Blazer's Edge is honored to have special correspondents bringing us in-arena reports from all home games (and some road games) this season. Bryan Renzi, our correspondent for the first half-dozen games, gives us this eyewitness view from the mildly-depressed Moda Center tonight. If you'd like a full recap of the game before perusing Bryan's submission, click here. If you already know the story...enjoy!
P.S. Yes, that's the actual Steve Blake "butt shot" from the Moda Center scoreboard heading this article. That right there is some crack reporting. Nicely done, Bryan. Nicely done.
The pregame crowd was a little more festive and animated tonight than on Wednesday. Perhaps it was the benefit of the weekend being behind. The Blazers also looked like they were happy to be home and Dame's pick of "That Thing" by Lauryn Hill for warmup music seemed inspired - something loose and funky that fit an overarching mood.
"Loose and funky" also fit the Blazers' play tonight. Unfortunately that was as loose as a rope of sand and funky like a middle school Boys locker room, complete with as many cover-your-eyes turnovers as you would see at a middle school hoops game.
And the game may well have been decided by a butt. How middle school is that?
But maybe that's just where we're at in our development at this point in the year. Let's hope we hit a growth spurt soon.
To be fair, early regular season can often be a little like extended preseason. You've seen some of the scores around the league so far. Still, this was tough to watch for a team that looked so effortlessly beautiful at the same time last year. The offense was way out of sync. They exhibited terrible passing in every sense of the term, bumbling into each other on screens, fumbling the ball often and at key moments, poor vision, long two-pointers early in the shot clock, playing one-on-one. You name something bad offensively, and tonight the Blazers made a lookbook including it, just in time for (a possibly long) fall season.
The defense continued to give up interior passing lanes coupled with terrible coverage of baseline cuts and lane slashes - pretty basic.
Coach Stotts didn't appear to be in midseason form: losing his cool and getting T'd up; making some straight up ugly playcalls calls out of timeouts, including in clutch moments; and groping around for lineups in the hopes of finding lightning in a bottle. With the team down 10 early, Stotts inserted Thomas Robinson and Will Barton at the same time. Each had been allotted about two minutes of garbage time total over the first two contests.
The thing about lighting in a bottle is that it is unstable and difficult to control. Or at least that's what my sorcerer friends, say. (Really, man. In PDX, we've bottled or pickled pretty much everything at this point.)
How about this for a 3 minute sequence in the second quarter for T-Rob? He immediately lost his defensive assignment, resulting in a layup; secured 3 rebounds, including 2 offensive; missed two FTs, but rebounded the second miss and layed it in; threw away a pass; almost threw away a pass that traveled all of 2 feet; stole a pass; went ‘hand of God' and jammed home a one handed alley oop. Yes, the crowd was entertained. But was it 4.7 million dollars worth of entertainment? We'll be trying to figure that out all year.
Despite the fact that The People's Champ got some early burn -- which you would think would make everyone happy -- the body language of the Blazers on the way to the locker room looked like they were down pretty big, even though they were only behind by three.
In the 3rd Quarter, the Dubs looked like they were hitting the wall on the second game of a back to back. Curry shot what seemed like a symbolic airball, and his team went ice cold, only scoring 17 points in the quarter. But their fans hit no such wall - as the colors Blue and Gold were out in force at the arena tonight. One particularly bold group behind a basket actually started shouting, waving around big player head signs, and -gasp-used our own complimentary thunder sticks against us during a LaMarcus free throw trip. I'm sure they'd also like to take credit for him only going one of two on that trip.
This was not actually "a" free throw trip but THE free throw trip of the second half for the Blazers.
Yep, that was it. One of two. Not one free throw in the fourth quarter.
A series of non-calls late in the game could have helped the Blazers had they been made differently. But seriously, someone has got to take the ball to the rim. Yes LaMarcus was impressive down the stretch, filling up 5 consecutive shots, but he rarely took Draymond Green down low. Green is 6-7, giving up FOUR whole inches. If LaMarcus does in fact want to become the greatest Blazer ever (as he claimed this summer)...well, the free throw line is an easy way to get part of the way there, big guy!
Dame also looked hesitant to take it to the rack, after being blocked and missing several bunnies early. For 3 straight games, Lillard has been ‘Less Than Zero'...but it's still too early for a Robert Downey Jr. - style intervention. Either way, neither of the Blazers' two all-stars forced the issue when their opponents had lost their mojo.
With the game hanging in the balance heading into the 4th Quarter....*cough*....excuse me.....*cough cough*....I was just overcome by the...miasma of Junior High B.O. In case CSNNW went back to commercial when the fourth quarter started (because pro basketball had stopped), here's what happened: two of the supposedly most exciting offenses in the league combined for 8 turnovers in the first 3 and a half minutes of the final period, and only needed another minute to add a ninth.
But once again the Warriors looked like they were getting tired as Dame got two consecutive offensive rebounds off of own 3 pt misses, before finally meeting no resistance on laying up his 3rd attempt.
Things were looking hopeful despite all the ugliness. Up 2 and with 1:17 and possession of the ball, the crowd was loving it, roaring progressively louder at the start of each play to try and pump up their heroes. The Blazers Franchise (yes, I'm blaming everyone associated with the franchise at this point) responded with what even Comic Book Guy Robin Lopez would have to term "Worst. Possessions. Ever."
Honestly - past a ‘never had a chance' Lillard shot and a desperate LA three attempt with the shot clock running out - we still were up 1 with 25 ticks left. And the play called was apparently Matthews taking the inbounds, awkwardly leaning over the sideline off balance, and pretending like he's churning butter. Seriously, look at the replay. People were barely moving around him, assuming he was going to get fouled.
No I'm not going to explain what happens when you assume.
I will say that what followed may make me rethink my personal philosophy that you can never have too much butt.
Yes, if you must know, the replays show that after Matthews fumbled it, the rock did briefly in fact kiss Steve Blake's butt.
But Klay Thompson, who had dropped a thunderous dunk and lead-changing 3 during the last three minutes, then added a sweet hook in the lane to his clutch finish.
With one more chance for the Blazers to wow the critics with a heroic cliffhanger finale in the final 8 seconds, we were instead treated to another episode of ‘Everybody hates Draymond'. (He stole the ball from Aldridge.) Green has shown outsized play in clutch moments so far in his career, and you wonder how he keeps doing this. He's the Pablo Sandoval of basketball. No "wow moment" appeared.
Then the Blazers got another try to tie, down three, no timeouts, and 4.5 seconds left. This time the ball was thrown away terribly by Aldridge. The play design / call was again a bit of a head-scratcher. No player strayed closer than half court on a length-of-the-court play.
On the good side: Dame did well to get under picks (his strength in dealing with those pesky things) and contested Curry's shots well...not that contesting a shot seems to make any difference to Curry or Thompson and their hair-trigger releases.
There were four pretty awesome dunks in this game...but only half of them were ours.
The crowd was magnanimous enough to give oohs for Klay Slay's nasty dunk with 3:19 to play - does that count as a good thing in our corner?
Ok, there was the T-Rob's run, and Barton getting the chance to bring some instant O.
Ah geez. Now I'm repeating things. Maybe that means it's time to stop with the words. You don't want to relive this game any more anyway. Let's hope you don't have to later in the season.
Here, look at some pictures instead.
Commissioner Gordon turned on the Blazers Signal...why haven't they shown up yet?
I like big butts and I cannot lie. Sigh.
Anticipating a big finish.
...umm, where do you validate parking?
When next we meet, there will be a King among us. Hopefully the necessary preparations are attended to.