Here's Peter Sampson with tonight's In-Arena Report from the Portland Trail Blazers' victory over the Sacramento Kings.
"I'd rather be lucky than good." - Lefty Gomez.
"If it's broken, we're screwed." - Me, to the dude in the Brian Scalabrine jersey in row J.
Happy MLK Day! You can exhale, Blazer fans. LaMarcus Aldridge apparently didn't break his hand on Boogie Cousins' knee. Make sure to check back in with Blazers Edge tomorrow for any updates after he's reevaluated, but for now it looks like we finally caught a break with a hand injury. The vibe during the 2nd and 3rd quarters tonight was very tense, as word trickled through the arena that LMA had hurt his hand. Only a 12th Blazer comeback from down double digits could bring the crowd to life.
I got to the arena a little later than usual so I wasn't able to catch the intro music this go around. Dorell Wright took the microphone to wish everyone a happy Martin Luther King Day, though you could tell he was a little nervous to be addressing the large crowd.
Brian Podnys, from Cornelius, sang the anthem tonight. I never feel like I can give each singer their due credit with my description, so take a listen:
The Kings were introduced wearing their road purple jerseys. DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay have both been battling nagging injuries but both suited up tonight. Then it was our turn. The Blazers went with their "running and dunking through Portland" intro tonight. I like it, but I'd really like to see the "up-tempo feel good funk" intro they broke out for two games back in November.
The Blazers also had a nice ceremony honoring Matthews becoming the Blazers all-time leader in 3 point makes. He got a huge hand from the crowd. Later, during a timeout in the first quarter, they followed up with a video tribute showing him hitting huge threes and just being the all-around heartbeat of this team. The man has got to get paid this summer.
And with the tip, we were underway!
Nicolas Batum started the game aggressively, and during one 3 play stretch had an assist, a steal, a layup, and a rebound. Nic didn't have a great, or even particularly good showing tonight, but he was actually in the building, and that's progress in the right direction. He even showed a little fire, picking up a quick technical for waving his hand at Bill Spooner after committing a ticky-tack foul in transition.
Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum were the first Blazers subs at the 6:00 mark. I was surprised to see McCollum in so early, but after his nice game in San Antonio it makes sense that Stotts would want to give him a little burn to see if he was still feeling it (he wasn't). Meyers had another nice game on the offensive end. Boogie Cousins was a little too much for him to handle on defense though. No shame in that.
The crowd really started coming alive when Rudy Gay dropped Damian Lillard with a shoulder with about 3 minutes left in the 1st quarter. While we were all pleading for the offensive foul, two Sacramento fans in section 332 started screaming at anyone who would listen "HE WAS IN THE CIRCLE! HE WAS IN THE CIRCLE!" Ok...Dear Kings fans in 332, you can still commit an offensive foul in the circle, but if you're making a basketball move it's not.....ahhh forget it. When you're a fan, you see things in a particular light. These guys did a good job coming into enemy territory and being vocal in support of their team. One scary moment: When Boogie Cousins rejected Meyers Leonard with the force of a dozen Olajuwons, I thought Kings fan #1 was having a medical emergency. Nope, just really, really excited about that play.
I pretty much forgot all about it when Matthews hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left in the 1st.
During the first intermission, they played the Fred Meyer Price Range Game, where the contestant has to guess the price range of a given item. I'm not sure where Angel from Happy Valley does her shopping, because she was all over the map. Hopefully she enjoys her Bose Bluetooth speaker though.
Thomas Robinson got a big hand when he entered the game in the second quarter. I predicted a "Thomas Robinson Revenge Game" right then and there. T-Rob played with his typical high energy all night and really limited careless mistakes.
During a 2nd quarter timeout, Madison took the Prudential Challenge, where he had to make a free throw blindfolded within 30 seconds to win $250. Dude took 5 seconds and made it on his second try. It's pretty clear that he should immediately quit his job and start hustling folks on the playgrounds.
Even with that excitement, the crowd was still down as the Blazers went into halftime down 58-51. News, or lack thereof, about Aldridge was travelling through the concourse. Quote of the night, by a random guy walking by me - "Are hands the new knees?" Not even halftime dodgeball could raise the crowd's spirits.
Victor Claver started the 3rd quarter in place of Aldridge and got a nice hand, especially when he snagged an offensive rebound due to pure hustle, running the width of the court and knocking it out of a Kings player's hands. The bench in general played really well, and a lot. It was clear that Stotts was trying to find some combination that would generate a little run. Barton, T-Rob, Blake all had nice flashes.
But at a certain point, the crowd was waiting for one player to get going. Damian Lillard, wearing the letter O, did not disappoint. You all saw the dunk. I want you to YouTube it again real quick. The best part of that dunk was Derrick Williams sliding over to contest it and then going "On second thought, I would rather not be part of this highlight reel."
At that point, the crowd was rocking and there was no stopping us, no matter how many times the officials stopped play for review. Here we are trying to help them get the call right:
Finally, the one thing we all want to see:
Non Game Notes:
Signs tonight - "Our House", "Never Say Die", and "Dame Will You Marry Her? -à", "I Have a Dream, Rip City 2015"
It was Portland Timbers night at the Moda Center. Timber Joey was in the crowd shaking hands.
Local Indie rock group The Decemberists were in the house tonight. Their track "The Wrong Year" got played over the loud speakers during 2nd half warmups.
Leupold Hometown Hero of the Game was a Navy man, Andrew McLaren.
Season Ticketholder Michael Schindler in section 113 was presented with a piece of the 1977 championship hardwood floor by Jerome Kersey. That's a sweet memento.