Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder in a battle of the NBA's best two young teams. But before we get to that, let's look at how the Blazers spent their afternoon. Rookie Elliot Williams was diagnosed with a dislocated right patella. He's out for the year. Fabricio Oberto announced his retirement, citing a heart condition. And, as of a few minutes ago, it was announced that Rudy Fernandez would miss tonight's game with a back injury.
Oh, and Blazers legend Maurice Lucas passed away earlier this week after battling bladder cancer.
In totally unrelated news, the Rose Garden was built on a hundred Indian graveyards. I'm sure that has nothing to do with what is going on. Right?
Rudy's mysterious absence has fueled the rumor that he might have just been traded—getting pulled from a game minutes before tipoff often happens to players on the move—but that seems really doubtful, especially how well he's played as of late.
Other than the worst afternoon ever, tonight is kind of a big deal. The Thunder are the Blazers' longtime foil—back when they were known as the Seattle SuperSonics—and these two team's have met 200 times in the past and are tied and 100 wins each.
I posted that absolutely baseless Rudy trade rumor on Twitter, and minutes later a real reporter (the O's Jason Quick) is on the scene:
Rudy Fernandez suddenly out? Suspicious, I thought, so I asked Rich Cho if it was because of an impending trade: Cho laughed and said no.
Before the season began the Thunder were the easy pick to usurp the Blazers as the Western Conference's second best team—until Kobe hangs it up, looks like the Lakers will be number one for awhile—but Oklahoma City has struggled mightily this season. The team has dropped two in a row and were walloped by the lowly Los Angeles Clippers last night. But the rivalry once known as the I-5 series—now it's the I-84 to I-25 to I-35 series—has been fueled by the Oden/Durant draft debacle and now it's clear that these two teams are set to meet up in countless important games throughout the next few years.
One quick point about the dead horse that is the Oden/Durant argument. Revisionist history aside, people tend to not mention how poorly the Thunder did in last year's draft. This team passed on Steph Curry, Tyreke Evens, and Brandon Jennings to take... James Harden? Ouch. Just imagine how incredible Oklahoma City would be if that had Evens and Russell Westbrook as their two guards? Easily the best team in the West, right?
10:57 - Miller misses a jumper, Batum does the same on a three. Meanwhile Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha have no such problems. Please, for the sake of my keyboard, may I never have to type Thabo Sefolosha ever again. 4-0 Thunder.
9:08 - On a loose ball rebound Marcus Camby ignores Miller's calls for the ball and instead tosses an alley-oop pass to LaMarcus Aldridge for the dunk. No one saw that coming. 9-6 Thunder.
6:32 - Miller wants in on that, he tosses another alley-oop to Aldridge. That's ten points in six minutes for him. Aw, crap. Video tribute to Maurice Lucas set to "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday." No tears. Be strong. Uh, something just got in my eye. 15-12 Thunder.
6:04 - I love how the crowd erupted when the Lucas memorial video had footage of him fighting Darryl Dawkins. If I die, I want my memorial tribute to feature every fight I have ever been in. On second thought, that might not be a good idea. I recall getting beaten up a lot as a kid. Retract that.
3:12 - Unlike last season, the Blazers bench is no longer a source of great shame. It's nice to see Wesley Matthews enter the game and hold his own on Westbrook on one end of the court, and hit an off-balance jumper on the other end. 22-18 Thunder.
2:04 - And again. Matthews ignites a fastbreak and hits Batum for a three. But Westbrook then blows by him for a flying layup. I guess they more or less broke even there. 27-21 Thunder.
1:09 - There is now a "Mau-rice Luc-as" chant going on here. I don't have the heart to tell these fans that he actually just passed on. 27-23 Thunder.
0:01 - Serge Ibaka with a tip-in as the clock nearly expires. That's the sort of thing that happens when you don't have a center. 29-23 Thunder.
12:00 - Everyone's new favorite Blazer, Armon Johnson, checks into the game. Everything is now better. 29-23 Thunder.
10:52 - Matthews with a pair of quick layups, one triggered by Johnson, the other from a football pass from Roy. Durant answers back with a three pointer. Johnson answers that with a steal and an assist to Roy. All of a sudden the greatest basketball game ever has broken out. 32-31 Thunder.
9:18 - Camby gets an Ibaka paw to the forehead and still manages to convert a scooped layup. Hey, look what the scoreboard says: 33-32 Blazers.
8:35 - Matthews and Johnson make a fantastic team. Oden could check into the game right now and I wouldn't even notice. 36-34 Blazers.
7:53 - Camby to Aldridge is the new Sergio to Rudy when it comes to alley-oop dunks. They just polished off another one. 38-34 Blazers.
6:17 - Camby coughs up the ball, then splays out on the court in a heroic dive to recover it and call timeout. That was great (except for the whole turning the ball over to start the play part). 39-38 Thunder.
6:17 - I just did the math. The Blazers are 21-7 since acquiring Camby from the Clippers last season. This team was in a very bad place before he came to Portland.
4:30 - Miller s-l-o-w-l-y coasts in for a layup. If he swung a pocket watch in front of Westbrook he couldn't have hypnotized him more than he did there. 44-42 Thunder.
2:56 - Clearly not content with kid Armon eating his lunch, Miller strips the ball and hits Batum for a fastbreak layup. Timeout visiting team. 49-47 Blazers.
1:33 - Aldridge is fouled during his attempt to complete his fourth alley-oop of the night. The Thunder might want to draw up a play that prevents him from dunking on them at will. 52-49 Blazers.
0:56 - Miller houdinis is way to the basket again. He is incredible at that, just don't punch him in the stomach. 56-51 Blazers.
0:00 - They fail to convert on their final possession, but the Blazers come on strong as the seconds wind down in the first half and go into the lockerroom with their biggest lead of the night, 58-51 Blazers. Time for me to steal some popcorn from the media room. Want anything?
The Thunder spent 24 minutes looking like extras on the Walking Dead allowing the Blazers to shoot 64% on them from the field. Not a good sign from a team that used to pride itself on its defense. Then again, you shoot that well and you should be up by more than seven points.
10:45 - You know the move where Miller lulls someone to sleep then pump fakes them and slide past the defender in midair for an easy layup? Yeah, well he just did that. 62-51 Blazers.
10:17 - ...then Batum flies in for an alley-oop dunk and the Thunder call timeout in a hurry. You don't want to waste a timeout less than two minutes into the half, but then again you probably don't want Batum to do that to you either. 64-51 Blazers.
8:40 - Sefolsha for a very reluctant three. He wanted to pass or drive or do anything but shoot that ball. I think he even shrugged before taking that shot. 68-57 Blazers.
7:11 - Before it was Matthews and Johnson, now it's Miller and Batum. It's like NBA Jam out there. A 12 point lead? Yup. 70-58 Blazers.
5:53 - Mo Cheeks is here to either rescue a kid signing the National Anthem or act as an assistant coach for the Thunder. Either way, he has a Maurice Lucas memorial #20 patch on his suit. Classy move. 70-62 Blazers.
5:40 - Matthew is about to take three foul shots, but up until now the Blazers are one of three from the charity stripe while OKC is 14 of 15. Very surprised the score is what it is considering that discrepancy. 73-62 Blazers.
3:28 - Aldridge passes it to the Thunder bench. That dozen point lead just got a little smaller. 75-69 Blazers.
1:52 - National TV games are dreadfully slow. This game tipped off nearly 30 minutes late and there are countless "official's timeouts" that extend the game to the baseball-length of three hours. Some of us have Aloe Blacc concerts to get to. 77-71 Blazers.
1:12 - Struggle as they have, the Thunder have been great at beating the shot clock. James Harden, and Jame Harden's beard, hit a jumper as the buzzer expires. 81-73 Blazers.
0:02 - Roy on Durant went one-on-one, but Roy passes out of it. Chicken. Hey, look, it's the final quarter: 81-75 Blazers.
10:20 - Four Blazers in double digits already. Matthews, Roy. Aldridge and Batum. Miller has ten dimes so far and is a bucket away from a double-double. None of these things matter to the Thunder, they just scored the first two baskets of the quarter. Close game here we come. 81-79 Blazers.
10:05 - Aaaaaand we're tied. Durant with a jumper and the Blazers call a "Oh shit, panic!" timeout. 81-81.
9:40 - Miller hits a jumper, ending about 2:30 of pure sucktitude. Shut up, it's totally a word. 83-81 Blazers.
8:47 - Hey, Blazers. You might want to do
something everything to stop that Durant guy from taking over, and winning, this game. K, thx. 85-85 tie.
7:32 - Camby adds some unexpected back-to-back buckets. This game is getting pretty intense, but if a Blazer doesn't punch another player—in tribute to Maurice Lucas, of course—I'll be pretty letdown. 89-87 Blazers.
6:22 - Camby just scored six points in about two minutes. Previous to that he had six points in 29 minutes. Good time to start scoring. 91-87 Blazers.
5:47 - The crowd was roaring and then Durant dunk. It was like another moment of silence. That sure shut Portland up. 91-89 Blazers.
4:34 - Jeff Green hits a 14-footer and we're all tied again. Miller hates ties and buries the same exact shot on the opposite end of the court. Ties are for suckers and soccer fans. 93-91 Blazers.
3:40 - The good news: The Thunder are in the penalty. Free-throws from here on out. The bad news: Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. 95-93 Blazers.
2:49 - Miller to Aldridge again for the 500th alley-oop of the night. After tonight the Thunder defense gets a frowny face sticker on their report card. 97-93 Blazers.
1:31 - Miller looks better throwing an alley-oop pass than he does shooting a jumper. That says something both about his passing ability and his weird stationary jump shot. 98-95 Blazers.
1:15 - Westbrook with a jumper and the lead is down to one. Gulp. 98-97 Blazers.
1:10 - Just going on record and stating that if the Blazers lose this game, it will probably be absolutely devastating to the team in the coming weeks. Plus the results might hang over their heads deep into the season and in the scramble for playoff seeding. But, hey, no pressure.
0:42 - Roy is blocked at the rim and Ibaka is fouled in his attempt by Aldridge. He makes the first. He missed the second. 98-98 tie.
0:18 - Roy misses the clutch jumper we all through he'd make and Miller—the smallest Blazers on the court—somehow scoops up the rebound, pump fakes, and scores. Damn, Dre. 100-98 Blazers.
0:10 - Durant with a miss and Ibaka ruins the day and tips the ball in. 100-100 tie. Blazers ball to win it, or ruin my night and make me miss Aloe Blacc by sending the game to OT. Once again, it's all about meeeeeeee.
0:00 - Roy clanks the longest two ever and it's overtime. 100-100 tie.
4:08 - Six of the eight Blazers that have stepped on the court tonight have scored in double figures. That is all kinds of crazy. 100-100 tie.
3:20 - Tough start to the extra period for the home team. Three quick misses, yet still no points for the Thunder. Let's make it double OT. 100-100 tie.
2:45 - Points! Oh, but for the other team. Camby fouls Harden on an and-one. 103-100 Thunder. We're almost halfway through overtime and no scoring for the Blazers.
2:25 - Batum airballs a three. That's good for... let me check here... one sec... zero points. Ugh. 103-100 Thunder.
1:08 - Aldridge watches a pass bounce off his fingers. Wow, this game has turned on the Blazers. It's ugly. The Thunder can't score either, but those three points seem insurmountable right now. 103-100 Thunder.
0:44 - Blazers' ball down three with less than a minute to go. If the OT trend continues, look for them to dribble the ball off their foot in the next seven seconds. 103-100 Thunder.
0:40 - Roy sliced through an opening and is fouled hard at the rim by Ibaka. He makes the first. He makes the second. 103-102 Thunder.
0:13 - Durant with a miss but the Blazers fail to grab the rebound. It's foulin' time! Batum hacks Durant. He makes the first. He makes the second. 105-102 Thunder. Desperate three point time? Yes, indeed.
0:06 - Matthews almost—soooooo close—hits an and-one layup but instead is fouled hard and a little shaken up in the process. He makes the first. He misses the second. That might do it. Westbrook goes to the line and half this crowd goes home. 105-103 Thunder.
0:00 - Johnson hits a meaningless three, but it's one point short. Tough night, Blazers fans. Your final score, Thunder 107, Blazers 106. See you Saturday night.
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