Game report: Suns 106, Blazers 96
Courtesy of The Daily E-Mail, I got to sit in tonight on the final game of the season for the Trail Blazers -- a routine loss to the Phoenix Suns. It left the Portland squad with the worst record in the league, and one of the worst season performances in team history. Still, there was a healthy-sized crowd on hand, most of whom stayed and cheered to the end.
Not playing were Blazer "stars" (more like nadirs) Zach Randolph and Darius Miles, who were injured, were suspended, quit the team, or all of the above. Plus, they were busy primping themselves for their big after-game party at the downtown nightclub that they were advertising on thug radio last night (bring your gun).
The Blazers ran a small lineup all night, and Phoenix just gradually pulled away from them. The Suns' Shawn Marion, the one-man fantasy league statistics machine, had 32 points and 11 rebounds. Steve Nash posted a triple double. Even ex-Blazer Brian Grant hit a few shots when dared to do so, as teams usually do. (Boris Diaw was sick, and Amare Stoudamire still isn't up to playing.) After the first quarter, it wasn't much of a contest. Phoenix was up 88-66 at the end of three quarters, and the game was not even as close as the final score might suggest.
The Blazers had a few decent moments, but only a few. Forward Viktor Khryapa continued to look good, playing defense and snagging rebounds, but the rest of the team seemed to be just going through the motions. The rebounding was pitiful. Kid rookie Martell Webster told the crowd before the game that the Blazers would have a winning season next year, but that seemed pretty dubious. We kept hoping that this would be the night that Webster got hot and hit 10 jump shots in a row, but I guess that night is a ways off, if it ever comes at all.
With Randolph banished, Blazer backup center Ha Seung-Jin saw some playing time near the end. When this guy comes on the floor, everyone in the place says, almost in unison, "It's going to be a couple of years before he's ready for the NBA." Tonight he made you wonder if that's a valid assessment -- after he got hit in the back of the hands by both an excellent pass and a rebound opportunity, you wonder if he'll ever learn how to play the game.
This time last year, Blazer fans left the Rose Garden with at least a glimmer of hope. And look what happened -- an unmitigated disaster of a year on almost every level, with only the grit of coach Nate McMillan to salvage a season full of negatives. This year, the outlook is even more uncertain: The team is going be sold, and new management will have to decide how badly to blow the organization up yet again. The Blazers might even be moved to another city -- a nightmare for Portland -- but assuming that they stay, you have to wonder about so many things.
Perhaps the most depressing note is that the sale probably won't close in time to stop Paul Allen and his staff of underachievers from deciding what to do with the team's extremely high draft pick. Allen has lousy taste and worse judgment, and it would be great if the new owners -- not he -- called the next big shot in the talent category. Perhaps the best one can hope for is that Allen leaves the choice largely up to McMillan. After all, Nate may be the only suit returning next year, and that's only if the fans are lucky.
Allen wasn't around tonight, but the smell of his approach to business lingered. Let's hope some fresh air blows through that place when the season starts up again in the fall.
Given that we were sitting with the mere mortals, the photos taken with my clunker camera are hardly ready for Pulitzer consideration, but they may give you the look and feel of the game. Here's Sebastian Telfair in action:
Here's Webster at the line:
And the play of the game for Portland, Khryapa with a nice dunk:
Farewell to the Blazers, for another year, maybe forever. And goodbye Paul Allen and crew, we fondly hope.