Game report: Blazers 94, Knicks 88, OT
The dog wouldn't sing, the clock didn't work, and the fat lady showed up mighty late, but the Blazers eventually beat the Knicks last night in overtime at the Rose Garden, 94-88. It was a barn-burner.
The Portland team started off the game strong, but fell into a horrible funk for the entire second quarter and well into the second half, snapping out of it late in the game and forcing overtime. Brandon Roy, who scored little but dished out good assists in the first half, reappeared in the second half and wound up with the first triple-double of his young career. Overall, he didn't look as good as the box score might suggest. Something seems to be weighing down on him -- maybe it's the sudden glory.
The Blazers revealed that they are a weak team inside. They were badly out-rebounded by the Knicks, and New York backup center Dave Lee pretty much had a double-double by halftime. (Eddy Curry was out with the flu.) Teams who pound the ball inside will likely be having a field day with the Blazers the rest of the season, and the Blazers will win games only if their jump shots connect.
Speaking of jump shots, Blazer guard Steve Blake hit quite a few, leading the team for most of the evening. But in the end, it was backup point guard Jarrett Jack who decided that he was going to drive to the hoop over smaller, tired Knick defenders, and he who pushed Portland over the top. Travis Outlaw once again hit a crucial off-balance jumper as time ran low in regulation -- good for him. On the downside, James Jones had a rough night, and neither Martell Webster nor Joel Przybilla contributed much besides a couple of blocked shots each.
One of the more interesting matchups was Blazer power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and ex-Blazer power forward Zach Randolph. The two went at it head to head most of the game, and Zach was the winner on the floor, but not by a large margin.
The Knicks played better ball for a majority of the contest, but they lived up to their reputation of being out of control, unable to hold together as the evening wore on. They lost the second half 43-32. Except for former Blazer Randolph, who clearly wanted this win to vindicate his entire season, the Knicks are now a ragtag collection of misfits. They seemed quite disorganized, and most of the guys on the bench seemed as though they weren't taking things too seriously. Star point guard Stephon Marbury has essentially quit the team or been fired -- he wasn't around -- but they can get good scoring from Randolph and a guy named Jamal Crawford. Crawford took some shots down the stretch that could have won the game, but none of them fell. In the early going, the Knicks got great production from a comparatively tiny guy named Nate Robinson, who showed more moves than Ex-Lax, and a lot of heart. They're better than their record shows, but until they clean out the empty suits in management, they'll continue to be a sad, sad story.
Although Knicks coach Isiah Thomas is largely incompetent, he does have a good resource on the bench in former Spurs star Malik Rose. Rose played 14 quality minutes on the night, and was active all evening feeding pointers and information to the younger Knicks during timeouts. Like the rest of the team, he looked truly downtrodden when Jack sank two free throws with something like 11 seconds to go in overtime to ice the game.
The big raspberries of the event go to the Blazer management, which is showing some disturbing signs of dysfunction. They spent the whole evening hammering home time and again the facts that Roy has been named to the NBA All-Star team, and that Aldridge will play on the second-year team in the rookie-sophomore game on All-Star weekend.
As might be expected, on entering the arena, fans were offered a large card congratulating Roy on his achievement. More power to everyone involved. But that wasn't enough hype. At a timeout about halfway through the first quarter, they stopped everything and had some Blazer management guy get out at center court and do basically a little awards ceremony for Roy and Aldridge. It set off a bad vibe. It took too long, and shortly thereafter, the Blazers pretty much stopped playing for 15 to 20 minutes. The Knicks built a big lead over that time.
Part of the problem with the game stoppage was that it seemed almost as much about the Blazer management patting itself on the back as it was about celebrating the players. It's like the programs they keep handing you with Greg Oden's picture on the cover. Fellows, Greg Oden ain't playing, and he ain't proved squat in the NBA. Flashing his picture around as if he's the only story on your team just demoralizes the players you have, many of whom are busting their tails and getting little if any recognition. It's the same with the All-Star hype. Enough already. We all love Brandon and LaMarcus, and we know what they've achieved. Now shut up and let them and the rest of the Blazers try to win the dang game the people paid to see.
To add to the embarrassment, shortly after the game stoppage for the hype, the 24-second clocks quit operating. For the second quarter and part of the third, there was no visible 24-second clock at all -- instead the arena announcer, Mark Mason, had to announce "15... 10... 5... 4... 3... 2..." It was pathetic. Fruitless repair work prevented the Blazers from properly warming up toward the end of halftime. They eventually got replacement clocks set up on the floor in two of the corners of the court, but they were hard to see. The Knicks were called for 24-second violations a couple of times, and you had to wonder whether the clock screwups were causing them. With Mr. Technology, Paul Allen, sitting in his front row owner's seat, it was the height of irony.
The Podunkville atmosphere was enhanced by the singing of the national anthem, by a woman who held a chihuahua in her arm as she sang. Apparently, the dog was supposed to join in on the high notes at the end, but it refused to do so.
Anyway, the Blazers survived, but they didn't look all that good. The Knicks lost, and we almost feel sorry for the players.
Off the court, we were thrilled to get in a couple of words with Knick legend Walt "Clyde" Frazier, now a Knick television analyst, who was bedecked in a multi-thousand-dollar New York suit, monogrammed shirt cuffs, and several NBA Championship rings. He was kind and gracious with everyone who approached him, including us. He signed many an autograph and posed for many a cell phone photo.
Between the clock stoppages, the overtime period, and a 7:30 start to accommodate ESPN, it was pretty close to 11 by the time the contest wrapped up. Darn near 2 in the morning for Frazier's audience on the East Coast.
And now, what you've all been waiting for, our blurry photos from fine seats. Here we go. First, our stock shot of the visiting coach during a timeout:
Here's Mailk Rose, the senior statesman who is making the best of a bad situation in New York:
Here's Roy setting up for a jumper late in the game. Note the replacement 24-second clock on the floor in the lower left, and the fact that the regular clock behind the backboard is totally dark:
A nervous setup for an inbounds play in overtime:
And here's "Clyde" getting ready to go on the air during pre-game warmups:
In sum, another fine outing with the Blazers. Thanks to the benefactor who gave us the tickets. But a word to the Blazer management: Back off on the hype. Honor all your players. Take the money you're spending needlessly glorifying Roy, Aldridge, and especially Oden, and buy yourself a new 24-second clock.