Sifting Through the Vanity Projects in the Festival's Fourth Year
Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Blazers are riding high after knocking off the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers on Monday, an instant classic that cemented Portland’s status in the upper echelon of the league. And while that game was indeed a high water mark, tonight’s contest is clearly more important as the NBA Championship Belt is on the line. Or, you know, it’s a tough game against a really good division rival. Either way.
Between hectic game winners and ridiculous circus shots, things are going well for the Thunder. Hell, even their fans are getting in on the action, knocking down half-court shot after half-court shot. Despite Portland’s great opening record the Thunder are right there lurking: Oklahoma City is currently riding an eight game winning streak that has them a game back of the Blazers in the Northwest division.
Look at that! Three paragraphs of Blazers/Thunder talk without once mentioning the 2007 NBA draft. Baby steps.
All credit is due to this Portland team's blistering start, as the spectre of what could have been (Roy! Oden! Rings!) finally feels like a closed chapter, washed away completely. There is no need to fret the Kevin Durant/Greg Oden debacle—when Durant drops forty (okay fine, sixty) tonight it won’t be salt in an old cut, merely just a great player playing greatly. Maybe time does heal all wounds?
Speaking of healing wounds, Durant was apparently at sad-man Drake's after-party last night. Here’s to hoping his shot is off due to all the leftover emotions in his eyes. Strong men also cry, Kevin, strong men also cry.
If Monday night’s contest against the Pacers was a blast (it was), tonight’s tilt should be an all out riot (it will be). The Thunder are one of the most explosive teams in the league—how could you not be when Russell Westbrook is at the helm?—leaving nothing but destruction and bruised egos in their wake.
The Blazers are going to have to try and keep pace, picking up easy buckets in transition and launching threes non-stop. Their defensive scheme is to try and limit three-pointers and layups while forcing mid-range jumpers, but unfortunately both Durant and Serge Ibaka are lights out from twenty feet. It's going to come down to who can score the most points. Wait...I really wrote that last sentence? Excuse me while I go hang myself with my generic sportcaster's blazer.
With the epidemic of broken hands in the NBA (JJ Redick, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), you keep your daps to yourself, Steven Adams.
Oh, great. Wesley Matthew's pre-game music is Drake. Looks like someone else besides Durant was up late writing in their Live Journal.
The Spurs and Timberwolves were supposed to play a game in Mexico City tonight, but, uh, this is the current state of the arena. Guys, get out of there! I've seen Lost, I know what the smoke monster is capable of.
11:38 - Robin Lopez with the first points of the game. Who needs Kevin Durant? 2-0 Blazers.
10:00 - Strange, Damian Lillard is guarding Russell Westbrook. I thought for sure that task would have been placed on Wesley Matthews, the better defender, but apparently Terry Stotts is giving his young point guard a shot. Or he just really likes the #0 on #0 matchup. 6-4 Thunder.
7:02 - This has been an uncharacteristically sloppy game so far. Both teams are turning the ball over, knocking rebounds out of bounds, and whiffing on easy steals. The Blazers have had a couple of loose balls that they just couldn't quite keep in play. 10-10 Tie.
6:36 - Wesley Matthews was in the middle of the floor, tying his shoe on defense, and still the Thunder give the ball to Thabo Sefolosha. He was literally unguarded. And the result was a miss from Westbrook. Good work, team. 12-10 Blazers.
5:43 - Well, so much for that Lillard on Westbrook experiment. That's two quick fouls on Damian, the second coming on what appeared to be a pretty clean block. If nothing else, it was a late whistle from the ref, which typically means a bailout call since the basket missed. He'll be sitting for the rest of the quarter. 14-12 Blazers.
5:14 - Aldridge and Matthews were both just checked by the rim on layup attempts. They just need to back up a bit, like to the three-point line, where Matthews just sunk his first triple of the game. 17-14 Blazers.
2:54 - Turnover. Missed three. Offensive foul. Three bad possessions in a row from both teams. Luckily Aldridge is cleaning up the mess. He has ten early points, and the last four of the game. Not only that, both big men for the Thunder—Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams—both have two early fouls. 21-17 Blazers.
0:50 - Kevin Durant with his first three of the night. Started from the bottom now he's here. 27-23 Thunder.
0:00 - Well, it wasn't pretty, but Aldridge has the Blazers afloat thus far. He's got twelve early points, and that includes two easy misses at the rim. The Thunder hold the slim lead, but the Blazers will be getting Lillard back from the bench to start the second. 27-25 Thunder.
10:52 - Three Blazers had their hands on a rebound...and knocked it right to Perry Jones under the basket for an easy put back. Yep, it's going to be one of those nights. 31-29 Thunder.
9:22 - Another deflection right into the hands of Oklahoma City, another easy Thunder basket. When Derek Fisher is scoring at the basket, you know something has gone horribly wrong. 33-32 Thunder.
7:08 - That's seven offensive rebounds for Oklahoma City so far, but it feels more like fifteen. They keep finding their way to ball, gaining extra possessions and picking up easy scores. That's the difference in this ball game. 39-34 Thunder.
6:04 - Woah, Durant missed a free throw. That's about as rare as the wifi actually working well here at the arena. 40-36 Thunder.
5:00 - Robin Lopez has twelve points, tying Aldridge for team-high. Is this real life? Lopez's season high is seventeen, which could be in play unless a Thunder player starts talking about Marvel is better than DC and gets him rattled. 42-40 Thunder.
2:43 - Lopez with a huge block on Sefolosha. He's been all over the place tonight, and the Blazers need it. The perimeter guys seem a little gassed and haven't quite been able to get anything going. 47-45 Thunder.
1:26 - All I see are bricks. The score says 50-45, but I feel like every shot has been a miss. Maybe I'm just tainted by that last Perkins field goal attempt? 50-47 Thunder.
0:30 - There's a momentum shift. Lillard had the open lane to the basket, but his shot was gobbled up by Ibaka. Durant got the emphatic dunk and one on the other end, and the Thunder have a nice little cushion built. 55-47 Thunder.
0:04 - Oh no. The cart is off the rails. Westbrook picked up a totally phantom call on a three-pointer, and Stotts was livid. Dude got up off the bench and let the refs know what was what. The refs let him know he earned a technical for that outburst. Four free throws later, and it's now a twelve point game. 59-47 Thunder.
0:00 - Williams was fouled in transition as the quarter ended. The refs almost didn't call it, and this place nearly exploded. Stotts looked ready to blow, and Batum threw an air punch that should have been another technical. Luckily the refs changed their tune, and Williams got the two freebies. He only made one, and it's a good thing that half is here. That was a terrible thirty seconds that the Blazers need to forget immediately. 59-48 Thunder.
11:22 - Need a bucket? Go to LaMarcus. Hopefully that gets the Blazers fired up for this second half. 59-50 Thunder.
10:24 - Four straight for Aldridge. Even better, he just ripped an offensive rebound away from Serge Ibaka. Portland is showing some life. 61-54 Thunder.
8:52 - I wish I could have been in the locker room to hear what Stotts had to say. Dude must have broken a water cooler or two, because Portland is ready to go. Lillard especially looks fired up. 63-57 Thunder.
8:22 - Aldridge just turned around and started walking away after throwing up a jumper while it was still in the air. He knew that thing was going in he didn't even have to bother looking at it. Hashtag swag. Oklahoma City needs time. 63-59 Thunder.
6:07 - Another rim check for Matthews, this time on a transition dunk. He was barking for a foul, but no luck. He made up for it on the next possession by securing an offensive rebound and putting back in the layup. No more dunks for you, Matthews. That rim hates you. 67-66 Thunder.
5:17 - Blazers lead! Portland is attacking the rim at will, which looks like a serious adjustment from their first half strategy. That's a hell of a way to start the quarter. 70-69 Blazers.
4:41 - Broken possession, Aldridge jumper. Dude has smoke coming out of his eyes right now. 72-69 Blazers.
3:24 - Aldridge is straight wrecking fools. He just snatched away an offensive rebound from Nick Collison and put it back up with ease. A half-court hook shot would be a good look for him right now. 74-71 Blazers.
2:07 - LaMarcus is doing his best Paul George from Monday night impression. This is getting ridiculous. He hasn't touched rim at all this quarter. That's fourteen for the quarter. 78-74 Blazers.
0:27 - The Thunder are doing everything they can to stop Aldridge, who now has sixteen for the quarter. The pick and roll trying to get him open left Mo Williams unguarded, so Mo sunk the easy three-pointer. 83-80 Blazers.
0:00 - With three seconds left, a full court heave, hail mary style, bounced right into the hands of Wesley Matthews in the corner. His three unfortunately was pushed a little long. Doug Flutie does not approve. 83-80 Blazers.
10:17 - Both teams are rolling with bench units right now, and so far Oklahoma City has looked a little better. I don't think Aldridge will be sitting for long, because the offense is scuffling without him. 85-84 Blazers.
8:08 - Wow. Dorell Wright just contested a dunk on a breakaway and caused a miss. The Blazers were able to scoop up the rebound, push it down the court, and Lillard capped off the play with a three-pointer. The starters on the bench exploded, and the Thunder need time. 91-84 Blazers.
7:40 - It's so loud in here, nobody could hear that foul call on Kevin Durant. Wow. 91-86 Blazers.
7:13 - The Thunder aren't going away. A block on what would have been a highlight dunk on one end, an and one for Ibaka on the other. Here come the reinforcements. 91-89 Blazers.
6:35 - Blazers are in the penalty from here on out, meaning free throws on every foul call. Attack, attack, attack. 93-89 Blazers.
5:03 - Two misses in a row for Aldridge. I don't like this post-outburst world one bit. The Thunder were able to leak out in transition and pick up a foul, and just like that they have the lead back after two freebies. 96-95 Thunder.
4:47 - Matthews gets them back with two free throws of his own. There are going to be a ton of foul shots down the stretch. 97-96 Blazers.
4:35 - Yep, two more free throws, this time for Durant. This is getting a little ridiculous. 98-97 Thunder.
3:02 - Aldridge is back, ready to take this one over. Six straight for the big man. He is straight beasting. That's 34 points and 11 rebounds on the night. 103-100 Blazers.
2:19 - Was that a smile for Aldridge? It sure should have been. Two more. 105-100 Blazers.
1:28 - Two in and out threes for Lillard and Batum. Those were both down. Panic time. 105-104 Blazers.
0:38 - Another in and out three, this time from Matthews. Uh, dudes, how about you go to the guy with 36 on the night? Okay? Okay. Blazers ball, up one. 105-104 Blazers.
0:29 - I take it all back. The Blazers run a pick play to get Batum an open three out of the timeout, and he knocked it down with ease. That was such a good play call. 108-104 Blazers.
0:24 - Aldridge. Oh god. Durant had a look at a three out of the timeout, but missed it long. Aldridge skied for the rebound, his thirteenth of the night. Two free throws and one MVP chant later and this one is over. 110-104 Blazers.
0:00 - The Thunder don't even play the foul game. It's over.
FINAL: 111-104 Blazers. What a win. I don't need to mention Aldridge's name again, but holy hell LaMarcus Aldridge. That was a game. The Blazers keep their winning ways going. 16-3, best in the West.