Live from the
Rose Garden Moda Center, as the Portland Trail Blazers host the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
It’s an exciting new year for Portland, chock full of unfamiliar faces, rising optimism, and playoff aspirations. (/checks schedule.) Wait—the Blazers lost to the actively tanking Suns to start the season?! Yep, here we go again.
Break out the Rec Specs, shake off the pins and needles, and let’s basketball!
Last season the Blazers were torpedoed by a terrible defense and the single worst bench in the league, and General Manager Neil Olshey did a masterful job in addressing both issues. He brought in quality rotation players like Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, and Mo Williams, so now anytime the heavily relied upon starters need rest the result won’t be a Luke Babbitt fueled bloodbath. He also upgraded the team’s starting center from defensive sieve JJ Hickson to
a stuffed mannequin anyone not named JJ Hickson, which is an immediate and massive improvement.
Add in Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum taking steps forward—seriously, have you seen how good Batum has been looking?—and there is hope that the Blazers can battle for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.
As for the Spurs? Well, they are still the Spurs. The team that was seconds away from winning the NBA title last year is still the tops in the West, even if they are a year older. Any team coached by Gregg Popovich is going to contend. Especially when that team still has Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and
Matt Bonner Kawhi Leonard.
Speaking of Leonard, I have a deep seeded love for him that cannot be contained. My restraining order says I can't be within five hundred feet of the guy, so hopefully nobody finds out I'm here. Nobody will read this, right?
Tonight is a White Out, which mean everyone in attendance is getting their very own XXL white Moda Center T-Shirt. Ten minutes before tip-off and most of these white shirts are still sitting untouched. What, is everyone watching the Timbers match or something?
There was some early talk that Tim Duncan may not play tonight but since he is both a wizard and a robot, dude is suiting up.
LaMarcus Aldridge just gave the most ho-hum intro speech ever. The crowd was pumped and he may have put everyone to sleep. Seriously, he just killed the air in here like a human sad trombone.
9:31 - Kawhi scores, my heart melts. Early on, Damian Lillard is making a concerted effort to step up his defense on Tony Parker. He seems eager to get the best of their matchup. 6-4 Spurs.
7:57 - I don't know who looks worse in the post: Tiago Splitter or Robin Lopez. Splitter just had Wesley Matthews one on one down low and couldn't convert a six foot hook shot. 8-8 Tie.
6:09 - Well, at least Aldridge woke up. With a strong move, he back Robot Duncan down with a strong shove and pulled up for an easy ten foot jumper. That might have been elderly abuse were Tim Duncan actually human. 10-10 Tie.
3:13 - The Timbers match is making an appearance on one of the TVs on press row. I'm trying to watch this basketball game, but holy hell that Sounders field keeps distracting me. How are they even playing on that thing? There are like eight out of bounds lines. On a normal looking court, LaMarcus Aldridge is taking over and has ten of Portland's eighteen points. That pre-game speech must have really pumped him up. 18-11 Blazers.
2:06 - Aldridge just drove to the middle and was met by Aron Baynes. One official called a charging foul, the other called a blocking foul. After meeting and talking about it, the officials decided to call...a double foul? That makes no sense. Jump ball at center court, the Spurs wind up with the ball. 20-15 Blazers.
0:00 - Joel Freeland, while not showing up on the box score, has had his hands on a few loose balls and really seems to be working in an extra gear. I'd hate to give the white guy on the floor the Scrappiness Award, but he is David Ecksteining all over the court right now. Look at that hustle! For shooting under 40% for the quarter, the Spurs are keeping it real close. 21-19 Blazers.
9:49 - If ever there were a player born to wear a black Spurs uniform, I think it was Marco Belinelli. It just looks so right. Boris Diaw likes wearing black too, but only because it is slimming. 26-26 Tie.
7:45 - It only took a quarter and a half, but Damian Lillard finally took his first shot of the game. He was isolated with Tiago Splitter on him and took it right to the rack. Foul, two free throws, and Portland is building a bit of a lead. 32-26 Blazers.
7:04 - Patty Mills—yes, that Patty Mills—just took a charge against Damian Lillard in transition. That was all it took to erase any good will Patty had earned in the arena as the boo birds are letting him hear it. This is easily the loudest the crowd has been all night. I guess you never can go home again. 32-29 Blazers.
3:57 - Lillard for three. He's been hounded by the taller and longer Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green on defense tonight, which explains the lack of offensive output. The Spurs seem dedicated to shutting him down. If he gets the smaller Parker on him at any point, he's going to shoot. 39-33 Blazers.
2:21 - Lillard has Parker defending him. Lillard scores. 41-33 Blazers.
1:20 - The Spurs switched Manu Ginobili onto Damian Lillard. That didn't work, either. Lillard with a step back three right in his face, and now all of a sudden Lillard has twelve points. 46-35 Blazers.
0:01 - Sorry I've been typing Lillard's name so much, but dude just took over the end of that quarter. With six seconds left, he drove the length of the court, collapsed the defense, and dished to a wide open LaMarcus Aldridge for the easy jumper. Portland enters the half with a decent lead, mostly thanks to Lillard's second quarter outburst. 50-39 Blazers.
7:41 - First team to play defense wins. Both the Spurs and the Blazers off to hot starts in the third, trading baskets back and forth. This is turning into a shootout. Or a dunk off, as Aldridge just came flying through for emphatic alley-oop in transition. 60-50 Blazers.
6:40 - Nicolas Batum with the nice basket in transition—payback for getting beaten by Kawhi Leonard on the previous play—and the Portland offense is still going strong in the third. 65-54 Blazers.
5:12 - Come on, defense! These little blog fingers aren't yet in game shape—too many nachos this offseason—and I can't keep up with this frenetic pace. Both of these teams are running non-stop and scoring at will. 67-58 Blazers.
4:02 - Leonard scores, Batum goes right to the basket on the next play. Parker scores and gets an and one, Lillard takes it strong right to the hole. These teams are trading haymakers. If Portland doesn't shore up their interior defense soon, the Spurs are going to make a run of it. 71-64 Blazers.
3:22 - Manu Ginobili pulls up for three in transition, and now this is a game. The Blazers have given up twenty-eight points this quarter, and we still have over three minutes left. 71-67 Blazers.
2:40 - Nicolas Batum's passing has gotten so much better this year. That's twice now that he has run a super effective pick and roll, this time leading to a wide open Thomas Robinson jumper. With six points, eight rebounds and nine assists, Batum is closing in on a triple double. 73-67 Blazers.
0:04 - The Spurs get an offensive rebound off of a missed Tony Parker free throw. Parker then dribbles out the clock, makes a nice move to the middle, picks up the basket and the Spurs get an and one opportunity after Jeff
Pendergraph Ayers is fouled off the ball. 79-74 Blazers.
0:00 - Lillard hero ball, always a good way to end the quarter. Damian spots up for a deep three and drains it as the clock nearly expires, then urges the crowd to get loud. The Blazers couldn't stop a thing on defense, but at least their offense kept things afloat. 82-74 Blazers.
10:54 - Popovich with the quick timeout after a Wesley Matthews three. He's called timeouts seconds into a quarter before, but a minute in is still unheard of. There must have been something he really didn't like on defense. 85-74 Blazers.
9:00 - Ginobili just beat the entire Blazers team down the court after a made basket. If he were Gregg Popovich, Terry Stotts would have just called a timeout and yelled until he busted a vein in his forehead. Instead, he's probably excited because this Blazers team is infinitely better on defense than they were last year. Even giving up baskets like that. 92-82 Blazers.
7:12 - Marco Belinelli just hit a crazy off balance three. Hand in his face, falling away, nothing but net. The Spurs are trying to stay in this one, and this is exactly the kind of game that the veteran team always has a way of pulling out. 94-87 Blazers.
4:50 - Despite the scoreboard urging fans to chant for Mick - Eee - Dees, everyone just really wants their chalupas. Old habits die hard. 100-91 Blazers.
3:45 - Wow. Robin Lopez just rejected Tim Duncan at the rim, and the ball bounced off of Duncan as he fell out of bounds. That was a great defensive play, and like I said eight thousand points ago, the first team to play defense wins. 100-93 Blazers.
2:28 - Yeah, about that defense? Portland just gave up another fast break basket after a made bucket. Yikes. 102-95 Blazers.
1:54 - Boris Diaw just stole an offensive rebound from LaMarcus Aldridge and put it in right over his outstretched hand. I don't think he even jumped. That was followed by another Belinelli three and the Spurs are making their move. 104-100 Blazers.
0:21 - Clinging to a four point lead with forty seconds, the Blazers cleared out for Damian Lillard. After he lost Parker, Lillard clanked an open twenty foot jumper. Batum was able to tip the rebound out and Wesley Matthews came flying in and dunked it home with authority! It's all over but the fouling. 108-102 Blazers.
0:00 - Wow. With the game in hand, Nicolas Batum broke the unwritten rules of basketball and launched a half court shot as time expired. The reason? The made three—which, how did he make that?!—just gave him a triple double. The Spurs are going to take exception with that shot, that is for sure.
FINAL: 115-105 Blazers. All five Blazers starters finished with double digit points. Knocking off the team that was this close to winning it all last year? Not too bad for a team who just lost to the Suns a few nights ago.