Good evening, Portland. We’re test-driving doing a live blog for home games, so I’ll be coming at you live and direct with my observations FROM MEDIA ROW. Check in between quarters for a recap of the action and the scene at the Rose Garden.
Pre-game, the Harry Glickman Media Room enchiladas have overtaken lasagna in the media food power rankings; they still trail the french dip, however. The coffee languishes in last place, as ever.
Nolan Smith will be inactive for this evening’s game, which means that we all might get to see that rarest of beauties, something we all (okay, Sean Highkin) have been clamoring for: a Victor Claver sighting. I’ll be back with updates from the first quarter as soon as the first 12 minutes are up.
PRE-Game: I continue to be amazed and baffled by this hovering inflateable Ford Explorer that flies around here. It’s dropping envelopes, for those of you who don’t know this exists. What is in those envelopes? Who is steering the Explorer? Why is hover technology not more widely and usefully employed? I really feel like I miss a lot of things by not having grown up here, or near any NBA team. If I’d grown up here, I would probably think it was piloted by children who obeyed their parents and followed the sacraments, like some drunk guy would’ve no doubt told me.
Also, a thing I’ve learned about myself that surprises me is I love every national anthem. Though I am often called a “hater,” and indeed cultivate haterdom in many forms, I am so on the team of every single performer. Are they awesome at every arena? Does Portland have unusually high standards? Are these, in fact, not awesome, but I am a simpering and jingoistic buffoon whose heart is more easily moved than I’d considered? Anyway, shouts to Saeeda Wright: Crushed that, girl.
11:20 1st Q: Whoa! The Blazers won the tipoff. I’ll bet Stotts is furious. Scoring opens with a Matthews turnaround, and then Omer Asik gets Hickson in the air before beautifully sinking an and-1. Hahaha just kidding he missed the layup duh. Made a free throw, though.
10:50 1st Q: Jeremy Lin hits a pair of free throws after being fouled on the fast break. Asik refuses to high-five him and mutters “whatever, nerd,” under his breath.
8:55 1st Q: Asik bangs in a hook shot over Aldridge, and gives Lin the ICIEST glare. Jeremy does a “circle, circle dot dot” thing next dead ball. Omer is fuming.
7:20 1st Q: Batum sinks a pretty turnaround over Chandler Parsons. On the other end, James Harden throws one of those passes where he is obviously looking where he throws it but then he dramatically looks away. Six people oblige him by OOOHing.
6:30 1st Q: After Portland corrals a steal, Batum hits a three in the corner in transition. He has been a joy to watch on broken plays this year.
6:28 1st Q: OH MY GOD YOU GUYS IT IS HAPPENING. Victor Claver comes into the game for Wes Matthews. We did it, you guys! A mediocre, slow-footed player has entered the game!
4:50 1st Q: Claver took a pass at the top of the key, and threw a jab step and then started to drive. The Rose Garden ecstatically leaned toward the court; he passed it to Batum. A dream deferred, as the poet wrote. For similar reasons, I think.
4:17 1st Q: Asik gets by Hickson with dispiritingly little effort for a two handed dunk. A play later, J.J. bobbles a rebound with a teammate that leads to an open floor turnover, just like he did in the closing minutes against San Antonio. He’s really Hicksoning out there right now.
2:00 1st Q: After Batum scores on a skillful tap-in, Harden either makes him fall or pushes off of him with the Euro-step. Hard to tell without the replay. Still, a strong start from Batum. He’s really doing a good job of exploiting any kind of chaos on the floor, which is what he does best.
1:00 1st Q: Meyers Leonard scores off a feed from Jared Jeffries The lineup has been, for the past minute and a half: Lillard, Claver, Jeffries, Leonard, Batum. Weird. Fun. They’ve played well. Down 25-22.
End of 1st Q: Stotts closed the quarter with Nic, Ronnie, LaMarcus, Victor, and Meyers. HE BE TINKERIN’ Y’ALL. Houston leads 27-22. So far, Parsons is doing a great job getting to the rim for Houston, Harden is driving the action scoring and distributing, and Patterson has hit a few jumpers. All in all, the deficit for the Blazers isn’t bad at all. The bench already has 7 points, which, if I’ve been reading the local media lately, is ten thousand times more points than they’ve scored the rest of the season combined. Late-game correction: Wrong about this. I was misreading the box score. In the fourth quarter, as I type this correction, they have 6 bench points, all from Leonard. So.
Start of 2nd Q: Claver, Price, Matthews, Leonard, Aldridge. Neat-o.
11:29 2nd Q: Toney Douglas steals an inbounds pass and then finishes impressively over a Ronnie Price foul. Ronnie gets one more warning from the union; if Douglas embarrasses him again, the league’s mandatory retirement policy kicks in.
10:33 2nd Q: Greg Smith!? There’s a Greg Smith in the NBA?
9:30 2nd Q: Batum in, Claver out. The Rockets now lead by ten. Portland is really having trouble keeping Houston away from the basket.
9:20 2nd Q: Asik turns the ball over by falling out of bounds with it. It’s one of those things he does where no casual observer who just turned the game on would believe he was a professional basketball player. I imagine that, with his hair like that, if my wife saw that play, she would ask me who that tall contest winner was and why he got to play.
9:00 2nd Q: Meyers Leonard jumpshot splash! Those rumors of his shot—maybe they aren’t all terrible lies!
8:23 2nd Q: LaMarcus collects an offensive rebound off a Leonard tip and completes a three-point play. So far tonight, I’m really enjoying the extended minutes for LMA-Meyers. They’re a nice combo.
7:18 2nd Q: LaMarcus is back at the line. Feels like he’s been there more than just these two possessions, but the stats monitor says otherwise. Feels like a nice balance of aggression for him. Still, he’s just got 11 on 9 shots. Weird.
5:22 2nd Q: On the Rockets’ end, Harden misses a floater where he was expecting the call but follows his own miss with a putback. Wes Matthews respnds with a strong take, finishing with a foul, but misses the free throw.
It’s worth pointing out that this was an announced sell-out after Monday’s game snapped the streak, but this is the sleepiest atmosphere I’ve experienced this season. Filled up some since tipoff, but a lot of empty seats, and not that much energy. I wonder if it will sound like it has the past few games during the inevitable 3rd quarter rally.
4:18 2nd Q: After Damian misses a no-call layup that brings out the boos, Harden draws a foul on Batum in transition. As Harden was leaning in for the contact, I grimaced a bit; the way he leans in for the call sort of puts the defender’s weight on his knee. Sure enough, he comes up pretty gingerly. I wonder if he does that often—hope not.
3:22 2nd Q: Patrick Patterson walks in front of Lin as he brings the ball up the court, making contact with Lillard the whole way. It looks like a Charlie Chaplin satire on the very existence of a moving screen rule in today’s NBA.
3:00 2nd Q: Batum hits a 3. As you likely know, the PA call when Batum hits a 3 is “Batum with a trois.” I don’t think it would be too much effort to say “avec un trois.” Am I being stupid or pretentious?
2:55 2nd Q: Yes, probably.
1:49 2nd Q: Asik dribbles into space going to the rim, and receives a little contact on his backside. He fumbles the ball out of bounds, half throwing it out himself, half raising his hands in protest. There is nobody I have ever seen who blends so many elite skills with so many waknesses that might keep him off a D-1 roster. If you get teh chance to see Asik play live, do it.
:42 2nd Q: Damian hits a 3 to make it a ten point game, and then Harden gets called for a charge. Damian’s got 9 and 3 in the first half; seems like he’s taking what comes.
Halftime: Blazers pull within eight on a LaMarcus jumpshot, crowd is very much more awake. Felt like an odd first half—for most of it, the Houston margin felt smaller than the 15ish it was, but a successful little run from the Blazers only gets them within 8.
Wait, what? Patrick Patterson is called for a personal foul as the two teams are headed into the tunnel for half time, and the refs huddle to determine whether any time was left. LaMarcus Aldridge goes to the line well after most fans have gone to get nachos. Hits 1 of 2: Houston 58, Portland 51. Man, I want some nachos. I’ll be back with y’all after I get my grubby hands on some of that fine, fine media popcorn.
Halftime update: Oh my god, popcorn. Any typos the rest of the night can be blamed on my keyboard being covered in butterslick and salt grit.
10:33 3rd Q: Jeremy Lin just rolled ina layup that I think could be fairly described as accidental. Not a huge night for him so far, but he’s had a balanced line: 5 boards, 7 rebounds, 4 points, and about 13 more bloggers than normal up here on the kids’ section of media row.
9:30 3rd Q: Aldridge hits back to back 17 footers. We’ve always said he needs to shoot more of those!
8:44 3rd Q: YESSSS ASIK AND-1. 10 and 7 for him now, and every single statistical thing he does feels like a goal scored by a six year old in a soccer game. Like, where the pack chases a kid down the field in a Pigpen cloud of yelling, and the ball improbably emerges from the scrum into the goal. Every Asik goal is like that.
8:00 3rd Q: Another Harden and-1. By my official count, he has 7 dozen and-1s tonight.
7:40 3rd Q: Asik and Harden just had the most slide-whistley combination of events. Pressure just across half court forced a deflection; the Beard and Hamhands spent the next, oh, 6 seconds tapping the ball back and forth, not able to complete a pass, while Patrick Patterson hopped around like a madman under the goal, wide open. I was bummed when it came to an end on the inevitable Patterson dunk.
6:18 3rd Q: LMA sinks another jumper. At least this one came after an up-fake and step. Earlier in the possession, Meyers set his feet for a very earnest ball screen. Oh young one, you adorable rookie you, the Kendrick Shuffle will come easier later.
5:06 3rd Q: Batum hits a driving layup, but the points in paint disparity still favors Houston 38-22. That’s a pretty good explanation of how this game is going: not a lot of fireworks, but Portland just has not been able to keep Houston away from the rim. SAY WHAT YOU WILL ABOUT THIS GAME BUT AT LEAST THE BLAZERS ARE LOSING MUNDANELY.
4:45 3rd Q: Lin converts a pretty and-1 by getting his defender to bite on a corner 3 fake and driving hard with the contact. I don’t feel like he’s forcing much action tonight (I haven’t been too keyed in on him, to be honest) but that was the first display I’ve seen tonight of his combination of speed and strength.
4:00 3rd Q: Batum hits a 3, giving him 9 points in the 3rd quarter. Blazers are closing the lead here. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
3:15 3rd Q: Batum follows what could have been a run-stopping Link fader with ANOTHER 3. When the Blazers are at their best, Batum is the best of the Blazers. These 3rd quarter runs he’s been having are uncanny. I’m going to find out it’s because he just straight up gobbles Ring Pops at half time or something. Whatever his secret is, I’m sure when he tells us it will be in a very quiet voice that I can’t hear at all. That’s what he does, just FYI.
2:33 3rd Q: Pavlovic enters the game. A miscommunication between him and Batum leads to a turnover. I, uh…yeah, I mean he sucks, okay?
1:50 3rd Q: Batum hits his 4th 3 of the period. He is just unconscious right now.
1:31 3rd Q: A fastbreak alleyoop from Damian Lillard to Meyers Leonard pulls the Blazers within 3 and has the crowd on their feet. Where is that…oh. Here. “I wonder if it will sound like it has the past few games during the inevitable 3rd quarter rally.” That’s from 5:22 in the 2nd quarter, just as a reminder.
1:12 3rd Q: Harden called for a charge after dishing it off. Few jeering jumbotron/PA traditions make less sense to me than the catscot ringing a bell at the practive facility when opponents are called for charging.
:20 3rd Q: Lillard seems to reserve his strongest takes to the rim for a few moments a game. That one was pretty special, low off the glass with a lot of torque in traffic to make it a 79-78 game.
End of 3rd Q: The quarter ends with Matthews bumped off his route by the defense and forcing a hopeless heave toward the goal. Still, it’s a one point game, which seemed an impossibility considering the defense just 8 or so game minutes ago.
Between quarters: A silly clothes relay! Some knockout drama from the two early favorites is beaten in a STUNNING UPSET by the slow clothes-changing guy pulling up from the top of the key to sink a runner!
The one time I went to an NBA game before this season was here, actually. The 3rd/4th quarter entertainment was flyball, where those unholy obnoxious dogs do a relay in pursuit of tennis balls. It was awesome. I want flyball every time.
11:30 4th Q: The Blazers take a one point lead on a tough Wesley Matthews baseline layup in traffic. Matthews has 12 on 13 shots. IRONMAN.
10:32 4th Q: Oh goodness, it turns out the lineup right now is Price, Matthews, Pavlovic, Hickson, Aldridge. For whatever reason, I am reminded of the movie U-571, where the short guy on the crew is forced to fix a propellor in the pump area of the submarine because he’s the only one with arms short enough to do it, but in the end he drowns, but also everybody else lives and tearfully remembers his sacrifice. Maybe Ronnie Price can hold onto this lead.
9:29 4th Q: Ronnie Price hits a jumper, but the Blazers now trail by one. Then Marcus Morris hits a 3. Four point Houston lead. Fix that prop, Ronnie.
8:30 4th Q: Asik was just THE OPENEST under the hoop for an easy dunk from a Lin assist out of the Portland trap. Making a comeback with that kind of defense is like furiously pumping a ball with a gaping hole in the other side.
7:23 4th Q: Batum hits another 3 to answer a Marcus Morris 3. It’s a two point game, mostly on the strength of LaMarcus having answered Houston’s buckets with jumpers and some free throws of his own.
7:00 4th Q: Lillard back in with the rest of the starters now. Crowd is anxious. THEY WANT TO WANT IT SO BADLY.
6:32 4th Q: Harden gets to the rim and hits a floater. Houston 97-Portland 91. Stotts timeout. Portland fans are like “See? I told you I would commit after your latest third quarter, but then you go and do this again. I …I have to move on if you’re going to keep regressing in the fourth.” They’ll be back though. They always come back.
6:12 4th Q: Batum fakes Chandler Parsons out of his shoes, and glides into the paint for a two-handed dunk. He’s really been special this half.
5:45 4th Q: … And Parsons puts a 3 right in his eye. Getting tough to climb out of the hole here for Portland.
5:20 3rd Q: Batum is fouled shooting from the perimeter, hits 2 of 3. Harden converts another layup. In opponent field goal percentage watch, the Rockets are currently shooting 52%
4:25 4th Q: Wes for 3. 102-98. Crowd erupts. Parsons heads to the line on the other end, misses the first. 103-98 Houston.
3:15 4th Q: After a pair of Lillard free throws, Houston turns the ball over entering the ball into the post. Batum misses the tying 3, and we’re at 103-100 until Harden is fouled going to the rim. I didn’t catch whether they called the foul on LaMarcus or Meyers; Harden clearly manufactured contact with Meyers, but LaMarcus just as clearly reached in. Interesting to see Meyers getting the crunch time minutes. Harden hits both, it’s 105-100.
2:16 4th Q: Lillard pulls the Blazers within 2 with a 3. On the other end, a Rockets miss leads to a Blazers scrum and a loose ball. Toney Douglas can’t cash the open corner 3, and the Rose Garden energy swings wildly from anguish to elation three or four times in the space of one possession. Houston timeout. The Rockets lead 105-103.
2:16 4th Q: As the Rockets inbound, it is deafening in here. Even with whatever phony Papa Roach pump up music they play, the atmosphere is incredible.
1:57 4th Q: Batum misses a 3 to go up, but Meyers Leonard corrals the rebound. Inadvisably, he goes up for a wild poster dunk, gets bailed out with the foul. He hits the first. The crowd waits. He hits the second. Tie game. It’s insane in here.
1:37 4th Q: What I thought was a clear foul on Wes Matthews to kill a Blazers break actually leads to Lillard shooting free throws. Not sure what happened without replay, but he hits both to put the Blazers up two.
1:25 4th Q: Harden puts the Rockets up one with an absolutely icy three, and the crowd audibly gasps in pain. On the other end, Lin draws a charge on Batum. The scars, they are so fresh here.
54.8 4th Q: An offensive foul on Asik now has the Blazers with the ball, down a point. Interesting to see what will be drawn up. Batum has missed a couple looks for the lead since his torrid 3rd quarter, and Portland only trails one.
25.3 4th Q: Lillard draws Parsons in isolation, and gets to the rim for two. On the other end, a Batum block gets the Blazers the ball back. They hold a one point lead, with 15 on the shot clock. After the Batum block, a (presumably) young (presumably) lady introduced my ears to a new frequency. This rules.
17.9 4th Q: Damian from the baseline on a runner over Lin! Blazers by 3, 111-108, with 17.9 seconds left. Can Portland love Lillard more? They may soon, if things hold.
10.2 4th Q: MARCUS MORRIS IS MAD DAGGEROUS. He splashes the 3 off an assist from Harden. Tie ball game. These two teams play amazing games.
End of regulation: Damian Lillard misses an isolation step-back three. I don’t love the playcall; it sort of felt a little…what? Trite, almost, given how Damian had been playing and what the crowd wants. Still, I’m not mad about overtime. The second between these two teams in their two games.
3:58 OT: The first Blazers possession is just swallowed up by Asik and Harden. That’s what Asik does, no matter how many Mickey Mouse handed goofs he has. Airball Wes Matthews 3.
3:25 OT: Batum draws Toney Douglas, nevertheless swings teh ball to Lillard. The rook buries a 3 over two defenders. The young man is not shy.
3:13 OT: Asik at the line after a scrum under the hoop. He…yes, by jove, hits them both! Rockets by 2.
2:55 OT: Damian Lillard hits a jumper over Chandler Parsons. The crowd is screaming for it to be called a 3…it’s too close to call on the Jumbotron. You may not believe this, but the crowd does not seem to recognize the closenss of the call. Currently a two point game.
Prediction: Damian Lillard is going to hit a step back Kemba Walker over Gerry Whoeverhewas type shot. Blazers fans will storm the court, rend their beloved rookie into a million small pieces. Think piece: is there a Blazers curse? Can basketball fluorish here? The shot is ruled a two.
2:36 OT: Toney Douglas, best I can tell, tried to dribble to the visitors’ locker room, but some deflection gave Houston the ball. Asik airballs a hook four feet over the rim. Still tied.
1:21 OT: An agonizing possession uses all 24 seconds before a wild Matthews heave rims out. The rebound caroms into some open space. Do you guys remember the cartoon Freakazoid? Do you remember that he ran with his arms over his head, flapping his wrists, while sort of hooting? That is how Meyers Leonard ran to the rebound. He collects it. LaMarcus Aldridge gets sent to the line a few seconds later, but the Rockets want a travel. He hits one. Blazers lead, 117-116.
:55.1 OT: Harden loses the ball out of bounds on a drive where he had plenty of room to go to the rim. Good break there for Portland.
:35 OT: Aldridge buries a 12 footer to send the Blazers up 3. On the other end, Batum produces a huge block.
21.1 OT: Harden fouled by Matthews attempting to contain the drive off a pick. Looks like a good call.
0:00 An insane finish. Harden fired a rifle of a pass to the corner for an open Morris look. The crowd, seeing how open Morris was, yelled a collective, audible “Nooooo.” Harden corrals the rebound, but, mindful of the score, drives back out and dishes to Parsons, who is swallowed up. An attempt to get the ball back to Harden is thwarted; he chases the ball into the backcourt, and is fouled. After making the first of two, he intentionally misses the second, and the last ditch Parsons shot goes long.
This has been an amazing game. The Blazers fans, still in their seats moments after, are elated. Batum and Lillard each set career highs in this one. Check back here later for postgame coverage. Thanks for reading along!