Ben weighs in with this report from the game. Before the game I asked him specifically to concentrate on the arena atmosphere...to give us a taste of what it's like to actually be there rather than watch on TV or read a recap. I figured that would be great for a holiday read.
If you have not been to a game yet and you are able to, do yourself a big favor and get to one of the ones in the next week. They're all at home, they're all winnable, and we're in the midst of one of the greatest streaks in franchise history. You really need to get there and experience the live game, the costumes, the signs, the noise, and the atmosphere.
Good evening, America, nice to meet you. We are Portland. We are young, hungry, seemingly unstoppable and oh so glad to welcome you along on this ride of ours.
The ESPN machine came rumbling through town. They overtook the press room, increased the Blackberry and hair gel quotient, and, in the end, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the show. Our show. That's right, the single hottest team in the National Basketball Association with some of the loudest, proudest fans in the league.
Will all of the pomp and circumstance help Brandon's all star campaign? I hope so. Will Nate start getting the Coach of the Year respect that he deserves? I hope so. Will the country realize that the Portland crowd tonight was louder than the Cleveland and Los Angeles crowds combined? I don't know how they could miss that.
In lieu of a longer write-up, I tried my best to document the in-arena insanity below. If you were there, please share anything I missed. I'm sure there is a lot.
Merry Christmas Blazers fans.
Nate on defending the Sonics: "With Durant and Szczerbiak, they are great shooters, what we wanted to do was crowd them, we lost them in transition in the first half and a little bit in the second half... With their zone and [their] double team, we had cross matchups, [and] we couldn't find our man [in transition]... What we were trying to do was run to our man, when they played that 3-2 zone and they run out, make or miss, it's hard to locate your man... We lost Szczerbiak and Kevin for threes early. We made the adjustment at halftime - just take a man [in transition, rather than try to find your man]."
Nate on the game rhythm tonight: "It just didn't feel like we had that rhythm... But 93 attempts at the basket, 6 turnovers, you got 27 assists, you'll take that rhythm!"
Nate on the keys to victory: "We felt like transition buckets and offensive rebounding were the two keys that kept it close. Keeping Collison off the boards, and finding Wally and Kevin, were what we wanted to do."
Nate on Przybilla and the team's rebounding: "We wanted to go to the offensive glass against them. I thought Joel just did a nice job defensive rebounding for us and everybody attacked the offensive glass. You know you have to pick your poison, are you going to try to attack the boards or get back on defense? We wanted to attack the glass."
Random Game Notes:
BlazersEdge reader Dan, originally from Bend but on break from attending college in Salt Lake City, happened to be sitting next to me on press row. He (and all BlazersEdge readers in attendance) were treated to a great Christmas performance all around... I saw a red Bill Walton throwback jersey. Well done, sir... Pregame, Ric Bucher was juggling two blackberries, rocking a blue tooth headset, was paging through a stack of statistics and had an entire press room table cordoned off for himself. That's big time. Also, he is perhaps the best-coifed person I have ever seen in person. Ric Bucher's hair might have been the highlight of my Christmas- maybe my priorities are not in order... Not everyone in the crowd got the "wear red" memo, but Greg Oden did. His jacket was probably velvet... So did Nate, who was rocking a great bright red tie... Interesting pregame conversations: James Jones and Kurt Thomas had a lengthy chat. Probably arguing over whose jettisoning from the Suns occurred under more ridiculous circumstances... Jarrett Jack and Kevin Durant were catching up for quite awhile pregame. Anyone remember if they played AAU together? They are both from the beltway, I believe. Jack had both Durant and Wilkins laughing with whatever story he was telling... I almost got ran over by Frank Brickowski in the Sonics locker room. I simply could not hold my position to take the charge... The warm-up music tonight was "Standing Ovation" by Young Jeezy. Not a very subtly-titled selection but definitely appropriate on this night... Speaking of Jack, he confidently grabbed the microphone pre-game to say: "On behalf of the Blazers, we would like to say thank you for coming out and being the best fans every night. Thank you and happy holidays!" More evidence that Jarrett Jack is the man ... Awesome pregame video from the Blazers on the big screen: highlights from each of the 10 games on the winning streak. Great idea; even better execution... Blaze the Trail Cat was rocking antlers tonight and made an over-the-head half-court shot during one of the intermissions, nothing but net, incredible... Some of the signs I saw tonight: "Brandon Roy is an All Star"; "Make it 11, #7"; "Eleven Straight Portland wins" (with the N capitalized for ESPN); "Joy to the Roy", and "Roy to the World"... Oden recited a holiday poem on the big screen which ended with, ""As for me, my knee will be alright//Happy holidays to you all, and go Blazers tonight!" You can easily imagine the cheers he received for this... How sweet was Sergio's no look pass? ... I asked Jon Barry, "How `bout them Blazers?" at halftime. I received only a brief, puzzled look up before he went back to playing on his phone... Darius Miles was shown on the scoreboard and received boos (on Christmas!). I understand the frustration but come on, guys... Last week, I was unsure how Paul Allen could represent tonight's 11th straight win during his post-game celebration when he only has 10 fingers. Clearly, he is the founder of Microsoft for a reason. This problem didn't challenge him in the slightest. He simply held up one finger on each hand. Truly startling that I didn't foresee this coming.
Thanks to Ben and everyone in attendance today virtually and actually who made it a great Christmas!