For roughly every game since I’ve been covering the Trail Blazers for Ye Olde Merc, the Blazers organization has been kind enough to give me postgame press conference, and locker room access. While I am eternally grateful for their generosity, I rarely venture into the locker room after the contests. Mostly because I have never really been able to get comfortable with the whole process. I understand NBA players are expecting to answer a few questions right out of the shower, but when I’m in there I tend to put myself in their shoes. I think about how it would feel to be fresh from a nice, relaxing cleanse, only to be surrounded by a pack of rabid press members - male and female - equipped with cameras, microphones, and various recording devices. There isn’t much of a buffer either. Everyone gets right up in the players' faces with their queries. It’s a strange scene.
Along with my overzealous empathy, I tend to clam up when I encounter famous people. I know my heroes in sports, film, and music are only human, but I always turn into a stammering fanboy when I cross paths with them in the real world. Add in the fact that these heroes are a foot or more taller than me, and standing around in their undies, it makes for quite an awkward time.
I’ll keep going in when the mood strikes me and try to conquer my ridiculous awkwardness, but it might take a while…
Last night the Blazers went nose to nose with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves have been a rough go for the home team this season. Last night’s game would be the teams’ final meeting of this season, and the Wolves were ahead in the series, 2-1. Seeing as how the Wolves are on top of the Northwest Division with the Blazers closing in right behind them, and both teams are also quite close in the Western Conference play-off race, it would’ve been wise to not let them have the long end of the stick in case it comes down to tied records at the end of the regular season.
Jimmy Butler was out with a possible season ending knee injury, so the Wolves were without some of their backcourt power. Since the Blazers have been looking like hot business post All-Star break, it served to reason that they would handle the Wolves with ease. Plus, the game was being broadcast on TNT. A good win on national TV never hurts.
The Blazers would sleep through two thirds of the game, but would wake up just in time to finish off the Wolves, 108-99.
The first quarter saw the Blazers shooting like crap. They were getting solid looks, but they couldn’t hit a pool if their were shooting from the diving board. With just over two minutes left in the quarter they had shot 26% from the field and were zero for six from the three point line. The Wolves had six turnovers in the quarter, so despite the Blazers poor shooting, the score was a teeter-totter throughout. The end of the first would see the Wolves on top, 24-19.
The Blazers shooting didn’t get much better in the second. With five minutes left in the quarter the Blazers’ highest scorer was Ed Davis with eight. Nobody could find their stroke. Meanwhile, Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was four rebounds away from a double-double with 14 points and six rebounds. He would end the half with 21 and eight, and the Wolves would take a five point lead into the locker room.
CJ McCollum FINALLY hit the Blazers first three point shot of the contest two minutes into the third. They were zero and 13 until he splashed one through. And since they opened the second half leaning into the Wolves hard, McCollum’s shot gave the Blazers a two point lead. Their first since the opening quarter. Sadly, it didn’t last long. Towns was still leading his team in the points and rebound columns. With just under five minutes left in the third he had 30 and 13, respectively. The Wolves got their lead up to as much as ten, but the Blazers weren’t going down without a fight. They were able to get within five points of the Wolves going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter saw both teams ferociously battling for the win. They traded a two point lead back and fourth until Al-Farouq Aminu, Damian Lillard, and McCollum hit three big threes in a row, putting the Blazers up nine. It was the momentum the Blazers had been looking for all game. The Wolves did their darnedest to take it back, but after another big three from Dame with less than two minutes left in the game, the deal was essentially sealed.
With last nights win, the Blazers bumped their winning streak up to five, and put them ten games above .500. As the mighty and majestic Brian “Wheels” Wheeler always says, “It was a great day, to be a Blazer…”