Blazer's Edge is happy to welcome special correspondent Steven Armstead to give us a sense of the Moda Center atmosphere during the Portland Trail Blazers' 108-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs tonight.
Monday, December 16th brought a Western Conference Semifinals Rematch from the 2013-2014 Season to the Moda Center.
Technically the two teams from that Semifinals series did play tonight but it definitely wasn't the same teams. Tony Parker is nursing a hamstring injury, Tiago Splitter was held out because of his calf injury and it being a back-to-back, Patty Mills hasn't played yet this year because of his shoulder, Manu Ginobili is being held out because of an apparent lower back contusion and Tim Duncan was a DNP-Old.
Our family has four tickets in section 311 row D (come say hi, we are in seats 7-10) and we arrived about a little over an hour early for the game. Walking through the concourse looking for what we wanted to eat, I only saw a handful of Spurs fans...a few t-shirts, a sweatshirt, a Manu jersey here, a Duncan jersey there. Nothing more than the average for visiting NBA teams.
Our family grabbed some food and we headed to our seats. We arrived a little earlier than normal to our seats as I attempted to soak in my surroundings. Cleveland Youth Basketball provided the before game entertainment and I can't imagine the excitement that they all were experiencing. Running up and down on the home floor of the Trail Blazers, shooting on the same basket as Dame and LA. That would have been awesome back in the day.
The it's time to go. Mark Mason counts down the seconds and shortly after the young ones run off the court the Spurs enter with a smattering of boos and cheers.
Since I attend every home game, I was present for the Ford blimp failing to ascend into her home base, which happens to be right above our seats. I waited patiently and with much anticipation of her return. Sadly, she did not.
Tonight was LaMarcus Aldridge's turn to pick the warm-up music. He chose "Hood Billionaire" by Rick Ross. Now, I am a fan of the rap music genre having grown up with No Limit Records, but some of the music the team chooses I have a hard time listening to. I still remember when Nolan Smith chose "Party in the U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus a few years ago and began dancing around like Carlton all over the floor.
Just before tip-off it is announced that Paul Allen will be at midcourt to give LMA a framed poster for him passing Terry Porter as second all-time in points scored for the franchise. It was a nice gesture, a pretty cool framed poster and the crowd gave a nice ovation.
Coming off a five game road trip the saying goes that the first home game back is like the sixth road game. The atmosphere in the Moda Center seemed to reflect this. I am not sure what the reason was but the crowd was very subdued and that seemed to continue through the night.
At the end of the first quarter with the Trail Blazers up 3 off a great shot by Will Barton, Ronald McDonald came out as a couple of young fans attempted to bowl for free hamburger Happy Meals for a year. As I began typing, one of them knocked all the pins down in three attempts and the game was over. In five years of this same kind of game with multiple age groups, I have never seen it done so quickly.
Despite the mellow crowd, the bench received loud cheers. Midway through the second quarter on a Damian Lillard layup assisted by Nicolas Batum, the crowd seemed energized. Even with the sudden eruption from the crowd, it quickly became quiet again after the bucket.
Going into halftime the crowd was one of the quieter I had seen. The halftime entertainment was something new: Wheelchair Basketball. Representing the NWBA (National Wheelchair Basketball Association) the red and white teams of the Portland Wheelblazers duked it out. There was some great passes and nice cuts to the hoop that would remind you of any other basketball team.
Again Mark Mason counted down the seconds and the teams emerged for the second half. On the speakers as the teams warmed up was the song "Zombies" from a local band called Radiation City.
There was a lot of the same for the third quarter as the Blazers kept the lead. At just under the eight minute mark I sawRobin Lopez run into the locker room. I mentioned this to my family and the popular response is, "bathroom break". [ed. Unfortunately it was a broken hand.]
The crowd started to get a little rowdy at about the two minute mark of the end of the third quarter when Joel Freeland muscled Matt Bonner down low and put up a little hook shot right over him. But that was about it.
The crowd finally got into the game with about 3:30 left in the fourth quarter. But it wasn't much more than a few defense chants and cheers for buckets and rebounds.
Blazers win. Blazers win.
Random Game Notes
I loved this section from Ben's Media Row Reports
Tipoff attendance seemed to be around 80%. I assume that's a sell out.
In the first three minutes LA had to tie his shoes twice. Seemed a little weird especially after the other night and the whole shoe tying fiasco.
The first 5 rebounds were recovered by Damian Lillard.
The first 7 points were scored by Wesley Matthews.
Wes also received some love for passing Damon Stoudamire for most three point field goals made. He just needs to average over 1 three point field goal made for the rest of the year and he will pass Terry Porter for the franchise record for three point field goals made.
Signs from the arena (these are actually hard to do as they are handwritten and you have only a short time to jot them down)
0 is my hero
Lillard is neat
Out with the old, in with the Blazers
Will the thrill
Love the ole hack-a-Trob in the final minutes to try and slow down the game. Unfortunately for Coach Pop, he went 3 for 4.
Chalupa chants can still be heard. They are not loud and were mostly from my section but the crowd still remembers.
Don't forget, on Wednesday you should wear your Ugly Sweater to the Trail Blazers game. Also, it is a wooden coaster night.
Thanks to Steven for providing a glimpse into the Moda Center tonight! We look forward to hearing from him through the rest of December!