Our special correspondent Andy P. gives us a view from the 300 section as the Portland Trail Blazers victory over the New Orleans Pelicans unfolded tonight.
Walking in to the game tonight I was excited to see if LaMarcus Aldridge or Nicolas Batum would play. After reports that both had participated in practice, I was hoping to see them back in the starting lineup. The Pelicans have a lot of solid players and a budding superstar in Anthony Davis so we were going to have our work cut out for us even with a full squad.
Watching warm-ups tonight I noticed Damian Lillard and Anthony "The Brow" Davis chatted for longer than just "Hey, how is it goin'?" Whether this was two guys who formed a friendship at the USA basketball camp, or just two young guys dominating their respective positions, I couldn't help but get a feeling that I was watching two future long-term All-NBA guys sharing a moment before the game.
Dame walked away and proceeded to hit every shot for the rest of the warm-up. Dang, he's good.
None of the Pelicans got a cheer or a boo during their introductions besides a nice cheer for Anthony Davis. Glad to see the Moda Center crowd showing him respect. The kid can hoop. Monty Williams got a nice, hearty cheer when he was introduced. Also glad to see him getting respect for his time on the Blazers' bench, even though that seems like a lifetime ago.
Portland's introductions featured a big basketball hoop and net with a giant disco ball in the center. Again they used the retro/old school intro. If it's the same at the next game I am going to try and figure out what the song they use is so I can link it to my report. It's definitely cool and funky which I prefer to solemn and serious. LaMarcus Aldridge returned to the lineup and got a very warm welcome.
The crowd was more into the game from the opening tip than they were for the Nets a couple nights ago. With the Blazers up 6-0, LaMarcus battled for a rebound and scored causing Monty Williams to call an early timeout. This was an early spark for the crowd noise. Luke Babbitt checked in and got a nice little cheer from the crowd. Anthony Davis soared for an alley-oop which caused a respectful murmur "Oooooooohhh..."
In the 2nd quarter the Pelicans started hitting some shots and it felt like the crowd was getting a little antsy. Chris Kaman's 2nd foul caused a fair amount of loud boos. I looked up and the Pelicans were shooting 54%. Yikes. No wonder the crowd was getting grumpy. When Davis blocked two shots in a single possession there was another respectful "Ooooohhh..." but this time it was a little more begrudging.
One thing I've always been curious about and never really been able to find an answer for is that some teams (the Pelicans tonight, usually the Jazz) use the basket near the Trailblazers' bench in the 1st half rather than the 2nd half. I only notice this because usually teams go against Free Throw Guy in the 2nd half, but this game they went against him in the 1st. I wonder what the Jazz and Pelicans know that everybody else doesn't? In this case it didn't matter as Free Throw Guy was on point and the Pels shot 40% on free throws in the 1st half.
In the 3rd quarter the crowd seemed restless early. Missed shots on the Portland side and a few Ryan Anderson 3s on the Pelicans side didn't really help. I noticed during one timeout that Thomas Robinson and Wesley Matthews appeared to be having an animated conversation with T-Rob pointing towards the baseline. The overall vibe in the Moda Center was kind of bummed out as the Blazers were unable to chip away at the Pelican's lead. Dame and Wes hit 3s and the crowd began to come to life only to moan and groan when the score was 68-83 Pelicans.
Blazers started to make their charge in the 4th quarter and it got the crowd going. Robin Lopez hit the floor for a loose ball and got a big round of applause. The DEFENSE! chants started to follow every Blazers possession and it seemed to give the team some life against a suddenly-shaky Pelicans squad. RoLo scored and was fouled on the shot which got the crowd on their feet. From this point on the vibe was almost to a playoff game type feel. RoLo passed the ball out to Wes for a 3 and the crowd went nuts. RoLo scored again for the lead and the Moda Center was fully rocking. From the 2 minute warning until the end of the game the crowd was basically on their feet and they were rewarded with a great Blazers win.
On my half time jersey search I saw very few New Orleans jerseys. Here was one of the guys on that lonely island:
One guy in a N.O. hat and Chris Paul Hornets jersey said he moved from Louisiana three years ago. There was also an Anthony Davis jersey, a NOLA shirt and a New Orleans jersey without a player name or number... like a practice jersey or something.
For the home team I saw two Sabonis jerseys, one from the Blazers...
another from CCCP...
There was a really nice vintage Blazers leather jacket...
and a baby sized Sebastian Telfair jersey.
ed. Either that's a hand-me down or those parents are kind of mean. Do you want people looking at your kid and thinking, "He's OK, but you could have had Chris Paul"?
I also saw a full Clippers tracksuit (?) and a Kevin Durant Sonics jersey.
ed. Thanks for not sending pictures of those. Especially the tracksuit. Yuck.
Cool signs in the crowd tonight: "Pluck the Pelicans," "Tres 4 Days," "YOLO 4 ROLO," and "You can't tame Dame!"
Overall I was happy with the crowd tonight. It didn't start out as slow as the Nets game and even when the Pelicans were having their way with us, they didn't give up. We get a nice break and then time to bring it loud for Chicago on Friday. I'm hoping their physical defense tires them out on the road trip and they stumble into Portland with bags under their eyes and a severe case of homesickness.
Pro Tip: Andy's going to be wandering the Moda Center halls for a few more games, so if you're wearing a cool jersey or have a sweet sign, find the guy with the camera and a smile!