"That's good. That's like a 40-degree day. And ain't nobody got nothin' to say about a 40-degree day."
—Stringer Bell, Amateur Lawyer, Entrepreneur, Man Without a Country.
So let's start up front with why give-a-shit levels aren't quite high for today's game, even though the Blazers are a few games above .500, and the Orlando Magic are riding an 8-game losing streak into the Rose City tonight:
1) The last functional Mafia in America (now that the RIAA/MPAA is ultimately defanged) is holding their illegitimate "championship" for amateur college students playing the game of American-Rules Football while tonight's game unfolds. So these are the options: Watching a 18-15 team with one legitimate All-Star (not Aldridge, either) play a 12-21 team whose best player at this point in time is probably Jameer Fucking Nelson; or watching The Alabama Period Jokes versus the Notre Dame Rape Apologists playing for a meaningless "championship" thanks to the inadequacies of the BCS.
2) Good old-fashioned, down-home, soggy Pacific Northwest skepticism has set in: Yeah, this team is 18-15, but look how early in the season it is, and look how inconsistently this team has played. It feels like dumb luck that the W-L numbers aren't reversed. And besides, as everyone knows, one of the strongest mystical powers in the realm of sport is the call of "Due." And all that Orlando's eight-game losing streak really means is that the Magic, a team that isn't anywhere near as bad as its record indicates, is "Due."
The properties of "Due's" powers are probably best explained thusly: You know how the farther you get up the ladder in a Mortal Kombat game, the more the computer starts reading your inputs and countering every fireball, bicycle kick and "Get Over Here" spear you're throwing before you even finish throwing it? That's how "Due" works. Your offense might be perfectly executed. Your instincts are sound, your reactions are perfect. But "Due" turns real life into a fucking cheating shitdick of a CPU and you got a broken controller.
So while Portland should feel like a brused, weakened Orlando is in the perfect position (on their knees) from which to plant a foot on their back and launch skyward up the Power Rankings throughout this home stand, instead there's a feeling more like "So how is 'Due' gonna take it out of our ass tonight, huh? I'll watch the highlights on SportsCenter tonight, fuck it. There are exploited roided meatheads knocking into each other on ESPN right now for the college championship. Man, that game is so much more pure and exciting, isn't it? Those kids are playing for
money illusory glory debtors a last gasp of life before running a used car dealership in Macon Their pimps in the Athletic Director's office The love of the game!"
However, this could work in Portland's favor, as a reliably observable phenomenon in Oregon sports shows that the less attention is paid to teams in this general area, the better they do. When left to our quiet devices up here in the forest-muffled greenery of the Pacific Northwest, we get our work done with skill and aplomb. The brighter the spotlight, the more prone to wilting. Oregon sports teams are often left looking like perpetual bridesmaids, standing just outside the hot lights, brushing away tears made of equal parts happiness, achievement, regret and resentment.
So if nobody's looking and everyone's distracted, it should follow that the Blazers could completely ruin Orlando tonight, and hand them their ninth straight L, to hang around their throat like a drunk at a beer festival rocking a half-eaten pretzel necklace.
Worse things could happen on a 40 degree day.
PRE-GAME: Maybe the strangest thing about pre-game warmups is the baffling choice for the "Please don't be dipshits" PSA to be done by Ice-T. The Law & Order BONG BONG plays, and then there's a giant 3D Blazers logo, and then Ice-T is in front of it, wearing a polo shirt I'd describe as "ill-fitting" if it wasn't for the way it accents his side-and-underboob. He then, straightforward as possible, ticks off the list of things you shouldn't do in the stadium, like smoke, or storm the floor, or throw beer on people. No winking, no ad-libbing. He's got all the demeanor of an elevator operator.
It is kind of profoundly weird. Why Ice-T? And if it's gonna be Ice-T, why not let him be Ice-T? How does this gig even get set up in the first place? Did Belzer turn it down? I can't imagine Belzer would turn it down. Why wouldn't you go to Belzer first? Hell, why wouldn't you ask Belzer to call the games?
Why isn't our coach Richard Belzer?
Observations right before tip:
Blazers seem pretty loose. Lotta goofing off during the intros. Even LaMarcus looked like he liked people. It was nice to see.
I think Terry Stotts is dyeing his hair.
11:22 - Andrew Nicholson lofts a lazy looking jumper that finds net. The crowd isn't even ready to boo yet. Magic, 2-0.
10:35 - LaMarcus Aldridge answers (after a minute of nothing happens on the court) with a way off-balance jumper from 17 feet out. JJ Hickson goes pogoing for a rebound on the defensive end, comes down with it, the ball ends up in Batum's hands, who jacks up a clean looking three. It goes spanging off the rim sky-high, and drops behind the backboard. Jameer Nelson answers on the other end by running in 3/4ths of a circle until he ends up under the basket, and leaves a reverse off the glass at the bottom of the hoop. Batum tries to answer on the other end and Andrew Nicholson just basically SHOVES the ball back down his throat, leading to Arron Afflalo putting a floater in on the other end. Hickson battles down low on the other end, pump fakes a couple Magic into the sky, gets his basket. 6-4, Magic.
7:29 - Aldridge with a nice up and under on Nikola Vucevic, who just sorta looks dumbfounded at the move. Like he's waiting for Anton Chigurh to hit him with a cattle hammer.
Also, Arron Afflalo's name is fucked up, isn't it? That's not how you spell Aaron, and there's like this stray L in the middle of his name, like that one guy who hangs around the outside of your conversation at parties, and just slowly inches into the circle until next thing you know, he's laughing WAY too loud at a joke he doesn't understand and then awkward happens.
6:02 - Stotts calls time-out after Orlando has basically been dropping baskets on the Blazers heads pretty consistently while they stand around and look up at the sky. This game is pretty flat-footed so far. 15-8, Magic.
4:11 - They came out of the time-out about 2 minutes ago, and I missed what happened because of internet problems, but basically, both teams are trying to have a dunk-off right now: Lillard tried to find Aldridge on an alley-oop, but Aldridge got his knees caught in Jameer Nelson's armpits. Crowd bayed for a foul, but how you gonna call a foul on a fire hydrant for being what it is? Next trip down the court, Batum finds a cutting Hickson, who goes up on both DeQuan Jones and Andrew Nicholson and two-hand bams right on their head. On the other side, Nicholson gets his revenge, and ratchets down a nasty looking tomahawk jam. The dunk contest is pretty much declared over at that point, as both teams go back to tossing jumpers from 20 feet and beyond. Wesley Matthews got the last word on that one, sticking a three with enough emphasis that Magic coach Jacque Vaughn had to call time-out. 19-17, Magic.
2:51 - Did I say the dunk contest was over? My bad. I meant it took a slight rest until Jameer Nelson could find DeQuan Jones already 13 feet in the air before he sent him the lob. Jones basically puts it down with his elbows, and the crowd collectively inhales and clenches up. 21-19, Magic.
1:37 - Aldridge finally ties the game up with a jumper. Jones & Nicholson take a rest for the Magic. JJ Redick enters the game. I fucking hate that guy. Afflalo sinks another uncontested jumper, Aldridge misses a turnaround, but Joel Freeland's beard is under the basket. It brushes the ball back in the basket, and the crowd is appreciative of his hirsute abilities. 23-23.
:10 - Victor Claver hits a jumper, Redick misses horrifically on the other end (YES) and Portland holds for the final shot, with the ball in Lillard's hands. He's been quiet today, but I like that the team already knows it's his rock with less than 10 on the clock. He tosses up a fadeaway, the ball hits iron as the buzzer sounds and the light glares, but it doesn't fall through. Portland goes to their bench with the first lead of the night, 25-24, Blazers.
11:15 - I love watching Lillard dribble his ass off at the top of the key, and then stab-step his defender so viciously they almost fall over, while Lillard just calmly sticks a jumper. He just did that to Magic backup Ish Smith, who probably really hates that his name has become a PG-rated euphemism for shit. However, Portland and Defense aren't very good friends tonight, and Nobody's really stopping Orlando from scoring. 29-27, Magic.
9:22 - Oh good. JJ Redick is heating up. That's always fun to watch, and rewarding as a fan of basketball.
Ronnie Price has entered the game, which almost always surprises everyone on the court, because nobody ever really notices that Ronnie Price has entered the game, including Ronnie. So he drives straight at Andrew Nicholson, who of course, doesn't know who this dude in a Blazer jersey is running at him, and just stands there. Luckily for Ronnie, Nicholson gets called for a blocking foul. Unluckily for Ronnie - nothing comes of the ensuing possession, and JJ Redick is still open on the other side, and drains his three.
8:36 - Portland decides to answer Bland with Bland - in goes the Chalupacabra, Lerk Berbit. He touches the ball within 2 seconds of the clock starting, and shoots a 25 footer .3 seconds after he touches it. It just BAAARELY misses. His time will come - shortly after Ish Smith picks off a pass meant for Aldridge, Turkoglu finds a loping Josh McRoberts aiming for the hoop, and lobs a pass that gets stuck in his beard. This allows Batum to feed Hickson on the other end, clean up the board on an Orlando miss, and find Chalupacabra wide open behind the arc. Cue the Star Wars music as his shot finds the bottom of the net. 36-36.
5:55 - Jameer Nelson just made Ronnie Price look like a fan had been called down from the stands to run a set, like in that 90s film classic "Eddie," where Whoopi Goldberg became the coach of the New York Knicks, and for a small amount of time, relieved Patrick Ewing of his burden of being the ugliest thing in Orange and Blue on that bench. Anyway, Josh McRoberts' beard hit a three, Ronnie Price made up for getting chumped by Nelson, and then later, Price even got to DUNK THE BALL. The crowd seemed really happy for that lucky fan. I bet he's gonna tell all his friends at the office about what happened at the Rose Garden tonight, they'll NEVER believe it! 44-43, Blazers.
3:47 - You'd think a dude who looks like Chris Pratt in a basketball jersey would be noticeable, and yet LaMarcus seems to have completely missed that Josh McRoberts was wide open behind the three until about half a second AFTER he launched his jumper. Arron Afflalo follows up with another jumper, and Aldridge finds himself down low, with Parks & Rec himself leaning into the small of his back. Aldridge spins viciously on him - a little TOO viciously. The ref spots the elbow digging into McRoberts' kidneys, blows the whistle. Aldridge can't even pout. I mean, he DOES, but he probably shouldn't. I think maybe he was slapped on his back as a kid and his face froze like that. I dunno. 48-46, Magic.
2:00 - Jameer Nelson did what he did to Price, but to Damian Lillard. so that was disappointing, especially since this time, he ended his running circles act with a nice no-look pass over his shoulder to a waiting Nikola Vucevic, who drains the two pretty as you please. He scores on his next trip down the court, too, while the Blazers do a lot of scrambling, but nothing of any real effectiveness. The frustration gets to JJ Hickson, who does a drive-by burst of shit-talking within earshot of a ref as he gets back on defense. Redick obliges by hitting his technical free throw. Lillard dribbles the ball off his foot on the next possession, Aaron Affalo (fuck it) scores on the possesssion, Lillard spangs another end-of-quarter shot off the back of the rim, and that's the first half. It did not end well. 57-48, Magic.
11:28 - Hickson might have gotten away with that walk if he hadn't been a dick to that ref like 15 minutes ago. Now it cost him a dunk. Andrew Nicholson scores on the other end. Hickson goes right at him like "Fuck That." - the same kind of "Fuck That" that large, angry women reserve for people who go playing on their phone. He banks home a TOUGH layin. Nikola Vucevic answers with a jumper. Hickson AGAIN responds on the other end with a bunch of effort and a tough two to show for it. Dude's got the chip on his shoulder like a commodore's epaulet. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard remembered he's Damian Lillard, and took it to the hole right quick, getting himself on the board. Scoops up a miss on the other end, gives a little shoulder-shake & fake, drains an 18-footer. I don't know know if Terry Stotts is dyeing is hair, but I'm betting he chewed on Hickson and Lillards asses a little bit. 61-56, Magic.
8:13 - Hickson makes sure the best highlight we have tonight isn't Ronnie Price's two hander - Batum tosses an alley-oop from a couple feet behind the line. Hickson catches it while mid-air above the 2nd block, and puts it down with authority. The hoop shakes in approval. Next trip down the floor, Lillard finds himself all alone behidn the three with no Magic anywhere in his zip code. He's gonna have to teach 'em to come out on that. Jacks up the three. It drops. I think they're learning. 63-60, Blazers.
6:40 - after a Dequan Jones jumper, Wesley Matthews apparates back in from whatever nether-realm he disappeared into after his three in the first quarter. Newly corporeal, he is given a ball. He makes it worth three points. BAMF. Portland and Orlando trade baskets, Batum gets Dequan Jones up in the air about 12 feet on a deceptive fake. ducks under him, drains the 17 footer. Jameer Nelson leaves a dying quail of a layup on the rim, and its corpse flops out. Aldridge puts a sick post move on Josh McRoberts, who claps to himself and nods his head, because somehow that makes getting chumped not sting as much, or at least that's what awkward white men do to make themselves feel better when they get disrespected in the low-post like that. Time out, Magic. 71-70, Blazers.
4:24 - I will never understand why big men think that doing 15 tiny pump-fakes, so tiny a T-rex would have to short-arm his reach to replicate them, is going to WORK on the 3 defenders that swarm them while they're jerking off the basketball. But JJ Hickson just did that, got swarmed, and barely kicked the ball out to the wing, to Wesley Matthews, who leaves from behind three in a puff of smoke as the ball goes through. Baskets are traded again, and Lillard winds up barreling towards the hoop, and leaving a little present for a trailing Hickson, who puts it through. Seriously, everything this quarter has revolved around those two just nutting up and getting it done. Point of fact: Lillard just saw Hickson down low, and fired a fastball of a lob across the top of the rim. Hickson snatches it out of mid-air, gets hacked, and flushes it anyway. The crowd is really, really happy about all of this. 79-75, Blazers.
2:21 - Why you gonna ruin all this good will and good feeling by letting JJ Redick a) come into the game and b) drain a three like that? You know what this calls for?
Oh look! Lerk Berbert, alone behind the three p-
he already made it before I could finish typing the sentence. 82-80, Blazers.
:34.3 - So Berbert is struggling to break free from a screen to get himself a clean look at a trey while Ronnie Price runs a gauntlet of Orlando defenders. Babbitt gets the ball, but clangs the three. In response, Redick brings the ball up, and just stops from 30 feet out for no reason. DAGGERS the three. You have learned much, Chalupacabra. But you are not a Jedi yet. The horn blows after an empty Magic possession, and we're going to the fourth tied, 85-85.
11:45 - Batum opens the 4th by faking Nelson out of his shoes and calmly laying it in. So maybe he's decided to get some of this Lillard/Hickson energy? We'll have to wait because right now, it's the Ronnie Price/LaMarcus Aldridge show. It's as boring and unproductive as that sounds. Meanwhile REDICK FOR THREE SOMEONE RUN HIM THE FUCK OVER WITH A LARGE VEHICLE OR SOMETHING. 88-87, Magic
10:11 - I don't know, but I'm pretty sure I just saw the first ever pratfall that defied gravity, as Josh McRoberts tripped over his own elbows and fell upwards towards the basket. Unfortunately, that counts as a foul in the NBA, apparently. He hits both his free throws, and I'm starting to wonder if McRoberts is somehow related to Douglas Adams. Berbert gets the ball at the top of the key. As he's inside the three-point line, he doesn't know what to do, and spins his feet in concentric circles like the Road Runner. Meanwhile REDICK WITH AN UP AND UNDER LAYUP FUCK DUKE FUCK DUKE TO DEATH 92-87, Magic
9:06 - I don't think continued episodes of the Ronnie Price/LaMarcus Aldridge show is the answer here.
8:06 - seriously, Wesley Matthews is popping in and out of this game like Nightcrawler at the beginning of X2. He's visible just long enough to stab the Magic right in the chest with a well timed hoop, and then he's out of there. 93-91, Magic
6:52 - Aldridge hits a jumper, ties the game. Crowd's on its feet. Jock Jams in the air. Lotta hausfraus in fleece shaking their asses right now. Smash cut to a dude in a trucker hat chewing on his lower lip with his ballcap pulled down to just above his upper lip. His three grandchildren dance deliriously behind him but he is stoic stone. Hulk Hogan just took over the jumbotron and asked us to rock the Rose Garden, BROTEHR. Feels good, bro. Feels good.
5:55 - Erin Affleck just hit himself a two. JJ Hickson just muffed an alley-oop, which I didn't even think was possible. Blazers capitalize on a Magic turnover. I'd like to say something cool happened, but what happened is 10 seconds of game time took 2 1/2 minutes because suddenly refs are blowing whistles. Sounds like a box of baby chicks down on the floor. Thoroughly disrupted, nothing comes of the offensive possession, and Lillard picks up his first foul on the opposite end, falling for a Jameer Nelson pump-fake. The call of "Due" is starting to sound. I can hear it, humming underneath the vocal discomfort of the crowd. Nelson hits his free throws. 97-93, Magic
4:20- hehe hee heheh heheh he heh heh
4:04 - Guess what Wesley Matthews just did. 98-97, Blazers
3:02 - Orlando just called time out, because their defense just made the questionable decision to let Nicolas Batum get TWO clean looks at the basket from behind the arc. He missed the first. Fans of grade-D beef slurry in a bread-ish diaper know he didn't miss the second. 101-97, Blazers.
2:38 - Jameer Nelson just let his church-bell sized brass balls clang by pulling up from 19 with Hickson running at him and Lillard already in his face. Ice cold as it tears through the net. 101-99, Blazers.
1:43 - Here's how I know Lillard is the All-Star on this team: He's getting the kind of bullshit calls All-Stars get, such as Jameer Nelson standing stock still OUTSIDE the circle under the basket, and STILL getting called for the blocking foul, just because it's Lillard driving on him. He drains his two free throws while the crowd chants MVP. Vucevic answers with a two on the other end, and Nicolas Batum answers that with a butter smooth three. 106-101, Blazers.
52.3 - Jameer Nelson hits a couple free throws, and Aldridge is determined to show this Vucevic kid what's up in the low-post. There's a lot of spinning and ducking and grimacing. The effort leads to a clanged jumper and Josh McRoberts doing a Cosmo Kramer impression as he grabs the board. Vucevic gets his look on the other end, and capitalizes. Batum gets fouled in the backcourt with 16.8 left, and goes to the line. 2 of 2. Magic timeout. 108-105, Blazers.
8.9 - So what calms down this roiling, boiling, cauldron of excitement that is the Rose Garden crowd? A pick & pop starring Josh McRoberts and Jameer Nelson. Nelson ices the three. Blazers' turn to call timeout. 108-108
Lillard's got the final shot. Pressured, he lets fly from about 26 feet. Front of rim, back of rim...nothin doing. Overtime, kids.
4:20 heh heh hehehe heheheheh Erin Aflac just airballed a 15 footer in overtime. Not clutch, bro. heh hehehe
JJ Redick caught a pass from Nelson coming off a curl, and the crowd audibly groaned. Luckily, it's one of the few times his jumper didn't find it's mark. This play is followed up by one of the few times LaMarcus Aldridge simply takes the ball out of mid-air, and without breaking stride, turns to the hoop, draws the foul, puts it down, and hits the free throw. 112-108, Blazers
3:04 - Aldridge misses a jumper, and Hickson, who's been balling out of control so hard in the low post half his arm-wrap is hanging in tatters like a 70s fringe jacket, can't climb Mount McRoberts. Orlando botches their offensive possession, Aldridge tips it before it goes flying out of bounds. This gives Redick another chance to stick a jumper. He takes it. Damian Lillard says "Fuck Duke" and drains his own. 114-112, Blazers.
1:21 - What started as a combination of good Orlando D and a clusterfuck of an offensive possession where Lillard and Aldridge just kinda scramble around about 5 feet behind the arc somehow turned into a floater in the key with the Magic breathing down Lillard's neck with 3.2 left on the shotclock. It drops. Lillard then follows that up by PICKING the Magic, finding Hickson steamrolling towards the basket. He gives him the rock. Hickson spikes it through the hoop viciously. The crowd springs to their feet. 118-112, Blazers.
54.7 - Jameer Nelson misses a three. it hits the floor before anyone from Orlando can touch it. So they never do. Lillard touches it instead, and rockets a pass to Wesley Matthews, who has BAMFd into the backcourt. He catches the ball and does a JJ Hickson impersonation from 30 seconds ago. The Magic are pretty much done here. They went back to their bench after the timeout looking mighty mindfucked. 120-112, Blazers.
30.3 - We're doing that thing that's always super fun to watch, where Portland collects Orlando fouls, troops to the line, makes their free throws, and the inevitable is dragged out as long as possible, hope slowly going a shade of overboiled graymeat. Aldridge gets his turn at the stripe, Matthews, Batum... With 7 seconds, Redick drains a one-footed three, and McRoberts is the Magic player on the inbounds play who decides "C'mon. fuck this," and chooses not to foul. The horn blows. "Due" was denied this night. FINAL: 125-119, Blazers,