Peter Sampson checks in with the In-Arena Report as the Portland Trail Blazers defeat the Orlando Magic, 103-92
"Never take any opponent for granted". "This is the NBA; anyone can win on any given night". "Even the worst team in the league is made up of elite players".
These are the platitudes that fans of a successful franchise use in order to get try and get psyched up for a much weaker opponent. It seldom works. It feels sometimes as if the crowd is tied to their expectations, even if the actual game unfolding in front of them is exciting. For the most part, tonight was one of those nights.
First of all, I took the opportunity to upgrade my seats. I like to use the FindExp mobile site (not an official endorsement) and see what's available for in game upgrades. About 25 minutes before game time, I got my alert text message and picked up a couple of tickets in section 103, row N for $24 apiece.
My wife and I were already in the 300 level when I upgraded, so we grabbed a couple pork cubano sandwiches from Bunk Sandwiches, and then headed downstairs. Here she is rocking her brand new Aldridge jersey that she picked up at the Hawks game last week.
We got to our seats just in time for the National Anthem, sung tonight by Mary Chapman of Prineville, OR. She did a conventional rendition, and it was evident that she had some level of classical training. Very nice. The Magic were introduced tonight mostly to indifference, aside from a big hand for former Blazer and all-around Portland dude Channing Frye. The applause brought a smile to his face. Later in the game, former Oregon Duck Luke Ridnour also received a nice hand. Scott Foster was announced as one of the officials and I booed. No one else around me seemed to notice or care that he was working, but I can't stand that guy.
The Blazer's intro had them running and dunking in an animated version of Portland. Not bad, but not as exciting as the typical "yelling" intro, or the old school funk one they've broken out for two or three games.
Here's the beginning of player introductions .
And with that we were underway!
The Blazers were on fire early and the crowd was rocking. Everyone got in on the 3 point action including Meyers Leonard, who checked in for Chris Kaman after picking up two very quick fouls. Batum also had three blocked shots in the first 7 minutes, which had the crowd rocking. But then a funny thing happened, the home crowd expected a victory, almost behaving like it was their right to watch a beat down of a bad Eastern Conference team. It was 26-13 after the first quarter. All was good, and the crowd was quiet.
After the first quarter, Great Clips held a free throw contest to win the crowd free haircuts (incidentally, I'm way too shaggy right now). Jeremy was shooting for the 100/200 levels and Sam was shooting for the 300 level. Jeremy just couldn't find the bottom of the net and Sam found his rhythm. Final score Sam -5, Jeremy -2. Looks like I picked a bad day to sit in the 100 level....not really.
The Magic started chipping away in the second quarter, but the crowd still felt that the game was in hand. In fact the loudest cheer of the first half was when they showed Seattle taking a 24-10 lead with a few minutes to go in the half, and then a pick-6 with 45 seconds left before halftime. The crowd did show a little urgency when Orlando cut it to 7 behind a strong quarter from Nikola Vucevic.
Papa Murphy's held a "Build Your Own Pizza" family relay, where a couple of parent/daughter teams had to run across the court and drop pepperoni onto a giant pizza. The Haight family, rocking their BRoy and Batum jerseys, were just a bit quicker and won pizza for section 221. The Ricardizzi family should be ashamed for letting section 206 down like that.
There were some jeers to start the third quarter. While the Magic came out firing, the Blazers seemed disinterested. They quickly fell behind and Stotts was as animatedly disgusted while calling a timeout as I've seen all year. When down 4, We$ hit a big three to energize the crowd, which led to the first "Defense" chants of the night. The Magic held on tight, and we were getting nervous. Just like the L*ker game, there was a certain point with about 15 minutes of clock remaining where the crowd collectively realized "Hey, we could lose this thing", and started to act like the 6th man they're supposed to be. They did announce the Seahawks victory around this time, which got a huge reaction from the crowd, though it meant little to me (I'm a Rams fan...yeah, yeah, I know).
After the 3rd quarter they broke out the trampolines for the Rip City Slammers. It's kind of silly, but it did a great job at getting the crowd energized for the 4th quarter. The crowd finally was alive, and even got a little chippy after three straight tough calls against LaMarcus in about 55 seconds. During a timeout, Brad from Corvallis took his shot at the CenturyLink Speed Shot Challenge, but just couldn't get his legs into his jumper, as seen here.
Dame took another hard fall on his back in the 4th quarter. It feels like every game, one of our guys goes down hard or has to visit the locker room. Remember our relatively injury-free year last year? Me too.
The Blazers pulled away down the stretch thanks to their ability to buckle down and finally get some stops while the game was still tight.
With less than 30 seconds to go, Meyers Leonard had a break away and clearly looked at the bench to see if it was bad sportsmanship to dunk. He had the green light.
And finally, the one thing we all want to see/hear:
A couple general observations. Meyers had another nice game, being mostly in position and rebounded well. He did unfortunately have the bonehead play of the night, when a bad pass went into the backcourt. Instead of going and grabbing it, effectively killing the play, he stopped like the play was dead This allowed Orlando to pick it up and get an easy dunk in transition. A comment one or two write-ups ago said that no Blazer takes abuse like Meyers and I have to admit that, sitting in a new section, I heard some pretty disrespectful things being yelled at him. This was even before the aforementioned bonehead play, which deserved a little heat. Maybe my normal section is a little friendlier to him, because I was surprised. Bummer.
Vucevic is a beast down low. He gave Kaman, Leonard, and Aldridge all they could handle and more. He had 34/16, and most importantly was a steal for me in the 5th round of my fantasy basketball draft.
They broke out the kiss-cam tonight. There were no shenanigans to report.
The Leupold Hometown Hero of the Game was Naval Officer/Vancouver Police Officer Brian Schaffer.
Signs spotted tonight - "Dame Face ON", "Zero is my hero", "Magic show, more like Tragic show", and "Loving our bench"
The dude behind me was:
A. clearly on a first date.
B. talking about himself all night. And
C. wasted. It wasn't a good look. I thought about turning around and giving him some dating advice on the spot, but there is only so much magic I can work.
Fortunately the Blazers worked the Magic for Peter. Here's hoping that the dude's date has a better night next time she visits the Moda Center.