This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 16, 2012 10:54 PM. The previous post in this blog was The real disaster has already happened. The next post in this blog is Dear Leader Station. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Game report: Blazers 95, Pelicans 94

After a dark, dark week, we needed to cleanse our mind, and sports can do that. We watched a bunch of football between napping and chores this afternoon, but the real opportunity for clearing out the muck came in the evening. Through the grace of a long-time friend, we found ourselves with tickets for good seats to see the Blazers play the New Orleans Hornets. It would be easy to yawn at that matchup. The Hornets are suffering so badly as a franchise that they are talking about changing the team name to the Pelicans. Because there are so many Pelicans in New Orleans? The desperation is palpable. The Blazers are an o.k. non-playoff team from which not too much can be expected other than the joy of competition.

But hey, they are NBA teams, and so they're going to have at least a few players each. The Hornet guys have Anthony Davis, the no. 1 pick from last year's college draft. They also have Ryan Anderson, a Cal kid who can shoot up a storm if you let him. And there's Austin Rivers, Doc's son, who's clearly got the DNA. And so nothing can be taken for granted against them.

The mostly new Blazers put on a nice show in the first half, racking up 54 points behind a strong performance by big man J.J. Hickson and some expert ball-sharing by French vet Nicolas Batum. The Blazers' own top rookie, Damian Lillard, ran the show with confidence and competence. Veteran Portland guard Wesley Matthews tried to give it a go, but he only made it up and down the court a few times before it was time for him to sit down with a continuing hip injury.

The rest of the Blazers are a bit of a ragtag crew, including forward Luke Babbitt, who got a lot of playing time. There were Ronnie Price and Will Barton and Sasha Pavlovic and Victor Claver, all of whom seemed o.k. but far from spectacular. Rookie center Meyers Leonard played only a few minutes; he picked up two quick fouls and was benched for the rest of the night. Leonard had a fatherly guy in a suit sitting next to him on the pines, talking to him and seemingly no one else, all evening. The two were engaged in plenty of conversation; they certainly had lots of opportunity for it.

The two teams played pretty much even in the third quarter, but in the fourth, the Hornets' offense woke up and the Blazers let them climb back into contention. With seven minutes to go, a Blazer lead that had been 16 points at one point had dwindled down to 7; with six minutes to go, it was 6; with five minutes to go, it was 5; and so on until the last few seconds of the game, when indeed, the score was tied.

Anderson and Greivis Vasquez, New Orleans's young point guard out of Maryland, did most of the damage during the comeback. Davis, who's battled injuries in this young season, was also a factor, but he didn't seem to be quite in sync just yet. He is extremely long and lean, and he has a relatively tiny head. Something about his moves signaled that he has enormous potential, as soon as he's 100% and the team figures out how to use him.

The scene at the Rose Garden was typical of modern-day Blazer contests. The crowd was as quiet as a church congregation except when the infernal hype machine told it to get loud. The Blazer dancers performed in some ghastly outfits, and the Junior Blazer Dancers also did a couple of numbers, which seemed vaguely wrong. The stunt team was gorgeous, and a group of volunteers led a bunch of young special needs athletes in a halftime game of some sort, which we missed in favor of a $6.50 bratwurst.

There were a couple of chippy moments. Robin Lopez, one of the underachieving Stanford twin centers, came down unnecessarily hard across Hickson's shoulder, drawing a flagrant foul call. And later Batum, the Olympics groin-puncher, was a bit too enthusiastic in trying to block a Davis shot. He smacked Davis on the nose in the process, and got called for a flagrant. Davis is just recovered from a concussion, and so the officials were not amused at bopping him in the face. It felt like a Jefferson Smith flashback.

Just when the Blazer slide was at its worst, LaMarcus Aldridge went down with some sort of injury to his lower left leg. It seemed as though he might have turned an ankle, but whatever it was, it was bad, because with the game totally on the line, he was immediately helped off the court.

The Blazers got the ball with 11.5 seconds to go, and the score tied at 92. Portland was setting up its last shot when Vasquez took the foul that New Orleans had to give with just 4.2 seconds to go. The Blazers took the ball out and Babbitt got it to Lillard, who hit a wonderful three-point basket just as the clock expired. The place went nuts.

The referees checked the video and told the timekeeper to put 0.3 seconds back on the clock, but it was over at that point. With that little time, there's not even a chance, as a practical matter, to catch and shoot, and so if the Blazers did not foul, they were sure to win. The Hornets did score on an uncontested alley-oop, but it was meaningless.

Hickson wound up with 24 points and 16 rebounds. Batum had quite an all-around game, with 11 points, 10 assists, five steals, and five blocked shots. No one's done that in an NBA game in the last 11 years. Aldridge had 20 points, but only three rebounds. New Orleans out-rebounded Portland 43-36.

We got a lot of the cleansing that we needed. It was great to see all the young kids in the stands at the ballgame, which started at 6:00. They, and we, got an interesting contest and an exciting, happy ending. Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis are both going to make their marks in the league, and we got to see them face to face. At one point Davis threw in a poster-esque dunk on a followup shot right in front of us, and that will be etched in our brain for quite a while. And as for Lillard's game winner, we'll be seeing that one over and over all season. If you haven't caught it yet, it's here.

Thanks to our benefactor for the tickets, and to our buddy Bill McDonald who joined us at the Rose Garden. For us there's no better commentator than Bill on sports, on youth and age, or on anything else in the world for that matter.

And now, in keeping with our tradition, the blurry cell phone photos:

Here are a couple of Batum getting ready to launch, and later actually launching, a three-pointer:

A scary moment as LaMarcus is helped to the MRI machine:


A happy Blazer bench as the refs check to see how much time should be put back on the clock after Lillard's shot. Note that the arena clock said 0.0. The horn had gone off:

Here are Claver and Matthews on their way off the floor. A non-night for both of them:

And to the hero goes the post-game interview:

Comments (7)

Aldridge is injured? I don't like public funding for sports stadiums, but I'll chip in a couple bucks to get the Blazers off of the Indian burial ground.

Glad you and Bill enjoyed the game. We caught a Blazer vs. Minnesota game the night after Thanksgiving; which the Blazers won from nice seats in Section 107. I was quite impressed with the play of Lillard. Assuming he stays healthy, he will be a great addition to the team. By the way, Luke Babbit who we saw play his last season here at U. of Nevada, launched several 3 pointers in that game.

Pelicans in Louisiana? I should think so ... what with the coastline there. The New Orleans baseball team began using the name Pelicans in the 1880s and continued through much of the 20th century.

Stopped buying tickets to Blazer games when I watched Drexler phone in his performance against the Bulls.

Thanks, Jack. That was a great time. All we really wanted was a couple of hours of having our brains scrubbed from the horrors of last week, and, thanks to the Blazers, we actually approached joy. That's what I think sports is for - a way to escape the real news and feel inspired again. So I'll always be grateful to these 2 teams for choosing last night to put on a display like that. Damian Lillard was the hero but Nic Batum was brilliant as well. The whole team seemed motivated to do whatever they could, using the power of basketball as a way to fight back against the forces of evil.

That sounds absurd but sports can be very spiritual. It's why Phil Jackson named his book, "Sacred Hoops." Damian Lillard didn't just shoot a round ball last night - he testified. Did you know Damian Lillard's mother was also in the parking lot at Clackamas Town Center? I don't think it's a coincidence that, after his game-winning 3-pointer, Damian showed more emotion on the court than he normally displays in a month.

Then there was Anthony Davis. This is one fascinating dude. He has that star factor where a game becomes important just because he's in the building. Think of his year: An NCAA Championship with Kentucky, and a Gold Medal in the London Olympics. I saw greatness in this young person. If he can hold together long enough to mature physically, we may look back on last night as the early stages of a major NBA legend.

By the way, if I were Monty Williams I would introduce Anthony to the team and say, "I'm going to keep this real simple. Anytime this young man is battling in the low post, and he feels moved to point one long arm directly toward the sky above him, I want you to stop what you are doing immediately and throw the ball where he is pointing. Do not bother to analyze the chances of failure, etc...just throw the damn ball to him and see what happens." They missed a lot of great opportunities.

...And speaking of great opportunities, I feel like I know Bogdanski pretty well from the blog, but it was great to hang out with the real thing for a few hours. He is not a grouch in person, and is actually funny, and dare I say kind? I mean his motives are good with this blog. You know that right? I mean he's trying to help Portland, and if that comes across as someone always mad at politicians, etc... that's the form it has to take.

This is my analysis; it's not something he came right out and said, but I think Jack sees a need - he's doing what he feels the media should be doing, but isn't. That's what people don't get. If the media was doing its job, he would be quite content to write about sports and music and other things. He's funny. He doesn't want to be harping on all this sh*t all the time, but he feels like it's the right thing to do, and somebody has to step up and do it. That's not grouchy; that's noble.

The timing of this game helped me see where he's really coming from. Everyone in the country has had a few layers of protective facade removed by the killings. We are in an emotional state. It's a good time to gauge the real person, and I have arrived at the conclusion that Bogdanski is a good guy. I hope that doesn't ruin it for him.

Motives. That's the key word. Why do any of us do what we do? Are we trying to bring everyone down, or are we trying to help? Are we exacting our revenge on society, or are we trying to rise up and sink the game-winning shot - not for the glory - but to help a crowd go crazy with joy? That's the question: What are our motives?

One of the scenes locked in my mind from last night occurred later when I was watching the news with my wife. The seats had been very good, and in one shot of the newscast, I hit pause and right next to LaMarcus you could clearly see me sitting next to the legendary Jack Bogdanski. That was cool. This blog has been a great bit of good fortune for a lot of people. We should remember what we have here.

Before wrapping it up, I must also mention this one young woman whose gymnastics uniform was little more than a sports bikini, and who seemed to be stationed between stunts a few rows down from us. By the end of that game, I felt something bordering on love for her. (Nothing sleazy mind you. I am happily married.) But this was genuine. If that game had gone to overtime, I could have had a problem, but I got out of there with my heart in check. She was awesome. She embodied the good forces in the universe - forces that had been vanquished by the atrocities of last week.

Let's not kid around: Last week was enough to make us all question our love for our species. Yes, it was that bad. It wasn't just "How could someone do this?" It was bigger than that. I found myself questioning humanity - whether we should try and steer earth into the biggest asteroid we can find out of respect for what is right. Last week challenged the notion that we deserve to go on. It made a strong case for the upside of extinction. So, in closing, I'd like to thank the young woman for teaching me how to love complete strangers again.

Are the old refs still working the league, same ol' same ol'?

So ... in Klamath Falls there is the large high school in town and the mascot is Pelicans, and there is the small high school in the rural farmland and the mascot is Hornets. If NBA news ever reaches that remote settlement of rivals it could start riots.

Wow..didya read Jason Quick's "Blazer Insider" in the O yesterday? The Blazers new numbers-obsessed president sounds absolutely awful. One of his fun quotes about his employees: "My style is the people who thrive are the ones who lose sleep if they are not hitting their numbers." Maybe that's why he's already fired 3 high-level execs...who were probably getting too much sleep. This guy is a train wreck in the making. Error, Allen.

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