Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the sickly Orlando Magic. The Magic come in riding a two game losing streak, mostly due to the fact that a few of their key players—notably Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson—have missed time after coming down with the stomach flu.
A team ravaged by the stomach flu? It's like that time those jerks from Valley sneaked into Bayside in the middle of the night and opened a bunch of mason jars labeled with "XXX POISON." Okay, so maybe that episode of Saved By the Bell didn't actually happen, but that's not going to stop me from picturing Patty Mills as Screech for the rest of the night.
For the Blazers, Andre Miller returns tonight from his one game suspension for mowing over Blake Griffin. Judging by the comments he made to the press, however, Miller looks like he wants to pick up a fine as well. The rules don't apply for everybody? The league is soft? Something tells me David Stern is not going to let those comments go unpunished. If nothing else, he'll at least have Dwight Howard go to Miller's locker and cough a bunch and take sips out of his water bottles in an attempt to give him the Magic Stomach Bug.
Orlando is still one of the elite teams in the NBA—currently second in the Eastern Conference—mainly due to their big man down low. Dwight Howard is simply a beast, capable of unholy plays like these. He is a legitimate MVP candidate, one that dominates on both the offensive and defensive end.
If the Blazers are going to win this game, they'll need to find a way to allow both Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla to each have nine fouls to give. Maybe Sean Marks can trade his six fouls to give for a more comfy chair on the bench?
Jameer Nelson isn't quite his former All Star self, but he's still a capable scoring threat on the pick and roll. Rashard Lewis is struggling to find his shot again this year, but should be able to get easy looks over the much shorter Wesley Matthews. And Vince Carter? Well, at least Brandon Roy is going to be happy he isn't the slowest person on the court tonight.
The Rose Garden looks pretty impressive, with Google donating 20,000 red Blazers shirts in an attempt to "red out" the venue. For those of you following along on the blog and unable to catch the game on TV, just imagine this. But, you know, without the creepy twins.
12:00 - Did Marcus Camby really just out-jump Dwight Howard and get that tip? Yes, yes he did. 0-0 Tie.
11:16 - It looks like Dwight Howard wasn't too happy with losing that tip. A quick, strong move, and he has the first points of the game. 2-0 Magic.
9:18 - LaMarcus Aldridge picks up the foul on Howard. He also just shaved his beard. Coincidence? No. It is not. Having a beard has been scientifically proven to make you a better basketball player. 4-4 Tie.
7:12 - Dwight Howard has ALL of Orlando's ten points. Just imagine how much better he'd be if he had a beard. 10-6 Magic.
5:19 - Howard is all over the place. First, he came from somewhere underneath the basket to contest a wide-open Roy three-pointer, and he blocked it. I have no idea how anyone could humanly go from where he was on the court to get a piece of that shot. Thankfully for the Blazers, Roy got the ball back and buried his second attempt. On the other end, Howard made a face-up bank shot that was incredibly Tim Duncan-like. He came to play. 12-9 The Dwight Howards.
2:40 - Patty Mills enters the game to loud cheers. He then proceeds to clank a three and get beat off the dribble by Jameer Nelson. Yep. That sounds about right. Oh, and look at that: someone else scored for the Magic! Howard is a bum! Trade him for draft picks! 18-13 Magic.
0:00 - Rudy just forgot he was playing basketball. He took the ball under one arm, put his head down, and tried to split
the defensive line Howard and Brandon Bass down low. He got called for the travel. The Blazers finish the quarter with fourteen points. I thought it wasn't until the third quarter that the Blazer offense turned anemic? 22-14 Magic.
11:18 - Into the game comes Sean Marks. I predict he will pick up three fouls in twenty-two seconds. 26-14 Magic.
8:58 - Well, with the options being Sean Marks at center or no center at all, Nate McMillian smartly chose to go with no center. Dante Cunningham is in playing the five, with Nicolas Batum filling in at power forward. This might be the smallest lineup the Blazers have gone with all year. Good thing Dwight Howard is currently sitting on the bench. 28-22 Magic.
5:57 - The Magic look like the better team tonight. Better defense, better ball movement—after Mickael Pietrus drains a three in Batum's face, Orlando takes their largest lead of the night. 38-26 Magic.
4:09 - LaMarcus Aldridge just jumped up and down with the ball in his hands—big scary Dwight Howard ran at him and scared him for shooting—but the refs didn't call it. Thanks, refs! Aldridge drives down the wide-open lane for the slam. For that stunt, Howard is now going to score approximately three hundred and four straight points. 40-34 Magic.
1:33 - Andre Miller will see you your suspension, and raise you ten points and six assists. He's killing the Orlando defense right now with his dribbling. A three from Matthews in the corner, and this is a game! 44-43 Magic.
0:45 - Howard just stopped that momentum with an emphatic dunk. Like, rim-shattering. He has twenty-six points. In the first half. 46-45 Magic.
0:00 - With six seconds left in the quarter, Nate called a timeout to draw up a final play. That final play? A LaMarcus Aldridge three-pointer. /facepalm. 46-45 Magic.
10:47 - Blazers lead! Aldridge and Camby with two quick buckets. It's nice to see some life early on in the third quarter from Portland. Also, I just realized that while everyone in here is wearing red, I'm wearing a blue shirt and black sweater, the Magic's colors. I think I'm doing it wrong. 49-48 Blazers.
9:21 - Dwight Howard should not be allowed to have a face up bank shot. It really just isn't fair. 50-49 Magic.
7:17 - Wesley Matthews just hit a three and did the three goggles. So apparently that's going to be sticking around, eh? 54-53 Blazers.
4:57 - LaMarcus Aldridge just caught and jammed the alley-oop off of a beautiful pass by Marcus Camby. He picked up the foul in the process, and made the free throw. The Magic are looking a little lost at the moment, maybe due in part by the fact Howard hasn't scored a million points yet. 61-56 Blazers.
4:39 - Wesley Matthews was just fouled hard on the fast break by Jameer Nelson. The crowd went crazy. Wesley got up, and threw his hands in the air with anger to hype up the crowd. It was exactly the kind of fire the Blazers need, and this crowd is feeding off of the aggressive Portland play. 63-56 Blazers.
3:32 - After two missed free throws by Howard, Nicolas Batum backs down Nelson on the other end and gets the easy basket off of a Dwight Howard goal tend. This game is starting to get out of hand for the Magic, and this is as energized as I've seen the Portland crowd all year. 65-56 Blazers.
2:34 - Was that Vince Carter who just threw down that dunk? Is this 1999? What dream world am I in right now? 65-58 Blazers.
1:27 - After hitting a running hook on the one end, Dwight Howard simply engulfed a Matthews lay-up on the other. Like, unhinged his jaw and swallowed the ball whole. You can't block a shot better than Howard did on that. 65-62 Blazers.
0:00 - Blazers lead at the end of the third quarter. How many times in the last month has that happened? I'm going with close to none. 67 -62 Blazers.
11:18 - Rudy just fought with Howard and Rashard Lewis for a rebound, and, somehow against the laws of physics, almost got it. Howard ended up draped all over Rudy's back, and got called for the loose ball foul. 69-69 Blazers.
10:04 - Is it too early to curse a game? This is quite possibly the best basketball the Blazers have played all season, and if they are able to squeak a win out, that six game losing streak is going to be all but forgotten. Plus, if they win, Ezra said I could keep live blogging the games until the team loses, and that's just the kind of empty promise I intend to hold him to. 72-64 Blazers.
9:43 - Rudy for three! Three goggles for everyone! 75-64 Blazers.
7:22 - It really can't be overstated how much Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla are doing for the Blazers right now. Miller is flirting with a triple-double (14/7/7), and Przybilla is keeping Dwight Howard from beating the Blazers single-handedly. 80-69 Blazers.
6:40 - Matthews took a big charge from Rashard Lewis who lowered his shoulder when trying to make his move. On the other end, Wesley hits the wide-open jumper from a perfect pass from Miller. I don't think I've heard the Rose Garden this loud all year. Google should make it a point to print up 20,000 shirts for every home game from here on out. 82-69 Blazers.
6:26 - Dwight Howard just bear-hugged a referee. It was a touching moment. 82-71 Blazers.
5:52 - After said bear-hug, Howard picks up the foul on Joel Przybilla on the other end. I'm not saying the actions are linked, but if I were the Blazers I'd consider hugging more refs. 82-73 Blazers.
4:32 - Andre Miller just fell flat on his ass in transition, and it looked like Portland was on their way to a turnover as the ball went flying up in the air. Miller grabbed the ball from his back and called a timeout. He's killing it right now, making sure Portland does not give up this lead. Someone is still angry he had to miss last game, and showed it by hitting a layup out of the timeout. 88-73 Blazers.
2:29 - Miller took it straight down the lane, going right at Rashard Lewis who picked up his sixth foul. All that Miller has left to do in this game is hit a three or dunk. If either of those things happen, the Rose Garden might explode. He calmly hits both free throws. 90-75 Blazers.
1:20 - The Magic, to their credit, are not giving up. Jameer Nelson hits a three, and then on the next play Dwight Howard dunks the put back off a Nelson miss. Sadly, though, it looks like it's too little too late. 90-80 Blazers.
1:12 - And the fouling begins. Matthews hits both free throws after being immediately hacked after getting the ball, but drains both free throws. At the rate things are going, this game could be on until 11pm. 94-82 Blazers.
0:54 - The PA man just said "Play on, playas." Either he's drunk or this game is over. 94-83 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it! The Blazers pull off one of their biggest wins of the season, toppling the Magic in fantastic fashion. Even though Howard scored thirty-nine points, Portland all but neutralized him the second half and kept the Magic to a paltry eighty-three points. On both ends of the floor, this was as impressive and inspired Portland has looked all year, and just like the that they're back to .500!
FINAL SCORE: 97-83 Blazers.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!