Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers have not swept a season series from Portland since the 1988-89 season, yet that's just what they're shooting to do tonight. One more win would make Los Angeles 4-0 on the season against the Blazers.
However, even though they're coming in riding a three game losing streak, it might actually benefit the Lakers to lose again tonight. Tanking makes a first round match-up against the Blazers less likely, and from the sound of things Portland is the one team the Lakers want to avoid in the first round of the playoffs.
Yeah, and I want to avoid every having to see this commercial for Unbreakable again, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. On the plus side for Portland, win or lose tonight at least they've never done anything as embarrassing as that.
Even though they haven't beaten the Lakers this year, Portland always manages to bring their best stuff against everybody's least favorite team. I've heard a few "Beat LA" chants sporadically erupt and the Blazers haven't even taken the floor yet, which is par for the course whenever the Red Medicine of basketball come to town.
Which, okay, side question based on that last link: what emo album is the current Blazers team? The Promise Ring's Very Emergency, maybe? That would make the '08-09 season 30° Everywhere (the best) and '09-10 Nothing Feels Good (for obvious injury reasons). That sounds about right. Hopefully next year doesn't turn into Wood/Water because nobody wants that. Emo and basketball: where the hell is Ezra when you need him?
There was talk before the game that Andrew Bynum would not start due to a stomach illness, but it appears he'll be ready to go. That is not a good sign for the Blazers—with Marcus Camby still sidelined due to a strained neck, LaMarcus Aldridge will shift over and try to contain Bynum. Okay, fine, that may work, but what won't work is starting Nicolas Batum at the power forward position and having him try guard Pau Gasol. The length of the Lakers is going to be a major factor tonight.
Oh, and there are a lot of Los Angeles fans in attendance tonight. I thought that last Boston game was the most away team fans I had ever seen at the Rose Garden, but tonight is without a doubt the most. When the Lakers took the floor, the cheers almost outnumbered the boos. Almost.
11:25 - Kobe gets the first points of the game, and the crowd goes wild? Wait, I am in the Rose Garden, right? 2-0 Lakers.
10:04 - No, really, this is bizarre. After a Derek Fisher to Andrew Bynum alley-oop, this place nearly erupted. In an interesting turn, the Blazers have Kobe guarding Andre Miller to start this game. That's some respect for Dre's game right there. 6-2 Lakers.
7:17 - Gerald Wallace is the absolute best. The amount of times he's able to keep a play alive per game is astonishing. He swiped away a rebound from Ron Artest, who thought he was all alone under the basket, and on the ensuing play Nicolas Batum drove the lane past Pau Gasol for the easy layup. 8-6 Lakers.
5:22 - Wallace just caught the entire Lakers team asleep, hustling down after a make and beating everyone down the court. Miller found him with an easy pass, and there's an easy two in transition. 12-11 Lakers.
3:38 - Wallace and Miller and just eating the Lakers alive right now. Steals, rebounds, buckets—the duo are all over the place, getting in the passing lanes and having their hands in nearly every Portland make. With his seventh and eighth points of the night, Miller just gave the Blazers their largest lead of the game. 17-14 Blazers.
2:45 - The Blazers are getting out and running. For being on the second night of a back to back, they sure look like they have fresh legs. After another easy transition bucket, Phil Jackson was forced to call his second timeout in just the last minute. That's ten fast break points for Portland, one of the slowest paced teams in the league already. 19-14 Blazers.
1:39 - Patty Mills, in the game for the first time, just spent twenty seconds of the shot clock dribbling around the perimeter and somehow was able to convert that into two points. On the other end, Brandon Roy picked up his second foul in one minute of play. 21-19 Blazers.
0:00 - After an errant Chris Johnson jumper (yes, you read that right), the Lakers tried to fling an outlet pass to a streaking Shannon Brown. Roy was able to pick it off, and got fouled in the process. With three seconds left Patty Mills drove the length of the floor, losing the ball twice in the process, and managed to fling it in from the free throw line as the buzzer sounded. After review, the bucket was ruled no good. Tie game after one. 21-21 Tie.
9:52 - Lamar Odom blocked Patty Mills on one end, and then drove it coast to coast for the easy layup on the other. That's what having a big man who can handle the ball will do. Chris Johnson is getting some serious run tonight, trying to combat the Lakers length, but Odom is making him look a little foolish. And here comes Gerald Wallace. 29-24 Lakers.
8:30 - Pau Gasol working the post in the triangle is a thing of beauty. Though they weren't able to convert on that possession, Gasol dictated the shot the Lakers would get with the utmost patience. He's leading the Lakers with two assists on the game, but that number should be a lot higher. 29-26 Lakers.
7:11 - Every single Blazer touched the ball on that las possession, or at least it felt like it. A drive by Rudy, who kicked it to the corner to Roy, who passed up the open three to give Gerald Wallace an even more open three. Count it. 31-31 Tie.
5:27 - That's a quick 10-0 run for the Blazers, with five of those coming from Wesley Matthews. The last three he hit was a corner dagger, the exclamation point on an impressive roll. 36-31 Blazers.
5:19 - Ball don't lie, Kobe. After Wesley Matthews was whistled for a phantom foul, Kobe clanked both free throws. The resulting play was a three for Wallace. Make that a 13-0 run. 39-31 Blazers.
3:42 - That's two straight Miller to Batum alley-oops, the second one leaving the Lakers completely befuddled. They looked around and couldn't figure out where the defensive breakdown came from, nor how Batum could have been that wide open. This crowd is going nuts, even if the Lakers were able to break their scoreless streak between the two dunks. 43-33 Blazers.
2:59 - Ah, there's Kobe. When needing points, the Lakers were able to go to Kobe who drove on Matthews for the dunk, picking up the and one in the process. Except he missed the free throw. That's three straight misses from the stripe, which probably has never happened before. 45-35 Blazers.
2:11 - A Kobe three. He does not like missing free throws. 47-38 Blazers.
1:42 - Another Kobe three, which got the Lakers fans on their feet. Too bad that was followed up with a Miller to Aldridge alley-oop. 51-41 Blazers.
1:00 - Another Kobe three. I'm really getting tired of typing that. 51-44 Blazers.
0:30 - Yep, you guessed it. Another Kobe three. Isn't this how that eighty-one point game of his started? That's eighteen points for him for the half. 53-47 Blazers.
0:00 - Of course Kobe had the ball in his hands for the last shot of the half. Of course he was going to jack up another three. For the first time in five attempts, he missed. End of the half. The Blazers were able to weather that three barrage a bit, and are taking a six point lead into the half. With Kobe going off like that, a six point lead is a huge victory. 53-47 Blazers.
11:22 - Wesley Matthews gets the second half started on the right foot, making his first bucket. Who didn't start the second half on the right foot was Nicolas Batum, who just limped his way towards the locker room. Uh oh. 55-47 Blazers.
10:10 - That's six straight for Matthews. Think he's mad Kobe hit all those threes on him? Yeah, probably. 59-47 Blazers.
9:26 - An 8-0 run to start the quarter for Portland, who jump to a fourteen point lead off of a Gerald Wallace layup. He hit the deck hard after banking it home, but appears to be okay. Whew. Every time Wallace hits the deck, I gasp. Good thing it hasn't been serious yet. 61-47 Blazers.
7:29 - The Blazers have twenty assists (ten coming from Miller alone), twenty fast break points, and thirty-four points in the paint. These are all amazing stats, and are main reasons Portland has a double-digit lead. 66-50 Blazers.
6:23 - Wow, the Blazers have amassed a twenty point lead. The last two points came off of an emphatic Miller to Aldridge alley-oop, the second or third time they've connected on that play tonight. Miller is in a freaking assist zone, finding every open player for easy, high quality shots. 70-50 Blazers.
5:38 - A three in the key call on the Lakers, and the Blazers follow that up with another Miller to Aldridge alley-oop. What Andre is doing tonight is nothing short of incredible. Same goes for the Blazer defense, who outside of that Kobe barrage, have kept the Lakers in check. 72-50 Blazers.
4:34 - Kobe is out of the game. Is Phil Jackson waiving the white towel already? It sort of looks like maybe. 74-50 Blazers.
3:37 - Pau Gasol just hit a turnaround jumper, which gives the Lakers five points in the quarter. Yes, you read that right. The Blazers are out-scoring the Lakers 21-5 in the third quarter. Wow. 74-52 Blazers.
3:00 - Batum is back in the game. Apparently his injury is not serious, which is the best news I have heard all night. 74-55 Blazers.
0:00 - The Lakers finished the quarter on a 12-0 run, mostly on chippies from a lack of defensive focus on Portland's part. The Blazers went scoreless for multiple minutes, mostly because they did nothing but jack up threes. The Los Angeles contingent in the crowd is getting pumped. Portland needs Gerald Wallace and Andre Miller in the game in the fourth in a bad way. 74-62 Blazers.
11:32 - Gerald Wallace comes in the game, Gerald Wallace draws an offensive foul on Lamar Odom. Well done, sir, well done. And here come the "Beat LA" chants. 74-62 Blazers.
10:41 - Ah, there's the scoring drought snapped. And, of course, it came on a LaMarcus Aldridge alley-oop. I think all of his nine filed goals have been dunks thus far. 76-62 Blazers.
9:26 - If Gerald Wallace and Lamar Odom come to blows tonight, I will not be surprised. Those dudes are fouling each other, hard, on nearly every possession. As long Wallace doesn't mess with Steve Blake—that guy is vicious. 76-64 Blazers.
8:47 - Kobe has been on the bench since the middle of the third quarter, and because of that, he is last in +/- for the Lakers with a -28. That is Sean Marks bad. 77-64 Blazers.
8:05 - Another three for Wesley Matthews. On the other end, Kobe Bryant—who had just checked back in—picked up both a three in the key turnover and a technical foul for contesting the call. Yep. 81-64 Blazers.
6:56 - Well, Gerald Wallace is getting his fight after all. After Artest nailed Wallace in the head with an elbow on a rebound, Wallace got back up and right in Artest's face. Nothing major—no punches, charging into the stands, etc—but Wallace is not backing down from anything tonight. Double-technicals for both Wallace and Artest. The crowd responds with a "Ger-ald Wall-ace" chant that rivaled the one Marcus Camby received last year. So, so good to see that scrap and aggression from this team tonight. 81-64 Blazers.
6:23- On the next Lakers possession—another miss by Kobe—Gerald Wallace secured the rebound. Ron Artest bodied up on Wallace, trying to pick up the offensive foul by flopping every time Wallace tried to pivot. The result? Wallace picked up the foul on Artest. This place is sheer pandemonium. 81-64 Blazers.
5:11 - How about another loose ball on Ron Artest? After a Lamar Odom made three, Artest pushed Wallace to the ground with a forearm shove. Things are getting angry in here. A first round match-up between these teams would be epic. 82-67 Blazers.
3:45 - Two straight Ron Artest corner threes have cut Portland's lead down to single digits. Kobe has switched over again to Andre Miller on defense, and his active hands and size have stalled Miller's flow. The Blazers offense has struggled because of it. This is exactly what did the Blazers in the last time these two teams met in the Rose Garden. If Kobe gets it going again, watch out. 82-73 Blazers.
2:46 - There's Gerald Wallace again, picking up the offensive foul on Andrew Bynum, who hit the deck with a thud. Bynum has fouled out of this game. Good thing, because he ate up Wallace's last attempt at the rim. 84-75 Blazers.
1:47 - Nicolas Batum, coming up huge! First, he gathered the offensive rebound off of an Aldridge miss, and then knocked down a huge, probably game sealing three pointer! 87-77 Blazers.
1:14 - I could not love Gerald Wallace any more. After Kobe air balled a three trying to pick up a foul on one end, Wallace drove the lane and put in over Pau Gasol. The best part? Gasol must have been saying something, because Wallace just stood there and gave him a death stare as the teams were going to timeout. That was incredible. 89-77 Blazers.
0:49 - If Chick Hearn were here, he'd put this one in the refrigerator. The Lakers were unable to convert on their possession after the timeout, and Gerald Wallace picked up a foul getting the rebound. He nailed both free throws. 91-79 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it! The Blazers pick up a huge victory, all led by the play of Gerald Wallace and Andre Miller. Wallace finished with nineteen points, thirteen rebounds, seven assists, and dude did not back down from one single person. He provided the backbone for this Blazers team, and did not let them get bullied around. All scorers finished in double digit scoring. Though this probably makes a LA-Portland first round series less likely, man, that would be a fun series to watch.
FINAL SCORE: 93-86 Blazers.