strong to the hoop. 78-61 (could have been a foul, but he got t'd up last time he argued). 78-61, Blazers
7:40: Not sure why Josh Smithhasn't been doing that drop step post move all night. Makes it look easy. 78-63, Blazers
6:33: Shot clock winding down to zero, Matthews puts up a long fading bank shot for two. 80-63, Blazers.
6:15: Batum goes hard on the baseline for a dunk, but Josh Smith counters on the other end with a long two. We're at 82-65, and fans are starting to worry about paying for their Taco Bell on the way home. C'mon fellas...step it up.
5:00: Felton finds Batum open in the corner for three. Josh Smith with another pretty lil' post move on the other end. 87-67, Blazers.
4:00: Might not be as high-percentage as Smith's drop step, but you can't complain about Aldridge's turn around jumper when it goes in as often as it has tonight. 89-69, Blazers
2:30: Joe Johnson pads his stats with another three from the corner, but it's going to take Reggie-Miller level scoring at this point. 89-72, Blazers (Luke Babbitt's in the game)
1:06: Elliott Williams continues to be my favorite garbage-time player. Three points! 95-77, Blazers
0:30 And again! Williams for 3!
Final score 97-77.