TRAIL BLAZERS 110 – CLIPPERS 104: DREAM CAUSED BY THE FLIGHT OF A BEE AROUND A POMEGRANATE A SECOND BEFORE AWAKENING

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Allegedly this game meant nothing. LaMarcus Aldridge wore a suit and was listening to the Suit half of that Nelly album and not the Sweat half, metaphorically. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J. J. Redick all stayed home in Southern California. Kias to move and poems to write, you know the grind. Chris Paul probably didn’t even watch, likely opting instead to spend the night researching the imagined ancestry of him and his alter ego Cliff (“Cliff” is obviously just Chris Paul wearing a mustache and a sweater vest but we have to maintain his delusion lest he suffer a devastating mental break so bear with me). But while Chris (and Cliff I guess) were researching their ancestry and finding something horrible like his (their) great-great-great-great-grandfather *assisted* in the colonization and destruction of all peoples and societies and cultures native to the pre-Columbian Americas, and you were doing whatever is you decided to do instead of watch basketball – spending time with your family or cats or whatever – there was magic happening in the A La Mode Center. Of course it was the Yung Leonard Bernstein Wizard, Will Barton, who was the one wielding the baton.

The first quarter was weird because it almost looked like the Blazers were actually trying to win. What assholes! Frankie Muniz (Lol! Frankie Muniz! Frankie loves his Clips! Lol! [wait did Frankie Muniz die? {nah I just looked it up and he’s still alive!}]) was out there running at the three spot for Doc Rivers. Meanwhile, Terry Stotts put out his normal starters with the exception of Dorell Wright in place of the bespoke suited Aldridge. The Clippers barely even pretended to play defense and the Blazers starters shot plenty of wide-open three-pointers, with a little too much enthusiasm in doing so, if you ask me. Like, just because someone is paralyzed, it doesn’t mean you get to tickle his or her feet all you want. Fortunately, that kind of macho competitive-driven desecration of what was to be a fun and meaningless game was limited to only the opening period.

The second quarter was a dream. Like seriously, I had this dream. It was in July. I had spent a week or so watching entirely too much summer league basketball and it was hot and maybe I had a few Rainiers because I’m a free-spirited cat who digs on Yakima Valley hops, and I had this delirious vision of Will Barton as a playmaking point guard like a bebop Rajon Rondo next to C. J. McCollum while Victor Claver filled in the gaps and Meyers Leonard didn’t look too upsetting. It was a great dream. But then I watched (almost) a full season of basketball and realized that maybe those Yakima Valley hops were greener than I thought and getting Will Barton as a wild card bench dude for short bursts would be the best thing I could hope for, at least for the near future. But then tonight happened. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t count, it was against Frankie Muniz, I get it. But holy cow watching Barton put the offense (and the game [and the whole world]) in his crazy polyrhythmic hands, and get everyone involved, and devising insane finishes like a kid who draws a crude picture resembling a bicycle wearing a hamburger and says it’s a picture of his family, and do that for 35 minutes(!!!), yo I’ll remember that forever tho.

The second half began kind of poorly, or so we thought, well actually yeah, it was pretty poor. Whatever. I’d rather not talk about it, to be honest. Anyway, despite its poverty, it was also a blessing in disguise. Climb inside that cloud and let its silver lining bathe you in the reflected light of the glorious sun at the center of our entire solar system, and that mighty sun was the Will Barton-Jamal Crawford contest through the fourth quarter.

Sometime in the third quarter, I think Barton started to figure out that his teammates (Victor Claver excepted) did not look particularly good. Also, I think he also might have decided that Terry Stotts probably wasn’t even watching this game anyway. So instead of trying to run the offense with precision and order, he danced and careened around the court at high speed until he found either Claver or a shot, whichever happened first, which usually was a shot. As for the Clippers, when the game becomes an open and anarchic celebration of fun, Jamal Crawford blossoms. And so, the two artists traded feats of creativity and it reminded me of when my grandpa told me that in Ohio during the Great Depression, sometimes they would all gather up by the train tracks to watch a show of two locomotives running head-on into each other (the engineers would jump out in time). The Great Depression sounded fun! But I bet it wasn’t nearly as fun as Jamal Crawford and Will Barton, probably not even close.

After the game, Will Barton spoke to the media:

“Hello everyone. I love you and I love basketball and I love being able to share it with you. Growing up back in Baltimore – B-More, stand up! – my friend Salvador Dali used to say, ‘I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.’ I don’t do drugs either. Well, I guess I do eat a lot of those Haribo joints that look like Coke bottles. Those take me to my proper spiritual plane. But I digress. Man, the rim was just so big out there tonight. You ever seen a unicorn house? They have big solariums. Unicorn horns could do a lot of damage to the glasswork in a normal-sized solarium, you know. So there I was, guys. I was in a unicorn solarium tonight, communing with Salvador. You can say this game means nothing but when does a game mean anything? Art doesn’t mean anything either. Think on that, kids. I am drugs. One.”

TRAIL BLAZERS VS. CLIPPERS PREVIEW: FADE TO BLACK

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Tonight’s game isn’t pointless. There are arena employees who are getting paid for working, players stepping on the court to play well and showcase themselves, people who paid for a ticket to watch people play basketball (Maybe not these specific people, for the amount of time they will play.), three television crews will be filming the game.

But, yeah, as far as Portland’s playoff standing is concerned, pretty pointless. Yesterday Sotts told gathered reporters that Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Lopez will only receive cursory minutes to attain the 82-games-played mark and Aldridge and Williams will probably not play. This is good: resting is good, resting your players before the playoffs is helpful, especially when the Blazers’ starters have played a ton of minutes this year. Joel Freeland, a British person who was the Blazer’s third big off the bench before an MCL sprain around the All-Star break, will play in five minute stretches. Joel could be useful in the playoffs, especially if the Blazers get out of the first round and away from the Rockets’ stretch 4 platoon.

In lieu of the starters you’ve come to love for their virtues and resent for their limitations, the Blazers’ bench will get a ton of minutes; Earl Watson! Meyers Leonard! Thomas Robinson getting a postup drawn up for him! Will Barton! On the Clippers’ side,  they’ve left behind Blake Griffin (He got a 16th technical today for hitting, guess who, Timofey Mozgov in the face on a drive and will maybe be suspended if it doesn’t get rescinded.), starting Shooting Guard JJ Reddick and guard-of-note Chris Paul. As far as a Clippers bench only lineup goes, they’re not in as sorry shape as the Blazers in that regard: Darren Collison is pretty good, Jamal Crawford has been good on nearly every team he’s played on. Then again, they might try to lose on purpose to avoid the playing the Grizzlies, the Clippers’ blood rival who have become underseeded because of injury problems in the middle of the year. I get that everyone is scared of the Warriors because of spooky ghost-boy Steph Curry’s supernatural shooting but their defense is going to be a lot worse with Andrew Bogut sideline with a cracked rib.

TRAIL BLAZERS 119 – WARRIORS 117 (OT): YOU CAN’T STOP A TRAIN

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I wish I could say that even if the Trail Blazers had lost on Sunday night in the MoMA Center to the visiting Warriors of Golden State, I would still be able to look upon the game that was, behold its rare magnificence, and allow it to percolate deep into the areas of my soul beyond simple loyalty to the shirts bearing the name of the city – or nickname, as Portland donned the “Rip City” alternate joints on this night – in which I grew up. I suppose that’s sort of what the dudes at Free Darko meant when they were professing “liberated fandom,” the idea that basketball can every so often bless us with a game or a player or a moment that taps into the simplest reason for which we watch and renders all other reasons irrelevant. Back before favorite teams were selected and flags of loyalty were hoisted, watching basketball was all about getting hooked on that joy when the aesthetics and drama of the sport collide and seem to overpower the laws of physics and the game becomes surreal and yo sorry I’m getting all Tom Rinaldi in here.

What I’m saying is, HOLY SHIT THIS WAS A FUCKING BASKETBALL GAME.

Even the box score, normally the non-descript concrete exterior hiding the wild speakeasy inside, is straight out of Antoni Gaudí’s dreams. Stephen Curry had 47 points on 29 shots, 7-14 from three-point range. Nicolas Batum had 18 points on 9 shots, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Mo Williams had 18 points on 10 shots. Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut recorded +26 and +24 plus/minus ratings, respectively. LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and Wes Matthews had 24 points. Klay Thompson had 25 points, 6-10 from three-point range, before fouling out. Somehow, Mareese Speights even managed the nearly impossible line of 0 minutes, 0 points, 0 everything, without getting a DNP-CD.

OK enough numbers, story time now.

There was, some time ago, a first quarter. And like many first quarters before it, this first quarter began poorly for the Trail Blazers. The Warriors controlled most of the first period with play from Iguodala and Curry and David Lee, though Aldridge was actually effective and seemed intent on asserting himself early and throughout the game.

Since the injury to his tailbone region, and probably some time before that, Aldridge hadn’t been quite the player that he had been in October and November and December, when Kevin Love feared for his power forward kingdom and the “M-V-P” chants were not entirely accurate, but not entirely ironic. Some of Aldridge’s mid-season decline was natural regression, sure. Shooting endless contested midrange jumpers is not normally the path to lasting happiness for the modern man, even if that man is a 6’11”, 240-pound mountain of silk. But there was something else, too. Aldridge just didn’t look to have his rhythm, his confidence, his aura, all of the other words we use to describe the intangible quality of a scorer in form. Though he only finished the game at a modest 11-23 from the field, he had it tonight. I saw it.

This was a game of many peaks – think of that shot from Planet Earth of the Himalayas, all big and icy and shit – and the first one came at the end of the first quarter. It was built by Thomas Robinson and it was volcanic.

Early in the season, Robinson knew his role as the rebound-getter. He couldn’t really shoot, he wasn’t a stupendous defender, but he could jump and he was strong and he had hands and he could be ill-tempered when he wanted to be, and so rebounding was his thing. But lately, he’s come to realize that while rebounding is the tangible product that he can tout, his true role encompasses the more abstract realm of energy creation. He is put on the court to instantly awaken the spirits of his teammates like they were all of a sudden wearing headphones blasting Outkast’s “B.O.B.” into their eardrums which would probably be damaging to said eardrums and definitely against the rules of the NBA and not nearly as much fun to watch as Robinson, who created plenty energy in this game. His shift at the end of the first quarter was like watching a bull in a shop of stuff that bulls love – red blankets, etc. – but rather than money the bull economy is based on smashing things and so Robinson was very rich and bought everything in the store, a performance that he capped off with a ridiculous one handed bank shot off the top of the backboard while falling flat onto his back in front of the basket with less than a minute left in the first quarter to give the Blazers a 4-point lead.

The second quarter featured turnovers, horrible fouls, and other things that I would rather not rehash during this celebration of basketball. In fact, while the third quarter featured some nice moments of Wes Matthews doing manly things like running on floating logs while he shot three-pointers, everything was only a set-up for what would come in the fourth quarter.

So first, there was the Mo Williams Liberation Variety Show. Sweet Mo, noted objector to Lil Boosie’s former incarceration, played with the liberated heart of a man who knows that Boosie is free and somewhere out there in the world living life and enjoying what this planet has to offer. Liberation is critical for Mo, who has been shackled most of the season by the chains of expectation and/or position. Mo isn’t really a point guard, he’s not a great passer, and he seems to have a propensity for irrational behavior on the basketball court, especially with the ball in his hands. But he needs that. He’s at his best when he’s getting a bit out of control, not trying to run offense like a responsible adult, but just scurrying around with the ball and firing pull-up jumpers, as he was in the early part of the final period.

But then, Steph Curry happened, and Steph Curry really is more of an event sometimes than he is a person. A 10-point lead became a 1-point deficit as Curry put the court on tilt. Remember that mention of surrealism earlier? That’s what happens when Curry gets into a groove like he did in this game. Pull-up three, pull-up three, weird one-handed floater. The laws of physics still seem to make sense but they’re now in the employ of Curry. When he would finally miss a shot, it felt like someone slapping you out of a dream, not that you necessarily wanted to leave that dream anyway.

The final few minutes, and the ensuing overtime, were an onslaught of enormous buckets that could each exist as their own universe, if they weren’t all being crammed into the same one. Klay Thompson for three to cut the lead to one. Curry bucket for the lead. Wes Matthews gets to the free throw line, sinks both, and takes the lead back. Thompson with another deep jumper, this one just inside the line. Aldridge free throws. Matthews free throws. Blazers up three with seconds left. Draymond Green (of all the gin joints in all the world…) gets free beyond the arc at the buzzer and sends the game to overtime.

Of the 12 points that the Warriors scored in overtime, 9 came on three-pointers from Thompson and Curry. But Matthews, hardy old-fashioned miner that he is, kept hitting away with his metaphorical pickaxe. He played stout defense, he hit a couple shots, got some help from Batum and Aldridge in particular, and when a terrifyingly wide open Andre Iguodala missed what would’ve been a game-winning three-pointer in the final seconds, it was Wes who snatched the rebound to seal the win.

You watch a season of basketball, you pay an exorbitant amount for League Pass, you hunt down the best illegal streams, you sneak off into a back room at some boring family event, or whatever else you do, all in the hopes that you might find a game like this. Of course, if Iguodala’s shot had gone in, I probably wouldn’t have written all these words and instead just threw a video up there and went to bed.

BLAZERS VS. WARRIORS PREVIEW: JACK STRAW

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What are the Blazers playing for?

1. They COULD switch places with Houston, but the chance of that happening is pretty unlikely. The best possible Blazers’ record is 54-28, the worst possible Houston record is 53-29 BUT: The Blazers’ last two games are against The Clippers and Warriors (Both Good) and Houston’s last two games are against the Pelicans (Bad and without Davis) and the Spurs (Good). Even if the Blazers win out, It’s hard to imagine that the Rockets won’t at least beat the Pelicans and go at least 54-28 and take the higher seed by tiebreaker.

2. Golden State could overtake them for 5th of the Blazer lose their last two games and the Warriors win their last three games (Blazers and Timberwolves and Nuggets, a hard game and two likely wins, unless they give up 28 rebounds to Mozgov again.). This would slot both teams at 52-30, and the Warriors would take the higher seed by tiebreaker (Having gone 3-1 against the Blazers, including a theoretical win tonight.). If the Blazers win tonight, they will keep the 5th seed.

The Warriors and Blazers have played three previous games this season. The first was a 113-101 Blazers road win back on November 23rd, the second a 103-88 Warriors victory behind 38 on 23 shots from Curry and the third a VERY frustrating 113-112 Blazers loss behind 37 on 24 shots from Curry, a wide-ass open go ahead 3 pointer from Klay Thompson and a missed foul shot from Batum.

The Blazers are terrible at guarding Curry, particularly around picks. Lillard is, like, unbelievably god awful at going around a pick to get a good contest and Curry is gooder at shooting three pointers quickly and off a dribble than any basketball player ever. A + B = Curry gets a clean look against the Blazers pretty much any time someone sets a high screen for him.  They occasionally occasionally deal with this by switching on a pick, which puts Curry in a mismatch that he works for a closer shot, often a midrange 2 which is definitely a worse shot than the three off the pick or dumps off to a postup possession from whatever player has a post-up mismatch. Warriors coach Mark Jackson has a hard-on for postup mismatches, even when the posting up player is maybe not great at it. Watch for old Jermaine O’Neal creating on the block for no good reason if some power forward gets put on his back. Just let them have it, I say. It’s not as effective as Curry or Thompson jacking up a three. I suppose that In an ideal world, Lillard would be better at defense and the Blazers could hold Curry to 30 points on 26 shots. This is probably not going to be the case this year or maybe ever, so they should probably just give up and switch. Effort can only get you so far when you are always hustling your way right into some giant dude’s torso.

Don’t think too hard about the Warriors’ offense, it will drive you crazy. They’re scoring scoring 107.2 points per hundred possessions, the 12th best mark in the league, with a roster that would probably drop napalm on opposing defenses if it just ran spread screen and roll like every other modern elite-point-guard-centric team. Their defense is a lot better: 102.2 points per hundred possessions, the 4th best mark in the league. Andre Igoudola and Andrew Bogut are very good at defense.

TRAIL BLAZERS 111 – JAZZ 99: THE BELIEVER

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Something happened tonight that has never happened in the history of Trail Blazers basketball and that thing is the Blazers completing a season sweep over the Utah Jazz. Damn, I wish I had the words to describe this feeling. I guess I can say that bearing witness to such history makes a man feel big, like in the infinity of time and the breadth of all existence we were lucky enough to be here for this one moment, but it also makes a man feel small, like our lives feel so much more insignificant when compared with such achievement (the Utah Jazz! The team of Stockton! Malone! Gobert!). In any case, surely all who saw will remember forever exactly where they were tonight, when it happened.

As for me, I was on my couch, wondering how 26 years of living led me to a place in which I was spending a Friday evening alone watching my playoff-bound favorite basketball team struggle throughout the first half to defend Alec Burks and Enes Kanter. Remember when I wanted to be a paleontologist when I grew up? Of course you do. Think about where I could have been had I pursued that career with a bit more gusto. I could have been attending a lecture tonight on ornithopods, and the Mesozoic Era in general. Or maybe I could have been out there in the Badlands with Dr. Alan Grant, scaring kids with Velociraptor claws – who knows? I had such a bright future once [sigh]. ALEC BURKS AND ENES KANTER.

The American Atheists organization has made some news in recent years due to its struggle to secure pro-atheism billboards in Utah (their director went so far as to liken the Mormon control of Utah to the mafia’s power in Italy). But fear not, atheists of Utah and elsewhere. The first three quarters of tonight’s game were the best advertisement for the absence of a higher power doling out fates based on morality that money could buy. In addition to the aforementioned production of Burks and Kanter against the clean-living and right-thinking Blazers, Rudy Gobert looked marginally coordinated (AS THOUGH POSSESSED BY DEMONS), Derrick Favors (“Derrick Favors” is an anagram of “I <3 SATAN”) had 21 points, Richard Jefferson looked rejuvenated in his old age (HIS SOUL MUST BELONG TO LUCIFER), and Trey Burke (Trey=3, 3+3=6, 666=NUMBER OF THE BEAST) was 4 of 6 (66.6 PERCENT) from three-point range. Even the sweet formerly incorruptible child of Indiana, Gordon Hayward, wore depressing early-beard scruff, his face reminiscent of a once wholesome and God-fearing small town that had let its children pierce their ears and listen to the rock-n-roll music, and now Main Street was all boarded up and meth-heads scurried around where innocent children once frolicked with those wheel things that you spin with a stick – again, this was all happening on his face. Also, jazz is the Devil’s music.

Before the game, apparently Jefferson remarked that it felt like Portland in the arena, and while that is a strikingly accurate commentary on the homogenous milky complexion of both cities’ residents, he was supposedly talking about the amount of Blazer fans in attendance who made themselves heard during player introductions. The Mikes, who would never dream of stretching the definition of truth to promote the Trail Blazer way of life, expanded on the presence of Blazer fans by describing the love that Utah has for former Weber State Wildcat and Ogden, Utah, resident, Damian Lillard. Before you wonder if a small-school player who never made it to the NCAA Tournament could really entice that many people to attend a cosmically bleak late-season Jazz-Blazers tilt, just remember that Utah—well, let’s just say that there’s a history of following a dynamic leader into an apparently bleak place that others had long ignored, under the belief that the leader would build Zion.

And behold, Zion was built by Damian. Early in the fourth quarter, the Blazers led by four points. Then Lillard hit four straight three-pointers, with two free throws and an Aldridge bucket sandwiched in the middle. The Blazers then led by eleven points. A few minutes later, Meyers Leonard got to play and the utopian society of the righteous had finally been created by the Latterest Day Saint.

 

According to the box score, someone named Diante Garrett played 8 minutes for the Jazz and somehow recorded a -15 plus/minus rating in that time. I don’t know who that is and have no recollection of his time on the court.

TRAIL BLAZERS @ JAZZ PREVIEW: FIRST LIGHT

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A-Skee-bop-adooldey-doo! Hey there cats and kittens, your main jazzbo brother Corbin Smith here to tell you about the skeebop a doodley doo Utah Jazzy-wazzy (24-54), who are playing the Portland Trail Blazzy-erszies (51-28) tonight at the Electricity Center in Heptown, USA (Salt Lake City, Utah).

Now the Jazzmen are a pretty-skittie terrible-wearable team. Their O-F bangs out jams to the tune of 103.2 points per hundred possess-i-ohs, the 25th worst tune in the NBA. Their defensive rhythms are even worse, a HIGHLY unsnappable 111.1 points per hundred possess-i-ohs. The Jazz have had three previous jam sessions with the Blaze Quintet this year and got the beat every time, 98-130 in December, 94-105 three days after that, and 94-102 later in the season. The Blazers are hoping to play a solo on a broom guitar and SWEEP UP the season series tonight. Skee-deedle-ee-boo-dap.

What funky fellas are on the Jazz combo? Well you got Gordon Hayward, their lead guitarist, who is probably playing too many solos and would work better as a rhythm guitarist. Trey Burke, a star saxy-phone player in the world of college Jazz, having a suboptimal rookie season in the NBA. Derrick Favors, a serviceable presence behind the stand up bass. Richard Jefferson, the noise music pioneer who sits in the back and leans his guit-ar against amplifiers. His work conjures uncanny feelings that unnerve the listener on a very deep level. “This looks like basketball, but it feels like something else. Something so banal that it threatens to drag me into a morass.”

Tonight’s game is a candidate for the least anticipated NBA game of the year. The Blazers are a mid-seed playoff team, pretty much locked into their spot, playing a crummy ass Jazz team who probably want to lose, deep down inside. What’s getting anyone jacked for the tonight? “Oh man, can’t wait to watch Hayward and Batum match up!” “Trey Burke wants to prove himself against Damian Lillard!” That could actually be a problem if Damian runs into enough picks.  “LaMarcus Aldridge!” “You guys think Mike Rice is going to make up some slanderous shit about a ref’s personal life after a tenuous foul call on Lopez?” If you have strong feelings about how this game turns out you are a gambling addict.

Two years ago I went to the exact reverse of this game, when the Playoff Bound Jazz were playing the Bombed Out Felton Blazers in April. Tickets were cheap. My mom paid for them because at the time we were running a scam in which we would play match play coupons against each other on a baccarat table at a local casino. To get enough coupons to do it for the next month, I filled a duffel bag full of Rip City Magazines out of which we later cut the coupons. Hasheem Thabeet and Nolan Smith started that game, and the Blazers lost. After the game every player presented a jersey to a season ticket holder. I watched for a while, then walked into the courtside priority area. That bar back there is pretty dark. Then I took a bunch of free posters and put a rubber band around a tube of them. I spent the money I made scamming local casinos on an attempt to move to Olympia that didn’t work out but really taught me a lot about myself, and I still have that tube of free posters to this day. So yeah, Blazers-Jazz! What a matchup!

Here are ways I think the Blazers could lose:

1. Trey Burke pumps the Blazers’ sub-optimal S/R defense in a career game.

2. Uhh, Enes Kanter?

3. Andris Biedrins robs a bank and pays the Blazers to lose. (I would support any dive they take for money.)

4. Sixers-style shit-ass shooting night.

Even if the Blazers somehow lose,  will it conjure any feelings in your soul? I would watch any of those results and think “Eh, fluke.”

No one would blame you if you smoked a gigantic bowl of [CEREAL] and watched baseball. Felix is pitching and his work contains revelations that are only apparent when you spark up [FLAMMABLE CEREAL?]. Stay away from golf though, that is a shitty sport is is probably mad racist and DEFINITELY a colossal waste of tillable soil, water, fertilizer and space where children could be getting active outside. Imagine a golf course but every old person has died and now there are happy children running across the greens. God, I’m fucking tearing up just thinking about it. Hey, are you married? Try to get fresh with your significant other. Try drawing a winky-face with whipped cream on a pumpkin pie, they’ll get the message, that you want to make sweaty, grunting-ass love instead of watching this game that no one cares about.

TRAIL BLAZERS 100 – KINGS 99: BOYFRIEND

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Dorell Wright had 3, 4, and 2 tonight. One probably can’t recall the 4 rebounds. One of the assists was a between the legs dish on a fast break that was pretty hot stuff, but the other was totally forgettable. The three points were a game winning corner three he drilled after a lovely one-arm-slung jump pass on the baseline by Damian Lillard. (Dorell claims it was his first game winner since high school.) It came after DeMarcus Cousins hit two free throws to put the Kings up by two after Wes Matthews fouled him on a Kings fast break, created when Damian Lillard got his pocket picked by Ray “Gun” McCallum

THis was not an ideal game for the Blazers, at all. McCallum, a rookie guard who has a career 8.8 PER absolutely lit up Damian and the Blazers all night, 23 points on 15 shots, 8 assists, absolutely not one turnover, and three steals. Real American Hero DeMarcus Cousins also did damage to the tune of 30/12/2/3 steals. In four meetings with the Blazers this year, DeMarcus scored 130 points (34+34+32+30).

In the first and third quarters, the Blazers actively conceded long twos to Cousins and he cashed in, going 5/9 from the space above the top of the key. The strategy was a brazen concession to the Blazer’s problems protecting big men at the rim that backfired against Cousins tonight. I am absolutely for laxing your defense in long two territory, but the brazenness of allowing Cousins these shots tonight was a little unseemly. It’s not like he’s 2010 Blake Griffin — he has a clean stroke, makes about 40%. They’re so scared of big men rushing the rim that they give them an attractive open shot and hope they take it.

They have a little trouble guarding pick and roll guards and big men who cares, that probably won’t be a problem in the playoffs. Sorry, excuse me? They’ll probably play the who? Rockets? James who and Dwight what? Oh geez, that could be bad.

Pretty much everyone on the Blazers had their customary performance tonight: LaMarcus with a throwback 22 and 8 (not all throwbacks are ideal), Lopez with 13 and 9, Matthews with a good-but-not-breathtaking 19. Batum had 11 and 6 assists, but only one rebound in deference to the regression Gods after his sinfully abnormal rebounding March. One hates to be the cranksterman after a win, but the Kings are a crummy team playing without two starters on a road back-to-back; why isn’t everyone feasting on the Kings’ tired corpse and getting some cheap stats?

Lillard had 19 and 10 assists, but he had five turnovers and played that aforementioned shitty defense against McCallum. Lillard’s defense has improved on dribble drives this year, but if you set a pick on him he still just kind of runs into it and lets the guard go flying towards the helping big. That was a very pretty sling pass to Wright, though.

STRAY THOUGHTS:

-Three of McCallum’s points were on a double-covered fadeaway three at the buzzer that nearly killed my dog.

-Earl Watson was a +14 tonight. Trade Mo Williams and Damian–and shit, let’s dump Wes too, because Earl is the Blazers’ guard of the future. All intangibles! He increases their steal percentage! He is a handsome man!

-Reggie Evans had a busy night: sometimes in the third he attempted a foul line fadeaway shot that DID NOT go in the basket and was offensive to me and my two children and my dog, all of whom are named “Rufus.” He also got a turnover out of LaMarcus when he pulled the chair on him in the fourth.

-The Wes alley-oop play worked tonight. Does it work more than I perceive, it just looks so silly when it doesn’t work that I internalize that pain and think irrationally about the play?

KINGS @ BLAZERS PREVIEW: ARE THE BLAZERS COOL?

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The Sacramento Kings (27-50) are scoring 105.8 points per hundred possessions, 18th in the NBA and surrendering 108.6 points per hundred possessions, the 22nd best mark in the NBA. Their simple rating, Basketball Reference’s team rating based on point differential and strength of schedule, is -2.10, which is not very good, but it’s better than last year’s -4.25. The Kings are a team on the rise, everyone!

The Kings are playing on a road-back-to-back, missing point guard Isaiah Thomas, and are firmly entrenched in the traditional bad team season ending skid out. This is probably an easy win for the Blazers so long as they don’t let Rudy Gay slice their bellies open for 32 points like he did back in the Kings’ 123-119 victory on January 7th. The Kings and Blazers other two meetings were home-and-home 104-91 and 98-86 victories back in November.

Also a possible problem for Blazers tonight: scary-as-fuck Alabama swamp monster DeMarcus Cousins. Boogie has scored 35, 33, and 35 points in games against against the Blazers this year. He is good at pretty much every element of big man scoring: post ups, putbacks, catches on pick and rolls. I guess he’s not a great midrange shooter, but like five NBA players are great midrange shooters and two of them are Dirk.

DMC is also very cool. He has a cool nickname, he chews out announcers, he volunteers with dogs, he scowls a lot and moves around the court like some kind of ballerina warlord. DeMarcus is the anti-Dwight Howard; he doesn’t care if anyone likes him and it’s fun to watch him play basketball.

This got me thinking: how cool are the Blazers (50-28)? We’ve been on the journey with them and we value that, but was it cool? I will determine:

DAMIAN LILLARD:

COOL: Oakland’s pretty cool. He sometimes takes three pointers several feet behind the line. Was in the dunk contest even though he rarely dunks in game, an ostentatious act if there ever was one.

NOT COOL: Doesn’t attack the basket enough. Stayed in college for four years, lame. Was in the dunk contest even though he rarely dunks in game, which, a little ostentatious, bro.

CONCLUSION: PRETTY COOL.

WESLEY MATTHEWS:

COOL: Seems like a very competitive young man. Undrafted out of college, sort of a scrapper.

NOT COOL: His name is “Wesley.” Has an okay post game he likes to break out, like he’s your dad or something. Never connects on that alley-oop play they run for him. Competitiveness isn’t THAT cool.

CONCLUSION: NOT THAT COOL

NIC BATUM:

COOL: Frenchman! The French are very cool because of France Gall and berets. They also wear striped shirts and smoke, and smoking is VERY cool. Very pretty eyes. He didn’t even go to college because he was playing pro basketball instead. He probably speaks French, which is the language Godard’s movies are in.

NOT COOL: I got nothing.

CONCLUSION: V. COOL, SUPER DOPE.

ROBIN LOPEZ:

COOL: Seems very comfortable with himself. Boxes out very well without prioritizing his own rebounding, community and teamwork are very cool.

NOT COOL: A DEEP DEEP nerd. The wettest, dankest nerd shit. One time he Tweeted about how he didn’t like new Looney Tunes cartoons; that’s like the deepest darkest nerd place you can go, man. Mariners fan.

CONCLUSION: NERD, EXISTS OUTSIDE TRADITIONAL SCALE

LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE:

COOL: Deep voice. Baseline turnarounds are A LITTLE cool.

NOT COOL: Doesn’t dunk enough. The midrange pick and pop is by far the uncoolest basketball play and everyone knows it. Probably lives in Beaverton.

CONCLUSION: NOT COOL.

BENCH:

COOL: Will Barton, Dorell Wright, Earl Watson (Fouls are cool.), Thomas Robinson

NEUTRAL: Joel Freeland (British: makes him a novel NBA player, but he IS still British.), Victor Claver

UNCOOL: Meyers Leonard,  CJ McCollum (4 years of college, NOT COOL.), Allan Crabbe (seafood, can’t abide it)

DEEPLY UNCOOL: Mo Williams. Quit trying so hard, man.

FINAL CONCLUSION: The Blazers are not cool. I am sorry, everyone, but it is the team we’re stuck with, forever.

TRAIL BLAZERS 100 – PELICANS 94: 500 DEGREEZ

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IF YOU CAME HERE LOOKING FOR RATIONAL MODEST PERSPECTIVE WITH A SIDE OF “WE’RE ONLY AT BASE CAMP, EDMUND HILLARY,” THEN PACK YOURSELF ON BACK TO WHATEVER INTERNET HELLHOLE RUN BY A CAT GIF DICTATOR THAT YOU CAME FROM. THIS IS A PLACE OF FREE LOVE AND CELEBRATION AND UNFETTERED JOY AND EXCLAMATIONS ABOUT WILL BARTON’S ARTISTRY BOLSTERED WITH EXTRA HELPINGS OF DRAGON REFERENCES. GRAB A PLATE. MIX YOUR METAPHORS. IT’S A PARTY. YOU MIGHT GET ENOUGH THRILLS FROM RIDING THAT GLASS ELEVATOR AT THE EMBASSY SUITES AND FEELING LIKE A GOD WATCHING OVER THE PEASANTS AT THE BREAKFAST BAR, BUT I WANT TO TAKE AN ENERGY DRINK SPONSORED JOURNEY TO THE STRATOSPHERE AND GAZE OUT INTO THE THIN EVERY-COLOR-OF-BLUE LINE SEPARATING PLANET EARTH FROM THE BLACKNESS OF SPACE AND FEEL ENORMOUS AND TINY AND ONE WITH ALL EXISTENCE, JUST LIKE NICOLAS BATUM, EVEN IF THAT FEELING ONLY LASTS FOR A MOMENT.

THE TRAIL BLAZERS BEAT THE PELICANS ON SUNDAY NIGHT IN PORTLAND AND WHILE THAT DOESN’T REALLY MEAN SHIT IN THE REALM OF HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT, 50 WINS ON THE SEASON AND A PLAYOFF BERTH KINDA DOES. I’LL ELABORATE ON THAT GRIPPING THESIS IN A SECOND, BUT FIRST, I SHOULD PROBABLY, YOU KNOW, RECAP THE GAME.

THE BLAZERS CAME OUT JACKING THREES BECAUSE MIDRANGE BASKETBALL IS PROPAGANDA AIMED AT THE MIDDLE CLASS TO KEEP THEM SUBJUGATED AND PACIFIED WITH THE ILLUSION OF ACCOMPLISHMENT.

THE PELICANS CAME OUT GIVING THE BALL TO ANTHONY DAVIS BECAUSE HE IS A BURGEONING REVOLUTIONARY WHO WILL SOON DESTROY ALL THAT IS LEFT OF THE STRUCTURE OF BASKETBALL THAT WAS ONCE THOUGHT TO BE EVERLASTING.

TYREKE EVANS ALSO GOT SOME TOUCHES. TYREKE HAS NO GREATER POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE.

FRANCISCO GOYA PAINTED THE SECOND QUARTER. MEYERS LEONARD PLAYED. A LONE DOG APPEARED STRANDED THE DESERT. MO WILLIAMS TURNED THE BALL OVER. SATURN DEVOURED HIS SON. THE PELICANS LED BY 7 AT HALFTIME.

THE SECOND HALF SAW A RENAISSANCE OF TRAIL BLAZER CULTURE THANKS TO THE MAJESTIC INTERCOURSE OF SCIENCE AND ART AND THE FLOW OFFENSE. LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE ROSE STRONG AND MIGHTY LIKE A COLOSSAL MONUMENT IN THE CENTER OF THE OFFENSE, WHILE WES MATTHEWS DID THE HARD LABOR ON THE FRINGES, LILLARD PROVIDED THE MEMORABLE FLOURISHES, AND BATUM WAS THE ENLIGHTMENT AS HE ALWAYS IS.

THE PELICANS LOST.

NOW AS FOR THAT NEBULOUS THING CALLED MEANING. THE PLAYERS WILL OBVIOUSLY DOWNPLAY THE WIN AND INSTEAD TALK ABOUT ROADS AND PATHS AND HIKES AND MOUNTAINTOPS AND OTHER VAGUE METAPHORS RELATED TO ALPINE LIFE. WHY SHERPAS HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO CUT IT AT THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL REMAINS UNKNOWN. MEANWHILE, AS THE SHERPAS NOD IN AGREEMENT, THE SO-CALLED REALISTS POINT TO THE DIFFICULTY OF THE WIN AND THE GENERAL STATE OF THE BLAZERS OVER THE LAST COUPLE MONTHS AND USE THAT TO ADVANCE THEIR VIEW THAT NONE OF IT MATTERS ANYWAY WHEN THE BLAZERS INEVITABLY LOSE IN 6 TO THE ROCKETS. YEAH, TRUE. SO WHY EVEN ENJOY THE EMOTIONAL TICKLE OF MUSIC OR FILM OR GUACAMOLE? EVERYTHING DIES, RIGHT?

BUT I AM NOT BOUND TO ALPINE CLICHÉS, AS I AM NOT A PLAYER (I’M A GREAT PASSER FROM THE HIGH POST THOUGH, TERRY! I’LL SEND YOU SOME TAPES FROM MY CYO DAYS!). NOR DO I SUBSCRIBE TO BASKETBALL NIHILISM – IF WE’RE ON THIS WORLD, WE MIGHT AS WELL HAVE SOME FUN. SO I WILL HAPPILY LET MY EMOTIONS RUN AWAY AND PAINT THIS WIN AS GLORIOUSLY AS POSSIBLE.

THE TRAIL BLAZERS DEFEATED ANOTHER PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL TEAM, AN ACCOMPLISHMENT FOR ANY TEAM, AND IF YOU LIKE THE BLAZERS AND CARE ABOUT THEIR SUCCESSES, YOU SHOULD FEEL HAPPY ABOUT THAT FACT. IN DOING SO, THE TRAIL BLAZERS EARNED THE RIGHT TO PLAY MORE BASKETBALL AND STAY IN THE RUNNING TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, WHICH IS GREAT IF YOU LIKE BASKETBALL AND WATCHING THE TRAIL BLAZERS. THEY MADE THE PLAYOFFS FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE 2011, THE END OF THE MIGHTY, ALBEIT BRIEF, AGE OF BRANDON ROY. YET, THEY NEVER COMPLETELY DESTROYED WHAT HAD BEEN. THERE WERE NO WILD TRADES TO GRASP FOR A MESSIAH, NOR WERE THERE ANY MARCIN GORTATS OR OMER ASIKS TO THROW TO THE NOISY MOB LIKE LOAVES OF BREAD. THE PILLARS OF THIS TEAM HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PILLARS, AS THE LASTING PRESENCES OF LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE AND NICOLAS BATUM POINT TO THE BLAZERS’ BELIEF IN PATIENCE AND TRUST AND PERSONAL GROWTH. DAMIAN LILLARD WAS A HIGH DRAFT PICK, BUT A LOW-RISK PICK EXPECTED ONLY TO START, NOT CONQUER THE LEAGUE LIKE A DURANTULAN TYRANT. THEN THERE IS THE SALVATION ARMY. WES MATTHEWS IS FROM MARQUETTE. ROBIN LOPEZ IS WEIRD. MO WILLIAMS WAS HEARTBROKEN. DORELL WRIGHT WAS RESCUED FROM A CONVEYOR BELT PROBABLY HEADED TO THE CHINESE LEAGUE. THOMAS ROBINSON AND WILL BARTON HAVE BEEN LIBERATED TO DO WHAT THEY DO AND BE CELEBRATED FOR IT, NOT ADMONISHED FOR WHAT THEY DO NOT. EVEN MEYERS LEONARD—UM, WELL—IF THE BLAZERS WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, I’M SURE HE’LL GET HIS NUMBER RETIRED RIGHT UP THERE NEXT TO DAVE TWARDZIK. SORRY SABONIS.

PELICANS @ TRAIL BLAZERS PREVIEW: MUGGLES

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(You walk into a mysterious store in Southeast Portland. The store sells voodoo knick knacks: various skulls, canes, vials of blood, varying shapes and sizes of purple candle. The back room calls to you. Beads in lieu of a door. There is a gigantic fat man in the back, wearing a horrible purple zebra striped suit and a gigantic yellow hat. He has a gigantic beard with purple and yellow beads in it. He carries a cane with a beaver skull on the head. He speaks in a thick, nearly incomprehensible southern accent and never seems to say the same word the same way twice.)

Why hullo thure my young friend my name is Crystal Butts, and I am a VooDooMan from Loosie-ana down south. The various devils and demons I consort with have brought me heeure to tell you about tonight’s Pawlan’ Tril Buggers (record) an’ Nawlins Pelly-Cans game (record) happenin’ tonight in the ol’ Roses Garden.

Now the Pellies are havin’ theselves a rough yeah with the loss by injury of their star point gaud J-rue Holly-Day and fowad Ryan Andyson and disappointing season from free agent signing Tyrick Eveans. They scorin’ 107.3 points puh hunded po-ssessions that’d be 12th place in the NBA an’ not so bad but theys givin’ up 110.1 points puh hunded po-ssessions which’d be 27th in the league an’ about as bad as a crawdad tryin’ to size up against a gator lemme tell you. (Crystal Butts laughs, then coughs for 20 seconds)

Nah the Pellitcints best playah is Anthony Davidson, a dynamic forward from Ken-tucky by way of Chicagee Ill-in-oise, he averages 20 points and tenerso rebounds for the Pelicans. When these teams last puh-layed back in Nawlins on March 14th, a 111-103 Pawlan’ win or so he scored what was then his car-rier high of 36 points (Butts whipsers) he eclipsed that total a few days latuh when he scored fawty points again’ Kelly Oly-Nicks and the sadass Bawsin’ Caltics. (Crystal snorts a line of a blue drug you’ve never seen before.) Oh my that DOES hit the spot yessuh. Now what was I… oh yes, Anthony is a tree-mendous high pick playugh, able so scour on mid range jump shawts, lawb passes and dribbadrives to the rim. Verah difficult playugh to guard, espi-cly if your picknroll defens is occasionally lacking the way Pawlans’ is. The other match-ups between these teams were buth in Decembuh, a 110-107 Blazuh win an’ a 110-108 Pelicuns victroy.

A win for the Blizzars I believe will cinch a playouff spot for that org-in-a-zay-tion, the team’s first in three yeahs time. The Peli-cans are maybe in a little bit of a pickle as they are in danger of losing their d-raft pick to the Philadelphia Seven’y Sixers on account of their trade for J-rue Holday. Pruhaps they are not a terribly moto-vated group of young men. Notta mentyun their of’ injurred shooin’ guard Eirc Gawdin is also out with a sprain’ left knee god bless his heart. The Blazers have none of these sawts of injries exceptin’ the ongoing knee problem with Britman Jo-el Free-lan’. (A cat jumps onto Crystal’s lap, he pulls out a knife, cuts some of the cat’s hair off and eats it.)

Oh yes, this game will also mawk the return of mah son, Luke Babbit, to the Rawse City after his bref soj-urn playing baskeyball in Russia. Naw, I don’t quite understand why he is callin’ himself Luke these days, as his muthuh an’ I named ‘im Dragonslayuh Von Butts, but I spose’ that every youngin’ wants to make his own name in the wuhld and there ain’t much I kin do to stawp im’. Lawke is scorin’ 5 points a game an’ shootin 34 Per-cent from 3 in his time with Nawlins, not so terrible I ‘spose. It’s somethin’ of a shame he would have been such a good witch doctor like his muthah if he had decided to go down that path. Also on the Pelicans: Austin Rivuhs, a hawbble little man who scares chillens’ and has no place in a civ’lized NBA.