Coming to you live from the press-row equivalent of the children's table, I'll be your blogger this evening as our Blazers take on the division-rival Denver Nuggets.
Both teams come into tonight's game with 2-0 records, but the Nuggets are on the tail end of a back-to-back after last night's romp through Utah. Still, with a solid second set, most of Denver's core only logged around 25 minutes last night...I wouldn't expect their lack of fresh legs to be a huge disadvantage (fun fact: Denver has exactly ZERO players born in 1972).
A couple familiar faces in the building this evening, as the Denver second string features former Blazers Rudy Fernandez and Andre Miller. Whether or not Rudy will strap on his 3-goggles tonight remains to seen, but one thing's for certain: the spaniard is out for blood.
Or, you know, just wants to hang out with his ol' buds again. I'll be posting all the hot live-blog action after the jump...
Our starters tonight appear to be Marcus Camby at center, LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace at forward, and Wesley Matthews and
Kevin Duckworth Raymond Felton at guard (round of applause to Blogtown commenter SuperChundy for my favorite Ray Felton fat joke of the evening).
Looks like Denver's starting Timofey Mozgov at the center spot, Nene Hilario and Danilo Gallinari at forward, and Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson at guard. But as I mentioned, Denver's equipped to let nine or 10 guys play pretty even minutes, so expect solid minutes from Miller, Fernandez, Jordan Hamilton, and Al Harrington...we may even see significant stuntin' from Chris Anderson.
The Blazers have been pulling out victories over mediocre teams mostly on the backs of our forwards, but also with a surprisingly effective transition offense and aggressive defensive play. Tonight, however, we're going to need to see more consistent performances from our backcourt, particularly when it comes to field goal percentage. Cutting down Denver's second chance points by limiting offensive rebounds is, similarly, going to be a must. Here's to hoping hoping we get to try out our new Kurt Thomas action figure tonight...he has a history of mixing it up with overly-tattooed rebounders (looking at you, Birdman).
Just a few minutes 'til tip-off; I'm going to take the time to warm up with some typing exercises (The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog). OK...
[Postscript: Thank god the lockout's over...It's been ages since I've seen fat, goateed, tank-topped mouth breathers dancing and singing along to "I Like To Move It Move It." SPORTS!!! ]
Tip-off - Camby tips the ball to Matthews, who swings it to Felton, who swings it to the empty end of the court. Afflalo picks it up and puts it in. 2-0 Nuggets.
9:37 - Felton feels bad about that first play, and goes hard to the basket, gets the call, and makes both free throws. Nex time down the court, he lays it up again. 8-2 Portland.
7:36 - Felton must have got wind of the fat jokes, and is determined to prove he can play like any svelte guard in the league. A turn around bucket makes six on the night (plus 2 rebounds and two assists). Next time down Wallace head fakes Gallinari and lays it up off the glass for two. 14-6 Portland.
7:15- a lob pass to Aldridge doesn't pan out, but wallace sees and open lane and cuts to the basket. Aldridge hits him in the paint and Walace gets the lay up and foul. And...Sinks the free throw. 17-6 Portland. Holy shit. We look good.
6:45 - Miller checks into the game and gets a nice warm reception from the Portland crowd. Gallinari takes it past Wallace and Aldridge in transition for a pretty damn respectable dunk. 19-8 Portland.
5:40 - Gallinari tries in again when Camby's in the paint, and forgets that the old man has an inch on it. Big block. Yikes.
4:27 - The Blazers second unit comes in, but the crowd's more interested in the handsome Spaniard making his way onto the floor. Remember that stubble? That goofy grin? Looking forward to seeing if Rudy has found a Patty/Sergio in Denver that will remind him to give a shit. 19-11 Portland
4:06 - Wallace takes it to the rim in transition again. Denver gives away and Kurt Thomas gets fouled at the top of the key for two shots. Bricks the first but sinks the second. 22-13 Portland
2:00 - Al Harrington has a nice up and under...might teach Aldridge a few things. Batum gets fouled on the other end and knocks down both of them. 28-17 Portland
End of the quarter - Things I love: Our new and improved outlet passing and what it does for our transition game. Jamal Crawford's no-look passes. The fact that Kurt Thomas looks, occasionally, sprightly. Every single fucking thing about Gerald Wallace. 30-17, Portland.
10:45 - A hustle rebound from Crawford on the offensive end leads to yet another Wallace lay up. But a hard foul from Kurt Thomas puts Rudy on the line...he sinks both. 32-23 Portland
9:30 - Kurt Thomas has Charles Manson eyes. DO. NOT. FUCK. WITH. HIM. 32 -25 Portland
8:52 - This:
8:30 - Andre Miller reminds me that he's one of the goofiest free throw shooters in the league. I still miss him. He Knocks down 1 of 2. 34 -27, Portland
6:55 - Beautiful pull-up jumper from Crawford just inside the arc makes it 39-31, Portland.
6:00 - Aldridge pulls down a defensive rebound and a split second later a fast break is underway. Felton flips it to Matthews underneath, and, oh yeah, there's Aldridge cutting through the paint. Matthews hits Aldridge in motion for the dunk. It's tough to miss Roy's isolation offense right now (I know, I know...I remember his playoff performance) 43-33, Portland.
4:39, Gallinari finishes the way I always expect Ginobli to finish, right before he somehow prays the ball into the basket. That is Gallinari falls down a lot and looks, generally, clumsy. Still, he gets a call in the lane and makes both free throws. Aldridge, on the other end, makes 1 of 2. 44- 37, Portland.
4:10 - A pair of free throws from Miller cuts the Blazer lead to five, then an air ball Crawford sets a Denver fast break in motion. Miller hits Gallinari, who dunks it home and cuts the deficit to three. Nate takes a timeout. Lets hope for some adjustments here. 44-41 Portland
:32 - Sorry....server went down and took with it my description of a Batum three and some nice hustle work. We're now at 53- 51, Portland.
End of the second quarter: Al Harrington gets fast break layup to tie things up, and the Blazers do just about nothing with the twelve seconds remaining. We go into half—after leading by as much as 13—dead even.
Halftime Realization: We're going to have to hear LMFAO at sporting events for the next decade. There's no way around it. Also, are they still making Jock Jamz?
11:00 - Wallace pulls down a defensive board, and dribbles up court to find Aldridge, who hits from 18. On the other end, Gallinari finds his way back to the line and makes both. 55-55
9:45 - Thank god we're getting some offensive boards...After a few misses Matthews knocks down a three. AND ANOTHER ONE! 61-59 Blazers.
7:30 - Aldridge takes advantage of a double team and kicks the ball out to Matthews on the arc for another three...And, oh shit...ANOTHER ONE! That's four this quarter for those counting at home. 69-63, Portland.
4:45 - Wallace penetrates for a quick layup, but Ty Lawson counters with a three on the other end. Felton and Gallinari quickly trade jumpers. 75-70, Blazers.
3:45 - Camby gets the ball at the top of the key and threads a bounce pass to a cutting Aldridge. Like clockwork. 77 - 72, Portland
2:55 - Fan with a homemade Craig Smith sign looks disappointed.
2:00 - Jamal Crawford drives and kicks out a beautiful no-look pass to Kurt Thomas at the top of the key. He knocks down the jumper. 79-74, Portland.
1:00 - Felton drops a dime to Wallace on the low post for two, but Thomas sends Miller to the line on the other end (he only gets one). Crawford gets to the line on our side, and hits both We're at 83-75, and apparently Birdman is in the game.
End of the Third Quarter - These officials are charge happy, and the crowd doesn't like it. Crawford picks up an offensive foul, and afflalo gets a lay up on the other end. Crawford launches a three-quarter length shot from the hip; it dances on the rim but falls away. 83-79, Portland
11:45- Denver picks up a defensive three-second violation, and Crawford makes the free throw. Wallace takes the ball to the rim, but no avail. On the other end, Rudy gets to the rim for two. 84-81, Portland.
10:40 - Rudy gets a three this time, but no goggles. The crowd has turned on him. Nobody likes Rudy anymore. Crawford gets to the line again on the other end—this time from outside the arc—and knocks down all three. 87-84, Portland
9:04 - Fast break buckets from Afflalo and Lawson, then a Batum foul on Lawson again (he sank 1 of 2), tie things up again. 89-89
8:51 - Felton loses the ball at the top of the key and gets called on a reaching foul (not a clear-path violation, as was initially indicated). Felton looks sad. Now I feel bad for teasing him.
7:30 - The Blazers have been doing a nice job trapping the ball in the corner. We're not forcing a lot of turnovers, but we're making Denver take tough shots. Motherfucker! Andre Miller just hit one of those rare threes. 93-93.
7:00 - The crowd is getting loud. Crawford hits a long two, and Camby takes a charge from Nene. (Nene even looks happy when he's arguing a call). Next time down, Camby commits a desperation foul and Gallinari hit both free throws. 95-95
6:11 - Crawford is finding his rhythm. He hits a three from the corner, falling into the crowd. Shit—Ty Lawson answers. 98-98.
5:30 - Another three-second violation pads Crawford's stats, then Matthews runs a give and go with Aldridge for for two more. Crawford threads a beautiful bounce pass to Wallace in the lane, but he gets called for the charge. 101-98 Portland
4:45 - Matthews for three again! 104-98, Portland
2:30 - Anybody else get nervous whenever Wallace hits the floor?
1:42 - LaMarcus Aldridge kicks out to a wide open Raymond Felton for a three. He knows it's going in when it leaves his hand. When he mugs for the crowd, Ray Ray looks like your petulant little brother. Denver calls time out, and the crowd cheers for that dancing lady. 107-100, Portland
1:00 - Marcus Camby throws a ball at Nene's crotch going out of bounds. Looks painful.
:34 - Felton gets a nice little layup off the glass, then takes a charge on the other end. Final lineup is Felton, Wallace, Aldridge, Crawford, and Matthews. I dig it.
Final Score: 111-102, but nobody gets a chalupa this year. Blazers get solid performances from their guards (Crawford, Matthews, and Felton combined for 70 points!) and, even with 25 turnovers on the books (!), pull out a win against a tough division rival. This team is fast and fun to watch.
I'm feeling optimistic...
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