Here's special correspondent Peter Sampson with our In-Arena Report from the Moda Center following tonight's Portland Trail Blazers loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Greetings BEdgers. Tough loss tonight. That being said, tonight's game was one of the more entertaining "can't stand the mistakes, watch your elite point guard get outplayed, watch your league leading 3pt making SG shoot like garbage, watch your All-NBA PF thoroughly outplay the other big name PF in his conference and then barely get the ball in crunch time, watch a former Blazer who gave no effort the year he was here burn you in the second half" games in recent memory. Really.
With the late start time (due to the game being televised on ESPN) I got to the arena about an hour early. I work in Lake Oswego and live in Milwaukie, so oftentimes there's too much time to kill, but not enough time to fight traffic home and then again on the way to the arena. So I decided to hit up Dr. Jack's, which was hopping tonight. If you haven't been to a Blazer game in a couple of years, you probably won't even recognize that Dr. Jack's is in the same space that The Game used to be in. I really appreciate the wide selection of beers, as well as the fact that there are more than 3 bartenders working, an issue that always seemed to make a pregame stop at The Game a little less enjoyable.
I got to my seat just in time to catch Allen Crabbe on the big screen announcing the Blazers walk out music, "She Twerkin'" by Cash Out. This only served to reinforce what I said last game about my realization that I'm no longer hip.
Jimmie Herrod performed the National Anthem in a sort of neo-soul rendition. Great timbre to his voice and a world class falsetto. I've really enjoyed most of the anthem singers over the last several weeks. Player introductions followed with loud boos for Chris Paul and epic booing reserved for Blake Griffin. The Blazer Intros were...well here, check it out yourself.
The big screen had a nice close up of the new DLillard1's, Damian's new signature shoe that launched yesterday. I'm not a basketball shoe fetishist like a lot of my friends are, but they are pretty sweet looking.
The Blazers got off to a sluggish start, and trailed 16-10 after the first 5 minutes of the game. The crowd got going with the chants--especially section 314; they lived up to their reputation tonight--and the defensive intensity picked up toward the end of the first quarter. Jamal Crawford checked in to mild boos toward the end of the first, and the Clippers led 27-21 after 1.
After the first quarter, State Farm sponsored a contest where Blazer studio analyst (and State Farm rep) Michael Holton would pass the ball to a contestant while he shot 17 foot jumpers for $50 a pop. Adrian and Holton had good chemistry, and M.H. kept feeding him the ball right where he likes it. After Adrian went 6/13, he was given a choice; shoot a FT for $250 or shoot a 3 pointer for $500. Adrian likes to live dangerously and went for the 3. Like Ewing, his shot bounced off the back iron when it mattered most.
The Blazers were cutting the gap in the second quarter thanks to the inspired play of their 3 big men LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Kaman, and....Meyers Leonard. Haters gonna hate. During a break in the second quarter, a game called "How well do you know the Schonz?" was rolled out in section 117. 2 fans, Charles and Edward, had to finish the following partial Schonley phrases; "Lickety.....", "You've GOT.....", "He climbed the golden....", "Bingo.....", and "He crosses the......at midcourt".
Charles absolutely dominated taking 3 of the 5, with neither of them getting the other 2. Schonley was actually there saying the phrases, and even ribbed Edward a little for clearly not being familiar with phrases that we likely all know by heart.
[ed. Can I play? Can I play? "Brindle up the middle to make your free throws ladder bango bongo cyclops. I'll take stuff I grew up saying to myself on the pick-up court for $400, Alex.]
Before halftime, the crowd was starting to audibly get on Nicolas Batum a little bit for a poor shot followed with a careless pass on the next possession. As the season goes along, Batum is getting much less of a free pass from the fans, some of whom are starting to turn on him.
At halftime, we were treated to the Memphis - Beale Street Flippers; a group of men that are able to perform vertigo-inducing backflips with incredible speed. It was impressive. It made me nauseous just watching it.
To start the second half, the crowd was ready to push the home team ahead, but the Clippers hit back to back three pointers right out of the gate, which really took any life out of the crowd in the short term. We slowly inched our way back in along with the Blazers, and erupted when 2 Meyers Leonard free throws tied the game at 72.
The McDonald's Challenge tonight featured youngsters wearing size 16 shoes, needing to run the court while putting on a full sized jersey and shorts. Afterward, they needed to grab a basketball, run the length of the court, and hit a free throw. Barrett was repping section 118, Aiden had 117, and Bowen had 116. Barrett and Aiden were neck in neck with getting their gear on. Barrett then took the pole position after grabbing his basketball and ran the length of the court and....missed his lay in. Aiden calmly sunk his shot a second afterward. Bowen, like Ringo, was off in his own world, just happy to be invited.
In the fourth quarter, the Blazers finally took a lead on what felt like C.J. McCollum's first bucket in a month. We were going to pull away like we always do but Jamal Crawford had other plans. Lillard did his best to keep the Blazers in it, but there just wasn't enough juice, the Clippers closing on a 21-9 run.
Matthews and Lillard (for 3 quarters) REALLY struggled in this game. LaMarcus, Kaman, and Leonard all had double-doubles and were quite impressive in their own way. Batum pulled a disappearing act. I'm not sure what to make of him this year.
Leupold's Hometown Hero was Vietnam veteran Sgt. Joseph Arenas.
Signs - "It's the Dame Shoes", "Lillard > Paul", "Blake Griffin Prefers Soy Milk", "Rip the Clips", "Blake Griffin Hates Bacon", "Show Me Your Dame Face"
This dude had the ultimate troll jersey - Darius Miles' Clippers jersey. I applaud this man, whoever he is.