Game report: Blazers 99, Lakers 93
The law of supply and demand being what it is, this is my year to score the best seats I've ever had for Portland Trail Blazers games. Tonight a good friend laid some incredible ducats on me, and so off my daughter and I went to sit in the second row -- just a row back and three seats down from where team owner Paul Allen sits, when he's there -- to see the Blazers take on the Lakers.
If you don't think that Oregon has been Californicated forever, just drop in on a Laker game at the Rose Garden. The cheers for the purple-and-gold-clad villains from L.A., coached by Phil Jackson (left) and starring Kobe Bryant, are just as loud as those for the Trail Blazers. Both teams are pretty crummy this year, and so it was an interesting game. It was nip-and-tuck for the first 20 minutes or so; then the Blazers pulled ahead; then they almost gave the game back to the Lakers at the end, but held on. The celebratory streamers fell, and Portland's six-game losing streak ended.
Having the prime view that we did, we noticed a number of things that we hadn't before. First and foremost, the Blazers are a much better team when Darius Miles is not in the game. Not only that, but when he's not in the game, Darius doesn't sit on the bench with the rest of the team. No, I kid you not, he's up in the stands, bopping his head around as if he's listening to some sort of hip-hop music. He's not wearing headphones or anything, though -- just jamming away to his own personal soundtrack. Here he is, well into the third quarter, before he returned to the hardwood and the Blazers almost squandered the lead:
Very strange. So much for conferring with teammates and coaches. The Darius has occasional moments of brilliance out on the floor, but especially on the offensive end, he's more trouble than he's worth. A typical Paul Allen personal pick -- a poor choice. And from what I could see, just a bit, shall we say, eccentric.*
Another new NBA "thang" we observed was that Kobe Bryant is now producing a collection of rubbery faces when the Lakers have the ball and are setting up a play. Sometimes he's giving cues to his teammates about what to do next, but other times he looks like he's just channeling Jimmie "J.J." "Dy-No-Mite" Walker (right). Anyway, the Kobester pouted quite a bit when the referees' calls didn't go his way toward the end. To see him and the Colonel struggle to keep the team above a .500 winning percentage does a Portland soul good. Too bad it hardly matters any more.
Zach Randolph is a mess. He can't seem to keep his uniform on. He spends more time pulling his shirt out of his pants than he does thinking. He's now taking lazy three-point shots, pretty much at random. When they go in, it's funny. When they don't, that's how you get one of the worst records in the league.
We brought the world's most ancient digital camera with us, once again trying to capture great moments but mostly just annoying people seated around us as they rattled their jewelry and smiled through their plastic surgery. At halftime, I caught Luke Walton talking to Maurice Lucas, and I thought a photo of the Two Lukes would be cool, especially given their long history together. But with my camera, you press the shutter button and wait a half hour for anything to happen. Here's what I got:
Here's Kobe (acquitted on all charges) at his favorite place in the world:
The Lakers are full of somewhat tired journeymen. Here's Lamar Odom, who had a couple of good plays but was handled quite well in the first half by Blazer starter Viktor Khryapa (add vowels until spelling is correct):
Here's an L.A. TV sports guy at work. Make up your own joke:
We've got at least one more up-close-and-personal moment coming up with the Blazers this year, and it may be our last Blazer game ever, who knows? As down as I am on the team's owner, Paul Allen, it sure is fun sitting in the VIP zone on somebody else's dime. Don't take your roundball love to Seattle, Paul!
DOS Boy wasn't there again tonight, but team president Steve Patterson was in the owner's seats. When some kids down the other end held up a big "Trade Allen" sign, he had no visible reaction. Most of the night, he just looked like this:
* UPDATE, 3/2, 11:31 a.m.: What I couldn't see from my vantage point was that Miles was chugging along on a stationary bike -- to keep his surgically repaired knee warm! That's a relief. I thought he had really gone off the deep end.
They're still better without him in there, though. He sleepwalked on offense, and Khryapa was just as good against Odom on defense.