GAME 1, TRAIL BLAZERS 122 – ROCKETS 120 (OT): ON THAT OTHER LEVEL

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LISTEN, I’M NOT IN ANY SORT OF A PLACE TO WRITE A RECAP OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THIS BASKETBALL GAME OR ANY EVENT HAPPENING ANYWHERE. I HAVE NO SENSE OF TIME OR SPACE OR ANYTHING. I CAN’T EVEN REMEMBER LIFE BEFORE THIS GAME STARTED OR IF I EVEN EXISTED BEFORE IT STARTED.

I CANNOT PUT THIS PERFORMANCE INTO ANY KIND OF PERSPECTIVE BECAUSE I HAVE NO PERSPECTIVE.

A SINGLE WESLEY MATTHEWS BUCKET AT SOME POINT IN TIME BROUGHT ME INTO EXISTENCE AND SO MY ENTIRE WORLD BECAME A FLAT TELEVISION SCREEN WITH LIQUID CRYSTALS FLYING AROUND – THE SCIENCE IS NOT SOUND, I KNOW – WITH LIGHTS AND COLORS THAT PUT FORTH A SPECTACULAR PERFORMANCE TO VISUALLY REPLICATE A BASKETBALL GAME THAT WAS HAPPENING IN HOUSTON, TEXAS, AND THE EXPERIENCE WATCHING THOSE CRYSTALS DO THEIR CRYSTAL THING TRIGGERED CHEMICALS IN MY HEAD THAT HAD NEVER BEFORE BEEN TASTED BUT OH MAN DID THEY TASTE DELICIOUS.

HERE ARE SOME ASSORTED THOUGHTS, FUELED BY PEEPS AND JELLY BEANS, ON THAT EXPERIENCE.

Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets, Game 6

LET’S TAKE IT BACK TO A MEMORY I HAVE OF APRIL, 2009.

TWAS THE DAY OF THE BLAZERS FIRST GAME IN THEIR FIRST PLAYOFF SERIES SINCE BEFORE THE AGE OF DARIUS MILES. TWAS SUNNY IN PORTLAND THAT DAY, AS I RECALL. MY BROTHER AND I, HEARTS AND MINDS BOTH AWASH WITH HOPE, STROLLED THROUGH THE ROSE QUARTER SOAKING IN THE RESURRECTED VIBES OF THE RIP CITY RENAISSAINCE AS WELL AS THE SUNSHINE, BOTH OF WHICH FELT LIKE RARE TREATS. WE WENT INTO THE ARENA. WE GOT PO’SHINED. WE WENT TO OUR SEATS. THEN, BEFORE WE COULD EVEN HUSH OUR PUPPIES, YAO MING SCORED LIKE 8 POINTS IN A ROW AND THE ROCKETS WERE UP LIKE 11-2 AND THE BLAZERS ONLY FURTHER COLLAPSED EN ROUTE TO TOTAL DEFEAT.

BLAZER GOD BRANDON ROY LOOKED UNCOMFORTABLE THROUGHOUT MOST OF THAT TERRIBLE SERIES. IN FACT, I MAINTAIN TODAY THAT RUDY FERNANDEZ WAS THE ONLY TRAIL BLAZER WHO ROSE TO MATCH THE GRAVITAS OF THE MOMENT. BUT THE REASON I BRING THIS ALL UP WAS THAT THE MOST TROUBLING ASPECT OF THAT SERIES WAS THE ABUSE PUT UPON A YOUNG LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE BY LUIS SCOLA. SEEING THE FUTURE, AND SUPPOSED PRESENT, OF THE BLAZER FRONTCOURT RELENTLESSLY BULLIED BY A MAN WHOSE GO-TO POST MOVE IS “SWARTHINESS” IS NOT A SIGHT ONE SOON FORGETS. THE SCAR MAY FADE AND LAMARCUS MAY CHANGE THE STORY OF THE SCAR WHEN IN AN INTIMATE SITUATION WITH A YOUNG ALDRETTE, BUT WE WHO WERE THERE WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER THE HORROR.

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LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE HAD 46 POINTS AND 18 REBOUNDS TONIGHT, IN A PLAYOFF GAME, WITH A HOSTILE AND LIVELY CROWD, AGAINST ONE OF THE BEST – IF NOT THE BEST – POST DEFENDER IN THE NBA, IN DWIGHT HOWARD. HE MADE JABBARIAN RUNNING HOOKS OVER DOUBLE TEAMS. HE MADE TWO THREE-POINTERS, THE SECOND OF WHICH COMING AFTER HE PUMP FAKED ON A MIDRANGE JUMPER TO GET HOWARD IN THE AIR, BUT DIDN’T GET THE FOUL CALL WHEN HOWARD SORT OF LANDED ON HIM AND KNOCKED THE BALL LOOSE, SO ALDRIDGE JUST STEPPED BACK AND COLLECTED THE BALL AND BANGED THE THREE RIGHT IN HOWARD’S COUNTENANCE. PUT UP YOUR THREE-FINGERED MONOCLE, MEYERS LEONARD.

THE BLAZER OFFENSE LOOKED PRETTY BAD AT LEAST THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE OF THIS GAME. POOR BALL MOVEMENT, QUESTIONABLE SHOT SELECTION, A FEW UGLY TURNOVERS, AN INABILITY TO MAKE EVEN THE WIDE OPEN SHOTS FROM BEYOND THE ARC. BUT IT WAS ALDRIDGE WHO CARRIED THE TEAM THROUGH THOSE ROUGH PATCHES AND MOST OF THE SECOND HALF, DECIMATING WHOEVER WAS PUT IN FRONT OF HIM WITH JUMP SHOTS, HARD DRIVES, FOLLOWS ON MISSES, AND EVERYTHING ELSE OUT OF STRUNK AND WHITE’S MANUAL, ELEMENTS OF POST GAME STYLE. WHEN THE BLAZERS ENACTED A CONTROVERSIAL BUT EFFECTIVE “HACK-A-DWIGHT” STRATEGY IN THE FOURTH QUARTER THAT FORCED HOWARD OFF THE FLOOR, ALDRIDGE TREATED TERRENCE JONES MUCH THE WAY THAT ALDRIDGE HAD BEEN TREATED BY SCOLA ALL THOSE YEARS AGO. ALDRIDGE MAY NOT BE A MOST VALUABLE PLAYER CANDIDATE ANYMORE BUT HIS PERFORMANCE TONIGHT WAS THAT OF A HALL OF FAMER, THE BEST PERFORMANCE THAT I CAN REMEMBER FROM A BLAZER WHO WAS NOT RIDING ON THE WINGS OF ANGELS FOR ONE FINAL BLAZE OF GLORY. TONIGHT TWAS PURE HEROISM.

REMEMBER WHEN I SAID I HAD NO PERSPECTIVE ANYMORE?

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EVER SINCE BONZI THREW DOUBLE BIRDS AT THE CUSTOMERS AND QYNTEL WAS DECORATING THE WALLS OF HIS HOUSE IN DOG BLOOD, THERE HAS SEEMED TO BE A NOTICEABLE, IF UNDERSTANDABLE, ABSENCE OF BAD-ASSERY IN THE ON-COURT ATTITUDE OF THE BLAZERS. THE FRONT OFFICE WANTED PLAYERS WHO WOULD BE SPOTTED TAKING PICTURES WITH KIDS OUTSIDE LOCAL FOOD TRUCKS AT LUNCHTIME, NOT BLOWING TREES IN THE PARKING LOT OF A SHARI’S AT 4AM. AND SO IF THAT MEANT SACRIFICING THE FREQUENCY OF HARD FOULS AND DUDES SWAGGERING AROUND AFTER DUNKS AND TELLING SOFT EUROPEAN BIG MEN TO GO BACK TO OLIVE GARDEN, WELL THAT’S JUST HOW IT HAD TO BE FOR A WHILE.

BUT, AS SOMEBODY WHO RELISHES IN THE BAD-ASSERY OF TEAMS LIKE THE GRIZZLIES AND PACERS—WELL, BAD EXAMPLE RIGHT NOW, BUT YOU GET THE IDEA—I HAPPILY NOTICED THAT IT WAS THE BLAZERS WHO CAME OUT AND SET A VILLAINOUS TONE EARLY AND OFTEN AND SHOWED THAT THEY WOULD NOT BE PUNKED BY THESE ROCKETS.

THOMAS ROBINSON, THE BAD-ASSIEST, ENTERED THE GAME FOR HIS FIRST MINUTES IN THE FIRST HALF AND IMMEDIATELY ATTEMPTED THE SORT OF DUNK THAT COULD IMPREGNATE VIEWERS, MALE OR FEMALE. LATER IN THE GAME, HE HARD FOULED THE HOLLOW SOUL OF PATRICK BEVERLEY, WHO WOULD HIMSELF LATER BE THE RECIPIENT OF ANOTHER SOMEWHAT HARD FOUL, DEEMED A FLAGRANT, BY MO WILLIAMS. ROBIN LOPEZ RECEIVED A TECHNICAL FOUL FOR HURTING DWIGHT HOWARD’S FEELINGS, AS THE TWO BIG MEN HURLED INSULTS AND LOOSE LIMBS AT ONE ANOTHER FOR MOST OF THE NIGHT.

THE BLAZERS LOOKED GULLY, AND IT’S HARD TO THINK THAT SOME GULLINESS DID NOT COME IN HANDY WHEN GRINDING BACK FROM A DOUBLE-DIGIT FOURTH QUARTER DEFICIT.

OF COURSE, I WOULD BE REMISS IN DISCUSSING GULLINESS IF I DID NOT SPEAK OF DAMIAN LILLARD OF OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA. LIKE HIS TEAM IN GENERAL, THE GAME DID NOT KNEEL DOWN IN FRONT OF YOUNG DAMIAN AND BESTOW UPON HIM THE JEWELS OF ROYALTY. HE HAD TO GO OUT AND STEAL THOSE JEWELS – RUN THE JEWELS, OR, “GET UP OFF THEM GODDAMN DIAMONDS,” IN THE WORDS OF THE MASH OUT POSSE.

WHILE BEVERLEY HARASSED HIM FROM THE OPENING TIP AND PROBABLY BEFORE THAT TOO, LILLARD OVERCAME. HE’S TOO TOUGH AND PROUD AND QUIETLY FEROCIOUS TO ALLOW A SIMPLE HEEL LIKE BEVERLEY TO DISRUPT HIS GAME. OVER THE COURSE OF THE GAME, LILLARD BEGAN TO LOOK MORE AND MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE PICK-AND-ROLL, LIKE HE SOLVED THE PUZZLE OF THE HOUSTON DEFENSE AND REALIZED EXACTLY WHAT HE NEEDED TO DO TO SET UP OPPORTUNITIES FOR DEATH-DEFYING ASSAULTS AT THE RIM. WHEN HIS JUMPER WASN’T FALLING, THOSE ASSAULTS PUT HIM ON THE FREE THROW LINE AND DID THEIR PART TO PUT HOWARD INTO FOUL TROUBLE. THEN, DURING THE “HACK-A-HOWARD” STRETCH OF THE GAME, LILLARD FOUND HIS COMPLETE SCORING FORM, CULMINATING IN A SILLY PULL-UP LEANING THREE-POINTER FROM TWO STEPS BEYOND THE ARC DURING WHICH HE WAS FOULED AND STILL MADE THE SHOT (THOUGH HE MISSED THE ENSUING FREE THROW). A FEW MINUTES LATER, LILLARD WOULD HIT THE THREE-POINTER TO TIE THE GAME AT 104 AND, AFTER TWO JAMES HARDEN FREE THROWS AND A ALDRIDGE TIP-IN OF A LILLARD MISSED TIP-IN OF A WES THREE-POINTER WITH TWO SECONDS LEFT, SEND THE GAME TO OVERTIME.

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THE OFFICIATING WAS TERRIBLE. THE BLAZERS DID NOT SHOOT WELL, OR PLAY OFFENSE WELL, FOR MOST OF THE GAME. MO WILLIAMS WAS ATROCIOUS. DWIGHT HOWARD KIND OF DOMINATED ROBIN LOPEZ ON THE BLOCK. PATRICK BEVERLEY WAS MADDENING. DORELL WRIGHT PROBABLY PLAYED TOO MUCH. THOMAS ROBINSON PROBABLY DIDN’T PLAY ENOUGH. THE BLAZERS FELL BEHIND BY 11 WITH 4 MINUTES TO GO. BUT STILL, SOMEHOW, ON THE GRACE OF TWO OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCES BY DAMIAN LILLARD AND MOST OF ALL LAMARCUS ALDIRDGE, THE BLAZERS MANAGED TO WIN. NONE OF IT IS PROBABLY RELIABLE TO BE COUNTED UPON FOR THE NEXT GAME, BUT LIKE THE CLICHÉ SAYS, EACH GAME IS ITS OWN INDIVIDUAL UNIVERSE SEPARATE FROM OVERALL NARRATIVE, AND LIKE I READ ON THE LIPS – OR LIKE I WANTED TO READ ON THE LIPS – OF AN ASSISTANT CONGRATULATING STOTTS AS SOON AS HARDEN’S FINAL SHOT MISSED AND THE BUZZER SOUNDED, “WHAT A FUCKING WIN.”

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 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.

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 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.

SUNS 109 – TRAIL BLAZERS 93: GREEN IS BLUES

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Here is some footage of Gerald Green’s night:

 

 

Blazers wore yellow it was weird.

C’mon, get a hand up, Wes!

OK STANNIS WELL I GUESS WE AREN’T CLINCHING THAT PLAYOFF SPOT JUST YET.

O nvm that’s just a scene from Reign of Fire.

TRAIL BLAZERS 124 – LAKERS 112: THE CAMERA PHOTOGRAPHS WHAT’S THERE

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Dear Jack Nicholson,

 

Here is what you missed:

 

Did you know Steve Nash is still alive? Well he is! I know; I saw that video on Grantland in which they (by “they” I mean doctors or doctor-like folk, not Bill Simmons et al.) were injecting Nash’s back with needles – really big needles, like the kind of thing that people use to inseminate horses. I’ve seen that before too; the Internet is wild! You should check it out! I mean you should check out the Internet, not horse insemination. Horse insemination is pretty much what you would expect.

Anyway, Steve Nash! He was out there creating like his team was made out of Play-Doh and they pretty much are! Plus, he even made some shots! His spine didn’t fall out or anything! Can you believe it? I think he organized an expedition to find the Holy Grail and he remembered that the penitent man shall pass and that in the Latin alphabet, “Jehovah” starts with an “I,” and he took the leap of faith and then he chose wisely and he hasn’t taken the Grail across the seal. Remember that Indiana Jones movie? Don’t tell Kobe though. He’ll fly his helicopter there and take the grail across the seal because he thinks the Kobe System is more powerful than magical Grail rules. SMH he’s just like that Nazi lady, I know!

Hey you know who is not a Nazi (other than most people on Earth), Nick Young! He’s like the opposite of Nazis! They would hate him! Nazis were not very fun and Nick Young is all about fun! He’s not really fun for me, of course, because I like the Blazers and even I’m not that much of a self-hating fan. But for any other non-Puritans, Nick Young would be pretty fun. He was wearing some 10-year-old LeBron shoes that were colored like Timberland boots – “wheat” is the technical term. Nick Young likes his shoes like he likes his toast. That wasn’t a good joke. I’m sorry. I bet Lou Adler tells the best jokes. I bet his jokes are all simple and timeless, like something Jack Handey would say. I don’t have that kind of talent. I would just say something dumb like how Nick Young and wheat are similar because some “intelligent” people say they’re allergic to Nick Young and wheat but really those people are just making up some fake allergy to defend how picky they are, and also Nick Young and wheat are the same because wheat is a staple food and Nick Young plays in the Staples Center. Whoa. I hope you didn’t get high before you read that last part. You seem like you might be high a lot.

Ok Jack, I’m going to have to talk about some people on the Blazers now. You, as a lover of basketball, should embrace the opportunity to discuss a team that does not give heavy minutes to Robert Sacre or start Kent Bazemore (no disrespect #justfacts). Damian Lillard of Oakland, California, scored 34 points. He was the best player on the court, and that includes your beloved Pau Gasol. Lillard hit 5 of 10 three-pointers and he threw down a pretty nice dunk too, after which he glared back at the Lakers like he was Cyclops shooting invisible laserbeams out of his eyes that would cook the Lakers and cause their lake to evaporate, leaving just a hole filled with tree stumps.

Elsewhere in the realm of achievement, LaMarcus Aldridge scored 31 points and pulled down 15 rebounds. Sometimes he can look like an empty vessel and as we suck the straw (NO JOKES) beckoning for more all we get is the remnants of liquid careening off ice cubes, but tonight, he was filled to the brim with purpose. Either that or he was playing against Robert Sacre and apathetic post-vertigo Pau Gasol and Ryan Kelly and Chris Kaman. BTW is Chris Kaman OK? The beard, the lying down, the lack of even fake effort on defense, it sure seems like a cry for help. I’M HERE FOR YOU CHRIS! WELL NOT ME, PERSONALLY, BUT SOMEONE LIKE ME! SOMEBODY WITHIN THE HUMAN RACE IS HERE FOR YOU! TAKE A SHOWER! A LIFE SHOWER! BUT FIRST A REAL SHOWER! YOU LOOK SOILED! YOUR SOUL IS SOILED AND YOUR BODY IS SOILED!

Ok, let’s end this on a positive note. Kendall Marshall nearly died! At the hands of Meyers Leonard, no less! That is not an April Fool’s joke! Marshall was coming down the court on a fast break, eyeing the rim like a man hungry to turn a 6-point night into an 8-point night and cut 16-point deficit to a 14-point deficit. Oh yeah, there was like 36 seconds left when this was happening. The game had long been decided. Meyers Leonard, who had been on the court for about 90 seconds, decided that this would be the moment when he would make his stand of defiance against all those who call him too weak-hearted and too passive to become a dominant center in this league. NO LAYUPS. So as Marshall gathered to take it to the rim, Meyers grabbed yung K-Butta by the back of the neck-butta, and “threw” him to the ground. I put “threw” in quotations because the malice was suspect. The move itself looked like a combination of Meyers wanting to chokeslam Marshall and also wanting to bring him in close for a warm hug. In the replay, the look on Leonard’s face held terror and violence until it didn’t, like he was saying in his internal Meyerslogue: “GRRRRRRRGGGGHHHHROOOARRRRRRRRR DEATH TO ALL WHO CHALLENG—oh no! Kendall! The wood is hard! Are you OK? Here, wait there! I’ll go get you some Jolly Ranchers! What flavor is your favorite?” Meyers was given a flagrant 2 and ejected from the game.

After the game, Meyers Leonard had this to say to the gathered scribes into their gathered tape recorders:

“YEAH, MEYERS LEONARD, MOTHERFUCKERS. ASK ABOUT ME. THAT SOFTBATCH PUNK WHATEVER HIS NAME IS—KENDALL? IS THAT A GIRL’S NAME? [CACKLING] THIS AIN’T THE KARDASHIANS AND I AIN’T BRUCE JENNER THOUGH I JUST MIGHT TOSS A JAVELIN THROUGH HIS BITCH HEART IF HE TRIES TO APPROACH THE RIM AGAIN ON MEYERS. NO LAYUPS. HE’LL BE THE TAR ON MY HEEL, YA FEEL ME? Wait—are the Tar Heels the ones who wear baby blue? OMG you guys, a couple months ago, I dyed my dog baby blue and it was just the most adorable thing. God bless Pinterest [giggling].”

 

So yeah, that’s how it went down Jack.

Love,

Joe

TRAIL BLAZERS 105 – GRIZZLIES 98: COLD IS THE OCEAN’S SPRAY

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It’s the 9th Century. The ol’ Julian calendar on the wall says that it’s summer, but there’s still a chill outside. There’s always a chill outside – it’s the 9th Century and the signage reads “Canterbury” or something and the sheep haven’t quite been as forthcoming with that good wool lately. Times are tough. So just to get a break from the depressing monotony of counting parsnips or whatever in your tiny dirt hut, you grab your cloak, mumble something to the family about “going to the store,” and head out for a walk to clear your head. Right as you’re sitting on a bluff overlooking the North Sea, gazing out into the emptiness and reflecting on all the dreams you compromised for a family and steady life in a dirt hut counting parsnips or whatever, you see it, a small fleet of ships approaching from the horizon. Each has the one sail, the oars sticking out the sides, the shields, the dragon on the bow, the whole nine. Soon, the ships land on the beach below and everyone that unloads looks enormous, made from volcanic rock, and ready for war, like they’ve been crafted for war. You’ve heard the grim stories about the terror wrought by these “Northmen,” but who knows where they’re really from. Maybe Hell. Maybe Graceland. Suddenly, all you want is to count those parsnips or whatever forever, but you know that your destruction is assured.

Now, imagine it’s 2014 and those same “Northmen” are landing on these shores. They’re still big, igneous, fearsome, with the axes and swords and shields and intimidating hairstyles and all that. But it’s 2014, and you don’t need to fight them on their terms. You have modern weapons like Mo Williams, who seems to have recently embraced his role as scorer and become more assertive looking for his shot in the pick-and-roll. You have the newly repaired LaMarcus Aldridge, whose post game looks to have returned, if his turnaround fadeaway is still finding its way. You have Damian Lillard of Oakland, California. They just have axes and swords and shields. Even if the combat becomes hand-to-hand and punishing, you have more evolved tools of brutality like the The Yung Energy God Thomas Robinson, Ol’ Ironsides Wes Matthews, and the Octopus Wizard Robin Lopez. Or, if you’re feeling peaceful, just allow Nicolas Batum and Will Barton to pacify these incoming warriors with the beauty and transcendence of art.

TRAIL BLAZERS 91 – BULLS 74: IT WON’T LAST FOREVER

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EAT PRAY LOVE

WE BACK OUT HERE!

[Actually first, to observe a moment of silence for Thomas Robinson’s fallen Tamagotchi—

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep well, sweet blob, may you find endless slices of pixel cake in the eternal ocean of time.]

OK NOW THAT WE PAID DUE RESPECTS AND SPILT SOME KOMBUCHA HOMEBREW AND AIRBRUSHED SOME T-SHIRTS IN YUNG TAMAGOTCHI ROBINSON’S DEAR MEMORY WE REALLY BACK OUT HERE!!!!!!!!!

Chicago is for lovers. Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls tried to get into their “Grindin’” routine, but Pusha T Stotts was like, “You know what I keep in my lining,” and in addition to a mesmerizing multi-green pocket square folded with a florist’s vision and a swordmaker’s precision, Terry’s lining also consisted of a rejuvenated offense and a bench with more on it than bird fecal matter and a sleeping Earl Watson.

I once read about a time that jazz drummer Max Roach won a drum battle with simply a hi-hat, that he found all of the unknown musicality of the hi-hat, more than his opponent could find in a full drum set. Maybe that’s a parable, or maybe it’s late and I’m reaching for obscure jazz drummer stories that I read in a drum magazine back when I had a roommate who was so inclined, to quantify the beautiful ideal that the Blazers offense can every-once-in-a-McDonald’s-breakfast-outing attain. I don’t know; it is late, after all.

But man, when the Blazers offense rises to the level shown on this night, and the ball swings around the halfcourt like they’ve been raised together since birth and spoon-fed on the Ajax method, I just want to open up the top of my head and pour it on my brain like Tapatio on hash browns. The spice of life! Mo Williams scored 18 points! 5 other players had double-digit scoring totals! As a team they shot 10-22 from 3-point range! I didn’t even care that LaMarcus only managed 5 points on 2-10 shooting. It felt like the Blazers found themselves. Eat, pray, love.

One win over a squad led by Jeff Teague that gives ample minutes to Elton Brand aside, it’s been darker than the hidden pockets on Sebastian Telfair’s carry-on around here. I know the flight attendants warned of some late-season regression turbulence, but when the Blazer Trailplane went into a nosedive, unfulfilled lives flashed before eyes that had seen far too much disappointment, vomit bags overflowed with the horrid manifestations of all those fears thought to be put into oil drums and filled with concrete and buried Captain Nemo deep beyond recovery, and I’m pretty sure I heard someone near the back scream, “I ALWAYS LOVED YOU AND I MISS YOUR BEAUTIFUL SMILE IN MY LIFE, JARED JEFFRIES!” Poor Bill Schonely locked himself in the bathroom, tampered the shit out of the smoke detector, and sadly went to work on a pack of Parliament Menthols. The Blazers had been run by the Bobcats and the Magic, so fuck your airplane rules. We were gonna die.

The fear of heights is at its worst when the ground is close enough to feel real.

But we didn’t die. We stared down death (DO NOT DOUBT THE VALIDITY OF THIS STATEMENT – I HAVE SPENT NIGHTS WONDERING IF MEYERS LEONARD MIGHT ACTUALLY BE A MATCHUP PROBLEM FOR DWIGHT HOWARD IN A PLAYOFF SERIES SO SIT DOWN AND LET ME TELL YOU WHAT DEATH LOOKS LIKE IN THE NUDE, 50 CENT). Its icy winds cut right through our “hey everybody we’re just happy to be here” cloaks and exposed us for the shivering, weak-minded, terror-gripped fatalists that we are. But hey! We might have lost our innocence and our blind faith in destiny, but at least we survived! God is dead, but we’re not.

HEAT 93 – TRAIL BLAZERS 91: SUFFERING FROM SUCCESS

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The Blazers lost. Again. And it was pretty sad. Again. Oh man was it SAD. Before the game, I didn’t expect it to be sad, or really sad at all. I thought the Blazers would lose, sure. They were playing the back-to-back NBA champions on the road, after losing their last game to the Bobcats, who are not the back-to-back champions of anything, by 30 points. But the expectation of loss was supposed to protect me, and all of us, from the feelings of loneliness and emptiness and powerlessness that result from defeat. We were supposed to have a blanket of realism to keep our emotions lukewarm and the tender parts of our souls shielded from the elements, and I guess we did for a while. Then the Blazers and LeBron James and Chris Bosh ripped that blanket off us like our mom waking us up early for school and we were left there clinging to our last pillow of rationalization as our emotions wore only a pair of tattered basketball shorts and shivered in the cold morning air.

The first quarter was the good time, which is rare for the Blazers. Normally, the Blazers start with some Robin Lopez post-ups, opt against the defensive aspect of the game out of kindness, then force up three-pointers once they find themselves down by a score of something like 23-9. But not tonight! No way, Jose! The Blazers came right out passing the ball quickly and aggressively – that’s an important distinction, by the way: passing the ball around the perimeter with aggression and purpose rather than with fear or resigned necessity. Anyway, Damian Lillard played well. He dunked a couple times. One was an alley-oop finish on a lob from Nicolas Batum. The other was a driving two-handed dunk in which he navigated around Ray Allen in mid-air like one of those acrobatic airplanes sponsored by a particular bovine-named European energy drink company. Both were quite impressive. He would finish with 19 points and 6 assists.

Nicolas Batum also played very well. He pulled down some more rebounds and hit some shots and it seemed like he would be giving LeBron James everything his crown could handle.

Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out. The game started to open up in the second quarter thanks to a lot of Blazer turnovers and LeBron started getting up and down like a formula one semi-truck driven by that clown from Twisted Metal and really it was very scary. LeBron would finish with 32 points and 6 rebounds and 5 assists and 4 steals.

The third quarter was pretty much the same. Turnovers. LeBron. Blazers down by 11 points going to the 4th. The Blazers would fall behind by as many as 17 points early in the final period BUT IT WAS OK WE STILL HAD OUR BLANKET OF EMOTIONAL INVINCIBILITY.

But then, things started happening. Thomas Robinson was discovering fire. Mo Williams discovered the good within himself. All of a sudden it was back to 10 and at least the Blazers would make the margin of defeat a respectable margin even though they would most certainly still lose.

With a few minutes left, Terry Stotts switched to an aggressive 2-3 zone and wouldn’t it you know it but the Miami Heat looked like Kansas on Sunday trying to solve a crossword puzzle written in another language. Wes Matthews for three. Damian Lillard for some free throws. WES MATTHEWS FOR ANOTHER THREE and somehow this is a 5 point game. AND THEN NICOLAS BATUM HITS AN OFF BALANCE THREE THAT NEARLY GAVE ME A SEIZURE AS THAT BLANKET WAS TORN OFF MY EMOTIONS AND SET ON FIRE AND I DIDN’T EVEN CARE CUZ THE BLAZERS WERE GONNA BEAT THE CHAMPS IN THE DUMBEST WAY EVER, A 2-3 ZONE. Two Mo Williams free throws made it a tie game. Bless the zone.

With 30 seconds left and the game newly square, the Heat called timeout and I imagine Miami coach Erik Spoelstra just used that time to draw caricatures of his players with big heads and little bodies on the white board and then right as the timeout was up, he laughed and was like, “Yeah just throw it to our giant one-of-a-kind aircraft, the Spruce Goose AKA LeBron James, and let him spruce their goose.” LeBron attacked the rim and finished over Robin Lopez to give the Heat a two-point lead with 11 seconds left. But no matter, the Blazers were gonna win because there were greater forces at work and my belief in that outcome was full and without doubt.

Terry Stotts opted against calling timeout, presumably because he didn’t want to give Miami time to prepare a defense. Lillard and Matthews sort of fought each other for a pass at the top of the key. Lillard ended up claiming the ball, then drove left past his man towards the rim and then right as he rose for a lefty finish at the near death of regulation to send the game to overtime, Chris Bosh, noted hater of Blazer dreams, blocked the shot and the game ended. The Heat won. Basketball is an unfair world devoid of any higher forces. There is only LeBron James and who he chooses to empower.