Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Charlotte Bobcats. Normally, a visit from the Bobcats would be an ideal night to rest the starters and just coast to an easy homecourt victory, but all of a sudden the Bobcats have freed themselves from this creature's curse and become a playoff contender.
No one saw that happening. Just like no one saw Andre Miller dropping 52 points in Saturday's road victory in Dallas. But in a season where nothing has gone according to plan, it's best not to question these sort of things.
Know who I miss?
Travis Outlaw, Greg Oden, Joel Przybilla, Brandon Roy. As of tonight, the Blazers' star player has missed nine of his last ten games, but he is slated for a tentative comeback on Thursday when the San Antonio Spurs roll through town. Portland will definitely need him, since their next four games are against playoff caliber teams, and despite his 52 point game, Miller is hardly the consistent scorer (he scored 50 more points on Saturday than he did on Friday).
Other news on the injury front: Travis Outlaw was spotted taking jumpers before the game. His return is still awhile away, but it's another step in the right direction.
And just after I hit "publish," the team announces that Roy is not back on Thursday. He just got bumped to a Saturday return against the Lakers. Because that game needed some additional drama.
11:26 - While they were sleeping, or at leas not paying attention, Jerryd Bayless effortless drives to the basket and scores while getting Stephen Jackson to foul him. Careful kid, Jackson has Jesus hands holding a gun tattooed on his chest. Probably not the best guy to mess with. 3-0 Blazers.
8:42 - The Bobcats open the game one for eight shooting, while Portland has yet to miss. Guess what team is winning? 10-2 Blazers.
6:37 - What's the longest a player has gone without even attempting a shot the game after scoring over 50? Miller hasn't even glanced at the basket in the first half of the opening quarter. Looks like we won't be witnessing a repeat performance. 12-5 Blazers.
4:50 - Raymond Felton fails to hit Gerald Wallace on an alley-oop, so Miller shows him how it's done on the other end. Aldridge finishes the dunk, and Portland maintains their half dozen point lead. 12-5 Blazers.
3:04 - Jeff Pendergraph with a hard foul on Nazr Mohammed, but then he apologies. Przybilla does not approve. The proper move is to commit the foul, step on the guy when he is down, then glare at him when he gets up. Rookie mistake. 21-14 Blazers.
0:09 - Rudy for three, and then one play later, Steve Blake hurls the ball into the seats. He almost hit Paul Allen. Next time down the court, Blake makes us all forget by knocking back a three from the corner. Glad to see some things never change. 29-19 Blazers.
11:47 - Blake hits Rudy with an alley-oop pass, but bored with the clumsy act of dunking, he goes for the flair and makes it a reserve layup. Charlotte, he's just messing with you now. You know that, right? 31-20 Blazers.
8:12 - When was the last time the center-less Blazers outscored anyone in the paint? Well, it's happening right now. Portland has a 18-12 advantage below the basket. The Bobcats are hardly the biggest team in the NBA, but it's a statistical category they should not lose. 38-29 Blazers.
6:56 - Rudy with a pass to Batum for the layup. Okay, fine. It was an airball that came up two feet short. But points are points. 40-32 Blazers.
4:36 - The Bobcats have warmed up from beyond the arch, with a pair of three-pointers in the past few minutes, but following another circus shot and foul from Bayless, Portland is back up double digits. 45-35 Blazers.
2:00 - Miller finally decides to take a shot. He converts a driving layup. Only 50 more to go. 49-39 Blazers.
0:00 - Miller throws a turnover on the Blazers' final possession, but Charlotte can't convert as time expires. All things considered, that sure was one successful open half. To the break we go. 51-43 Blazers.
10:26 - On a looseball scrum, Bayless pushes over a stunned, and much larger, Gerald Wallace. Rex takes no prisoners and gets whistled for no fouls. 55-46 Blazers.
7:16 - Bayless converts a steal and a layup, and following a Felton blown layup, he hits Aldridge under the basket with a quick bouncepass. Someone feels Roy nipping on his heels and is gunning for more playing time. Considering his 15 points thus far, he's earned them. 63-51 Blazers.
5:57 - Miller fails to get the whistle when he is hit under the basket—but didn't they see the highlights from Dallas?—and the Bobcats get the lead down to eight. 63-55 Blazers.
5:09 - The lead that was once a dozen points is now down to six. This game needs a big dose of Batum, stat. 63-57 Blazers.
4:05 - Clearly reading my expert analysis, McMillan checks Batum into the game. Smell you later Mercury, assistant coaching position here I come. 63-59 Blazers.
1:46 - Batum for three directly in front of the Bobcats bench (and fellow countryman Boris Diaw). I'm taking credit for all of this. 70-62 Blazers.
0:13 - Score one for the old country. Rudy for the steal, and he then tosses it 40-feet to Batum for the layup. Flip Murray (not from Europe) answers with a three at the buzzer, and onto the final period we go. 72-65 Blazers.
12:00 - The Blazers had a strong opening quarter, but have actually been outscored in the last two periods by the Bobcats. Not a great sign entering the fourth quarter.
10:22 - Old Man Howard with a quick burst of speed (well, okay, "speed") and a layup in front of Wallace. 76-68 Blazers.
7:36 - I can watch Batum play defense all night. At any given moment, it's really the most exciting thing happening on the court. Then again, Gerald Wallace does not agree. He just got a faceful of Batum's hand and missed a jumper because of it. 82-70 Blazers.
4:49 - Congrats to Dante Cunningham, he just made his career-high tenth point of the night. Go for a dozen and the vets won't make you carry their luggage. No, they still will. 86-73 Blazers.
4:05 - Highlight reel, here comes Rudy with a one-handed putback dunk. If that doesn't find its way to SportsCenter, someone should lose their job at ESPN. 88-75 Blazers.
3:01 - The top, and only, scoring options for Charlotte—Jackson and Wallace—have a combined four points this quarter. One of the main reasons why, Batum, is currently swinging from the rim following a big alley-oop dunk. This game is all over except for the Chalupas and the Bobcats' bus ride to the hotel. 92-75 Blazers.
2:11 - Batum with another dunk. Christ. I'm not the first to say it, but I have to agree: Batum will be an All-Star before LaMarcus Aldridge, or any other Blazer not named Brandon Roy for that matter. 94-75 Blazers.
1:37 - Patty Mills is on the court for his home debut. I will bet money he scores, or at least shoots, the first time he touches the ball. 94-75 Blazers.
0:30 - It took a minute, but Mills misses wildly on his first jumper. He still hasn't scored in the NBA. The Blazers bench is having a good laugh at that shot attempt. 98-79 Blazers.
0:02 - Mills with a wide open look... and he steps out of bounds. Sad trombone. 98-79 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it. An impressive victory for the Blazers. Your final score, Portland 98, Charlotte 79. We'll see you Thursday night, when the Spurs come to town.