Yesterday was the mid-season trade deadline for the NBA, and I gotta be honest, the whole trade process is Greek to me. I understand salary caps, draft picks, luxury tax, and the general trade mindset as much as I understand the stock market or betting on horses. There are way too many moving pieces for me to follow what’s going on, or surmise the endgame once the dust has settled. It all seems like trading comics or baseball cards with your buddy. Both of you are hoping what you ended up with will appreciate, but most likely one of you is snickering off and celebrating how they duped the other.
Despite my breadth of knowledge about what happened yesterday, it is my duty to inform you that Noah Vonleh is no longer wearing the Trail Blazers’ uniform. According to ESPN.com, Vonleh and “some cash” were traded to the Chicago Bulls for the rights to Milovan Rakovic. Rakovic is currently playing basketball in Switzerland. I assume owning the “rights” to him means that if he ever wants to come back to the US and play, Rakovic is guaranteed to be a Blazer. The trade seemed very lackluster considering the rumors that were swirling around about bigger moves, and it left the Blazers sans a big man with nobody to fill his seat. Apparently the trade got the Blazers under the luxury tax, but that doesn’t really help with anything on the court. It was purely a business decision. Whether or not it will eventually pay off, remains to be seen.
Last night the Blazers went hand to hand with the Charolette Hornets. That meant that the always charming Dwight Howard was in the Moda Center. Rest assured he got a good razzing at introductions. Hosting the Hornets also meant that good ol’ Nicolas Batum was back on his old stomping grounds. Blazers court-side announcer Mark Mason didn’t introduce Batum in French like he used to, but he still got a warm reception from the fans.
The Blazers were home after a rough road trip losing to Toronto, Boston, and Detroit. Seeing as how they were on an eight game winning streak at home, ideally they’d smear the Hornets across the court like they did Chicago.
The Blazers almost commanded the game from wire to wire, but the Hornets brought the drama and forced the game into overtime. Thankfully, the Blazers held fast and squeezed out their ninth straight win at home, 109-103!
Jusuf Nurkic opened the game owning the offense. He was a one man bucket brigade for eight minutes. Nurk was three quarters of the way to a double-double with ten points and five rebounds before he sat. As a whole, the Blazers moved the ball and blitzed the hoop well.
The Hornets didn’t get any momentum going offensively until the last two minutes of the opening quarter. Their shooting percentage fell as low as 13% at one point. Consequently, the Blazers took an 11 point lead into the second.
The Blazers kicked off the second with more precision ball movement and strong drives to the hoop. They did a decent job holding a two-digit lead, but the Hornets slowly ate away at it the last six minutes of the half. After a very strong start, the Blazers only had a four point lead going into the locker room.
Things were a little rough and tumble to start the third. Nurk ended up sitting on the legs of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as they both scrambled for a loose ball. Gilchrist winced pretty good and took a minute to get back up. Nurk continued to pump up his point and rebound totals. He got his double-double at with 21 points and ten rebounds before the quarter ended. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Evan Turner were also big contributors with 15, 14, and 11 points, respectively. The Blazers took a 14 point lead into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter saw the Blazers get into foul trouble super fast. They were at the penalty with eight and a half minutes left in the game. Unfortunately, that lead them to be more light-handed on defense, which in turn allowed the Hornets to chip away at the Blazers lead again. They got it down to two with three minutes left in the game. With a quick steal and uncontested fast break, Kemba Walker tied the game. Can’t the Blazers just play ONE game where fans don’t have to spend the final seconds holding their breath with their buttholes clenched tight?!!!
After a failed offensive attempt for the Blazers, the game was tied with the Hornets inbounding the ball with 1.6 seconds left. Howard received the inbound pass, missed a jumper at the top of the key, and the game slipped into dreaded overtime.
Nurk won the tip, and the teams began the extra period going shot for shot. The Blazers got up by two, then the officials called two horrific illegal screen fouls on Nurk. Coach Terry Stotts head looked like it was gonna explode. He followed the official along the sideline barking at him like a maniac. How he didn’t get tagged with a technical is miraculous. Blazers responded to the bad calls by blocking shots. Maurice Harkless had one, and Nurk slapped away two, pushing his block total up to four for the game.
Miraculously, the Blazers had the stamina to stay on top of the Hornets on both ends of the court, and pull out an OT win. Nurk would log his 13th double-double for the season with 24 points and 14 rebounds.