Portland's Biggest Band of the '90s Sparkled Before the Fade
It's always made me laugh that people were cool with Washington changing the name of their basketball team from the Bullets to the Wizards, for a couple reasons.
1) Over the course of history, I'm pretty sure wizards have caused just as much death, if not moreso, than bullets. Especially if you consider God a Wizard. That dude DROWNED A PLANET. Ours, specifically. What a pouter.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, someone who can conjure fireballs out of thin air, turn your limbs into snakes, and fight a Balrog across time and space? I'm way more worried about that dude than a chunk of lead.
2) Washington is the same city that houses a football team known as the Redskins. And if you ever suggest to a fan of said football team that maybe they should change their ridiculous fucking name to something not blatantly racist and awful? You'd better hope there's a wizard present to resurrect your ass once their firearm starts barking out their basketball team's former namesake.
I'm hacking out this old, worn material about the Wizards because, tired as it is, it's still infinitely more interesting than anything about the team itself. They're 6-22. 2-10 on the road. I suppose I could front like it's a big deal that their center, Ronny Turiaf, is out for the game, but that's like saying it's a big deal someone had a plantars wart removed from their foot.
But just because we got a squad full of lames in the house doesn't mean this Live Blog Action needs to be a degree less hot than its predecessors. It's Valentine's Day, goddammit. DJ OG-One has already started pandering to the crowd with Whitney Houston tracks from the mid-80s, The Mt. Tabor 8th Grade Girls Basketball team is chucking up desperation threes on the floor, and there's 35 people in the building LET'S GO.
The big news is that Wesley Matthews is out, and Nicolas Batum is starting in his place. Raymond Felton will be running the point as per usual, dashing my hopes that Nate McMillan would give a Valentine to his fans and start a lineup where Crawford runs the offense, Batum plays center, and the squad flies all over the court like debris in a midwest hurricane. It's not like he can't afford to fuck around. It's the Wizards.
Actually, they probably can't afford to fuck around. The Blazers have developed a pretty crappy habit of playing down to their opponent's level, and worse, letting close games slip through their fingers like Grand Moff Tarkin closing his fist around rebel star systems. So it's probably better to smash this squad in the jaw really hard, sew the game up by midway through the third quarter, and rest starters in preparation for the next two games, versus the Warriors and the Clippers, neither of whom are going to make it easy.
Craig Smith got to pick the warmup music, and he chose "Hail Mary" by Tupac. It's a shitty Tupac song, and I never understood why anyone liked it. It's drab and dour and it's soaked in the cheap, lazy nihilism of his Makaveli/Death Row days, where he devoted most of his energy to fronting like he was anything but a tenderhearted actor playing at some weird, warped idea of "real." If he devoted half of that energy to writing better songs, he'd have more albums like Me Against the World, which is pretty easily the best thing he ever did. He'd probably also still be alive.
Walking liver-spot Mike Rice just told us all via jumbotron that the keys to the game include "running the fast break," "scoring more fast-break points" and "using defense to start the transition game." The Blazers Announcer has noted the smallish crowd, and tries to rile them up with the promise of a blowout game that could reward them with a coupon for Anal Vomitus In a Rubber Diaper from a national dogfood chain. A few rubes stir from their pre-game slumber and holler accordingly.
Man, I really like the Wizards' pseudo-throwback jerseys. It makes me wish Portland would just legitimately go back to their old, 83-88 vintage jerseys. It'll never happen. But it should.
11:35 - Chris Singleton draws first blood off a putback, Felton slowly pushes back downcourt, one pass to Camby, one jumper, and then another leisurely trip around the horn by the Wizards, where John Wall lofts a 3-pointer through the net. 5-2, Wizards
10:05 - Aldridge with a pretty spin move - and then an ugly collapse to the floor. He came down on the defender's foot, and has been grabbing his ankle for the last 2 straight minutes. The crowd cheers, and he gingerly gets up and moves to the sideline. 5-4, Wizards
9:52 - John Wall just made the Blazers D look silly. I can understand if they're a little distracted. THEIR ALL-STAR JUST HIT THE DIRT and Wesley Matthews checked in to replace him. 7-6 Wizards.
7:44 - Chris Singleton picks up 2 quick fouls, necessitating Rashard Lewis come off the bench. Remember that dude?
7:11 - Gerald Wallace with the pick, and the sweet outlet pass about 3 miles in front of Wesley Matthews, who catches up and lays it in sweetly. 10-9 Blazers
6:45 - Felton curls off a screen, lobs it to Camby, who sorta volleyball spikes it into the basket. This, plus an earlier muffed dunk attempt by Batum, tells me the Blazers want to start highlight reeling asap, they're just, what's the phrase for it? Oh yeah, PLAYING DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF THEIR COMPETITION. 13-12 Wizards
5:28 - Nicolas Batum gets the pass from Camby on the inbound play. The three is automatic. Rashard Lewis knocks down a turnaround on from the 2nd block in response. Man, Rashard Lewis. According to Wikipedia, "On October 31, 2003, Lewis scored 50 points to pass Clyde Drexler (41 points) for the most points scored in a single game while playing in Japan." 15-15
4:03 - Felton zips a pass to a cutting Gerald Wallace, who catches it too far under the basket, so he wraps a one hander around the hips of JaVale McGee, into the hands of Marcus Camby - who botches the finish, but gets hacked. Both ft's are downed. 20-17, Blazers
2:15 - Matthews picks Wall's pocket, gives it to Felton, who swings it to Camby at the top of the key. He puts one of his wily old man moves on JaVale McGee, gets to the hoop, and scores his 8th and 9th points. Batum, who leads the team w/ 11, is repaced by Jamal Crawford. 26-22, Blazers.
1:25 - Rashard Lewis bangs down an easy 15 footer. Did you know that "His hometown team, the Houston Rockets, declined to select Lewis with any of their three first-round picks, much to the disappointment of Lewis and a large majority of Rockets fans." 26-26, Blazers.
:14 - Jordan Crawford owned Nolan Smith for 12 straight seconds, all the way from midcourt to the glass. The inbounds pass travels halfcourt before it finds the hands of Wesley Mathews, who turns and chucks up a 35 footer as the light goes off. The ball goes through. The crowd goes apeshit. The refs go look at the monitor. The shot is now no good. Disapproval is expressed. 28-26, Wizards.
11:02 - I don't know what the hell kinda shot Jamal Crawford just chucked up out of the corner, but it went through the bottom of the net like it was meant to be there, so I guess that's a good shot. 29-28 Blazers.
9:24 - Batum, still the game's leading scorer, checks back in for Wallace, who hasn't done much of anything at all tonight. Jordan Crawford almost immediately scores on him, gets a pcik on the other end, and feeds it perfectly to a streaking Shelvin Mack. 34-29, Wizards.
7:52 - This has been the Blazers night in a nutshell. Felton with a nice pass to Crawford, who draws the defense and throws a slick pass to Batum, who fakes out 2 more defenders as he flies under the basket, leaving it in Kurt Thomas' lap, who goes up strong - and muffs the finish while getting fouled. He hits both ft's, at least. No matter - Jordan Crawford answers with an easy, open jumper. 38-32, Wizards.
7:22 - Kurt Thomas tries to make up for the previous possession by going strong to the basket. He is smacked on one of his entish limbs by Rashard Lewis. Man, remember that guy? Orlando paid him 106 million to play basketball once. That was silly. Two more ft's downed. 38-33, Wizards.
6:39 - Goddammit. John Wall just made 3/5ths of the squad look like fools all by his lonesome. Fakes Felton into the air, blows past Batum, fakes HIM in mid-air, and banks it off the glass while getting hit by Batum as Thomas just dumbly stares at it. He misses the and-one. 42-33, Wizards.
5:56 - Ray Felton just aimlessly jiggled for about 10 seconds at the top of the key, before sliding to the left, leaving the ball for Batum just behind him. Batum jacks up an ugly 20 footer that goes clanging off the rim, before winding up back in Jamal Crawford's hands - who also jacks up an ugly 20 footer. Happy Valentine's Day, everybody, WE'RE LOSING TO THE THIRD WORST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE BY ELEVEN, AT HOME. 44-33, Wizards.
5:20 - Wall loses his defenders only to do some weird sort of double-clutch granny-shot layup that caroms off the backboard into Felton's hands, who goes one-on-two all the way to the rim. John Wall tries to answer by outrunning the building and dishing to a teammate, only to have the ball put back in his face by Batum, who is fed an Alley-Oop on the other end for his troubles, and he puts it down all silky smooth like. The smoothness is then ruined by the PA blaring Brian Wheeler's shitty NBA Jam imitation. Thus deflated, Jordan Crawford knocks home another easy jumper (he's got 12 now), and its 48-37 Wizards
2:15 - Damn. We got away with one. Nick Young caught a pass in the corner, launches from three, just in time for Gerald Wallace to run by and clothesline his stomach. The shot drops, but no foul is called, and Wallace answers at the other end with a basket of his own. 53-46 Wizards.
1:30 - Jamal Crawford at the top of the key, waiting for Wallce to get open. He drives past Jordan Crawford, but cant convert the dunk. Camby can't convert the putback, and Nick Young misses his own fancy layup on the other side, but gets his putback. Wallace answers with a strong drive to the hoop, and once again finds nothing but glass and iron. Nick Young AGAIN answers, this time with a three. With 30 seconds to go, Nate McMillan calls a 20 sec timeout. 58-46, Wizards.
:17 - Jamal Crawford is working clock after a bad miss from Batum, rebounded by Thomas - who finds himself awkwardly standing at the corner of the key with the ball as the last nine-tenths of a second stare him in the face. He hucks something resembling a shot towards the hoop. The buzzer sounds. It sounds like UUUUUUUGGGGHHHH
This game is weird, because I'm supposed to be watching the Wizards, but it seems like someone let the Magic in the building, wearing Wizards jerseys and shooting the lights out. Batum is the only Blazer in double digits (15pts) while the Wizards have three players in double digits (Wall - 15pts, Crawford - 13pts, Nick Young - 14pts) and are shooting 55% from 3, and 55% overall. Meanwhile, Raymond Felton has 4 assists, narrowly beating out Gerald Wallace's 3 assists for team lead. The board shows only ONE OTHER ASSIST registered by any Blazer. Currently, the inflatable Ford floating around the Rose Garden, dropping gift certificates to hooting fans, has better passing numbers than the Blazers do.
Here's the thing: This isn't the Magic, dressed up as the Wizards. It's the Wizards. 24 minutes is more than enough time to catch these fuckers and put 'em away.
11:41 - Crash goes straight to the hoop, switches hands as Chris Singleton comes at him, gets tapped on the opposite elbow, and misses yet another layup. He's currently got more missed layups in this game than Nintendo has Pokemon. But he hits his ft's. 58-48, Wizards.
11:16 - Crash tears ass at the rim, draws a couple defenders, throws it to Batum, who backs WAY up to get behind the three, faking the defender into the air. He steps forward, drawing Trevor Booker, who fouls Batum as he comes down from the shot, as the shot comes down through the hoop. 58-51, Wizards.
10:33 - Javale McGee goes straight at Camby, who stands his ground. McGee gets confused by this, and jackknifes in midair, herking the ball against the bottom of the backboard. This flailing is enough to confuse the ref, who calls a foul on Camby for being in the vicinity. Camby knows its a fuckup, and the ref knows it's a fuckup, as he ruefully pats Camby on the ass as he passes him. Free Throws are hit, and Batum answers on the other end with a smooth dunk. 64-55, Wizards.
8:46 - Trevor Booker just ducked under about 2 Blazer armpits to get to the hoop untouched, and gently banks it off the glass. This is starting to get disheartening. 68-57, Wizards.
8:21 - Five on the shotclock, Walllace inbounds under the Blazers basket to Batum, who kisses it off the glass for two. Blazers recover the rebound on the other end, Wallace starts charging upcourt, finds Felton filling the lane, and Felton finishes. Booker hits a jumper on the other end, leading to a possession in which the Rhino is sweating down low, huffing and puffing to get a shot up, which just bounces off the front of the rim, right into the hands of Camby, who tips the putback in. But like all forward momentum tonight, the next two possessions snuff it out like a Tucks pad on a lit match: Three points from John Wall. Three points from Nick Young. 76-63, Wizards.
6:18 - Gerald Wallace finds himself deep in the paint. Hunkers down, waits for 2 different Wizards defenders to go flying over the top of him like b-2 bombers missing their target. He comes up from his hole and puts it off the glass. Next possession, Wallace finds the Rhino charging at the hoop, feeds him beautifully, and Smith puts it down one-handed. 78-67 Wizards.
5:20 - Batum comes around the corner, picking up one, two, and then a third Wizards defender on his way to the key. It's the third one that he dunks on, viciously. I was wondering if he'd finally put one down with force, and he does, plus one. He hits the free throw, the crowd is jazzed, the Wizards airball a layup, and the tide just might be turning. 80-70, Wizards.
3:33 - Young hits ANOTHER midrange floater. I'm starting to get really sick of that dude. Almost as sick as I am of Raymond Felton jiggling for 5 seconds at the top of the key before chucking up a bad jumper. He needs to do more of what he did on the following possession, which is jiggle at the top of the key for 5 seconds, then wait for Batum to come off a screen, and then feed that man the ball. It goes in the hoop much more often that way. 84-76, Wizards.
2:18 - John Wall just dared Gerald Wallace to come out and stop him from 18 feet. Wallace just stared back at him. Wall stuck a jumper in his face. Wallace goes back downcourt, waits for Wesley Matthews to feed him the ball, and answers in kind. 86-78, Wizards.
:57 - Heartbreaking possession. Batum knocks a ball loose, hits the floor, and manages to squirrel it away from the eager hands of 3/5ths of the Wizards all by himself before it squirts loose into the hands of Nick Young, who is slapped across the arm (no whistle) as he jacks up yet another three, which - of course- drops through the bottom of the net. There's a couple more possessions after that, a couple scores traded back and forth, but that was effectively the end of the third quarter, right there. 91-82, Wizards.
11:15 - Nick Young just crossed up Batum like he wasn't even standing there, and then stepped back ever-so-gently for the jumper. 95-82, Wizards.
10;40, Crawford comes up the left side, puts the ball between his legs a couple times, waits for the D to forget Gerald Wallace is on the floor. They do so. He zings crash the ball on the block, Wallace goes straight up. 97-84, Wizards.
How long has it been since I wrote the word Blazers at the end of a score update?
Oh shit, THE FIRST QUARTER?
9:30 - Elliot Williams checks into the game. Immediately goes straight at the hoop, gets fouled, goes to the line. Makes one of two. Gets the ball back outside of the three after the offensive rebound. Dribbles twice, immediately goes right back to the hoop. Gets fouled again. The ball goes in. Hits the free throw. 98-88, Wizards.
8:51 - Elliot Williams is feeling it. Drums thumping, crowd cheering lustily when he touches the ball. Anticipation rises. He finds himself wide open with the ball at the left corner of the three point line. He puts it up there. The crowd aaaaahs. The ball sails over the rim. The crowd deflates. Nate calls timeout. 100-88, Wizards.
8:03 - After Jamal Crawford finds Mathews in the corner for a 3, Jordan Crawford just cuts through 4 Blazers like a speederbike through the Endor forest with the easy layup. Crawford then picks the ball on the inbounds, and puts another one through. Timeout is called, and Crawford is jacked up. Washington is enjoying its largest lead of the night with 7:48 left to go. I shouldn't be surprised. So far as I know, most Valentine's from the Baltimore area look like this: 106-91, Wizards.
6:08 - Marcus Camby there to clean up a Gerald Wallace drive that got rejected off the glass. Jordan Crawford misses his first shot in what feels like eternity, leading to Batum, in the corner, spotting Gerald Wallace being ignored in the key. He lobs a pass at Wallace. Wallace watches it go over his head and out of bounds. I have no idea why that just happened. 108-96, Wizards.
5:21 - Wesley Matthews draws two Wizard defenders as he runs away from the basket, towards the three point line. He fires a pass across the court to Nicolas Batum, patiently waiting behind the arc. Catch, shoot, drain. Crowd leaps to its feet. There's some legitimate hope coursing through the Garden now. 108-99, Wizards.
5:02 - Hope squashed against a Wall by the name of John, who shot-puts in a runner from 10 feet out. 110-99, Wizards
4:10 - It finally happened: Gerald Wallace, who hasn't hit any easy baskets all night, finally scores a tip-in, for Washington. McMillan loses his shit, gets the T, and the crowd behind me has given into naked, raw frustration. Jordan Crawford hears it, feels it, feeds on it, feeds INTO it. 115-99, Wizards
3:09 - Mere seconds after satiating the desires of the yodeling rubes howling for a free foodish-product from Taco Hell, Crash Wallace races downcourt off a miss, catches the outlet, and leaves some of his wrist on the rim with a fierce dunk. 115-103, Wizards.
2:32 - Wallace seems inclined to put the whole team on his back in the final two minutes. He's at the line again after faking Jan Vesely out of his shoes and onto the bench with his 6th foul. Wallace hits em both. 115-107 Wizards.
1:41 - Young comes out of the time out and nails ANOTHER three. Batum gets the ball on our end, and can't answer. The crowd is starting to bail. 118-107, Wizards.
Did I say they were starting to bail? The house is leaking out the corners like this guy's eyes.
:30 - There's a vocal minority of the crowd booing the fact John Wall just banged home the last jumper of the night, to give Washington 124 points on the night. The FUCKING WIZARDS came into the Rose Garden and came one point shy of putting up a buck and a quarter. That's...it's just..
FINAL: 124-109, Wizards.