Ladies and Gentlemen, our In-Arena report from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers crushed the Chicago Bulls 105-87. What did the crowd sound like? Who rocked the best jerseys? How did Nicolas Batum look live in his first game back from injury? Special Correspondent Andy P. gives you the details.
Ever since Michael Jordan brought 6 titles to Chicago, the Bulls have enjoyed an international following. I was definitely expecting Chicago devotees to infiltrate the Moda Center tonight and they did not let me down. Upon entering the arena I was confronted with a Bulls fan in a zip-up track jacket. On my way into my section there was a guy with a brand spankin' new Derrick Rose jersey. It really set the tone for an overpopulation of the Chicago faithful.
Bulls players were greeted with a fair amount of cheers and boos during their introduction with a definite loud cheer for Joakim Noah. Even I can admit to being a fan of his game. The Blazers retro/old school intro was replaced by a rock/nu-metal style intro complete with bright background lights, intense screaming and clenched fists from all the players. The Friday night crowd seemed to be in this game from the get-go and all the players (including Batum, back in the lineup finally!) got loud cheers from the fans. Meyers Leonard came out and spoke to the crowd and told everyone Happy Thanksgiving. Same to you, Meyers.
I was disappointed to see a couple Bulls fans sitting right in front of me. Boo. Batum distracted me from that with the first two scores of the game, a little how-do-you-do in his first game back. The Blazers definitely came out firing on all cylinders and the crowd responded. Before long it was 25-9 and the Blazers were shooting 80%. Great 1st quarter!
I'd like to take a moment to address something that happens more often than I'd like. Tonight a guy sat behind me that I typically call know-it-all-guy. These guys explain every play to the person they're with and, most of the time, are explaining it wrong. Every 5 minutes I want to turn around and correct the guy or tell him to stop making stuff up. Don't be that guy. (ed. Or his friend.)
In the 2nd quarter the Bulls made a mini-run and got the score within 4 at 39-35. The crowd seemed a bit annoyed. The sizable group of Chicago fans in the arena tried to get into it. When Nikola Mirotic made a nice layup he was rewarded with a decent amount of cheers. All of a sudden Damian Lillard hit back to back 3's and the lead seemed safe again. LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a shot to make it 55-39 and the crowd was back. Then Allen Crabbe threw down a massive dunk that brought people out of their seats and everything seemed OK heading into halftime.
The crowd was slow coming back from halftime, probably due to the large lead, and seemed ready to ride this one out. Then out of nowhere Mike Dunleavy Jr absolutely leveled Dame with a flagrant foul out at the 3 point line. Wesley Matthews was immediately in Dunleavy's face and the crowd was right there with him. Dan, the long time season ticket holder that sits next to me, said, "With stuff like this I miss Joel Pryzbilla." I couldn't agree more. For the rest of the game the crowd seemed ready for blood and booed Dunleavy loudly every time he touched the ball.
By the time the 4th quarter rolled around the crowd was pretty quiet. I first noticed people leaving with about 10 minutes left in the game and was a little annoyed that know-it-all-guy behind me didn't go with them. He was too busy proclaiming that the Bulls had absolutely no outside shooters to notice Mirotic knocking down 3s. Whatever, man.
Coach Stotts finally threw the 3rd string guys in. They had trouble scoring, and, at first, the 22 point lead didn't seem safe. Then finally Meyers Leonard hit a 3 and the crowd sighed with relief. With 2 minutes left in the game it was like a fire alarm went off as people exited to beat the traffic. It was fairly quiet in the arena when I heard a drunken fan bellow "Dunleavy sucks!" Dunleavy absolutely HAD to have heard it. Ha ha. I also appreciated that Free Throw Guy was still giving it his all in the last seconds and caused a missed free throw with the game well in hand for the home team. Nice!
Jersey Watch time!
There were a LOT of Bulls jerseys and shirts in the crowd tonight. I gave up counting Derrick Rose jerseys at 7.
There were no less than 8 Bulls-couples tonight, both wearing Bulls gear. Very disappointing. I definitely liked the guy in the knit Bulls sweater.
It was cool to see a rare Michael Jordan #45 jersey alongside a guy in a Sabonis jersey.
Lots of other Jordan jerseys, Bulls hoodies, Bulls hats and Bulls shirts. I also saw a Dennis Rodman jersey, a Carlos Boozer jersey and a Bulls hat on a guy wearing a Fatty's shirt. For the uninitiated, Fatty's is an excellent burger joint in Chicago.
For the home team I saw this awesome Petrovic jersey.
I also spied a guy in a sweet Stoudamire jersey and a kid rocking some Pippen swag.
I ran into my friend Liz, along with a friend of hers, and she was rocking an AWESOME Bart Simpson/Clyde Drexler/Blazers shirt.
Confusing things a bit was a totally-out-of-place father/son duo in opposing Lakers/Celtics jerseys. What gives, guys?
All in all it was a great game and I love how the Blazers fans really get up for "marquee" matchups like the Bulls. Next home game is in a week against the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies. I fully expect the Moda Center to be rocking for that one too.