Special correspondent Andy P. gives us the view from a subdued Moda Center in tonight's In-Arena Report covering the Portland Trail Blazers' victory over the Indiana Pacers.
The in-arena experience started off on a different foot tonight due to a planned protest in response to the lack of an indictment in the death of Eric Garner. Multiple entrances were closed outright or had only a few doors open, and there was a pronounced police presence in the Rose Quarter. This contributed to a very empty house during the player introductions. The Blazers once again switched the opening video, this time to a reddish cityscape backdrop and the players passing the ball to each other in various nifty ways.
The lack of crowd early in the 1st quarter, combined with some poor shooting on both teams, made for a quiet first quarter. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed some commotion down on the 100 level and saw this:
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There were a lot of funny comments in my area as people noticed the blimp had crashed. It foreshadowed the offense in this game.
Even as fans were finally able to enter the arena it was still very quiet. I looked up to see that the Blazers were only shooting 28%. They just weren't giving us anything to cheer for. After another few Blazer misses the crowd started getting grumpy. A lady behind me groaned, "Holy Toledo.." and I felt like that summed up the rough 1st quarter.
In the 2nd quarter Wesley Matthews started to give the crowd something to cheer for. When Pacers' coach Frank Vogel called a timeout the fans finally could let loose. Both teams traded baskets which calmed down the mood, enough so that I could hear the "oooohs" when CJ Miles hit a deep 3. A guy sitting in front of me pointed out, when the score was 32-31 Blazers near halftime, that we probably wouldn't be getting free french fries tonight.
Coming back from halftime the crowd was immediately fired up about David West and Roy Hibbert started throwing cheap shots at Robin Lopez. Bad move, because it was just the push the fans needed to get going. A Damian Lillard 3 off of a broken play got some people on their feet, then a Dame and-1 a moment later got the rest of them up. It was at this point that word passed along to me that the Moda Center doors were locked and there were riot cops on the scene. Did they lock the doors on the rims too? The Blazers and Pacers were still clanking shots to end the quarter.
[ed. The Blazers issued a press release explaining that the Moda Center doors were not actually locked. They did claim a heightened police presence because of protests and thanked the police for their service. The full text of the press release can be found here.]
In the 4th it was 64-64 when I heard someone behind me let out a frustrated "Come on!" kind of like what you'd say if your dog was taking too long in the yard. Overall this was an annoying game for the fans. You never felt that the Blazers were going to lose but they just never gave enough to get the crowd really going. A Nicolas Batum 3 out of a jump ball was exciting, there were some boos when Hibbert had a technical on Wes, and the Blazers hit enough shots in the end to pull out the win.
This duo was rocking a Cliff Robinson and Jermaine O'Neal. Not a bad front line if both players were taken at their primes.
Nice, signed by Mighty Mouse himself, Damon Stoudamire.
This was cool too see. These shirts are produced by Trillblazin, a company with cool social media presence. I follow them on Instagram and Twitter and enjoy their commentary. Check ‘em out!
Classic. This guy said "Don't include my face! I'm a Blazers season ticket holder but I was born in Indiana!" Ha ha... your secret is safe with me.
I also saw, and couldn't get pictures of, a couple other Pacers' jerseys. A Paul George (hope he plays this year!) and a Danny Granger. What, no Rik Smits? Also seen was an extremely out of place Orlando Magic Shaq jersey. Ok? Side question for Pacers fans: Would it be in bad taste to wear a Ron Artest Pacers jersey because of the Malice in the Palace debacle?
Rough game overall. Lets hope the rims are more kind to the Blazers on this upcoming road trip.
This is Andy's final In-Arena Report. We'll add a new correspondent to the rotation when the Blazers return from their upcoming 5-game road trip. We thank Andy for his words, the Jersey Watch, and putting his stamp on this project!