The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, 107-96, in the Rose Garden on Thursday night to run their Western Conference-leading record to 5-1.
For an explanation of this game, which many were unable to see in its entirety because of TNT's epic fail (we can recycle and compost that phrase from two years ago on this special occasion), you need only to turn to your high school science teacher or to your high-IQ stoner buddy.
When two or more compounds interact to produce an effect on the body greater than the individual compounds would produce by themselves you have what is called a synergistic reaction. This is why certain members of society drink cough syrup and smoke marijuana and then start walking at a 45 degree angle to the ground. This is why chocolate and peanut butter can be combined in virtually any form and be completely addicting. This is why Gerald Wallace and the Rose Garden crowd are a lethal, cascading one-two punch, even to the most revered team in the NBA.
There's a reason people continue to compare Wallace to energy drinks, caffeine pills and amphetamines: he goes breakneck all the time. There's a reason people compare the Rose Garden to airfields, cauldrons and earthquakes: it's really, really loud.
But, together, Crash at the RG? As synergistic as it gets. Side effects: shock, euphoria, short-term memory loss. Where does the energy begin and the noise end? Where does the noise begin and the energy end? We don't know and can't really know, it's all together there, in that reaction, that interplay, that merging of a two-circle Venn Diagram into a sphere of chaos. When Wallace rose from the court to windmill dunk for no reason -- a full body shout out to a city if there ever was one -- you didn't see atoms violently fusing and wreaking unprecedented havoc?
There's no phrase to describe Wallace's 31 points, five rebounds two steals while defending Lakers All-Star guard Kobe Bryant down the stretch except "signature night." During what is annually the biggest home game of Portland's regular season he was the standout. LaMarcus Aldridge added 28 points and 10 rebounds; Jamal Crawford's 13 second-half points were a difference-maker too. But Wallace was the game-changer and, to date, he's been the season-changer.
Some delicate, skilled prodding from Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com got a loose Wallace to laugh about his windmill dunk, the exclamation point on a third quarter run that pushed Portland clear of a motivated, clicking Lakers team.
"Don't bring that up, don't bring that up, they've already been killing me," Wallace said of his teammates.
Who was giving him a hard time for his rare completely unnecessary pizzazz?
"Everybody," he said. "L.A. promised me he was going to do one so I did that. He owes me one. That's fine. He's going to do a windmill. Y'all be looking out for L.A.'s windmill. Tweet that."
Here Wallace was, rubbing his legs down with an immense amount of lotion, once again moving too quickly for the rest of the world. Self-deprecatingly basking in the glow, deflecting credit to the man he says is "at the top the mountain," whetting the fans' appetite, giving a rare nod to social media and breaking character to laugh about all of it. All this in 20-something seconds.
It was disarming and disorienting. But what else did you expect?
Random Game Notes
- Photo: A Los Angeles Lakers fan wearing a black Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey customized with the words "Black Mamba." Courtesy of Mike Acker of Rip City Project.
- Kobe Bryant, who has dealt with his share of knee injuries, with some very interesting words about former Blazers guard Brandon Roy after the game: "I'm very sad for Brandon. We've had some great battles here... Phenomenal talent. It's a shame to see his career end so shortly. Hopefully he can figure something out. Get his knees back in order. Hopefully he'll be back. I hope it's not the end for him."
- Kobe Bryant on answering questions about losing in the Rose Garden (he's lost 11 of his last 13 games in Portland): "It drives me crazy."
- An interesting Nate McMillan comment (see below at the very bottom): He has challenged and expects LaMarcus Aldridge to average 10 rebounds a game.
- Lakers coach Mike Brown, before the game, on the Blazers vs. Lakers rivalry, which he has admitted he didn't know was a big deal before he signed on last summer. "I tell you what, it seems like everybody has a rivalry against the Lakers. I don't think I've gone to a game yet or coached a game and some bit of history has come up. I'm OK with it. It makes it interesting I guess."
- Brown also mimicked the running gait of Lakers center Andrew Bynum by jogging in slow motion with his arms revolving quickly, calling it a "homerun trot." Here was his monologue as he performed the maneuver going both forwards and backwards for an audience of five reporters: "As long as he keeps working, you get him off that homerun trot he'll be good to go. Who knows what the homerun trot is? I can do it good. You want to see? That's my man Drew." He later added that he had "no complaints" about Bynum's conditioning level. Bynum was 7-for-7 in the first half for 14 points but finished 9-for-16 with 21. Blazers reserve big man Kurt Thomas was key in checking Bynum for bits of the stretch.
- Jason Quick of The Oregonian reports that contract extension talks are just around the corner for Blazers forward Nicolas Batum.
- In case you missed it: a budding L.A. versus Portland media war was quickly squashed.
- Also, in case you missed it: Charles Barkley sees Portland as a West favorite.
- At shootaround Thursday morning, Blazers guard Wesley Matthews had an interesting description of guarding Bryant. "He's the kind of guy who can score in every way... It's a chess match. Kobe is a very intelligent player. He uses what you're doing against him. He moves a piece, I move a piece. He moves a piece, I move a piece... He's always changing something. You just have to adjust on the fly." After the game, Matthews called Bryant his "favorite player."
- Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reports that Thursday was the first time since November 2003 that the Lakers haven't made a single three-pointer. They finished 0-11. Hat tip: Brandon.
- Brown was a big fan of Portland's offseason. "They went out and they got some veteran guys. They didn't replace these guys with a lot of young guys that really didn't know the game or don't understand the game yet. If you look at their roster it's veteran guys from top to bottom who have won and had success in the league." I asked about the complementary nature of Portland's bench and he again was very complimentary: "You talk about guys who know how to play the game. Guys who have been around the block and won in the playoffs. It's an athletic, veteran team that obviously knows how to win... I see that [bench] group easily fitting well together and having success."
- Brown was out on the court inside the 3-point line on more than one occasion in an attempt to communicate with his team amid the Rose Garden noise.
- University of Oregon running back Kenjon Barner was in attendance and drew big cheers when he was shown on the big screen.
- My CBSSports.com column on Gerald Wallace.
Nate McMillan's Post-Game Comments
Have you ever played that fast before?
Yeah. I have.
The [Lakers] came out on fire in that first half. They were shooting 80 percent that first quarter. At the half they were around sixty. We felt like it would come down. We needed to get more aggressive. I thought Bynum did a good job establishing low post, being the low post presence. We switched up our defense in the second half. Started to dig them out. Get some trapping which forced them to miss. We were able to rebound and get into our transition. Those are things that we can do, that we need to do. I thought that we got to our tempo in the second half.
Gerald Wallace defending Kobe Bryant
That was part of today -- just thinking about match-ups. It's not about Kobe vs. Wesley or Gasol against LaMarcus. it's about the Lakers against Portland. As a team I thought we did some good things. We knew that Wesley would start on Kobe. I wanted to get Gerald and Nic some time on him to try to get some length on him. I thought Gerald did a nice job of trying to lean on him. Make it tough. We had to start double-teaming a little bit. I thought we just played a solid second half.
Just four turnovers
Exactly. That's a key for us to defend, rebound the ball and take care of the ball. Tonight we did a good job of taking care of the ball. Like you said, only four turnovers, that gives you opportunities at that basket. We're starting to get a feel for each other. We're not playing and throwing in traffic like we were early. I expect the execution to continue to get better.
Gerald Wallace aggressive on offense
That's his game. You've got to let Gerald go. Allow him to the freedom to play. His hustle, his energy, we feed off of that. Just scrapping and making plays. Rebounding the ball. Starting the break as well as finishing on the break and then defensively disrupting. Coming up with some steals. We've been good when he's played like that.
Getting a feel for what this team can be?
It is early. For us we've done some good things. I thought this, the last three games, we looked at these teams and these are some of the top teams supposedly in our conference. It was a challenge for us to start with the Clippers and then have to go to Oklahoma City and come back home and face the Lakers and we come out of that 2-1. Not bad. We did what we had to do tonight. We need to go on the road tomorrow and try to get Phoenix.
Jamal Crawford scoring off the bench
I think these guys just got to let each other play. Wesley had a good game going, knocking down some shots. Doing some good things in the second half. Crawford got his offense going. We got a rhythm. Wesley and those guys supported that. They've got to let each other play. Guys are hot, we're going to let them roll. Keep that combination out there. Tonight it was good to see Crawford get his offense going and get some energy out on that floor.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 poitns and 10 rebounds
I thought he was solid. Those are big guys down there. We tried to move him around. One of the things we talked about with him is a double-double. I think he should average that. The number of minutes he plays. 10 boards should be a goal of his. It was nice to see him get that.
-- Ben Golliver | email@example.com | Twitter