Live from a freezing Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Denver Nuggets in a high-spirited game of competitive basketball. The big news around these parts is the arrival of Gerald Wallace, plus the bittersweet departure of Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, and Sean Marks. Wallace is in the building, but won't be playing tonight. When he does suit up—Sunday against Atlanta—he'll be the first Blazers player to wear a headband since Coach Nate McMillan banned them upon his arrival in 2005. Be careful, this is a slippery slope and within a week I guarantee Rudy Fernandez will be wearing this
My blogging hat is on, let's proceed...
How good was the Wallace trade? So good that the Charlotte Bobcats were forced to hold an awkward press conference to defend losing their franchise player and getting so little in return. That is the NBA franchise equivalent of coming home to your wife and explaining how you emptied your joint account playing Pai Gow at Chinook Winds. Not that I would know what that's like. Nope. No sir.
The Wallace trade leaves the Blazers without a single player to play center. LaMarcus Aldridge refuses to utter the "C word" (no, not that one), instead insisting he plays the fictional position of "Power Forward 2." Considering this team's well-documented track record of injured/mangled/cursed centers, you can't blame the man. Speaking of centers, Marcus Camby is close to returning and might be on the court within the week, maybe even as soon as Sunday.
The Blazers lack of length will be made clear tonight, since the new-look Nuggets are anchored by Nene at the center position. In fact, for a team that just went through a difficult divorce from their star player, the Nuggets are playing great basketball, winning their last two games in an impressive fashion. Shipping off Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups have freed Denver to work in new blood (namely Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler), and add depth to their bench. Kenyon Martin is out for tonight's game, but even without him the Nuggets have no shortage of talented players to choose from.
Brandon Roy will once again have his minutes capped around 15 or so. The Blazers former All-Star had a quiet five points in his return this past Wednesday.
11:50 - Gallinari with an airball seconds into the game. That proves it, Carmelo Anthony is a better player than him. Fact. 0-0 tie.
9:55 - Gallinari is out Rudy'ing Rudy with a rebound and coast-to-coast layup. 3-2 Nuggets.
9:19 - Rudy gets his revenge in a pair of three goggles. That three in particular was taken at least two feet behind the arc. It's a Euro-off! Gallinari vs. Rudy. It's like foxy boxy, but less aggressive. 7-3 Blazers.
7:42 - No fair that Nene is no longer known as Nene Hilario. Why do some players get to loose their surname while others are stuck with theirs? Anyway, Mr. Hilario (that's his father's name) just hit a pair of free-throws. 12-9 Blazers.
6:23 - Wallace was just introduced during the timeout. The applause level was comparable to when they fire T-shirts at the crowd with a gun. 12-9 Blazers.
4:49 - If Gallinari was a true Nugget he'd get some neck tattoos already. Come on dude, you've been on the team for three days, where is your ink? Unrelated, Roy checks into the game for Portland. 14-11 Blazers.
3:36 - The Blazers have already racked up four fouls, which isn't terrible, but it's not a good sign considering their bench is dangerously thin. Their reserves are Roy, Armon Johnson, Patty Mills, and Luke Babbitt. So basically that's three guards, and one forward that should never be in a game. 16-14 Blazers.
3:23 - Ha, seconds after typing that... Babbitt checks into the game. Stop reading my blog, McMillan. 16-14 Blazers.
1:37 - After a traveling call went against him—he was robbed—Andre Miller scoops up a rebound, avoids a few defenders, and hits at the rim while getting fouled. Devin Harris doesn't do that. 21-14 Blazers.
1:30 - Babbitt randomly fouls Gallinari away from the ball. It's the fifth foul, so thus a penalty. Gallinari is one of the NBA's top free-throw shooters. Clearly Babbitt has learned much from his time on the pine. 21-14 Blazers.
1:00 - "Power Forward #2" LaMarcus Aldridge with a thunderous block that sends the ball into the seats. That was reminiscent of Greg Oden, whoever that is. 23-16 Blazers.
0:35 - For the first time since his return, Roy takes it to the rim for a layup. Even better, it was over shotblocker extraordinaire Chris Andersen. 25-18 Blazers.
12:00 - Despite being dwarfed by the Nuggets, the Blazers out-rebounded them 18-8 (including a 4-0 advantage on the offensive glass) in the opening quarter. Miller had seven of those rebounds. Centers are overrated.
10:24 - Denver's depth is going to be able to chip away against this shallow Blazers lineup. The eight point lead is down to a single basket. I guess the dream team of Mills and Babbitt aren't the answer. 25-23 Blazers.
9:22 - Wesley Matthews punches—not tips—a Aldridge miss back into the basket. One play later, J.R. Smith brushes against Rudy who flops like that fish in the Faith No More video. Foul on Smith. Of course. 30-27 Blazers.
7:54 - Matthews with a bullet pass (bullet oop?) to Aldridge at the rim. That was a line drive, it lacked the tender touch of the Miller alley-oop pass. 32-29 Blazers.
6:40 - Andersen fouls Rudy hard. Angry Bird, Man. Clearly rattled, Rudy clanks both free-throws. 32-32 tie.
5:24 - Oh my lord. A guy finally hit one of those halfcourt shots and won a Toyota. Nice work fat guy in a Batum jersey!
4:31- Miller posts up Ty Lawson and hits him the old man YMCA rec league jumper. He then sat Lawson on his knee and told him about the war. 38-35 Blazers.
3:13 - Back-to-back buckets for Roy. More importantly, he hasn't had knee surgery in days. 42-35 Blazers.
1:45 - Gallinari to the rim for a layup, Rudy replies with a three. Get a room you two. 47-37 Blazers.
0:05 - Credit the exhaustion of playing a back-to-back game on the road, or the defensive force that is Gerald Wallace staring at them from the bench, but the Nuggets have shot 31% in the first half. 47-39 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers hold for the last shot and Roy takes it nearly down the entire court and lays it in with under a second left. How did Denver not see that coming? 49-39 Blazers.
11:28 - There are only two players in double digits so far: Aldridge (naturally) and Gallinari. 49-44 Blazers.
9:07 - Miler with an old man jumper. He got at least a millimeter off the ground. 53-48 Blazers.
8:26 - Aldridge throws down the thunderous dunk atop Nene. 55-48 Blazers.
6:57 - Rudy with a behind the back pass to Babbitt, who then clanks the jumper. 55-52 Blazers.
6:08 - Following a Rudy three, Miller guns a pass to Matthews under the basket for a layup. That was like a Mordecai 'Three Finger' Brown pitch, which coincidentally is Dre's favorite player. Because, you know, he's old. 60-54 Blazers.
5:02 - Nene takes advantage of being defended by Babbitt and hits a layup while getting the whistle as well. McMillan wisely yanks the rookie from the game. 60-59 Blazers.
4:08 - Batum was out with indigestion. Never eat escargot from a food cart. Meanwhile Wilson Chandler hits an and-one. There goes that commanding lead. 64-60 Nuggets.
2:49 - Hang your head in shame, Matthews. You just got swatted by Gallinari. 64-62 Nuggets.
1:23 - Following a Dre miss, Gallinari gets fouled and hits a eight footer while falling to the court. He has 22 so far to lead all scorers. Denver also has gotten the majority of the whistles, 17 foul shots for them, but only seven for the home team. 69-62 Nuggets.
0:32 - Gallinari again. Nice trade, Isiah Thomas. 71-65 Nuggets.
0:00 - Denver outscored Portland 33-16 in the third quarter. Not a good sign. 72-65 Nuggets.
11:26 - Following a Nuggets airball, Aldridge spins around Al Harrington for a quick jumper. 72-67 Nuggets.
10:42 - Aldridge is roughed up without a whistle and Rudy saves a Gallinari layup by fouling him. The free-throw disparity grows, 27-9 in favor of Denver. 76-67 Nuggets.
9:46 - Another foul on Gallinari. The boos have arrived. To his credit, Gallinari is getting to the rim with ease and then drawing the whistle. Considering the foul trouble they are in, a Blazers comeback isn't looking promising right about now. 78-67 Nuggets.
9:08 - Dre disagrees. Miller comes off the bench and draws a pair of whistles, the latest from an and-on layup. 78-72 Nuggets.
8:50 - Batum steals a Gallinari pass and takes it coast-to-coast for his very own and-on layup. The crowd liked that just as much as the guy hitting the halfcourt Toyota shot. 78-74 Nuggets.
6:58 - Aldridge takes it to the basket for a quick score and following a Denver miss, a wild chase for a loose ball, a non-shooting foul against Miller, Matthews cuts through the lane and dramatically tips home an Aldridge jumper. The lead is down to a single basket. 80-78 Nuggets.
5:39 - Chandler hits a turnaround three from the corner. Totally reckless and ill-advised. Just like Melo would have done it. 83-78 Nuggets.
4:16 - Aaron Affalo drives to the rim and scores with ease. On the other end, Matthews does the exact same thing. They're twinsies! 87-82 Nuggets.
3:26 - Even though he's over his minutes, Roy is back in the game. Nene wastes little time fouling him, pushing Denver into the penalty. Roy hits both. 89-84 Nuggets.
3:03 - Affalo hangs in the air to hit over Roy, Miller answers quickly with a driving layup in slow-motion. Back and forth we go. 91-86 Nuggets.
2:05 - Affalo is on fire. He just buries a three and the impartial Nuggets radio announcer screams "YAAAAYYY." 94-88 Nuggets.
1:25 - Rudy misses a pair of threes and that might do it. 94-88 Nuggets.
0:36 - Roy for three. Not. Dead. Yet. 96-91 Nuggets.
0:18 - Dead. Felton with a jumper that rims in. Two straight loses at home is not a good start to the second half. 96-91 Nuggets.
0:15 - Rudy for three. What?? Miller suspiciously fouls Gallinari who turned over the ball. Tough call. The Italian hits one of two. Portland has a chance to tie. They should do it just to spite all the people who fled for the parking lot to beat traffic. 97-94 Nuggets.
0:05 - Roy attempts to draw a foul, but instead just swishes a fallaway three. Oh good lord. That's three three-pointers in the last 39 seconds. We are tied. 97-97.
0:00 - WIth a chance to win it, Lawson comes up short on a layup attempt. It was a great look at the rim, but he didn't roll in. Here we go to overtime again, second time this week. 97-97 tie.
3:40 - No one wants to score. A pair of misses for the Blazers and Denver responds with a missed jumper and a Lawson pass that lands in the seats. 97-97
3:29 - Matthews with a three in the corner. For once, Portland isn't trailing in OT. Also for once, Portland hits the century mark in points and people don't care about the damn chaulpa. 100-97 Blazers.
2:40 - Aldridge is going to sleep well tonight. He has played over 47 minutes tonight and counting. He'll be close to 50. 100-99 Blazers.
2:23 - He didn't look tired dunking home that alley-oop from Rudy. 102-99 Blazers.
1:57 - Nene puts back a Chandler miss. If Sean Marks was here... oh, nevermind. On the other end, Rudy is fouled at the rim by Chandler. He hits the first. He hits the second. 104-101 Blazers
1:37 - Afflalo hits a three. We are tied. 104-104
1:00 - Afflalo again. How they are not going to him on every possession is beyond me. He has 15 points since the half. 106-104 Nuggets.
0:51 - Matthews takes to the basket and gets the foul, but sadly the ball dramatically rimmed out. He misses the first. Ouch. He hits the second. 106-105 Nuggets.
0:23 - Rudy with a great defensive stop and on the offensive end of the court, Aldridge is sent to the line by Nene. Aldridge has not had a good history of hitting clutch free-throws. He hits the first. He hits the second. I guess that streak is over. 107-106 Blazers
0:09 - Miller called for a blocking foul. It's not a shooting infraction, but it gives Denver a chance to reset and take the final shot. Cross those fingers, Blazers fans. 107-106 Blazers.
0:02 - Gallinari takes a horrible long three and on the rebound the ball bounces off Miller's hands and goes out of bounds. God, that was great, and then horrible. So, so horrible. Denver ball with plenty of time to win it.
0:00 - A wild inbound pass and and Affalo's three from the corner went long. BLAZERS WIN! BLAZERS WIN! What a comeback for Portland. Roy returns to his clutch ways, finishing with 18, including the miraculous three-pointer at the end of regulation. Aldridge logs a staggering 51 minutes (meaning he sat for all of 65 seconds on the night) and finishes with 24 points and 14 boards. He should have been carried off the court on the team's shoulders. That win marks the 13th time this season the Blazers have won a game when trailing, or being tied, entering the final quarter. That's the best mark in the NBA.
Your final score, Portland 107, Denver 106. Huge win. I'll be here Sunday night for the debut of Gerald Wallace. Have a good night.