Amazing, wild, unforgettable. The broken Portland Trail Blazers came into Chicago, and thumped the Bulls (sans Derrick Rose) in undeniably the best Blazer game of the season. This was a huge, almost unbelievable performance by the Blazers compared to the past month, as they came out inspired, determined, relentless, and tough. Even the young guys came ready to play. Chicago may have expected a cake walk, but instead walked into a buzzsaw. If you missed this game, CSN will replay it at 11:30pm, and 5pm tomorrow. If you can't see the replay, you must see the other hot topic of discussion, Joel Przybilla at his best (video).
The Blazers were led by... well, everyone, in a (nice to see) team effort. LaMarcus Aldridge (21 points), Nicolas Batum (15 points, 9 rebounds), Wesley Matthews (18 points), Raymond Felton (16 points, 5 assists), and Nolan Smith (12 points in extended minutes) all played key roles.
The first half was noteworthy for two things: The early arrival of Portland's youngsters, and a lack of a blowout at halftime. Wesley and Joel joined the starting lineup, which held their own against the Bulls starters sans Rose (who just beat Miami in their previous game). Chicago held a 3 point lead after a hot-shooting first quarter for both teams. In the second, Chicago tried to pull away, but a noticeably more inspired Blazer team kept the game in single digits despite the Bulls' rebounding advantage. They led by 3 at the half.
The Bulls came out hot in the third, and the Blazers had a hard time matching. But Felton put on his robe and wizard hat, and kept the team close. They cut the lead from 8 to 3, but the Bulls pushed it quickly back to 8, and Coach Kaleb called time. I don't know what he said, but it worked, as Portland made a run of their own, and Chicago called time. Again, the kids came in during the normal third quarter rotation, featuring a nice Luke Babbitt floater in the lane. The teams played back and forth until late, when Nolan Smith hit a three, followed by a Jamal three at the buzzer to cut the lead to one after three.
A Thibs T tied the game at the start of the fourth. Then the Blazers took the lead on a Rhino layup! The announcers (and the GDT) are going nuts. Matthews for three! 5 point lead. A 16-3 run ended with a 6 point Blazer lead, and both teams' starters fully returned (except, notably, Smith for Felton). With under 6 minutes left, the Blazers still led by 3. However, in crunch time, turnovers started to hurt the Blazers. But Portland's D held Chicago at bay. Felton and Thomas came in for Portland, who maintained a 5 point lead with 4 minutes left. Wesley Matthews drove down the lane, and dished to an open Aldridge, SWISH. 7 point lead, timeout Chicago! Chicago hit a free throw, then the Blazers ran down the shot clock. Wesley for three... YES! 9 point lead with 2 minutes left! With 90 seconds left, Crawford goes for the dagger, YES! 11 point lead! And that's it, the Blazers walk out of Chicago with swagger, and the fans just walk out.
Tanking? What's that? As Coach Kaleb said about his team after the game: "I love 'em," after they all came over to give him a hug. With this win, Kaleb is the youngest head coach to ever win an NBA game.
Check out the box score, and stay tuned for a very different recap from Dave compared to the last two weeks. The Blazers are back in action Sunday, in OKC on ESPN. -- Tim