Game report: Suns 110, Blazers 104
It was an offer we couldn't refuse. Tickets to the Blazer game -- even an exhibition game -- for under $20, and it was being held in the old Memorial Coliseum, as a nostalgia deal. We bought four and took the whole crew.
We love the old Coliseum, and a visit to the place, with an actual pro hoops game on tap, was a real tonic. Every seat in the place is a good seat. All the pretention of the luxury boxes and the courtside waiters and the showing off of one's wealth was absent. They had the curtains down, and you could actually see from your seat through the glass walls to the world outside. It was a wonderful effect, in a building that's definitely worth saving.
Blazer great Terry Porter was around, shooting everybody's lights out in a halftime game of "horse," along with Bobby Gross. Bill Schonely called the second half on the radio. Even the old Blazer organ player ground out a couple of battle cheers for old time's sake. There were breakdancers representing the '80s, and all that was missing was Chain Saw Bill, whose Oregon backwoods act used to intimidate East Coast teams, even those with hardened ghetto players on their rosters.
The concession lines were bad, and by that we mean really bad. Upon arrival, after waiting a full 20 minutes in line for hot dogs, we were about ready to head back to the garage and head home, but the Mrs. calmed us down and got us all to our seats.
There was no video screen, and only a bare-bones scoreboard, which made for little information flow. But the good news was that the night was all about the basketball on the floor, and not about whatever dopey thing was on a Jumbotron.
The Blazers didn't look that good. The fans are obviously ready for big, big things -- the roar of the crowd in the Coliseum is always loud, but tonight there was a note of serious expectation in that sound -- and there will no doubt be some great moments in the season ahead. But tonight, it seemed that there is still a lot of work to be done.
The Blazers' new point guard, Andre Miller, was impressive. The man is a stone-cold baller, that's obvious. With him leading the Blazers on the floor, lots of guys are going to have banner seasons. LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be fed down low, and let's hope he takes advantage of it. Miller is always going to be looking for Greg Oden, too. And Miller and Martell Webster shared some excellent plays at the start of the game (or at least, the part we saw after we finally got to our seats with the infernal hot dogs).
Miller wanted to run with the ball, but unfortunately from a fan standpoint, several of the Blazers seem to have no interest in running with him. Webster was ready to run, and so was Aldridge, but Brandon Roy and Oden are never going to be fast-break players, and so it remains to be seen how much the run will accomplish for Portland. The other thing we noticed about Miller is that he seemed a little banged up. Especially in the second half, he was moving around pretty gingerly, and we couldn't tell what that was all about.
When Miller isn't finding the open man, he's making plays for himself. He shot 60% for the night and finished with 25 points. The only question is what Miller's production is going to mean for Roy, who is obviously Portland's franchise player. Roy had a bad night, shooting just 4 for 13 and taking only four foul shots. He and Miller don't have spectacular chemistry going so far, and that could be a real concern if they don't find one.
Rudy Fernandez hardly played, looked flat, and seems sure to be traded at an early opportunity, unless one of the other Blazer shooters gets hurt. Oden looked better than he ever has, but he's still slow and a little clunky. Amare was not afraid to go head-to-head with him, and if Oden can stay out of foul trouble and out of the hospital, Portland is about to witness some epic big-man battles this year.
The Blazers didn't play much defense against Phoenix. Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, and Amare Stoudamire put up big numbers. Nicolas Batum played terribly on the defensive end, and of course Travis Outlaw, who saw a fair number of minutes, wasn't much help. The Blazers had Ime Udoka and Juwan Howard on the bench -- those two probably could have done more to stop Phoenix than Batum and Outlaw.
The "replacement" referees took some razzing from the crowd, and a few of the players (including Channing Frye, formerly of the Blazers and getting a lot of minutes tonight with the Suns) seemed incredulous at a few of the calls. But actually, I thought the refs called a good game -- no worse than you would get from Bennett Salvatore, and without all the histrionics.
On the way home early (school night), we caught a few minutes of the Schonz calling the end of the game. That voice is missed. They ought to bring him back for a game every year.
And with that, the throwback game is in the books. From here on out, the look is to the future rather than the past. Tonight we saw that future, and barring injury, his name is Andre Miller.