"Marcia Marcia Marcia!"
— Jan Brady, Voice of the Disenfranchised, Patron Saint of the Easily Fed Up.
So, anyone wanna talk about the game tonight? It could be a pretty fun game. Kevin Love is coming back home after coming back from an injury, leaving him with a lot of something to prove on the day after Thanksgiving. This could be a "statement" game, if one believes in such sports cliches as meaning anything more than being a chewy set of syllables for a talking head to roll around in their mouth.
The Blazers just got their asses handed to them by the Phoenix Suns. Damian Lillard scored 24 points but had twice as many turnovers as assists, and Meyers Leonard got called out by coach Terry Stotts for being kind of a shitty defender. Which he is. So the Blazers have just as much to prove, plus Aldridge doesn't —
— well, no, I guess they weren't, but it's not like people on the same team need to—
DID YOU READ THIS SAD ARTICLE ABOUT HOW BRANDON ROY LOST HIS RELIGION AFTER RETIRING?
Yes, it was very interesting. But I think Lillard might—
MAN I WISH BRANDON ROY WAS GONNA BE PLAYING I REMEMBER WHEN—
You know why he's not playing? Because he shouldn't have come back in the first place. Because his knees have less substance to them than a Kardashian farting. Because that identity he's looking for is going to be "Limping, permanently disabled ex-basketball player who had a pretty good five seasons in Portland when Nate McMillan was still there." He's not in Portland anymore, he's not in Portland tonight, and there's nothing to be gained from picking at this particular scab any further.
You'd think the guy actually won a championship here or something.
Look, he's a good guy. He wasn't an asshole. He didn't pull any real diva shit. He made All-Star teams, he won awards, and he was the right point guard for the right coarch running the right offense, and he short circuited a city's reluctant expectations of a real "rebuilding" period, expectations a semi-spoiled fanbase hadn't really gotten used to since the early '80s.
That's a situation Portland once again finds themselves in, thanks to another rookie who is shocking the hell out of the league with his vision, poise, professionalism, and ability; a season that many thought would be a means for Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum would spend trying to increase their trade value now looks like it'll be spent scrabbling for the bottom three seeds in the Western Conference Playoffs.
The Brandon Roy thing is a fun distraction, I guess. I understand it. But why go looking for distractions from the past when the team playing together here and now, in the present, even at 5-6, is very compelling for a variety of reasons: Dime is within spitting distance of averaging 20pts and 10ast in his first 11 games - How does he handle that? Nicolas Batum has been let off the chain - How long til his first 40pt game? Meyers Leonard just got called out in public by his coach - How does he respond? The bench might be the worst bench in the NBA right now - How long will these starters last before the wall they're sprinting at hits them head-on?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are presenting an opportunity to scratch another silvery layer away from the lottery ticket containing the Blazers' prize for this season. I'd rather pay attention to how tonight's tussle plays out than to look back at old Powerball scraps that were always 1 or 2 numbers away from actually paying out.
11:42 - Aldridge is wasting no time making his presence felt. He just popped a 20-ft turnaround jumper after Damian Lillard shook Minnesota's Luke Ridnour (former Oregon Duck) and fed him the rock. Aldridge then swats the ball out of Love's hands on the next possession, but Ridnour makes up for his ankles getting wrecked on the first possession by putting one off the glass. Love's pulled down a board one-handed in traffic and gotten the putback like it was nothing, and Damian Lillard can go on Ridnour at will. So we've pretty much already gotten three of the bigger storylines of the night started. Also needing to be noticed? Andrei Kirilenko. They called the man AK-47 for a reason. His first attempt is a three, and it punches through the bottom of the net. 8-6, Wolves.
8:57 - JJ Hickson just smacked Nikola Pekovic as he went up. Pekovic looks like Non from Superman II. I can't help myself from imagining him trying to shoot lazers out of his eyes at the rim as he takes his free throws. He hits em both, and Lillard calmly sets up behind the three, and puts it through. This is starting to become an expectation, not a welcome surprise. Pekovic gets a board on the other end, puts it back, and Portland's not doing so great on the boards so far. Hickson bulldogs his ass into the key, gets two, and Non winds up with the ball in the low post once again, and with the strength of a Kryptonian, muscles everyone off him and puts it through once again. Hickson answers back on the other end, leading to Love one-on-one on Aldridge. Aldridge gets away with a shove to the ribs, throwing Love off balance. He lets fly, but it's off, and there's no whistle. No matter. NON IS THERE TO SAVE YOU, TIMBERWOLVES. Another board, another putback, and another foul from JJ Hickson. 16-13, Wolves.
6:00 - Luke Ridnour just curled around the entire Blazers defense and floated a jumper over everyone's craning heads. Terry Stotts calls a timeout because even though the Blazers have only missed three total shots tonight, they're down by five and Luke Ridnour just literally ran a circle around the entire defense, and Meyers Leonard looks less like he's playing defense on Non the Minnesota Kryptonian, and more like Non is trying to shed a skin-tag on the end of his arm that looks like Meyers Leonard. 18-13, Wolves
5:47 - That was an offensive play that looked like it came out of the Nutcracker for all the spins and pirouettes that both Lillard and Aldridge pulled off. At least 1.4 spins per player on a two player play. On the other end? Kevin Love grabs another miss from Minny's guards, and puts it back in. If Pekovic looks like Non, Love is scooping up garbage like one of the Estevez brothers in Men at Work. 22-17, Wolves.
4:15 - Wesley Matthews finally makes his presence felt by banging down a wide-open three, which is immediately answered on the other end by Malcolm Lee, who capitalizes on a Blazers miss by throwing down a mean-looking dunk on the following possession. Batum gets into the lane and lays up another pretty shot, but it's only his 2nd field goal. The Blazers are shooting right around 70% from the field - and they're STILL down. The Wesley Matthews three-ball is extra notable because most people figured - be it Kevin Rubio, Malcolm Lee, or JJ Barea, Matthews was big enough to run right over all of them. Instead - Matthews might as well not be out there. Luckily, Non's aggressive nature has gotten the best of him, and like JJ Hickson, pulls his second foul before the 1st quarter even ends. 27-24, Wolves.
1:45 - Love backs down Meyers Leonard. Meyers Leonard lets himself get backed down. Batum tries to come over and help, but Love double-clutches and lets the layup loose from his hip. It binks off the glass and through the hoop. Luke Babbitt has entered the game. Where last year, he'd have harnessed his inner Chalupacabra and jacked up the three, this play, he plays a little give and get with Damian Lillard, who goes four-for-four with a loooooong two. Batum fucks up the Wolves offense with his long-ass arms, leading to a breakaway dunk via Wesley Matthews. The Blazers are steadily playing better and better, and yet, after two more free throws from Love, they're still down five. 33-28, Wolves.
8.9 - Lillard finally misses his first shot, a long three thanks to Jared Jeffries bobbling a pass and nervously tossing it back to Dime. Matthews knocks it off a Wolves player, but the final shot from the Chalupacabra finds the back of the iron, and not the bottom of the net. The first quarter ends, 33-28, Wolves.
11:35 - For a team that sucks from three, Minnesota puts a lot of em up. For a team that does pretty okay from three, Portland's not knocking too many down. The players on the court right now are almost all bench on both sides, which means this looks more like a Summer league game than anything. The crowd seems confused by what they're watching, because it's DRESSED like a professional basketball game, but it doesn't look like it. 35-28, Wolves
9:56 - Will Barton has jacked up two ugly threes since he's been in for the Blazers. Nicolas Batum, down in the key, waiting for one of Barton's bricks to tumble into his hands, took his eye off a Minnesota elbow. He proceeds to have it for a snack. That did not look pleasant. Stotts calls timeout, partially to unring Batum's bell, partially - I hope - to tell Barton to knock that shit off. 37-28 Wolves.
9:10 - A guy named Shved just sliced through the Blazers' interior D like a butterknife through a plate of fresh, hot, Shveddy Balls. Aldridge bricks a wide open 16 footer. Stotts has left Barton in. This seems inexplicable, considering there isn't a single starter in on the Wolves, and they're just EXTENDING their lead. Shved goes to the line one more time, drops two more balls into the basket. Hickson finally gets free on the other end, kisses a layin off the glass. Minnesota almost pulls down another offensive rebound, and now the Blazers are playing a game of "Run into a corner, get double teamed, kick it out to someone else, watch them run into a corner. Josh Howard pokes the ball free, the Wolves don't capitalize - and the Blazers run the EXACT SAME PLAY. Run into a corner. Get double teamed. Lose the ball. Donte Cunningham just sashays right to the center of the key and puts it in because the Blazers D looks like the Portland skyline: Anemic and unimpressive. 43-32, Wolves.
6:29 - Wesley Matthews hits another three, JJ Barea answers from the middle of the key. Barton runs straight into Donte Cunningham, who deals out a swat to Barton's forearms like Hassan chops bunny rabbits who took a wrong turn at Albequerque. Lillard re-enters the game, hits JJ Barea in the head as he takes a three. There is no whistle. Is the young man ALREADY at the point in his career where refs are gonna give him some calls here and there? Hickson stumbles on the other side, trips & flips a pass in Aldridge's general direction. Aldridge scoops it out of the air and two-hands it through the hoop. The crowd comes to life. 45-37, Wolves.
4:38 - Rick Adelman (remember that dude) put Non and Kevin Love back in the game as soon as it started to look like Aldridge was coming alive. Ridnour calls NON's number. NON puts his ass in Aldridge's lap. When he spins, Aldridge tries to sky after him. Instead, he smothers Non's chest, sending him to the line, and the Wolves get another pair of points on the board. LaMarcus Aldridge throws away yet another foul shoving Kevin Love in the back as he sets up for another offensive board (which is basically all jumpers from any Minnesota guard are - offensive rebounds that haven't touched the rim yet). Aldridge goes to the bench with his third, and Terry Stotts looks sorta concerned, but he always looks concerned, because he looks like James Cromwell. Speaking of celebrity lookalikes - I just realized what Kevin Love's beard reminds me of: Ehren McGhehey's beard at the end of Jackass Number Two.
He should shave that.
Damian Lillard just juked Luke Ridnour and Kevin Love like he was in Flashdance and they were the Slowskys. He drops the 15ft jumper, and he's only missed one shot all night. He's also only shot six times. 49-42, Wolves.
2:30 - Lillard has apparently been told to go at the rim, young'n. Dime abides. Again, pretty much the entire Timberwolves looks like they're struggling in a tar-pit as Lillard just skies right past everybody. Ridnour bangs down a jumper, and Lillard streaks towards the hoop, gets disrupted in mid-air. There's no whistle, but he regains possession, slides it to Jared Jeffries, who gets Non to commit to hacking the shit out of him. Jeffries only gets one of two. Kirilenko misses a two, and Love gets the offensive rebound while tripping over his own heels, falling backwards. He gets picked while trying to regain his balance, and after a comedy of errors involving bad passes and players flying everywhere, Wesley Matthews ends up with the ball behind the three. Count that shit. 53-47, Wolves.
:12 - Lillard just dribbles behind the three, waits for someone to cover him. The Wolves elect not to. Poor decision. With 4 seconds left on the clock, he drains his three-pointer effortlessly. Crowd: In love. Andrei Kirilenko misses a 15 footer that he took too late anyway, and the Blazers head to the half still within reach. Imagine if their interior D wasn't so pillow-soft there's a word for it being patented by IKEA right now. 55-50, Wolves.
Kevin Love hits a long jumper in Aldridge's face. Aldridge tries to respond on the other end, but his jumpers are clanging like the snare drums on Metallica's St. Anger. Luckily, Wesley Matthews has finally realized that Malcolm Lee can't actually guard him. He hits a jumper from the free throw line. Luke Ridnour can't guard Lillard, and so most of this quarter so far has simply been those two going at their respective defenders, and making them slap their arms. This is translating to free throw attempts. Note I didn't say make. The Blazers are 1-5. 57-52, Wolves.
9:44 - Batum runs off a screen, recieves a pass, taps it back to the rim area, knowing Hickson's gonna take it out of the sky and smash it through the hoop. Really pretty. On the other end? Really ugly, as Aldridge's frustrations finally boil over in response to Kevin Love basically using Aldridge's chest as an arm rest. There's some pushing, some jawing, and double-T's are called. Aldridge responds on the next offensive play by dropping a 12 footer and looking pissed about it. Aldridge rips a board away from Love on the other end, Lillard calmly dribbles just over the three-point line, and finds Hickson exploding skyward once again. Lillard puts the ball in his hands just as he hits the apex of his jump. Hickson comes down like a meteor. The crowd springs to their feet in response. 61-58, Wolves.
7:48 - Love hits another jumper over Aldridge. Aldridge looks surly as hell out there. Hickson looks AMPED. Matthews looks smooth, and proves his silkiness by taking a pass from Aldridge behind the stripe and launching the three like nothing. Malcolm Lee just watches it drop through the basket with the sort of helplessness a puppy looks at you with after you've caught them leaving puppy pickles all over the carpet. Kevin Love takes another foul, puts down another couple free throws, and Hickson's excitement gets the better of him as he just sort of spontaneously explodes in traffic. I mean, it looked like a drive - and then it was just flailing limbs and grunting. The ball goes flying, and the Blazers recover, and then the Wolves steal, and then Kevin Love goes strong to the hoop and Wesley Matthews and Batum converge upon him. Matthews falls down. This is apparently a foul of some sort, because it sends Love to the line. He hits em both. 66-63, Wolves.
5:42 - Meyers Leonard just let Kirilenko jack it up from 18 foot. Didn't even try to get up in him. The shot clangs off, winds up in Lillards hands. He dribbles into four Wolves, throws it away. It goes off a Minny player. Leonard gets it on the inbound, drains a 17 footer. Next offensive play, asks for a showdown with Kevin Love. Tries to back him down. Nothin doin. Shoots a jumper with his elbow. I don't know any other way to describe it. It looked like he threw it at his own elbow, and smacked it toward the rim. Wesley Matthews recovers the miss - goes one for two. Imagine if the Blazers were shooting even 50%, instead of the 30-something they're shooting right now. And as the Blazers get to within two - Meyers Leonard misses the ball as Kirilenko drives to the hoop, and instead unleashes the full force of his bearlike swipe on Kirilenko's head. It's hard enough for a T to be called. Kirilenko hits the shot, gets the inbound, goes right back at Leonard, gets ANOTHER hack out of the young man, and hits one of two. 69-66, Wolves.
I keep almost calling the Wolves the Jazz. Like I have to keep reminding myself I'm watching a team from Minnesota, and not a team from Utah. Although I think you can understand why I'd keep getting fucked up on that point of distinction. It'd be like looking at a glass of 2% and a glass of skim and being asked to reliably tell them apart.
4:07 - Batum goes flying through the key, and instead of jacking up a shot, he finds Jared Jeffries, who is by himself in the key. He doesn't bobble the pass, goes straight up with it. Gets hit, and watches his shot fall. Now if he does us all a kindness by hitting the free throw. And of course he doesn't. Because that is not how this night is supposed to go. Luckily Non gets called for a travel on the other end. He looks as perplexed as he did the day he first encountered the police force of East Houston, Idaho. Lillard takes advantage of the confusion by knocking down a step-back three like it's nothing. Portland takes its first lead, but not for long, as Luke Ridnour pops a 18 footer. 71-71.
2:38 - Meyers Leonard expertly pulls off his end of a pick and roll, only to forget what happens when you jump in mid air while wide open. His brain flits between "Do I pass" and "Do I shoot?" he does a little of both in the direction of the hoop. It spangs off the glass awkwardly. The ball ends up in Non's hands once again, and again he travels. He doesn't know his own speed under the glare of this yellow sun! Batum becomes the first Blazer to hit both his free throws all game, so far as I can tell. The Blazers are shooting better from the floor than they are the free-throw line. Kevin Love banks a jumper over Jared Jeffries, and Batum tries to go behind his back with 3sec left on the shotclock. Donte Cunningham picks him, and Jeffries fouls
Danger Ehren Kevin Love as he goes up. Love misses the first, hits the second. 76-73, Wolves.
58.8 - after Lillard hits another stab-step jumper on Adrian Zmed or Alexis Schwed or whatever that Russian's name is, guess what happens? It's the same thing that's happened the last 4 times down the court. Kevin Love gets the ball. Jared Jeffries hits him. Kevin Love goes to the line. This time, Jeffries gets pissed off and runs his yap. A ref hears it, and T's him up. Luckily, Love missed the Technical, but hits the second of his two free throws. Lillard, meanwhile, waits for a screen at the top of the key, Batum gives it to him. He dribbles behind it and as soon as there's a sliver of daylight, he puts it up. It's raining threes out here. Tie game, 78-78
10.8 - Zmed gets called for a foul. Lillard gets the ball in the backcourt, outruns Josh Howard all the way into the frontcourt, and then skips a pass over to Batum, who launches with 4 seconds left on the clock. The arc is so pretty, it takes 2 seconds to get to the hoop, where it falls neatly through the net. The quarter ends. 81-78, Blazers.
11:52 - Took Josh Howard all of 8 seconds to smack the shit out of Damian Lillard. Lillard gets the inbounds, find Hickson, who turns around in like, 4 circles like an overexcited Pug. The shot goes wide. After a Minnesota miss, Ronnie Price is left way, WAY wide open, and is even given like 2 seconds to think about this three he wants to pull. He thinks. Decides it is good. It IS good. 84-78, Blazers.
9:50 - Sasha Pavlovic just hit a baseline jumper from six feet. I know - nobody else in the building knew he was here, either. Wesley Matthews takes JJ Barea to the hoop on the next run down the court, and does it in slo-mo. He might as well have been calling out his mooves as they were happening: "I'm gonna cut across the lane. I'm gonna pull up parallel to the hoop, then I'll square up in mid-air while you're looking up at me helplessly. It's gonna drop and Adelman over there is gonna call time-out and you will be sad." 88-78, Blazers
7:55 - After some ugly possessions from both teams, Non leaves Aldridge alone at the top of the key, and Aldridge makes the Kryptonian pay. Unfortunately, the Blazers don't get back on D, and Josh Howard gets a pretty reverse layup for his troubles. Aldridge bobbles a lob on the other end, and Kirilenko just blows past Aldridge like he wasn't even there. He atones for this sin by posting up Non, and then ducking under him and flipping a layup over his shoulder on the other end. Josh Howard gets jacked by Wesley Matthews, who calmly jogs over to the corner, waits for the offense to set up and find him waiting patiently there. The ball finds him shortly. He finds the bottom of the net for three more points. He grins widely, almost as pleased with himself as the crowd is pleased with him. 95-84, Blazers
5:22 - Two misses from JJ Barea on the other end for Minnesota, but Portland's not capitalizing. Aldridge at least gets to the line, but I don't know how much of a bonus that actually is for this team. Aldridge misses his first, and Batum/Lillard check back in. Aldridge misses his second, but Hickson explodes in the correct direction, and wrangles the offensive board. Batum BAAAAAAARELY misses the three, but Love finds gets the ball at the corner, tries to draw contact, fades away and drains. Lillard winds up with the ball after 22 seconds of scrambling on offense, heaves a three, misses. Coach Cromwell calls a timeout because shit is getting a little too squirrelly. 95-88, Blazers.
3:42 - Wesley Matthews immediately posts up Luke Ridnour. Ridnour looks like he has no idea what to do. Non comes over to help out. Non always looks like he has no idea what to do, but that's not his fault, that's just how his head is shaped. Matthews hits a turnaround fadeaway. While Portland celebrates, Kevin Love gets back, and the ball finds his hands. He starts to rise for the three. JJ Hickson bites. Love hits all three. If it's any consolation: His face still looks like someone glued pubes to it. 97-91, Blazers
3:06 - Wesley Matthews with another catch-n-shoot that finds the bottom of the net. He's got 30 on the night. LaMarcus promptly fouls out on the next play by bodying Luke Ridnour in midair. It wasn't even a good foul. But that follows, since wasn't really a good game for Aldridge. Ridnour hits one-of-two. Wesley Matthews is feeling himself a little TOO much, puts up a fadeaway 28 footer with a hand in his face. Batum makes up for this poor decisionmaking by deciding it was time to swat the everloving SHIT out of Kevin Love's next shot attempt. But then he airballs a wide-open three on the other end, and basically, Portland seems to be leaving the door open JUST wide enough for Minnesota to sneak through if they notice it. 99-93, Blazers.
1:34 - Lillard gets hacked running through the lane, goes to the line as the Wolves are in the penalty. Hits em both. Which is a nice change of pace. There's been three offensive possessions between the two teams that have been sloppy as shit. The clock is running down and it seems like neither team is trying to close the door on the other. Somehow, Non keeps ending up at the line, hitting more free throws than he's missing. Luke Ridnour keeps trying to guard Lillard, and Lillard just jukes him as many times as necessary until the rest of his team clears out. They finally make room, and Lillard blows past Ridnour, floats the 10 footer, and it drops. The Wolves can't answer - and there's not enough time left even if they wanted to. The clock runs out, and I don't know if you can give a game ball to two separate people, but if it wasn't for Matthews & Lillard, and their 30 and 28 points, respectively? This would have been a very different game. Instead? FINAL: 103-95, Blazers