Game report: Blazers 111, Suns 101
I am such a lucky guy. There I was in the second row behind the visitors' bench for another Blazer game last night. You want popcorn, sweetie? Ask the waitress -- she'll bring it. Two seats down from us, famed Oregon State center of yesteryear Steve Johnson. And is that Peter Kohler over there in the end zone VIP section? Hiya, Petey.
Life is good.
Oh, and for the 14 of you out there who care about such things, the lowly Trail Blazers put together a near-perfect game and came away with a 10-point win against what is normally a formidable Phoenix Suns team, but who looked pretty dang tired this visit. Phoenix had played at home against Minnesota Saturday night, and we all know how deceptively long that flight to Portland can be.
The Suns are talented and tough, and their teamwork and passing were nothing short of amazing, but that spring in their step just wasn't there. Shawn Marion, usually a one-man statistics machine, had what would have been a great game by most players' standards, but an off night for him. Boris Diaw, a real liability on defense, was posterized repeatedly by members of the Rip City squad.
Not to take anything away from the Blazers -- they played so well. Everybody came out and did what they're capable of doing. Theo Ratliff had to leave early after trying to come back too soon on a bum ankle, and Zach Randolph didn't start the game because he was late for practice, but other than that, it was a dream night. Randolph had 32 points, three of them on a 70-foot bomb just as the first half ended. At least for one night, Steve Blake was as good as his MVP counterpart, Steve Nash, and when Blake was in there with "Pistol" Bassy Telfair as the 2-guard, Phoenix didn't know what to make of it. Even Darius Miles must have drawn a good horoscope for the day, as he provided an offensive spark.
And let me tell you, the Blazers have got something with that Viktor Khryapa guy. He's got an all-around game, and just as he impressed me against Lamar Odom, he did a great job against Marion.
My photographic efforts paid their usual poor dividends. Here's the head coach of the Suns, Mike D'Antoni. He obviously didn't relish the loss, and he offered a few constructive criticisms to head referee Bennett Salvatore toward the end, but I think deep down he was basking in the glow of the big promotion he got on Friday:
Another guy in a suit on the Phoenix bench caught everyone's eye. It was none other than former Blazer Brian Grant. Here he is with the Suns' other backup center, Pat Burke:
Grant's been sitting out the season after undergoing knee surgery, but he's still contributing to the team. At least, I saw him do so last night, as follows. In the second half, the Suns rested Nash for a few minutes, inserting Eddie House into the lineup. Here's Eddie, left, with two teammates during a timeout:
Anyway, House didn't play very well, and D'Antoni yanked him after five minutes or so. House comes roaring off the court, throwing his headband on the floor and cussing and swearing about having been pulled from the game so early. The coaching staff ignored it all, but you could feel the chill descending upon the other bench players. Given that the game was nip-and-tuck at that point, the last thing his team needed was an internal dispute.
At the next timeout, there was House, sitting on the edge of the scorer's table, sulking. What happens next? Brian Grant walks over, very quietly. He spends the whole timeout talking into House's ear. When the conversation's over, House is begrudgingly slapping everybody five and getting back on the program.
I think that's what they call leadership. I wish old Steve Patterson, who was sitting in Paul Allen's seat again, had been paying attention.
Anyway, it was another fine time at the old ballgame, and I'm forever grateful to my patron, who has been slipping me such prime tickets.
One last thing. Here's the choicest photo I took all night -- Steve Nash looking his best. My agent is still waiting to hear whether they want this shot for the Smithsonian, but in the meantime, I'll share it with you, the blog-reading audience. Cheers!