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Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Sacramento Kings for the first of a pair of games this week. If the rosy-cheeked youthful faces of the Kings look familiar to Portland fans, it's because this team is in a very similar position to where the Blazers were at in 2006-07. They are young and energetic, but still a few seasons away from channeling those raw skills into actual victories. The Kings' starting five players have a combined 10 years experience, which is five years less than Juwan Howard's time in the NBA.
Look for Howard to distract the Sacramento players with a pair of jingling car keys and a rousing game of got your nose. After that, they'll be tuckered out and head straight to bed.
Speaking of old players, Marcus Camby will be back in the starting lineup tonight after (wisely) skipping Sunday's loss in Denver. Camby's ankle is still a little a wee bit tentative, so he'll share court time with Howard and Jeff Pendergraph.
The Kings have a mere six wins away from the clanging cowbells of Arco Arena, which is the 27th best road record in the league. Despite Tyreke Evans clearing off space in his Precious Memories scrapbook for the Rookie of the Year accolades he's about to receive—dude loves him some scrapbooking—his teammates leave their defense in Sacramento, giving up an average of 105 on the road.
But the Kings have something Portland does not have (unless you count yours truly), a Jewish superstar in Omri Casspi. The Bear Jew of the NBA, Casspi is the league's lone Israeli-born player, and the reason why a fan is currently waving the most unlikely of sights at a game, a Star of David flag.
Oh, it's '90s night here at the Rose Garden (which does not explain why the Blazers are wearing throwback jerseys from the '70s). I'm wearing my best Cross Colors and just got me a Gumby fade. I'm looking sharp.
11:34 - A surprise to no one, LaMarcus Aldridge takes the games first shot. Enjoy it now, since that won't be happening in the final quarter. 2-0 Blazers.
9:10 - Watching Nicolas Batum guard Evans is a blast. I have a feeling those two will be doing this for many years to come. In France. Since everyone knows the NBA folds next year when their collective bargaining agreement crumbles. Oh, and Batum just had a breakaway dunk. The Kings have three turnovers, and two points. 10-2 Blazers.
5:33 - After watching Beno Udrih (a real player) score in his grill under the basket, Camby tosses a pass to the wrong team, which results in a putback dunk from Young Republican Spencer Hawes and an angry timeout from Coach McMillan.14-13 Blazers.
4:44 - Rudy Fernandez with a blocked shot (what?), but Carl Landry gets the tip and puts the Kings ahead. Sacramento has 16 points on the night, 10 of which have come in the paint. 16-14 Kings.
3:25 - Andre Miller finds Camby under the basket, and the new guy dribbles the ball off his foot. 21-16 Kings.
0:40 - The Kings will not lose this game unless they are prevented from scoring at will under the basket. I've seen better defense in Pop-a-Shot games. 27-23 Kings.
10:32 - Funny how the lineup with Howard instead of Camby is bringing Portland back into this game. Jerryd Bayless leads a pair of fastbreaks, the latest resulting in an acrobatic layup from Rudy while getting fouled. 31-31 tie.
8:39 - Rudy pump fakes Francisco Garcia, fixes his hair, sleeps with your girlfriend (yet you are somehow totally okay with this), then drains the three pointer. Blazers lead. 34-33 Blazers.
7:07 - Returning the favor from that rare Miller dunk in Denver, Andre sends a long heave to Webster, who catches under the basket and converts with a pair of Kings in his face. Webster then follows that with a jumper, and one play later Howard outruns the entire Sacramento lineup (!) for a breakaway dunk. How he just sprinted away from a bunch of fresh-legged rookies is beyond me. 40-33 Blazers.
4:35 - Webster with a flying swat of a Casspi layup attempt. I'm pretty sure that is the worst thing that has ever happened to the Jewish people. *opens history book* Oh dear God, I was wrong. So, so wrong. 40-37 Blazers.
3:00 - After scoring nearly 30 in the first dozen minutes, the Kings have picked up a mere 10 points in the last nine minutes. 44-39 Blazers.
0:54 - Not to be outdone by Webster, Batum answers with a three (directly in front of his teammates on the bench). A double digit lead? Looks like the free brownies in the press room won't be the only halftime treat. 51-40 Blazers.
10:58 - Batum with a jumper, then Evans breaks free and hits a layup for the Kings. They should just pull the other eight players and let Batum and Evans play one-on-one. Or a game of horse. Or cheval. 53-42 Blazers
8:15 - Aldridge's long arms are good for more than just procuring jam jars from the top shelf, he just scoops up a loose ball and finishes on the other end with a dunk. 58-50 Blazers.
7:36 - '90s music trivia during the break. Why no Ugly Kid Joe? Come on! 58-54 Blazers.
6:24 - Farewell 12 point lead! Kings pull within a pair on a Landry 17-foot jumper. 58-56 Blazers.
5:26 - Miller is fearless under the basket. Cloaked by Sacramento defenders, he pumped faked and pushed is away to a layup. One play later, he steals the ball from Udrih for an easy breakaway. 65-59 Blazers.
1:15 - It took a mighty spill to the floor, but Roy hits a scooped layup while picking up a blocking call as well. He has 15 points, yet zero assists. Ball hog. 70-62 Blazers.
10:55 - Garcia opens the quarter with a three, then saves a loose ball by diving into the first row of seats. I have a feeling that Portland's lead is about to go away for a little awhile. 73-67 Blazers.
9:00 - Three minutes and counting without a point. Maybe they think 73 will be enough to win. 73-72 Blazers.
8:37 - Well, there is one point. It only took three and a half minutes. But there goes the lead, Jason Thompson hits a runner to tie the game, and Batum fouled him as well. 74-74 tie.
6:47 - Epic collapse. We are witnessing one right this very second. Portland only has one made free-throw from Howard to show for the last five-plus minutes. 74-74 tie.
5:03 - Camby tips in a Miller miss (combined NBA experience 23 years) and Portland gets a little breathing room. 79-74 Blazers.
3:19 - Someone cover the French kid. Batum sneaks under the basket for a quick layup and the lead is now up to five. Batum has yet to miss tonight, he's made all six of his shots. 83-78 Blazers.
2:41 - Of course I jinx him and Batum misses a three. Sorry, dude. 83-78 Blazers.
2:06 - Roy changes in a phone booth (yes, they have one courtside strictly for this reason) and emerges as the hero who is going to put away this game. Quick jumper for two points and now the Kings are on the ropes. 85-78 Blazers.
1:03 - Camby blocks Garcia before he can even leave his feet. Ouch. 86-78 Blazers.
0:30 - Batum then blocks Evans and this game is o-v-e-r. 86-78 Blazers.
0:00 - And that'll do it. It was a little rocky, but the Blazers prevail. Your final score, Portland 88, Sacramento 81. See you Sunday night when we Walk with Dinosaurs and the visiting Toronto Raptors.