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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Blazers vs. Wizards - Hot Live Blog Action

Posted by Rob Simonsen on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 at 6:51 PM

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Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Washington Bullets Wizards.

It feels like just yesterday that Gilbert Arenas was pooping in shoes and throwing up finger guns, and yet here are the Wizards, headed for the playoffs for the first time since the ‘07-08 season. The stench of incompetence—which, surprisingly, smells like Andray Blatche—is gone. The Wizards are above .500 for the first time in four years, and life is good for DC’s finest.

The majority of that is due to John Wall. The kid got paid like a superstar this offseason, and he’s been backing it up on the court. Add in sharpshooter Bradley Beal, quality big man Marcin Gortat, and Nene If He Stays Healthy (spoiler: he’s not), and there is reason to be optimistic for the future in Washington.

Optimistic? For the future in Washington? Clearly I’m not all the way caught up on House Of Cards.

PRE-GAME:
Guys, this is Coastal Carolina’s year! The rest of my NCAA bracket is beyond busted, but I’ll have the last laugh when the Chanticleers take it all.

You know who won’t take it all? The Blazers. Whoo boy, that last game against the Bucks was ugly without an alibi. I have been cautiously optimistic all season—if an outside shooting team can get hot at the right time you’re looking at the ‘11 Mavs all over again—but now I’m not so sure. LaMarcus Aldridge is still out, which explains some of the recent swoon, but a first round exit seems more and more like an inevitability.

But hey, I've been wrong before. I mean, I did pick Coastal Carolina to win the NCAA tournament. Forget winning one billion dollars, I should have pay Warren Buffet for that misstep.

If there's a silver lining to these last few games, it's the play of Nicolas Batum. He has looked more and more like a solid third banana. If this new-found confidence continues when Aldridge returns, the ceiling for Portland will be that much greater. Right now their ceiling is about as high as the ceiling on the 7 1/2 floor.

Breaking news! Marcin Gortat is out tonight with a strained lower back. I hope everyone is ready for some sweet Drew Gooden action.

FIRST QUARTER:
11:10 - John Wall and Damian Lillard are both sponsored by Adidas, the two new young faces of the shoe company. They are going to go right at each other all night. Winner gets a lifetime supply of shoes! Wait, they already have that? 3-2 Wizards.

9:00 - Batum is starting right where he left off, scoring five early points for Portland. He's on another level right now. 9-4 Blazers.

7:05 - Dame is gunning for a triple double? After his first three of the night, he's got three points, two rebounds, and two assists. He wants those shoes! 15-10 Blazers.

5:48 - Well, they can't all be highlights. Dame just tried to go up and stuff it down with authority but, sad trombone, he was blocked at the rim. 15-14 Blazers.

3:26 - John Wall gives the Gandalfs the first lead of the night. The refs have really been letting them play tonight, only calling a foul if the contact is egregious. Because of it, this quarter has gone by fast! Either that, or I've been watching sluggish college basketball with their 35 second shot clock all day. 21-19 Wizards.

2:44 - Dang, John Wall. He's pacing the game, using his ridiculous speed to get to the rim with ease. He leads all scorers with ten points, and has three assists just for good measure. 23-19 Wizards.

2:10 - There is someone in the 300 level giving Drew Gooden a good "Dar-yl" chant using his last name. I approve. 23-21 Wizards.

0:56 - Andre Miller! I totally forgot he had been traded to the Wizards. Damn, I miss that guy. 28-23 Wizards.

0:00 - Every time I think about Portland's defense, my brain just makes the Tina Belcher moaning noise. 28-23 Wizards.

SECOND QUARTER:
10:09 - Will Barton gets the crowd going for the first time tonight, picking off an Andre Miller pass at half-court and taking it to the hole for an emphatic slam. 30-27 Wizards.

8:51 - It's actually pretty dead in here tonight, probably because of the NCAA tournament? I mean, when you can watch Louisville take on Manhattan, you can't pass up that opportunity right? 33-27 Wizards.

7:47 - A quick 4-0 run for Dame, as he hit a technical free throw and a three-pointer mere seconds apart. About that triple double? He's still sitting on two rebounds and two assists. Ah well. 35-31 Wizards.

6:28 - Victor Claver is playing center, and surprisingly the Blazers haven't paid for it yet. 37-35 Wizards.

5:27 - Will Barton is headed back to the locker room with what looks to be an arm injury, probably from throwing too much shade. 40-37 Wizards.

3:53 - Wall may not be the fastest player in the league, but he's close. It takes him two seconds to cross half-court and get to the foul line. No wonder the Gandalfs gave him all of the money. 45-39 Wizards.

3:03 - Robin Lopez scores, killing the trillion he had going. With no Gortat it seemed like he'd have a big game, but no. He's completely absent tonight. 47-43 Wizards.

1:37 - Wesley Matthews and Martell Webster just went knee to knee. Webster was on the ground writhing in pain—he knows the injury history in this building far too well—but he's back up and walking. Both players appear to be okay. Whew. 51-47 Wizards.

0:57 - Okay, new plan for Lillard. Only dunk when there isn't anybody defending the rim. 51-49 Wizards.

0:00 - Like I said, only dunk when nobody is around. Matthews missed a three as the half was close to expiring, and Lillard rose up high for a Sportscenter-worthy put back slam. He was undercut by Chris Singleton and took a nasty fall instead. Two free throws later, and Portland has the lead headed into the half. 53-51 Blazers.

THIRD QUARTER:
11:12 - The stat sheet says Lillard is 3-5 from distance tonight, but it really doesn't feel like he's missed. The three-ball is dialed in, all is makes finding nothing but net. 56-51 Blazers

10:03 - Well now. The Blazers have had four offensive possessions this quarter, and they've hit threes on all of them. Lillard, Batum, Matthews, and Dorell Wright all have connected from deep. The Wizards need time. Dating back to the second quarter, Portland is on a 20-2 run. 65-53 Blazers.

9:50 - The bad news is one of those threes got called a two after review. The good news is that Lillard just broke Portland's single season record for made threes in a season with thirteen full games left. 64-55 Blazers.

8:08 - The Wizards are having a little run of their own, knocking down eight straight points including two threes from John Wall. Don't start that victory celebration quite yet, Portland. 64-61 Blazers.

6:28 - After calling it pretty loose the first half, the refs are using their whistles a little more frequently. The Wizards already have four team fouls, which could be a huge advantage if Portland doesn't settle for threes all quarter. But, then again, at the rate the threes have been falling that's probably a winning strategy. 70-63 Blazers.

5:26 - Dorell Wright! He saved a ball from going out of bounds by throwing it off of a Wizards player, then hit a corner three. He's got fifteen points and seven rebounds, playing the role of Nicolas Batum. 75-66 Blazers.

4:18 - Al Harrington checked into the game for the first time tonight and picked up a foul within one second. Who does he think he is, Meyers Leonard? 77-68 Blazers.

3:18 - John Wall with an outside shot just isn't fair. He's nailed five triples tonight. You can't guard him close because he'll blow by you, and I guess now you can't sag off of him because he'll hit from deep. Ugh. 79-73 Blazers.

1:46 - I take it back. There's the John Wall I know, missing everything on a wide open three-point attempt. The world is once again spinning on its axis. 84-73 Blazers.

0:00 - That was fun. When the threes are falling, the Blazers look unbeatable. If the Blazers can score 33 points a quarter every quarter, they may just have a shot at the title. 86-73 Blazers.

FOURTH QUARTER:
10:49 - Al Harrington missed two wide open shots from right underneath the basket. Nobody around, nobody contesting, just point blank missed. It's like I was watching myself play pickup basketball, and I didn't like the look of it one bit. 89-75 Blazers.

9:17 - This Victor Claver at center thing is actually working out well? Claver threw a pretty one-touch pass to Thomas Robinson for an easy slam, the second time those two have connected tonight for an easy basket. It's against Al Harrington and Drew Gooden, but still. 92-80 Blazers.

8:41 - Ten points for Gryffindor! Some lady had a "stick to Quidditch sign" which I will allow. 94-82 Blazers.

6:40 - Matthews for three! This offense, man. That's 26 assists on 34 made field goals, ten of those makes coming from deep. 99-86 Blazers.

4:48 - Third time is a charm! After two missed threes, and two offensive rebounds, Batum was able to connect from deep. The passing during all of the sequences was impeccable, and thankfully Portland was finally rewarded with a make. 104-89 Blazers.

3:21 - Matthews with a quick 5-0 run, hitting a three and layup in the span of fifteen seconds. The Wizards need time, and the fans streaming for the exits have the right idea. This one is over. 109-94 Blazers.

2:50 - Batum had three rebounds at the half. He's got thirteen now. So good. 111-94 Blazers.

2:27 - The white flag is out. The Wizards are emptying their bench. 113-97 Blazers.

1:44 - Allen Crabbe! Victory cigars for all. 113-100 Blazers.

FINAL: 116-103 Blazers. That looked much more like the Blazers team from the beginning of the season. The passing was great, the threes were falling, and everyone filled in well. Batum hauled in fourteen rebounds, Lillard dished ten assists, and the scoring came from all over the court. That was just the game Portland needed before heading out on their next five-game road trip.

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