Live from the Rose Garden and the Portland Trail Blazers host the Indiana Pacers. The Blazers come in riding a four game winning streak, while the Pacers have dropped three in a row, and nine of their last twelve. Things are not going so well in Pacer land, and not just because they're using Tyler "Psycho T" Hansbrough with regularity.
The most baffling similarity between these two teams is their playoff position, as both come in holding down the eighth seed in their respective conferences. The only problem with that, however, is that the Blazers are currently sitting at 24-20 while the Pacers are well below .500 at 16-23. If they played in the Western Conference the Pacers would be bottom feeding, praying the ping pong balls in the draft lottery would treat them kindly. As it stands, they will earn the right to get swept by Boston in the first round of the playoffs.
As long as the Blazers don't go all "Yakety Sax" on everyone tonight, they should be able to handle the lowly Pacers with ease. Indiana has some nice pieces—namely All-Star Danny Granger, Darren Collison, and Roy Hibbert—but they are too young with not enough depth to make any sort of impact. Plus, they have three former Duke players on their bench, which is not good for anyone.
With this game, and Sacramento on the horizon on Monday, the Blazers have a great chance to put together a six game winning streak. At this point they are going to need every easy victory they can manage—anything short of a win against Indiana would be a massive disappointment.
Remember this? I really don't have anything to add other than Hansbrough will have a few jokes made at his expense this evening. Of course, that probably means he'll go off for thirty tonight.
11:08 - Consecutive twenty foot jumpers from Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews have the Blazers out to an early lead. If the jumpers be fallin', the Blazers be winnin'. 4-0 Blazers.
9:18 - Indiana looks like they'll be aggressively double-teaming LaMarcus Aldridge tonight. They are going to make the other Blazers beat them—so far Joel Przybilla was absolutely rejected on a dunk by Danny Granger and Andre Miller had a pass stolen. Quick points for the Pacers, and they now have the lead. 6-4 Pacers.
8:03 - It must be bizarro-night, because Przybilla is currently the leading scorer with four points. Oh, wait, it looks like order has been restored—Joel just air-balled a free throw. That's more like it. 11-8 Pacers.
6:42 - Andre Miller is out of the game already, and it sounds like he may be battling with the flu. If he can't keep playing, it looks like Armon Johnson might be getting some run tonight. 13-11 Pacers.
5:26 - Roy Hibbert had been in a bit of a mid-season funk, but it looks like he's breaking out of that in style tonight. So far he has five points and five rebounds, but did manage to poke himself in his own eye going for a rebound. 18-13 Pacers.
3:47 - Hansbrough with the offensive rebound and put-back for the easy two. I take it all back, as the Pacers are putting on a show early. 22-13 Pacers.
1:24 - Jeff Foster with the hard foul on Aldridge, who then softly threw the ball at Foster's back. A soft little lob, and both Foster and Aldridge pick up off-setting technical fouls. A pillow fight would have been tougher than that fight. 26-19 Pacers.
0:00 - A lackluster first quarter for the Blazers, who allow the Pacers to shoot nearly 50% from the field. The Pacers also picked up five steals, and out-rebounded the Blazers by six. This is not the way to win basketball games. 28-19 Pacers.
11:17 - Sean Marks just clanked a twenty-footer, and someone in the crowd yelled for him to shoot it again. I hope that person was being sarcastic, because, ugh. 32-19 Pacers.
10:07 - Even A.J. Price is getting into the action for Indiana—he just drained a long three. The Blazers are getting absolutely destroyed right now. If you don't think Andre Miller is valuable, this rocky start should hopefully prove that he's essential to this team winning. 35-19 Pacers.
8:02 - Nicolas Batum has yet to miss a shot (3-3), but the Blazers are not running any offensive plays for him. That should probably stop. 38-27 Pacers.
6:47 - After an Aldridge make (he's just 2-7 on the night thus far), Rudy hits the corner three on the other end. Somehow the Blazers are down by only single digits, despite their terrible play thus far. 38-30 Pacers.
4:47 - Rudy with another three from the same exact spot he hit his last one. He should just stay in that spot all night and not move. 45-35 Pacers.
3:10 - LaMarcus Aldridge with the put-back slam! Wesley Matthews with a drive and the and one! It should be noted that as soon as Rudy Fernandez replaced Patty Mills and Armon Johnson at the point guard slot, the Blazers offense finally picked up. This is slowly turning into a game, even though the Pacers are still shooting 50% from the field. 47-40 Pacers.
0:00 - The Blazers had four chances on their final possession to make something happen, and all that they could muster was an insane spin around fade-away jumper from Rudy Fernandez. It did not go in. Going into half-time, Portland is only down seven. After that half, this should be considered a victory. 53-46 Pacers.
11:11 - Interesting. McMillian tweaked the starting lineup for the second half, opting to go with Rudy Fernandez (in for Miller) and Dante Cunningham. So far it hasn't worked, as they gave up four quick points and can't hit anything on offense. Also, I guess this means we've seen the last of Andre for the night. 57-46 Pacers.
8:24 - Off of a steal, the Blazers run another "Yakety Sax" worthy fast break. Rudy somehow ended up with the ball, and kicked it out to an open Wesley Matthews for three. 59-51 Pacers.
7:04 - Only in Portland would Vampire Weekend win the text in to vote for a song you want to hear contest. They beat out 50 Cent and Michael Jackson. Portlandia, indeed. 64-51 Pacers.
6:04 - Batum just slipped back door and put down the emphatic alley-oop from Rudy. Good things always happen when Batum touches the ball. 66-55 Pacers.
3:33 - This quarter is flying by! Jeff Foster picked up his fifth (fifth!) foul after Aldridge took him on the block again. LaMarcus drained two free throws, making up for his poor shooting night (4-11) by getting nine points on ten attempts at the free throw line. The Pacers were called for traveling on the other end, and momentum appears as though it's about to shift. 66-60 Pacers.
2:52 - The reason Foster picked up his fifth foul? He was called for three of them in the span of 33 seconds. Sean Marks is impressed. 66-60 Pacers.
1:21 - A 24 second shot clock violation on end for the Pacers, and a goal tending call on the other. Suddenly, the Blazers are within two. 66-64 Pacers.
0:30 - Patty Mills for three! It came after a turnover by Matthews and a steal by Fernandez (hello, "Yakety Sax"), but the points still count even when the game is ugly. 68-67 Pacers.
0:00 - Matthews missed a three as the clock expired, but the Blazers have chipped away at Indiana's lead. The Pacers only scored 17 points in the third quarter, and this is looking more like a game! 70-67 Pacers.
11:11 - Batum for three! The Blazers lead! Five quick points to start the quarter, and Portland has their first lead since it was 4-2. 72-70 Blazers.
8:49 - Batum for three! I hate to sound like a broken record (Batum should shoot more!), so I'll just say that Aldridge has also found his shot from outside—he's drained consecutive twenty-foot jumpers as well, opting to hang out on the perimeter rather than bang down low with Roy Hibbert. This plan appears to be working. 79-77 Blazers.
7:52 - Batum for three! I could really keep typing that all night and be happy. 82-77 Blazers.
7:16 - BATUM FOR THREE! Nicolas now has five threes on the night (four in the quarter), and 21 points on 8-14 shooting. 85-77 Blazers.
6:23 - LaMarcus for two! The Blazers are now out-scoring the Pacers 21-7 in the final quarter. Order and justice has been temporarily restored to the world. 88-77 Blazers.
3:46 - Huh, so apparently Jeff Foster is able to pick up fouls, not just give them. He got hit while going after an offensive rebound, and calmly drained both free throws. 90-83 Blazers.
2:59 - Jeff Foster picked up another foul, again by Rudy Fernandez. Again he drains both free throws. This is not an okay way to let a team get back into a game. 90-85 Blazers.
1:26 - Rudy wanted to get in on the three-ball action. Breaking a three minute scoring drought, he nailed the three to further bury the Pacers. Remember that time when Batum was on fire and hit four three pointers in a row? The Blazers' scoreless drought didn't have a single play called for him. Okay, I'm done stumping for Nicolas now. Instead I'm going to go back to writing my "The Adventures of Robby and Frenchy" fan fiction—that way, we all win. 93-87 Blazers.
0:18 - The Blazers are unable to connect on two straight trips, and while the chances are slim that Indiana can pull this one out, they now have the ball with a chance in a two possession game. 93-89 Blazers.
0:11 - Dante Cunningham comes up with a HUGE block on a Darren Collison floater. That all but seals the game in favor of Portland, unless Reggie Miller takes the floor and can score eight points in nine seconds. 93-89 Blazers.
0:07 - James Posey with the hard foul on Nicolas Batum, who had slipped his way towards an easy dunk. Batum calmly drains the two free throws, and this game is over. 95-89 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it! The Blazers win their fifth straight, and remain unbeaten whenever I cover for Ezra in this live blog. Aldridge finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds, while Batum chipped in with 23 points.
FINAL SCORE: 97-92 Blazers.