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For those of you who haven’t been to a Trail Blazers game lately, allow me to inform you that there are religious zealots wielding signs and proselytizing outside of the Moda Center these days. Armed with megaphones and a fire-and-brimstone message, these ding dongs yell and yammer nonsense at Blazer fans as they file into the arena. They must think there’s a Marylin Manson show happening five to six times a month at the Moda, or something. It's my humble opinion that Blazer game attendees don’t need to be saved from the sin within. A Blazer game is a joyous family affair. These kook's presence is a little senseless to me.

However, since they seem to be able to communicate with “the man upstairs” personally, I considered asking one of them if they knew whether or not the Blazers would win last night. But, I kinda figured not even God knows what the Blazers are going to do from contest to contest, so I moseyed in to witness for myself.

At just over the halfway mark for this season, in the NBA Western Conference, seeds five through nine are playing musical chairs with each other. If their records aren’t tied (three teams were before last nights game), they’re only .012 to .033 apart. Every time one of those teams wins or loses, their slots shuffle like a deck of cards. Last night, the Blazers were in the eighth seed, sandwiched between the Nuggets and the Clippers. Of course, all the teams mixed up in the melee are brimming with talent, so it’s really gonna be a wild ride to see where things finally land at the season’s end.

Long story short, every game counts for the Blazers from here on out if they want to show up in the playoffs.

Former Blazer’s coach Nate McMillan was in the house with his Indiana Pacers last night. The Pacers are a pretty even match for the Blazers this season, but thankfully the home team had the energy to battle from end to end and finish with a big win, 100 to 86. It was radio play-by-play man Brian “Wheels” Wheeler’s birthday too! So, it was nice to see the Blazers give him a gift on his special day!

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

Jusuf Nurkic did some great bodying up against Domantas Sabonis (yes, former Blazer Arvydas Sabonis’ son) on offense to start the game. Sabonis and Bojan Bogdanovic both couldn’t stop Nurk from dropping eight points before he took a seat. Al-Farouq Aminu had a solid first quarter offensively as well, scoring nine.

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

The Pacers clamped down hard on defense after the Blazers went for a little run, but CJ McCollum hit a deep, corner jumper with 1.6 seconds to tie the game before the first quarter ended. The game was looking like it was gonna be a serious tug of war.

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

Ed Davis crashed the offensive boards like a monster to start the second quarter. It’s really a delight to see Davis pull down rebounds surrounded by three opposing players and somehow find a hole to pop up and score.

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

With less than four minutes left in the half, Nurk and the Pacers’ Victor Oladipo were the only players in double digits with 10 and 11, respectively. By the end of the second quarter, they still were. Points were spread out across both teams starters and bench players.

Both teams bruised the iron more than they put balls through it for most of the third. With two and a half minutes left in the quarter, the Blazers’ field goal percentage was a cold 37 percent. Fortunately, they still managed to keep the Pacers fairly close, and with a slick steal and last second corner three from Shabazz Napier, the Blazers tied the game at 74 going into the final quarter.

Rookie Blazer Zach Collins opened the fourth by posterizing T.J. Leaf with a rumbling dunk. Collins has been putting in some quality time for his inaugural season and he only seems to be getting more and more confident. After that, the Blazers took off and cranked their lead up to 11 with six minutes left in the game.

Things got heated with just over two minutes left in the quarter. The Pacers were closing in when Nurkic and Oladipo went chin to chin after a play and had a few words for each other. Oladipo gave Nurk a little shove and the officials tagged them both with technical fouls. Didn’t bother Nurk much though. After a few more up and downs he left the court holding his head high with a double-double for the game; a season-high 19 points and 17 rebounds. With Nurk’s blazing performance, and Damian Lillard doubling his point total in the final quarter from 13 to 26, the Blazers fought off the Pacers in fine style.

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com

If winning is a sin, then I hope the Blazers continue to carve a victorious path straight to Hell!!! (maniacal laughter)

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photo by Bruce Ely / trailblazers.com