Just a couple fish, chasing each other around the tank, trying to get a couple nibbles of the other ones tail.
The Blazers and the Warriors aren't too different right about now. The trade deadline was less a line, and more a pipe, and both teams got cracked with it like Nancy Kerrigan's shins.
So, what do do with the rest of your season, then? The Blazers and the Warriors are answering that question in pretty different ways. The Warriors are generally flailing. First-time Head Coach Mark Jackson spends a lot of his days looking like a puppy just dooked directly into his cereal bowl. Monta Ellis is gone, Stephen Curry's ankle is so fucked that just walking by a Toys R Us sets off all the "Operation" games on the shelf, Nate Robinson was never the most consistent player even when he's healthy, which he's not (right hamstring), and he has no real center to speak of.
But the players haven't given up - rookie Klay Thompson dropped 31 on the Sacramento Kings yesterday, and David Lee (who the Blazers have tried to get in previous offseasons) came one assist shy of a triple-double with a 22 point, 14 rebound, 9 assist performance in the same game. But even with that effort - it's not a pretty flailing the Golden State fans have to sit through. Think Bela Lugosi wrestling an inflatable octopus in Ed Wood.
The Blazers are trying, dammit. They're really trying. Oh, they're flailing too, but it's a cheery, hopeful flailing, thanks to the Little Miss Sunshine-esque enthusiasm of Coach Canales. Think Kermit the Frog introducing a cool celebrity guest on The Muppet Show.
Management? Well, paste the relevant faces over James Garner's and C. Thomas Howell's, and the following poster pretty accurately sums up their aims.
So, before you get your Mad Men season premiere party started, why not prep yourself with a two-hour bath in conflicting emotions as you root for a team caught in a situation where winning games and playing hard might actually be detrimental to the team's future.
Craig Smith chooses the warmup music tonight, and chooses "Soul Survivor" by Young Jeezy. He is a man who puts a premium on his musical artists being ridahs.
This is what the house looks like w/ 5 minutes to go before tipoff.
11:38 - Charles Jenkins opens the game with an easy 20 footer right on Star Wars time. 2-0 Warriors. LaMarcus lofts a 20 footer of his own on the other end, Przybilla gets the board and a forearm in the back of the head as Klay Thompson goes over his back. The crowd gave thompson a pretty decent cheer during his introduction. Aldridge goes to the rim on the inbounds play, gets his 2. Thompson follows up with a 3-ball, and the next trip down the court, picks up the offensive foul. 3pts, 2 fouls, and he's comin out of the game in a couple minutes, I'm pretty sure. As a result of his pillow-soft defense the next trip down the court, Batum drains an easy three. Tie game, 5-5
9:16 - Aldridge scores on a little runner across the key, and next trip down the floor, swats the ball out of Jeremy Tyler's hands like it's nothing, complete with shrug and tug on his armband. Wesley Matthews drains a three, and then Raymond Felton does the same. Meanwhile, the pace and feel of the game seems pretty sedated. Of course, as soon as I note the sleepy-eyed vibe of the game, a case of ratball breaks out, there's some scrambling, and LaMarcus heads to the line for a pair of free throws. Rims em both, and Charles Jenkins comes right at the defense, plants his feet right on the three point line, and drains it. To answer, Raymond Felton crosses up Klay Thompson and Dorell Wright. They sandwich him as he goes skyward. The whistle blows - it's NOT Thompson. Jackson wisely subs him out with Brandon Rush. Felton takes advantage by penetrating, and lobbing it to Aldridge, who slams home the oop in Rush's face. 17-11 Blazers
5:52 - Felton tosses a pass to Batum behind the three. He subverts the building's hopes & expectations by not pulling the trigger, instead waiting for Przybilla to come rumbling through the lane. He penetrates, leaves it for the Vanilla Gorilla, who immediately goes up, and has his shot stuffed. The refs bail him out with a whistle. He hits em both. 20-13, Blazers
4:50 - Felton gives it to Aldridge on the low post, and he BANGS. It's not often you see it. Maybe because its' David Lee, a player he's compared to sometimes. He bodies Lee out of the way pretty effortlessly, and rains a pretty little 5 footer after creating the space. Next trip down the court? Goes right at him again - doesn't result in a basket, though, as helpside defense causes Aldridge to fumble the ball out of bounds. Charles Jenkins answers with a two on the other end, and on the next possession, finds Richard Jefferson in the corner wide open for a three. Canales calls time out. 22-20 Blazers
The scoreboard shows off Russell Hornsby & Sasha Roiz of Grimm. The crowd reacts sorta like "Oh." Then the announcer tells everyone J.J. Hickson is entering the game. He promptly chases a rebound into the front row and steamrolls a camera guy and a couple rich people. The crowd reacts like "Yeah!" Then there's a timeout and the Junior Blazer dancers scamper out onto the court to the strains of Footloose, and the crowd is like "Eeeee!" It's been a rollercoaster here at the Rose Garden these last few minutes.
1:47 - Richard Jefferson calmly answers Hickson's contested, pretty layup with an all-business jumper from 17 feet. Next trip down the court, the defense lays off Charles Jenkins AGAIN, who makes the Blazers pay with a three. Kurt Thomas winds up with the ball after a couple passes, and chucks up an awkward looking jumper that makes me wince just to watch it. His knees sounded like Vincent Price closing a coffin in Thriller. Jenkins hits anotehr shot just before the clock winds down, the Blazers don't have an answer on the other end, and the quarter ends with the Warriors up, 27-26
11:58 - Luke Babbitt's in the game. He IMMEDIATELY chucks a three. It drops. The kid with the Luke Babbit 4 MVP sign is shitting himself. 29-27 Blazers
10:58 - Jamal Crawford's favorite play: Dribble aimlessly near the top of the key. Move to the right. Launch a 20 footer. Watch it swish. Klay Thompson answers with his variation of the same thing on the other end. 31-29 Blazers
10:08 - Getting sloppy out there in general. Crawford continues ahead with a sloppy, stumbling drive towards the hoop, trying to draw a foul that's never getting called. He barfs up a hip-shot as he tumbles. It clangs off the bottom of the rim. He gets his own rebound while sitting on his ass. It's that kind of game. The next 3 possessions are a parade of bad passes, mishandled balls, and turnovers on both sides. Mark Jackson calls a timeout, beelines towards a referee, and engages in what looks like a stand-up routine. After 2 minutes, a couple laughs, and a quick meeting with his assistant coaches, he applauds himself, and kneels in front of his squad. He jabs a finger at a couple players, says something semi-forcefully, and then nods to himself like "Yeah. Yeah, I'm a coach. I'm coaching right now."
7:48 - Goddamn there's a whole lot of nothing going on. Meanwhile, on press row, an adorable, unsupervised moppet has just knocked over her soda onto the belongings of a couple reporters. She surveys her damage, "humphs," and turns around and toddles off to wherever. The reporters are bewildered. The aftermath soaks, silently, into the cushions.
6:41 - David Lee finally scores a point, courtesy a 1 of 2 performance at the free throw line. The crowd cheers just because something finally happened. It cheers exponentially louder as Batum gets around to attempting another shot after his first quarter three. It's a two from about one step inside the line. It rips twine. 33-32, Blazers
4:50 - Aldridge beats up on David Lee a couple times, kicks it back out to Nicolas Batum, who puts up one of those sweet jumpers from behind the arc. It looks good. It's not. Luckily, Pryzbilla is there, and cradles the board one armed. He turns, and immediately throws it as hard as he can - right at Brandon Rush. The following possession, Klay Thompson lobs an outlet pass 3/4ths of the court near David Lee. Batum puts himself between the ball and Lee, and bats the ball - directly into Rush's hands. Rush lays it in. Apparently the Blazers are feeling good enough about their abilities today that they're literally spotting the Warriors five points. 38-33 Warriors
3:41 - The Warriors are taking those gifts and running with them, literally: The prettiest play of the day so far comes off a perfectly executed pick & roll between Jenkins & Lee, ending with Luke Babbitt poking a twig-like arm into the middle of the play to tack on the and-one. Having seen the play executed so well, LaMarcus & Batum execute it on the other end, ending in one of Batum's effortless looking dunks. 41-35 Warriors
2:50 - Damn. Felton missed two free throws, and caught a lustful booing for his efforts. Batum wins the crowd back like Maximus: He blocks Richard Jefferson without even leaving his feet, picks up the leavings, sprints to the other end with them and flushes a two-hander with authority. The crowd roars. 41-37 Warriors
1:46 - Now it's Luke Babbitt's turn to play the thief. He pokes the ball loose. It winds up in Felton's hands. He immediately gives it back to Babbitt, because man, they just BOOED his ass. He wants nothing to do with any further attention from this crowd. Babbitt? I don't know if he's got a thought in his head except for "Three." He jacks it up, glassy eyed. It drops. 45-40, Warriors.
1:09 - Felton feels he's extinguished whatever heat he drew upon himself with those missed free throws, and jacks up an ill-advised three. It looks good, until it doesn't. The boos return. The crowd is turning, now: Batum drives hard to the hoop, shrugs off a couple bodies, gets his own board, misses the putback with a couple Warriors still hanging off him - and gets booed, too. Jamal Crawford crosses up Dominic McGuire, fades away, puts the shot off the back of the rim: Boooooo. The buzzer sounds. Halftime, 47-40, Warriors.
Why are the Blazers down by seven? Well, aside from some really sloppy, loosey-goosey play, almost nothing outside of the first quarter has worked offensively. The blazers are shooting 32% from the field, 50% from the free throw stripe, 5 of 16 from three, with 8 team rebounds & 4 turnovers. I guess reading it all summed up like that, the fact they're only down seven is pretty remarkable. Hopefully Coach Canales is in the locker room Gosh Darning a really strong sense of pride into the squad, which should translate into some much better execution in the second half. Right now the only player exhibiting any real execution is Aldridge, and to be honest, he's being outplayed by Klay Thompson right now.
Man, the whole night's gone several shades of lackluster beige: Even DJ OG-One is falling prey to the loosey-goosey. It sounds like a dog w/ worms is sliding its ass across his turntables. I can see him frown from across the stadium. I'm pulling my shirt up over my nose & mouth as a precaution - I don't wanna catch whatever this blase malaise is.
11:28 - Felton zings a pass to Wesley Matthews in the corner. He threads a layup between two Warriors, but misses off the front of the rim. Przybilla is there to clean up the mess. Jenkins answers with a party-pooping two on the other end. Raymond Felton tries to start the party back up with a two on the other end. But he's Raymond Felton and nobody here likes him. Jenkins calmly hits another two while the crowd grumbles. 51-44 Warriors
9:10 - Look, someone's gonna have to start fucking guarding Klay Thompson. I'd suggest incrementally increasing pressure on the guy. Step one - breathe in his general direction. Huff if you have to. Make him somehow aware of your existence. Maybe try to bounce some soundwaves off his chest and arms via a vigorous shout or something. 53-46 Warriors
8:02 - The first cleanly executed offensive play of the last two quarters ends in a pass from Nicolas Batum to a very patient Wesley Matthews in the corner. He puts on his three goggles. The crowd begins to warm up. Next trip downcourt, Felton does his thing, which often resembles a child nervously riding a wobbly bicycle going downhill way too fast. He bails on his drive, kicks it to Batum, who misses the wide-open three. Jenkins does not miss his wide open j. 55-49 Warriors.
6:36 - Remember that last play? Switch the passer and the passee, and you got the result. 55-52 Warriors.
5:18 - Aldridge cleans up another mess left by Felton at the front of the rim. The crowd cheers. Brandon Rush rebounds a rare Jenkins miss, but has nowhere to go, and a pivot foot he can't pick up. The three seconds tick down on him as he looks around helplessly. The crowd reacts to a three-in-the-key call as vigorously as they have anything else this quarter. 57-56 Warriors
According to the jumbotron, Craig Smith likes plain cheese pizza. A bunch of Sunset Middle School cheerleaders sitting behind us LOVE this. They love it even more when Luke Babbitt and Nicolas Batum love plain cheese as well. They lose their fucking MINDS when Wesley Matthews agrees. Raymond Felton's favorite flavor of Pizza is ALL OF THE PIZZA. He is booed.
4:31 - Raymond Felton comes out of the time out and drains a three. The crowd cheers. The announcer drives the point home that the Blazers are in the lead, and the cheer increases by twice the size. 58-57 Blazers
3:37 - Aldridge and Matthews out, Hickson and Crawford in. Felton is feeling himself now, sheds Thompson off a Kurt Thomas screen, pops the jumper, finds the bottom of the net. I just like the idea of Thompson smashing into Kurt Thomas over and over again, like a dog running into a sliding glass door. Now if only someone would run Jenkins off a couple of those screens. Rattle some brains.
Free Throw Guy isn't wearing a shirt with a bear's butthole on it today. The Warriors are shooting 90 percent from the line. I think we can all draw the conclusion here.
Felton hits another three. The announcer screams EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND. The crowd boos. I think that's less for Ray-Ray, and more for the shitty catchphrase. It's definitely the catchphrase: Felton leaves about 3 yards of skin on the floor diving for a pass to Thompson. The cheer is instant, because the Blazer fans love nothing more than players hurting themselves for the sake of keeping a ball inbounds. He picks up the ball, throws it to a streaking Batum, who gets the layup and-one. Warriors timeout. 64-59 Blazers
The coach of this Sunset Middle School Cheerleader squad has yet to inform her young charges that squealing "LOOK AT US UP HERE" will not actually cause the camera operator running the scoreboard cam to focus the lens in their general direction. I WISH SHE WOULD TELL THEM THIS. IT SEEMS A DECENT IDEA TO ME.
1:57 - Batum has two blocks tonight, both of them coming without actually leaving his feet. He just windmills an arm at just the right time and the ball comes loose. David Lee takes no chances on the next trip down the court, tomahawking a dunk right over J.J. Hickson. 65-61 Blazers
:41 - After another businesslike jumper from Richard Jefferson, Felton winds down the shotclock a little before giving it to Batum, who puts up a fadeaway from 18 feet out. It drops through sweetly. Whatever slump Batum was in the past 2 quarters, he seems to have snapped out of it. He even got another block, and this time, he was a good 2 feet off the ground when he did it. 68-63 Blazers
They just played a game on the scoreboard where you have to guess how much shit costs at Fred Meyer. Apparently a pair of brand-new 501 jeans are 48 bucks?
Goodwill hath spoiled me.
11:46 - Richard Jefferson needs to be wearing something classier than this jersey. Something Brooks Brothers maybe. A nice vest perhaps. A businesslike three drops. J.J. Hickson tries to answer with a really acrobatic attempt at a layup. It doesn't go. He is so upset that a foul isn't being called that he pogoes up and down while whining and crying. The ball bounces off his foot and rolls out of bounds. Warriors ball. 70-66 Blazers
10:37 - J.J Hickson is just running into people out there, basically. There's no real grace to it - he is just so eager to do SOMETHING out there that he's pinballing off people like a tilt sign might light up. Meanwhile: Klay Thompson for three. Nobody even breathed on him, either. 70-69 Blazers
9:26 - Hickson finally translates his efforts into points - a nice board and putback off a Matthews miss. Of course, whenever there is happiness on court, count on Charles Jenkins to snuff it out with a pretty jumper. LaMarcus Aldridge answers with a nice post-move, except the refs don't agree with how nice it is, and call him for an offensive foul instead of the and-one the rest of the crowd just saw. Canales calls a timeout while LaMarcus flirts with a technical foul. 72-71 Blazers
8:45 - Brandon Rush wins (loses) the Makeup Call lottery. He apparently farted in the general direction of a Blazers player, got called for an offensive, and now all is right with the world. How do I know? Charles Jenkins just hit another jumper. I now hate him utterly. 73-72 Warriors.
7:02 - This crowd is riding the ragged edge of total disappointment right now, especially after a heartbreaking miss from a wide open Wesley Matthews in his favorite spot on the court: the corner, behind the three. David Lee goes to the line on the other end. The scoreboard cajoles the crowd into making noise. They don't respond for about 2 or 3 seconds. The noise that is made is pretty mediocre. Lee cans both attempts. 77-72 Warriors
6:09 - Felton takes a page out of Crawford's playbook. Dribbles aimlessly for a few seconds, chucks up a three. It drops. The crowd cheers. Aldridge beats the SHIT out of a Warriors shot attempt, and Felton damn near breaks his neck trying to keep it inbounds. Klay Thompson airballs a shot (looks what happens when you invade his personal space?) and LaMarcus hits a couple free throws on the other end. Tie game, 77-77.
4:59 - Holy shit, Raymond Felton is carrying this team on his sloped shoulders. A give-and-get-back from Aldridge results in yet another three. The crowd has given in: The man they've booed on three separate occasions tonight (including an instance where he was merely talking about pizza toppings) is the man that is saving their asses tonight. 80-77 Blazers
4:09 - Felton's hustle doesn't pay off this time: He goes flying at Brandon Rush, posted up behind the three. Rush waits for him to hurtle by, pops the three. On the other end, a play is run perfectly, with Wesley Matthews holding the ball all by himself in three-land. It clangs off the front of the rim. He responds by bouncing straight up into the air as the rebound is secured, tossed up court, and tossed into the hoop by Brandon Rush from behind the arc. 85-80 Warriors.
2:53 - The crowd is conditioned to groan the instant Jenkins even touches the ball. Luckily, his pretty little three clangs off the side of the rim. Raymond Felton's three? It finds nothing but net. He is fucking AMPED. He turns and lets the Warriors bench know just how amped he is. They seem displeased. He runs downcourt, not caring. Tied up, 85-85
1:57 - I've been informed by another writer here on the row that Charles Jenkins point totals for the entirety of the season is 86. He's got 27 tonight. Wesley Matthews hits one of two free throws to give Portland a 1 point lead. Jenkins answers with a fearless drive straight at Matthews. David Lee takes the board and puts it back nicely. Batum doesn't get such help with his own drive on the opposite end. Jenkins gets picked coming off a David Lee screen, gets it back, throws it to Jefferson, who misses the three. Matthews bats at the ball, almost knocks it in FOR the Warriors. Felton grabs the ball, tells everyone to chill the fuck out. Walks it downcourt. Gives it to Aldridge. He does his turnaround/fadeaway thing. 88-87 Blazers
:20 - Brandon Rush misses a contested three. Aldridge wraps up the ball, Lee wraps up Aldridge. That's his sixth. Nelson Muntz laughs at him from the scoreboard. He leaves w/ 16 points and 16 boards. Aldridge goes to the line, hits the first. The Sunset Middle School Cheer squad really loves him. He rewards their love. 90-87 Blazers.
16.5 - The Blazers finally decided to get up in Thompson/Jenkins shorts. Nice timing, too. The harassment continues for the next 8 seconds, leaving the Warriors with NOTHING. Jenkins tosses up a desperation three with 2 seconds. It spends one second arcing through the air. It spends the next second descending a full 2 feet short of the hoop. It lands in Batum's arms. FINAL: 90-87 Blazers.