Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Washington Wizards.
It was announced on Thursday that LaMarcus Aldridge would miss six to eight weeks with a torn ligament in his thumb. Everything was awful—Portland lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Celtics, Nicolas Batum reaggravated his wrist injury, and after a promising start to the season the Blazers seemed in danger of missing the playoffs entirely. Here’s a look at every Blazers fan roughly forty-eight hours ago.
But then today happened and things, uh, escalated quickly. Maybe everyone is just drunk off of sunshine, or maybe it was a positive diagnosis from Dr. Spaceman, but LaMarcus Aldridge is suiting up and playing tonight. Really. He’s back.
So what the hell happened? Why the turn of events? Aldridge’s bum thumb is on his non-shooting hand. He apparently can’t hurt it any worse by playing on it, and the splint he’ll have should help minimize any long-term damage. Instead of opting for the surgery now and missing time, he asked the Blazers staff to let him play through it. Is that smart? No idea. But it’s not like the Blazers have a history with troublesome injuries, so what’s the worst that could go wrong?
Before everyone starts bringing up the ghost of Brandon Roy’s knees, this isn’t even remotely in the same stratosphere. This isn’t a career-threatening injury. Shoot, Luol Deng played a full season with a torn ligament in his wrist. It’s just whether or not Aldridge can play through the pain, and he wants to give it a go. If tonight goes poorly, he could change his mind and opt for surgery instead. Or maybe he’s just putting off surgery until Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland get back, and he’ll take a seat once Portland’s injury-depleted frontline returns.
If nothing else, his suiting up tonight should be a jolt for a team that looked to be drowning. In case of emergency: break glass, pull Aldridge alarm.
Of course every eye will be on Aldridge, but the biggest matchup of the night is Damian Lillard versus John Wall. Two of the best young point guards in the league going at it for forty minutes? Oh god, yes. Please. Wall or Lillard is a great debate, and both dudes are going to have a little extra edge going head-to-head. The over/under for Dame one-handed dunks is 1.5, and I'm betting the over.
The Blazers gained a big man, but they lost a swing man: Nicolas Batum will be out for tonight's contest. After a bunch of recent DNP-CDs, Terry Stotts is dusting off Allen Crabbe and inserting him into the starting lineup. Okay.
You won't believe this, but Aldridge received a huge standing ovation when he was announced.
11:13 - The Blazers went right to LA in the post on their first possession, and this crowd was ready to explode. Too bad he left the turnaround jumper a little long. Paul Pierce drained the transition three on the other end. 3-0 Wizards.
9:55 - Dame with the early heat check, pulling up from about thirty feet out for a deep three. He missed. John Wall was able to drive and dish to Nene for the easy two. 7-2 Wizards.
8:16 - The Wizards are shooting 66% from the floor. The Blazers are shooting...0%. Zero. 13-2 Wizards.
7:53 - Out of the timeout, the Blazers were able to get it to Aldridge for their first bucket of the game. Unfortunately, Bradley Beal answered right back. 15-4 Wizards.
6:03 - So far, so good for Aldridge. He took it strong to the rim, floated it up, and got the shooter's roll. 19-10 Wizards.
5:23 - That's eight points for LA. Yep, the wrist seems fine. 20-12 Wizards.
3:00 - Outside of Aldridge's ten points, the Blazers just can't get anything going. The Wizards have doubled them up and are running the Blazers out of the building. 28-14 Wizards.
1:18 - Andre Miller! The Professor! Thankfully he's in for John Wall, because Wall was killing Blake offensively. 30-18 Wizards.
0:00 - That Wall dude is pretty good. He checked in with four seconds left to get the Wizards a final shot. He drove right around Steve Blake, hung in the air, and threw up a one-handed floater right as time expired. 32-20 Wizards.
11:41 - Oh, it was just Meyers that the Blazers were missing in the first quarter. He started the second, and promptly hit a three. If you thought Klay Thompson's 37 points in a quarter were a lot, just wait until you see what Meyers does tonight. 32-23 Wizards.
9:16 - The Blazers have held Washington to just four points over the last two and a half minutes. Problem is, they haven't scored at all over that stretch. The threes are there, they just aren't falling. Portland's shooting is down to 31% for the game. But hey, at least that's better than 0%! 36-23 Wizards.
8:38 - There we go! Lillard poked the ball away from Beal, which led to a fast break three for Dorell Wright. Baby steps. 36-26 Wizards.
7:03 - Andre Miller tried to go under the pick on Dame. Ha. Maybe that works at the YMCA, old man. 39-31 Wizards.
5:46 - The Professor is not long for this game. Dame had back to back assists after beating Miller off the dribble. Timeout Washington. 41-36 Wizards.
3:55 - Dame missed a three that would have brought the house down, and Wall calmly sunk the jumper on the other end. Ugh. 45-39 Wizards.
0:46 - Back to back threes for Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce. Brutal. Just when the Blazers had finally made some headway into that lead... 55-45 Wizards.
0:26 - Oh man, Aldridge was this close to packing home a put-back dunk. The lane opened, he had both hands on a Matthews miss...and drew back iron. Could that have been because of his wrist? 55-45 Wizards.
0:00 - That rough 0-9 start really put the Blazers in a hole that they were unable to dig out of. The good news is they reviewed a Nene dunk and it came after the shot clock had expired, so Portland is only down ten now. The better news is the Tail Blazers are here for the halftime entertainment. Since Red Panda retired, these dogs are the best halftime gig around. 55-45 Wizards.
11:15 - Two baskets in a row for the Blazers. The second came from Will Barton, who got the starting nod over Crabbe to start the third. I don't know why Crabbe has fallen so far out of favor, but I doubt we see him again tonight. 55-49 Wizards.
8:26 - Dang, the Blazers just can't get over the hump. They played great defense for twenty seconds, forced a miss, but the Wizards were able to secure the rebound. John Wall sunk the second chance basket. 61-53 Wizards.
6:28 - A double-clutch three for Matthews? Sure. 63-58 Wizards.
5:52 - Another three for Matthews! Gimme them arrows! 66-61 Wizards.
4:42 - For only the second time tonight, a Blazer stepped to the line. Dame hit two freebies in the first minute of the game, and Aldridge just sunk two more. 66-63 Wizards.
2:49 - Well, that got the crowd fired up. The Blazers almost lost the ball into the back court, but Will Barton was able to save it with a behind the back pass to Dorell Wright. Wright pulled up for three from way downtown. Not only did he sink the triple, he drew a foul on John Wall in the process. Just like that, it's a one point game. 68-67 Wizards.
1:43 - Leave it to Aldridge from twenty-feet out to put the Blazers ahead for the first time tonight. Oh man, this crowd is fired up right. 69-68 Blazers.
0:00 - A Professor Miller jumper gave the Wizards the lead back, Steve Blake missed a three as the quarter expired, and we have ourselves a ball game. 70-69 Wizards.
10:44 - Steve Blake just out-old manned Andre Miller, shaking him baseline and going up for the easy layup. 72-71 Wizards.
10:00 - Meyers Leonard three-point update. 74-72 Blazers.
7:55 - After Dorell Wright sunk a three and forced a timeout, the Wizards came right back and ran a play to get Martell Webster a look from deep. Money. 77-77 Tie.
6:05 - It seems Martell only had one three in him—he missed his next two looks badly, including pushing a corner triple about two feet too long. With just Portland's sixth and seventh free throws on the night, Dame once again tied things up. 79-79 Tie.
4:45 - After three plus quarters of not calling anything, the refs are really making up for it here in the fourth. Nene just had three fouls called against him in roughly twelve seconds. They were all legit, but still. 83-81 Wizards.
3:28 - Back to back threes for Matthews! Oh man, this game. Both of these teams are fired up, with both Wall and Matthews giving it to the crowd after their last two respective makes. This one feels like the playoffs in all the best ways possible. 87-85 Blazers.
2:49 - Holy hell, out of a timeout, the Blazers got Dame a wide open look from the top of the arc. That was his easiest shot of the night. 92-85 Blazers.
1:40 - Dame is getting no love on the foul calls, but Aldridge was there for the put back around three Wizard defenders! This game is so wild. 94-89 Blazers.
1:08 - Nene fouled out contesting a Meyers Leonard three-pointer? And Meyers got and made three freebies? What freaking world is this? 97-91 Blazers.
0:45 - John Wall picked up a three-shot foul of his own, and sunk all three free throws. On the next possession, LA took it at Marcin Gortat (with his left hand!), and drew another foul call. He sunk 'em both to a small smattering of MVP chants! 99-94 Blazers.
0:08 - After John Wall made a quick two at the rim, Matthews barely missed a three for the Blazers. Dorell Wright was able to track down the rebound, kick to Dame, and the Blazers had the ball with twenty seconds left and the shot clock turned off. For some reason, the Wizards waited to foul until there were eight seconds left, despite their coach screaming to foul. Dame went two for two at the line! 101-96 Blazers.
0:04 - Out of the timeout, LaMarcus Aldridge picked off a pass attempt and drew the quick foul. All that's left is for this crowd to serenade him with MVP chants once more. 101-96 Blazers.
FINAL: 103-96 Blazers. What a game, what a win. In Aldridge's return to the lineup, the Blazers were able to knock off the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. I'd take seven more of those in the NBA Finals in a heartbeat.