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.