GAME 5, ROCKETS 108 – TRAIL BLAZERS 98: THANGS DONE CHANGED

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Am I scared? Yeah, I’m pretty scared—very scared. The Blazers allowed a team with two of the league’s top players to taste the sweet refreshment of life and now if the Blazers lose game 6 at home on Friday then it goes back to Houston on Sunday and OMG—wait, that was your question, right?

Jeremy Lin had 21 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 8 points and you know what that’s pretty much a recap right there let’s give that its own paragraph and move on.

Well now that you know everything important that happened in the game, let’s talk about some other less important things that happened.

Dorell Wright had 1 point, 0 rebounds, and 0 assists. None were particularly memorable. He did manage a -19 rating in 11 minutes, somehow. Overall, Wright has been a bright spot of the series for Portland, but the early second quarter was not kind to anyone.

Wes Matthews played very, very, very well. Very well. 27 points, 5-9 from 3-point range, 3 blocks! He very nearly dragged the Blazers to a win that they most certainly did not deserve. Send him your praise and your gift cards to stores that have good deals on peanut butter, as well as good selection. Chunky, creamy, the weird natural stuff that separates so you gotta stir it, all that. Wes seems like a man who likes peanut butter and he deserves a lot of peanut butter.

Damian Lillard also played well – 26 points – but he doesn’t seem as deep into the peanut butter scene as Wes. Give him something else, instead. Egg rolls, perhaps. Everyone likes egg rolls. Egg rolls are fucking delicious.

Everyone in Houston wore shirts that said, “Clutch City,” as part of some kind of handbag-related promotion. You know, ladies like to bring smaller handbags to the club. Anyway, speaking of handbags, Mo Williams was terrible! Like really, really bad! 4 points in 20 minutes, 2-7 shooting, 3 turnovers, 1 assist, a -17 rating! After spending the lead-up telling every media person (well…not EVERY media person L) about how he was setting up a vacation home in Troy Daniels’ head, and generally presenting himself as an expert manipulator of the media a la Kris Kardashian or Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But rather than parlay some fireside chats into three terms as president of the United States, Mo just talked a lot of shit about some dude that was playing in the Rio Grande Valley last week and then got outplayed by that dude and, well, I think the official term is “he played himself.”

For the supposed veteran who would provide a steadying presence on and off the court, Mo’s maddeningly inconsistent play and now wild shit talking is starting to make Will Barton look like late-career Jason Kidd.

Speaking of The People’s Champ, he played the final two minutes of the game, unfortunately dropping his once undefeated postseason record to a sad 1-1.

As for the Rockets, Dwight Howard was good. Chandler Parsons was good. James Harden was quiet but decent enough. Omer Asik was around, and Jeremy Lin was surprisingly effective after spending the first four games of the series playing like he was wondering if maybe he should put his Harvard degree to use instead of waste his time with this “basketball” nonsense.

So what are the odds of LaMarcus disappearing, Lin exploding, the Portland bench scoring 5 total points, no one on the Blazers totaling more than 10 rebounds, only totaling 14 assists as a team, and all of these other things happen again? I don’t know. I’m not that good at math anymore. I’m just scared.

A PORTRAIT OF WES MATTHEWS

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Artwork by Gage Hamilton and Tron Burgundy. If interested in purchasing a print, email Gage at gage.m.hamilton@gmail.com.

Imagine a superhero who believed in the power of society’s existing institutions. Instead of putting on the cape of a vigilante and heading mask-first into the dark of night, to places where neither the sun nor the law can reach, to beat the underworld within an inch of its life, imagine a super hero who used his or her extraordinary talents to, say, be the most productive worker at the local steel mill. “Let the police do their jobs,” he or she would say. “The world needs well-made steel girders, too.”

Wes Matthews took to calling himself “The Dark Knight” earlier this season in response to the perceived slight of the NBA leaving his name off of the All Star ballot – the undrafted Matthews is good at finding perceived slights. He seemed to choose the Batman imagery because Batman performs his heroism in the darkness, shrouded in a mystery that does not allow for any personal glorification, like All Star balloting. I suppose of any superheroes, Batman best mirrors Matthews in that the former is a superhero who lacks supernatural abilities and relies on intelligence and willpower, while the latter – even at 6’5”, 220 lbs – lacks the natural gifts of heroes like LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard.

But Wes is not invisible in the way that Batman is invisible. Wes is invisible in the way that factory workers are invisible, or in the way that Bruce Wayne – or more accurately, Clark Kent – is invisible. See, Wes is not a superhero. He is the alter ego of a superhero. He is the alter ego without the super ego, without the costume in the closet. He is Superman without the whole “Superman” part. He punches the clock, puts in his 40 hours, hits a few spot-up threes, plays tough defense, mixes in some bullying post-ups, pours molten steel into molds at a very high level, then goes out to some chicken-wire-windowed bar each night with the rest of the steel workers, slams his “shot and a beer, Dolores,” and occasionally smashes a pool cue across the face of injustice.

In basketball terms, Wes is an energy guy, despite playing without an excess of energy. Excepting a few brief moments of fire, his game is controlled and deliberate. He inspires his teammates not with thunderous dunks, but with the latent ferocity in his humility and dedication. He is a symbol of the honor in sacrifice. He represents “the true heroes” who eschew the chase for glory and riches to be but humble 3-and-D men, happily doing thankless work to advance the greater cause. Wes is Rosie The Riveter.

Yet when called upon, he is more than willing and capable of stepping away from the factory where he builds airplane wings and battles through high screens and taking up arms to head off across the Atlantic to halt the spread of fascism, or heading down into the post to heroically front Dwight Howard for 24 seconds. Wes Matthews is the American Dream—or rather, he is America’s dream for you.

 

GAME 3, ROCKETS 121 – TRAIL BLAZERS 116 (OT): CRUMBS TO BRICKS

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What’s his name? Roy Williams? Yeah, Roy Williams I think. Whatever.

Time was silently un-illuminating off of the important LED clocks in overtime. The Rockets had the ball. James Harden had the ball. The game was tied. Then, Mo Williams stole the ball. Read that sentence with Havlicekian emphasis. Moods were high. Momentarily. Mo Williams fell down. Maybe he was pushed. Ok yeah probably there was something illegal about the physical contact between Mo and Jeremy Lin. In any case, Mo ended up lying down on the court while Lin collected the ball before it found North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams, who was now wide open on the left wing in a suit fit for the most genteel of district attorneys. Or maybe it was the other Roy Williams. Mr. Kelly Rowland. They look the same so what does it matter. One of the Roy Williamses – most likely the one who probably tells recruits that they’ll never make it in basketball AND LIFE unless they give all of their income to some shady mega-church, but possibly the one who thought Nelly “GOT A LITTLE TOO HANDSY I SAW THE WAY YOU LOOKED AT HIM” on the video shoot for “Dilemma” – lined up and hit the three-pointer to put the Rockets up by 3 with only a few seconds remaining. Ugh.

I guess we should have seen it coming. I guess you should have seen it coming. You’re the one who can predict the future, with your demonic board games and lazy susan filled with dead newts and the like. Not me. I’m an honest, innocent young man who believes in a just universe and the power of positivity and who listened to Ace Hood’s “Bugatti” at least like 5 or 6 times in the time before the game to get properly turnt. I made up my own dance. It was natural and beautiful and pure. It was in my living room. There were aimless fist pumps and motions like I was simultaneously rolling dice and winding the engine crank for an early 20th century automobile. I was turnt.

At what point does turning up go to far? Is turning up like bowling after two beers when you’re really good but then one more beer and you fall off of the bowling cliff? And what were we really turning up for? Was our turn up a celebration of the first two games that we were separated from, more than it was a turn up for this particular game? Does the motive of a turn up, whether conscious or subconscious, impact its effectiveness? Being ahead 2-0 in the series, was there a sense of desperation rooted in our recognition of mortality? Is it even possible to properly turn up if there is not recognition of the fleeting aspect of life?

These questions are for the philosophers to debate and I suspect we won’t find answers for quite some time, at least until game 4 on Sunday. In the meantime, however, I suppose we can only look at this game for what it was. Maybe there are no greater powers at work. Maybe the cold, chaotic world in which we live is not as mysterious as we hope.

If there were those greater forces governing the chaos and rewarding lives well led, then Damian Lillard would have received a better prize for his exemplary performance. 30 points on 16 shots. Pull-up three-pointers of the kind that don’t feel loaded with hubris, but just seem to be examples that some players (such as Lillard) should not be subjected to the same rules of shot selection as others. There was also his finishes at the rim, including a completely insane and perfect and divine and-1 on a wild, possibly blind, fling towards the rim while being knocked to the floor, at a weighty moment late in regulation. The kind of finish that Dwyane Wade will tell his grandchildren about and pass off as his own. Even on defense, an area of study that Lillard rarely ventures into beyond the most basic survey courses, he effectively applied some added effort in a key possession in overtime in which he found himself defending James Harden one-on-one in isolation. Not that any of it mattered. For his efforts, Lillard received some nice chants and maybe someone gave him a hug. Hugs are nice.

Harden, meanwhile, is hailed as the conquering hero despite scoring his 37 points on a Kobe-Bryant-“I-don’t-leave-any-shots-in-the-chamber-[even-when-I’m-Jesse-Ventura-in-Predator-with-that-giant-gun-and-the-ammo-backpack-and-I’m-spraying-shots-into-the-jungle-at-an-invisible-monster-until-I-have-no-more-bullets]” 35 shots.

LaMarcus Aldridge, as the cruel world cuts down the mightiest among us, was made to look less like a god and more like an imperfect human. His midrange game wasn’t a disaster, but without being fed the likes of Terrence Jones and Chandler Parsons, Aldridge could not bully Dwight Howard or Omer Asik on the block, and so he struggled to find those easier shots to build a scoring rhythm.

In fact, maybe the world isn’t chaos but worse, a chaos governed by the forces of darkness. Patrick Beverley scored the first 6 points of the game. He finished 4-6 (66.6%) from beyond the arc. He totaled 16 points. Also he played 42 minutes and 4+2 is 6. Patrick Beverley is evil, as we knew, but the depth of his evil is a terrifyingly empty abyss.

Oh yeah, Troy Daniels. That’s his name.

GAME 2, TRAIL BLAZERS 112 – ROCKETS 105: HEADED TO THE CLASSIC

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DEAR LAMARCUS NURAE ALDRIDGE,

 

I LOVE YOU.

OH YEAH, YOU DON’T KNOW ME—I MEAN, UNLESS YOU READ THIS BLOG A LOT. BUT EVEN THEN, READING SOMEBODY BULLSHITTING ABOUT DRAGONS AND THE UNDERAPPRECIATED ARTISTRY OF WILL BARTON ISN’T THE SAME AS KNOWING THAT PERSON, AT LEAST WHEN IT COMES TO FEELING THE WARMTH OF THEIR LOVE.

SO ANYWAY, HELLO, MY NAME IS JOE AND I LIKE THE BLAZERS AND YEAH I’VE WATCHED YOU, MOSTLY FROM AFAR, SINCE YOU ENTERED THE LEAGUE.

I REMEMBER YOUR DRAFT DAY. I WAS 18 YEARS OLD AND DRIVING ON I5 SOUTH TO MY SUMMER JOB IN WOODBURN. HAVE YOU BEEN? GOOD MEXICAN FOOD! ALSO THE ARBY’S THERE IS PRETTY DOPE. I RECOMMEND THE MOZZARELLA STICKS. BUT I DIGRESS. I’M TRYING TO TELL YOU ABOUT HOW DEEPLY I LOVE YOU, NOT CHOP IT UP ABOUT THE BEST MOZZARELLA STICKS WITHIN EASY DRIVING DISTANCE OF THE WOODBURN OUTLET MALL. BESIDES, THAT’S A QUICK CONVERSATION. IT’S ARBY’S.

SO THERE I WAS, WINDOWS DOWN, DOING LIKE 75 OR SO, LISTENING TO THE DRAFT ON THE AM RADIO, LETTING THE GRAINY PLAY-BY-PLAY BLAST OUT INTO THE SUNLIT WILLAMETTE VALLEY. I HOPE YOU FEEL THE RICH COLORS OF THIS IMAGE I’M PAINTING FOR YOU. MEANWHILE, IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN NEW YORK CITY READ THE NAMES OF 20-YEAR-OLDS AND ASSIGNED THEM TO RANDOM CITIES BASED ON THE FICKLE WHIMS OF OLD WHITE DUDES AND PING PONG BALLS. SCIENCE!

WHEN THEY SAID YOU WENT SECOND, TO CHICAGO, I DIDN’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT YOU. THEY SAID YOU HAD POTENTIAL. LOTS OF POTENTIAL. THOUGH I TEND TO IGNORE DRAFT PEOPLE SAYING SOMEONE HAS POTENTIAL. “POTENTIAL” SEEMS LIKE DRAFT PEOPLE PROJECTING THEIR OWN HOPES AND DREAMS, THE ONES THAT DIED LONG AGO IN THEIR LIFE OF DISAPPOINTMENT THAT LED THEM TO BECOME DRAFT PEOPLE, ONTO THE NEXT GENERATION OF KIDS WITH LONG ARMS, SOLID YOUTUBE TRAFFIC, AND EASY SMILES. NO OFFENSE.

BUT THEN THEY ANNOUNCED THE TRADE! THE BLAZERS WERE PICKING TYRUS THOMAS FOR CHICAGO AND YOU WERE COMING TO PORTLAND! ALL OF A SUDDEN, WOW, YOU HAD POTENTIAL!

I WAS AT YOUR FIRST GAME, THE 2006 SEASON OPENER IN SEATTLE AGAINST THE SUPERSONICS. RIP. I DON’T REALLY REMEMBER HOW YOU PLAYED THOUGH, OR EVEN IF YOU PLAYED AT ALL. I WAS MORE SMITTEN WITH THE OTHER ROOKIE, BRANDON ROY, AND THE WAY HE HIT TOUGH SHOTS AND LOCKED DOWN RAY ALLEN LATE TO GET THE WIN. HE WAS SO SMOOTH. HE WAS THE OBJECT OF OUR AFFECTION. YOU WERE THE AFTERTHOUGHT. YOU WERE THE KID ON THE BENCH WITH POTENTIAL.

OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS, YOU REALIZED THAT POTENTIAL. OR SO WE THOUGHT. YOU MOVED WELL. YOU REBOUNDED WELL ENOUGH. YOU WERE TALL. AND YOUR JUMP SHOT, WELL, YOUR JUMP SHOT HAS ALWAYS BEEN ALL AUDREY HEPBURN – A SYNERGY OF CLASSIC BEAUTY AND SOPHISTICATION.

YOU BECAME A MACHINE THAT RELENTLESSLY CHURNED OUT 20 AND 9 EVERY GAME. BUT THAT WASN’T ENOUGH.

YOU AND I, WE’VE HAD A ROCKY RELATIONSHIP FOR MOST OF YOUR CAREER. WE’VE BEEN IN A BOAT TOGETHER AND THAT BOAT HAS BEEN SCRAPING OVER A LOT OF ROCKS.

I DIDN’T LIKE YOU. I MADE A LOT OF DEROGATORY REMARKS ABOUT YOUR ABILITY AS A BASKETBALL PLAYER. I PROCLAIMED YOUR UNWORTHINESS TO ANY WHO WOULD LISTEN. I’M SORRY.

YOU WEREN’T THE FOLK HERO THAT ROY WAS. YOU WERE DOMINATED IN THE PLAYOFFS BY LUIS SCOLA. I KNOW I ALREADY TALKED ABOUT THAT IN MY LAST RECAP BUT I JUST CAN’T LET IT GO. LUIS SCOLA. GEEZ.

EVEN WHEN YOU PUT UP THE NUMBERS THAT YOU ALWAYS DID, I WONDERED IF IT CAME AT THE EXPENSE OF THE TEAM. MIDRANGE JUMPERS ARE DUMB. YOU SETTLED FOR BAD SHOTS BECAUSE YOU COULD MAKE THEM BUT THEY WERE STILL BAD SHOTS. ALSO YOU WERE BORING. YOU SHOWED NO EMOTIONS. AND NOT IN THE COOL ASSASSIN WAY, MORE LIKE THE VACUUM CLEANER WAY. VACUUM CLEANERS HAVE NO EMOTIONS BECAUSE THEY ARE VACUUM CLEANERS. ALSO, VACUUM CLEANERS ARE NOT COOL.

I CALLED YOU SOFT. I WONDERED IF YOU EVEN CARED ABOUT ANYTHING BEYOND YOUR 20 AND 9. AGAIN, I’M SORRY. BUT I AM A MEMBER OF THE #SPORTSMEDIA (LOL) NOW AND THAT MAKES ME A BARBARIAN WHO WONDERS ABOUT THE MOTIVATIONS OF OTHERS WHO ARE FAR MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN ME. WELL ACTUALLY, I MAY NOT BE IN THE NBA BUT YOU DON’T HAVE A BLOG, SO LET’S NOT QUIBBLE OVER WHO’S MORE SUCCESSFUL THAN WHO. THE POINT IS, FOR MANY YEARS I SAID A LOT OF BAD THINGS ABOUT YOU THAT I’M NOT PROUD OF. BUT I DID MEAN THEM.

THIS YEAR THERE WAS NOTHING TO SAY ABOUT YOU EXCEPT THAT YOU WERE BRILLIANT. I WON’T SAY THAT I WAS RIGHT TO CRITICIZE YOU FOR SO LONG BUT YOU PROVED THAT 20 AND 9 EACH NIGHT ON SPOT UP JUMPERS AND TURNAROUND FADEAWAYS WAS NOT YOUR CEILING. NOT EVEN CLOSE. THERE WAS A SILENT FEROCITY BURNING INSIDE YOUR EMOTIONLESS EXTERIOR. THERE WAS ALSO A DEVASTATING POST GAME IN THERE NEXT TO IT. JUST AS I ALWAYS IMAGINED.

YOU COULD CARRY A TEAM NOW. YOU COULD CARRY A PLAYOFF TEAM. YOU COULD CARRY A PLAYOFF TEAM INTO AN ORNERY ROAD ATMOSPHERE AGAINST A PLAYER SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED BY PATRICK EWING AND HAKEEM OLAJUWON TO RENDER YOU INCAPACITATED AND YOU COULD MAKE THAT PLAYER LOOK LIKE BARBECUE CHICKEN OR WORSE, SHAQ YELLING INCOHERENTLY ABOUT BARBECUE CHICKEN.

YOUR PERFORMANCE IN GAME 1 WAS MAJESTIC, THE SORT OF THING TO MAKE WISHES ON, AND TATTOO ON THE FACES OF YOUR KIDS. WHAT A SPECTACULAR GAME. BUT WE KNEW IT WAS A RARE GIFT. LIKE A SOLAR ECLIPSE OR JAY ELECTRONICA TRACK. SURELY YOU COULDN’T DO THAT ANY OLD TIME, GO OFF FOR 46 POINTS AND 18 REBOUNDS AND DOMINATE THE GAME LIKE KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR CROSSED WITH JAY BILAS’S PEYOTE VISIONS OF EVERY LEAN YOUNG FORWARD WITH A JUMP SHOT.

THEN TONIGHT HAPPENED. 43 POINTS. 28 SHOTS. YOU PROVED THAT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE FIRST GAME WASN’T A FLUKE. NOT THAT THERE’S ANYTHING WRONG WITH A FLUKE. YOU HAD BEEN THROUGH A LOT OF SHIT HERE. FROM ZACH RANDOLPH TO RAYMOND FELTON TO EVEN LAST SUMMER WHEN THERE WERE FALSE RUMORS MADE ABOUT YOU WANTING TO LEAVE. YOU STAYED. YOU STUCK IT OUT. YOU EMBRACED US AND FORCED US TO FINALLY EMBRACE YOU. YOU DESERVED A FLUKE. BUT YOU EARNED TONIGHT.

TONIGHT WAS—WELL, I’M STILL NOT SURE HOW TO DEFINE IT. IT WAS MESMERIZING. EVEN WHEN YOU DID THINGS WE DIDN’T EXPECT, THE RESULT FELT INEVITABLE.

BY THE TIME YOU WERE APPROACHING 40, THERE WAS STILL A FEAR THAT THE ROCKETS WOULD COME BACK. A FEAR THAT GREW INTO A LEGITIMATE TERROR WITH A COUPLE MINUTES LEFT. BUT I WASN’T WORRIED MOST ABOUT LOSING BECAUSE THE BLAZERS NEEDED THE WIN – WHICH THEY MOST DEFINITELY DID. I WAS WORRIED MOST BECAUSE I DIDN’T WANT YOUR PERFORMANCE TO BE FOR NAUGHT. THE BLAZERS HAD TO WIN BECAUSE YOUR GREATNESS NEEDED TO BE ON DISPLAY FOR THE WORLD. THOUGH I SUPPOSE I NEEDN’T HAVE WORRIED AT ALL, AS YOUR GREATNESS WAS WHAT ALWAYS GUARANTEED THE WIN.

SOMEDAY THEY’LL HANG YOUR NUMBER UP THERE IN THE REALM OF THE FLOATING FORD ESCAPE. THEY’LL RANK YOU WITH THE OTHER GREATS. YOU MAY NOT EVER PASS WALTON’S BRIEF FLOURISH OF GENIUS OR ROY’S RESONANCE WITHIN THE CITY, BUT YOURS IS A PERSONAL STORY UNLIKE ANY OTHER PLAYER I CAN REMEMBER. YOU’VE IMPROVED EVERY SINGLE SEASON OF YOUR CAREER, AND YET YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN DEFINED BY WHAT YOU WERE NOT.

YOU BEGAN AS PURE POTENTIAL, AND EVEN WHEN YOU BECAME GOOD, YOU WERE CRITICIZED FOR WHY YOU HADN’T REALIZED YOUR POTENTIAL TO BECOME GREAT. BUT NOW, YOU ARE GREAT. YOU JUST SCORED 40+ POINTS IN BACK TO BACK PLAYOFF WINS ON THE ROAD. THERE IS NO VISIBLE POTENTIAL TO BE REALIZED AND NOTHING LEFT THAT CAN BE ASKED OF YOU (APART FROM WHY YOU DON’T TAKE ONE STEP BACK AND MAKE THOSE LONG TWOS INTO THREES) AND SO NOW I’M MORE EXCITED THAN EVER TO SEE WHAT YOU CAN BECOME NEXT. BUT I’LL HAPPILY TAKE WHAT YOU ARE RIGHT NOW.

 

LOVE,

 

JOE

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.

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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.