"Wait, isn't that the dude from the video room?"
Oh, the humanity. The Portland Trail Blazers won a close game at home against the New Orleans Hornets. Here's the short version of tonight's game from the Blazer perspective: We don't care. We don't care. We don't care. We don--- sigh, fine, we'll care for a few minutes and take care of business. The game was in doubt until the end, but the Blazers did what fringe playoff contenders do: hold off lottery teams at home. In the process, they didn't do the New Jersey Nets any favors in the standings.
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge (25 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists), with support by Wesley Matthews (18 points), JJ Hickson (12 points, 6 rebounds in another good night), Raymond Felton (12 points, 10 assists), and Nicolas Batum (14 points). Luke Babbitt was a big factor, finishing with a new career-high 16 points on 4-6 three pointers, and getting the postgame interview.
Before the fans were seated, the Hornets took a 6 point lead. New Orleans held the lead for much of the quarter as the Blazers looked nothing like a playoff contender. As the bench came in, the Blazer fortunes turned around. Jonny Flynn and Luke Babbitt combined to give the Blazers a 1 point lead after one. Then the second quarter began where we left off: Luke Babbitt on fire. Another three pointer gave the Blazers a four point lead, but the Hornets regained control with an 11 point run. The Blazers slowly worked their way back, but Marco Belinelli kept the Hornets ahead, keeping a 3 point lead at the half.
I know I'm only giving play by play here, so I'm not really projecting much analysis. Let me assure you that you missed nothing. In fact, I want to thank Dave profusely for not asking me to do this recap.
As threatened during halftime, they indeed played the second half. And the Hornets lead was quickly 7 again. However, New Orleans went cold, and Portland scored 9 straight points to regain the lead. During the run, Batum hit a three, then looked up at the score and shook his head in disgust. The Hornets tied the game again, but that only woke the Blazers up. A little tightening on the (non-existent) defense, a few fast breaks, and the Blazers closed the quarter strong to lead by 6.
Babbitt helped the Blazers finish a 14 point run as the fourth quarter started, to take an 11 point lead. But it was short-lived, as the shots stopped falling, and the Hornets played some gritty ball to get back into it. Belinelli hit two straight three's to tie the game with 5 minutes left. However, Felton and Batum hit back to back three's to finish off the scrappy Hornet team. But wait. With less than 20 seconds left, and at 99 points, Raymond Felton was fouled to the cheers of the fans, who want to go home with coupons for novelty mexican food. At last, Felton will get himself back in the fans' good graces, at least for a night. But then, in a devastating allegory for the entire season, he missed both free throws as the fans groaned and will go hungry tonight. The Blazers finished with 99 points.
Check out the box score, then stay tuned for Dave's recap and Ben's media row report. The Blazers are right back in action tomorrow night, in LA against the Clippers. -- Tim