Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the New Orleans Pelicans.
Don’t look now but the Blazers are everyone’s favorite team in the league. It’s a weird position for a perpetually snake-bitten franchise, but the little offense that could is turning skeptics into believers. Bill Simmons is leading the bandwagon charge, and even sites like Buzzfeed are getting in on the love. The secret is out—this team is the best.
It helps when Damian Lillard goes into god mode, hitting unbelievable game-winners in back to back road contests. Unflappable. That shot against the Cavs was so deep it sent Mike Rice into a giggle fit. Check out Nicolas Batum on that bomb of a shot, too—dude doesn’t even flinch with the game on the line.
Lillard is dealing so hard right now he even loses in style. Seventy-foot shot after the buzzer in a tough beatdown by the Wolves? No problem.
And if on-court heroics aren’t you thing, here’s Dame taking some kids on a Christmas shopping spree. Watch your back, Santa. Lillard is so hot right now he might start raining presents from the South Pole.
So yeah, Rip City is ba...sorry, what were we talking about? I just got distracted by this picture of little pre-unibrow Anthony Davis.
Speaking of Davis, The Brow is finally back after missing a few weeks with a fractured hand. Before he went down, Davis was putting up some all-star type numbers and generally looking worthy of his number one draft position. Don't think Lillard is sleeping on the fact that Davis was taken five spots ahead of him, either—the battle tonight between the best of the ‘12 draft class is going to be a good one.
The Pelicans are (were?) pushing for a playoff spot this year. They traded Nerlens Noel and a future first round draft pick for the rights to Jrue Holiday, signed Tyreke Evans to an offseason deal, and went all-in to try and win now, the first year of the new Pellies moniker. With injuries to Davis and Ryan Anderson early on, those playoff aspirations may have to be put on hold. New Orleans is currently twelfth in the Western Conference and appear to be about a .500 team. That’s not good enough in the loaded West—they’d have to leapfrog teams like Golden State, Denver, and Minnesota, and .500 ball won’t cut it.
Have you seen the new Pelicans mascot, Pierre? Have a look, and then OHMYGOD KILL IT WITH FIRE. That is what nightmares are made of. I hope Pierre doesn’t ever try and throw shade and Robin Lopez—I really think Lopez might kill the poor bird.
In non-depressing Blazers injury news (yes, that is apparently a thing that exists), CJ McCollum has officially been cleared to practice fully.
11:18 - Robin Lopez gave a pre-game speech wishing everyone a happy holidays. That must have got him in the spirit, because he just took a seventeen-foot jumper. The holiday season is about giving, not taking, so don't do that again Lopez. 2-2 Tie.
9:17 - The Pelicans can't miss right now. Every jumper is money. I don't think they've hit rim yet, and this is not the start the Blazers were hoping for. 12-5 Pelicans.
7:40 - It was a nice move getting into the lane, but Lillard just tried to pull a Dream Shake and missed the three-foot hook shot by about three feet. It sure looked pretty, but man, that shot was terrible. 16-7 Pelicans.
6:16 - Wow. Davis just contested a Lillard three off of a pick and roll and blocked it. That is such a good play. How often do you see big man able to get out and do that? Portland was able to capitalize with an alley-oop to Aldridge off of the block, though. 20-9 Pelicans.
4:14 - Okay, Portland is finally starting to play some defense. The Pelicans were shooting a ridiculous 75% from the field, but a couple misses and a couple of turnovers have the Blazers digging their way back into this. A Wesley Matthews transition layup leads to a timeout from former Portland assistant Monty Williams. 20-13 Pelicans.
2:02 - Joel Freeland testing the league's verticality rule. Hey, guess what? He was whistled for a foul. Tyreke Evans drains the free throws, and the Pellies are making a strong statement here in the first. 24-15 Pelicans.
1:27 - Dang, Freeland just made an amazing show and go move to get to the rim for an easy layup. The Pelicans are not a good defensive team, obviously, but that was nice. 24-17 Pelicans.
0:00 - Lillard gets his first points of the night at the foul line as the quarter expired. He's still got time to drop fifty tonight, right? 26-21 Pelicans.
11:42 - Meyers Leonard sighting! Meyers Leonard immediately fumbling a rebound out of bounds! 26-21 Pelicans.
9:37 - Thank goodness for Tyreke Evans. He just picked up a stupid foul on Mo Williams as Mo was attempting a three-pointer. Three free throws later and Reke is still pleading his case to the refs. 30-26 Pelicans.
8:25 - A wild sequence of busted fast breaks and missed shots ends with Dorell Wright getting a layup in transition. The Pellies need time. The Blazers suddenly are right back in this one, down only two, somehow surviving the defensive train wreck that is Meyers Leonard. 32-30 Pelicans.
7:31 - Guys, Meyers Leonard is not good at the sport of basketball. 39-30 Pelicans.
7:11 - Lillard just went up high for an alley-oop and got the basket and foul right in the face of Anthony Davis. Dame appears to be a little shaken up after the collision, and immediately subs out after missing the freebie. 39-32 Pelicans.
5:35 - Lillard appears to be fine. The Blazers defense, however, needs to get pulled out of this game and checked for a concussion. Ryan Anderson just had a wide open three, and that can't happen. 44-36 Pelicans.
4:34 - Maybe all that national attention wasn't good for this team? The Blazers are loafing through this one right now, and now trail by double digits. 47-36 Pelicans.
2:29 - Portland gets two offensive rebounds and scores on both ensuing possessions. Finally some life in this quarter. 49-42 Pelicans.
1:20 - A basket for LaMarcus, and a three for Lillard, and the crowd is exploding. The Blazers are on a high-flying run to get themselves back into this one. 49-47 Pelicans.
1:00 - Two more for Lillard! Tie game! 49-49 Tie.
0:24 - Three for Lillard! The Blazers have the lead as Dame takes over this quarter. He's going into god mode. Watch out, world. 52-51 Blazers.
0:00 - What a wild finish. The Blazers came storming back with a furious push, and end the half down one after trailing by eleven. They would have had the lead if Matthews didn't miss a bunny of a put-back as the quarter expired. 53-52 Pelicans.
10:34 - I couldn't tell if that was a pass or a fumble—I think it was the latter—but Aldridge just dished off to Lopez for a wide open dunk. The Blazers are a third quarter team and they have come out of the half ready to play. 58-55 Blazers.
8:40 - Lopez already has eight points this quarter without a single play being run to get him a shot. Dude is everywhere. 64-59 Blazers.
7:20 - Portland has five straight points. The Pelicans have two straight turnovers. I don't know what it is about the third quarter for the Blazers, but if every game was made up of only third quarters they'd be undefeated while scoring infinity points. Their lead has now ballooned to double digits. 69-59 Blazers.
6:44 - Lopez finally got a play called for him! He whiffed on the jump hook. So it goes. 69-62 Blazers.
4:46 - Reke doing work. He just grabbed an offensive rebound amidst both Lopez and Aldridge and was able to put it back in plus the foul. The points have been few and far between for the Pellies this quarter, but they're managing to keep it somewhat close. 73-67 Blazers.
3:22 - Dang, Anthony Davis is so good. He only has ten points on the night, but he is a force when he's on the court. He just dropped in a beautiful jump hook in the post, and the Blazers need time. 75-69 Blazers.
1:46 - The Blazers just got burned on a fast break after a made basket. That is the kind of stunt that will have coaches seething. Portland's offense is amazing, but man, that defense is going to be a problem sooner rather than later. 81-75 Blazers.
0:36 - LaMarcus for three?! Oh, right. That's why he never shoots those—he missed so bad from the corner that he got nothing but backboard. 81-78 Blazers.
0:00 - Wow. The Blazers had the ball with one second left and drew up a lob pass to Lillard out of a timeout. The lob was high, but Lillard was able to grab it, fully extended, and throw it back up at the buzzer. There was no way that play should have succeeded, but somehow Lillard got it to drop. That's going on the highlight package. 83-78 Blazers.
11:13 - It's cool, Pellies. Go ahead and leave Lillard completely unguarded at the top of the key. Not like that's his favorite spot or anything. 89-80 Blazers.
10:14 - Joel Freeland was just thrown to the ground by his throat. He got up looking ready to rumble with Alexis Ajinca, but nothing ultimately happened. I don't know. I don't think I'd want to mess with Joel. Just ask Luke Babbitt what happens. 91-84 Blazers.
9:04 - Meyers Leonard is getting another run here in the fourth, and he still hasn't figured out how to play the sport of basketball. 93-86 Blazers.
7:50 - Lillard still needs to work on finishing at the rim. He just missed an easy one, but was luckily there to pick up his miss and put it back in. With the foul. Maybe he just new the and one was coming and wanted to time it perfectly? 99-89 Blazers.
7:09 - Meyers Leonard block alert! That was a basketball play that just happened! 99-91 Blazers.
5:49 - Dame must have been listening. He just had a beautiful lefty finish in the lane. 101-93 Blazers.
4:59 - Uh oh, panic time. Five straight for the Pellies and they've cut this lead down to three. 101-98 Blazers.
4:15 - Make that a 7-0 run for the Pelicans. Even when things are going right, like a Lopez offensive rebound, the ball is knocked out of bounds off of his own leg. Things are unravelling here for Portland. 101-100 Blazers.
3:12 - The Blazers have gone completely cold, and the Pelicans are capitalizing on the missed jumpers. With two free throws from The Brown, the Pelicans now have their first lead since early in the third quarter. 103-101 Pelicans.
1:58 - Lillard just lost the ball trying to dribble out of a double team, but luckily he was able to corral the loose ball and call timeout before the Pellies had a sure fast break basket. This is not looking good for the home team. 105-103 Pelicans.
1:27 - Dame is unflappable, unstoppable, unfuckwithable. Dude just hit a deep three to give the Blazers the lead again. Magic. Again. He's not quite at the Steph Curry shoot it once you cross half court level, but he's close. 106-105 Blazers.
0:12 - After two quick hits from Matthews and Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans are forced to foul as they are out of time. Two freebies for Batum, two makes. Blazers lead by three, twelve seconds left. Look for Ryan Anderson to get a look at the tie out of the timeout. 110-107 Blazers.
0:00 - Anderson rimmed out a step-back three-pointer, but The Brow was able to corral the rebound. He kicked it to an open Tyreke Evans who had a perfect look for the tie. Clank. Blazers win.
FINAL: 110-107 Blazers. Portland somehow does it again. Dame does it again. Twenty-nine points for Lillard, who all but sewed up his Western Conference player of the week honors with tonight's performance. This team.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!