Chef Erik Van Kley Flies Solo into Uncharted Flavor Territory
Live from the Rose Garden as the Portland Trail Blazers welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to town.
Oh look, I'm back. Three months in fat camp—the whole "opening a bar" thing was to save the embarrassment of my crippling fudge addiction going public—and I'm ready to get back on the blogging horse. And my, what a majestic steed she is. The new up-tempo Blazers are the "best team in the West" according to Charles Barkley (we bunked together at fat camp—Chuck, baby, together we can beat this!) and currently sit atop the standings. It's been an unexpected start, especially when you consider how the team weathered the loss of Brandon Roy and this devoted puppy owner during the offseason.
Three solid hours of Raymond Felton fat jokes await you after the jump. Let's begin...
No longer reigned in by Nate McMillan's plotting offense, the Blazers are running—and in Gerald Wallace's case, running and then crashing into things—and giving opponents fits with their late quarter heroics. The team is fourth in the NBA in both scoring and pace, a vast improvement from last season when they ranked 93rd, just slightly behind the Magnolia Purewater Wizards of the Philippine Basketball League.
The Lakers are, well, the Lakers. The other team from Los Angeles got off to a slow start—don't act so surprised, they made Josh McRoberts a starter—but they've rebounded nicely and reeled off four wins in five games. Tonight will be their biggest test, as they rarely play well in the Rose Garden and have yet to win a contest away from the celebrity-filled Staples Center. In order to dampen the impact of Kobe Bryant, the Blazers will be throwing a triad of defenders—Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Gerald Wallace—at the Lakers' top scorer. Since Ruben Patterson trademarked the term "The Kobe Stopper™," Matthews will be hereby known as "The Kobe Obstructor," Batum will answer to "Le Kobe Bouchon," and Wallace will go by the nickname "Vanessa Bryant Never Signed That Prenup." I think the last one might get to Bryant.
Hey, remember those white guys who used to play here? Well, they are all back in the building: Steve Blake, Josh McRoberts, and Richie Frahm are all here. The first two are in Lakers yellow, while the latter is selling cotton candy in section 314.
TNT has supposedly delayed tipoff 20 minutes. This would never happen to an episode of Leverage.
11:46 - There is a (white) man in "Black Mamba" replica jersey sitting below us. He has a massive plate of buffet food in front of him and he is going to town on it. He is to the all-you-can buffet as Kobe is to winning. 2-0 Lakers.
9:27 - Matthews with a corner three. Pau Gasol answers with a pair of wide open jumpers. 10-9 Lakers.
8:15 - Derek Fisher gets in on the action. The Lakers are shooting 88% from the field. 16-11 Lakers.
7:38 - Matthews with another three. Tonight both teams score 200, which means we all owe Taco Bell a free chalupa. 18-16 Lakers.
6:50 - Lakers now shooting an improbably 90%. Fire Mike Brown, if Phil Jackson was still coaching they'd be at 100%. 20-19 Lakers.
4:59 - TNT is still broadcasting the Heat/Hawks game. After that, they'll have 23 consecutive promos for the new episode of The Closer, then a few commercials, a check-in with Shaq in the studio, a trip to Craig Sager's colorful closet of sport jackets, and then they'll cut to this game. 24-21 Lakers.
4:42 - Metta World Peace is now in the game. So is Steve Blake. 26-21 Lakers.
3:57 - The hippies lied to us, man. World Peace is not the answer. He quickly fouls Batum after letting the Blazers forward post up under the basket. 26-21 Lakers.
2:56 - Batum misses a layup. Then the tip-in. Then Aldridge misses the tip-in of the missed tip-in. One play later, Wallace does the same. 28-21 Lakers.
2:09 - Wallace streaks past the Lakers defense and drops in a cutting layup. Okay, fine. That "defense" was Troy Murphy. He follows that with another shot basket. Six in a row for Crash. 28-27 Lakers.
0:07 - Blake dribbles down the clock, falls over, pushes ball to Gasol as the shot clock expires. I don't miss that at all. At. All. 31-27 Lakers.
12:00 - Bynum, Gasol, and Kobe shoot 13-15 in the first quarter. Surprised Portland is still in this game. Thank God for Steve Blake. 31-27 Lakers.
10:55 - Craig Smith contorts his frame—let's just call it bloggeresque—slides past a defender and scores. Sure, why not? 35-31 Lakers.
9:14 - Felton with an easy jumper. You might say that shot was a piece of cake. 35-33 Lakers.
8:17 - Jamal Crawford buries a jumper while getting fouled. And Jason Kapono is in the game for the Lakers. Even the Hickory High team thinks the Lakers have too many white guys on the court right now. 35-35 tie.
7:00 - Future Orlando Magic center Andrew Bynum is a perfect 5-5 shooting plus he has four rebounds. They better trade him soon, for Portland's sake. 37-37 tie.
6:03 - Camby tips in a Crawford miss but is called for offensive interference. The replay shows no such thing. You can watch the replay on TNT... oh, never mind. 39-39 tie.
4:41 - The Lakers will have traded for Dwight Howard by the time TNT starts broadcasting this game. 43-41 Lakers.
4:18 - Camby blocks Gasol, Wallace saves the ball with one hand while tumbling out of bounds, passes to Felton, who seconds later returns the favor to Wallace for a layup. 46-43 Lakers.
2:53 - Kobe is blanketed by Wallace yet manages to shake free, juke Camby, and score easily. The guy in his replica jersey is very excited over this development. His buffet plate is empty. 48-47 Lakers.
2:20 - Tonight is January 5th, also known as the night everyone told TNT to fuck off on Twitter. Somewhere in Portland the cast of Leverage goes into hiding. 48-47 Lakers.
1:50 - Bynum stuffs Wallace, then Batum blocks a breakaway Matt Barnes only to watch Wallace clank the layup. The Blazers sure do have issues with converting shots within inches of the rim. 52-49 Lakers.
0:33 - Kobe creates space and hits a jumper over Batum. Frenchy was no match for that. 54-49 Lakers.
0:00 - Great first half. Too bad no one outside this building saw any of it. 56-52 Lakers.
10:48 - Bynum is 8-8 shooting. If this was NBA Jam, he'd be drenched in flames right now. 58-52 Lakers.
9:48 - Matthews with an alley-oop to Aldridge for the dunk. One play later Bynum finally misses. 60-56 Lakers.
8:42 - Wallace with a steal and then he sizes up Kobe on the fastbreak, draws a charge, and buries the layup. Huge night so far for Crash. 62-60 Blazers.
8:15 - Wallace comes out of nowhere and tips in a shot. 22 for him. The Lakers call timeout, not to stop Portland's momentum, but just to catch their breathe from the show Wallace is putting on. 64-62 Blazers
6:30 - This game has the feel of a back and forth contest that comes down to the final shot (most likely from Kobe). 66-66 tie.
5:33 - Few things in life are more incredible than watching Wallace post somebody up. He just went through Devin Ebanks. One play later, he finishes a fastbreak with a WINDMILL DUNK. Yes, that just happened. 70-66 Blazers.
3:48 - This Metta World Peace chap has an uncanny resemblance to Ron Artest, but it couldn't be the same person. Artest could play defense. And, of course, as we all know, the real Ron Artest died in a tragic locomotive accident in 1993. 72-66 Blazers.
3:12 - Gasol with a widowmaking foul on Wallace. He ends up in a camerman's lap and then splits the free throws. 73-66 Blazers.
2:35 - Matthews for three. Double digit lead for Portland. 76-66 Blazers.
1:19 - It's like Metta World Peace and Blake are doing everything they possibly can to counteract Bynum and Kobe. I am totally okay with this. 79-70 Blazers.
0:34 - Crawford squares up with Bynum, notcies the mismatch, breaks out some fancy dribblin', and then scores at the basket while getting fouled. That man loves the second half of games. 81-72 Blazers.
0:00 - Crawford runs down the clock and then buries a high arching three at the end of the quarter... and then we all forget about Brandon Roy a little bit more. 84-74 Blazers.
12:00 - Portland's 84 points through three quarters is their season high. Also, the Blazers only have three turnovers so far. Felton had that many turnovers on his way to the arena. 84-74 Blazers.
10:54 - No one bothers to cover Devin Ebanks, who then clanks a wide open dunk. WIth that move he just made Kobe's "People to Kill" list. 86-74 Blazers.
9:35 - Batum makes an appearance. He gets his first two points of the night. Considering how well Wallace has been playing, this makes total sense. 88-77 Blazers.
8:48 - J. Crossover crossesoves Jason Kapono. Way to waste your best move on the Lakers worst player. 90-81 Blazers.
7:41 - Kobe has that look in his eyes. The "I'm Not Going to Let Troy Murphy Ruin This Fucking Game" look. It's scary. 92-83 Lakers.
6:37 - Aldridge shoots. Makes it. Crawford shoots. Makes it. Wallace shoots. Makes it. Timeout Lakers. 96-83 Blazers.
6:28 - Crawford was just flapping his arms to get the crowd louder. I love that man. And then speaking of men I love, Wallace forces the steal. 96-83 Blazers.
5:21 - Aldridge muscles over Gasol and lays it in. 28 for him. 98-86 Blazers.
4:32 - Kurt Thomas shows off the old old old old old old old man game and swats Kobe. 98-86 Blazers.
4:26 - Aldridge picks up his fifth foul. That might be a problem. Time Portland. Time to watch highlights of that Wallace windmill dunk. 98-88 Blazers.
4:12 - Problem: Lakers making a valiant comeback. Solution: Give the ball to Wallace. Crash gets hacked by Bynum and chaulpas up the scoreboard (ewww) with a pair of makes from the free-throw line. 30 points for Wallace. 100-89 Blazers.
3:08 - Kobe pivot, juke, dribble, spin, twirl, and then throws the ball out of bounds. He now has as many turnovers (4) as the entire Blazers team. 104-92 Blazers.
2:05 - Kobe jabs Thomas in the face. Respect the years, young man. 105-96 Blazers.
1:01 - There are Lakers fans leaving. They are going to regret that once Jason Kopono and Andrew Goudelock (!) lead their team to a shocking comeback victory. 105-96 Blazers.
0:00 - And that will do it. A VERY impressive victory for the home team. It wasn't clear early on, but I think we're getting a glimpse of how good this Blazers team can be. Your final score, Portland 107, Los Angeles 96. Wallace finishes with 31, Aldridge adds 28 points and 10 boards, and Crawford picks up 17 off the bench. See you on Sunday, when Bobby Roberts puts on the blogger pants for us.