Game report: Lakers 106, Blazers 101, OT
As of 4:20 yesterday afternoon, we were planning a quiet evening at blog headquarters. Then the phone rang, and suddenly we were going to the Blazer game, although we would be sitting on the roof. At about 6:15 it rang again, and suddenly we would be sitting in the eighth row on the floor. We had exactly 12 minutes to wolf down some meat loaf and get on our way.
It was a splendid night outside. All the snow hype was proving to be blatantly false, but the leftovers of the anticipation of a snowpocalypse, along with a visit from the loathsome world champion Lakers, sent a nice energy through the crowd of Portlanders.
With four guys sharing six tickets -- two great ones and four pretty bad ones -- we split up just inside the arena doors and settled on a rotation. Two up and two down, with guys changing seats so that we each had 24 minutes of spectating time from the good seats. As the procurer of the downstairs ducats, I appropriated the first and fourth quarter for myself at floor level.
I had enjoyed the good seats several times before, especially back in the days when the Blazers were terrible and no one wanted to go see them. The end zone view is great, and you're just eight rows from the Blazer bench:
The tunnel that the players use to enter and exit the arena was just two seats away. At one point, Blazer Wesley Matthews was riding an exercise bike over there.
The first quarter was great for Portland. The Blazers played with energy and had great ball movement. The Lakers looked tired, and Portland won the quarter by six points. Brandon Roy made a token appearance on the floor, Rudy Fernandez made a diving save into the stands that resulted in a three-point basket by Nicolas Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge was making shots, and everything was hunky dory.
It wasn't until I moved up on the roof for the second stanza that I noticed how many Laker fans were on hand. These folks show up every time their infernal team does, but never do I remember dealing with them in such great numbers. It seemed as though fully 40% of the cheering in the Rose Garden was for the Lakers. It was depressing.
I was living in two different worlds, that's for sure. Upstairs, we were in the very last row -- where there are even seats at the top of the stairs. There was nothing behind us or above us but Hoffman Construction concrete, and sweet Portland air: You couldn't see any of the scoreboards except the one directly over the center of the court. The rest were obscured by banners representing the Blazers' past glory -- banners that almost mocked what was playing out below them. Nonetheless, if you could avoid vertigo, you got a pretty good view of the game:
The second quarter was dead even, and the Blazers took a nice lead into the locker room at halftime. We had a beer in the Schonely bar on the first floor, and the Schonz himself was there overseeing the proceedings. With a modest tip, a microbrew in the Rose Garden is now $10.
Back on the roof, we watched the third quarter -- another standoff, with both teams punching it out like prize fighters. Even a cynic would have to admit that it was entertaining basketball.
In the fourth quarter, we viewed up close as the Blazers folded down the stretch. When the chips were down, Portland had no offense except three-point shots, which weren't falling. Andre Miller, whom we love, was trying valiantly to put some two's in the bucket, but they were no-go. The Lakers knew that LaMarcus Aldridge (who wound up with 29 points) could beat them, and they didn't let that happen. His Royal Whining Kobe-ness performed according to his usual script, and the game went into overtime. In the extra period, the Blazers' offense continued to be nothing to write home about, and the L.A. squad won.
The Blazers didn't score in the last 4 minutes and 22 seconds of the fourth quarter. The Lakers closed an eight-point deficit during that stretch.
In all, it was a wonderful, unexpected, interesting, entertaining evening -- a million thanks to our buddies who invited us -- but the outcome was not satisfying. And even if the Blazers had won, having to share oxygen with all the foul Laker fans would have put a bit of a damper on things. It reminded us how much Portland has changed in the last 10 to 20 years, and not necessarily for the better.
When I die, if I go to hell, I'll be listening to the gruesome cheers of the "Laker nation" night and day. I certainly don't need to be hearing them in Portland's own gym.