TorridJoe brings our In-Arena Recap from this emotional night at the Moda Center.
From the Center's Center--The View from Section 216
Blazers vs Wizards, 1/24/15
Before we even begin, here's what you all came to see.
Now down to business.
If Thursday's Moda crowd was Sominex, tonight's pulsing excitement in-arena was straight meth. Some knew it going in, others found out with delight once they arrived: LaMarcus is BACK. But everyone was ready to rock and roll with our security blanket showing guts and determination--and that ever-smooth stroke--in warmups.
I arrived early tonight and got the rockstar parking spot east of I-5 on that little circle just beyond the overpass, headed east. You still have to pay and they charge until 10 but it's only $1 per hour. It fills up fast; past 6pm forget it.
The Wizards were my rebound team when they were the Bullets and I lived in the DC area for 10 years growing up. I went from enjoying the Blazers on the radio in 77 (I'd already left) to TV games and championship parades in 78 with a repeat trip to the Finals in 79. As a 12 year old kid I thought "this is easy!" Neither team has been to the Finals since.
Speaking of flexible fandom, I saw a couple decked out to the nines in team gear...SEAHAWKS team gear. Yeah I get the crossover but really? Not one piece of the Black and Red? I didn't embarrass them with an approving picture but minutes later I saw a darling older couple head to toe in Blazers regalia and had to congratulate them.
Since I'm blessed enough to have club seats this season and the Japanese Brand Name Luxury Car Club is all new this year, I thought I'd share a little of the goings-on from that level. The team ditched the all you can eat buffets of previous years and went ala carte for everything.
Got a bev and then went to HotStone for a slice of stone oven pizza and a Caesar salad. The guy next to me couldn't handle the word "cappicola" and insisted on "pepperoni" but it's really not. Much bigger, thinner real cured meat. Recommend. The salad was almost the proverbial Seinfeld Big Salad and was pretty tasty, but it was kind of like raisin bran: at the end it was all just croutons and dressing.
It should also be said that the staff on that station were EXCELLENT. Smiling, attentive, quick, professional. I figured out why; I left my beverage on the counter to take a photo and the manager swooped in on it like it was unattended luggage in Belfast. As she walked away i murmured "tight ship!" and my cashier chuckled.
Last year the bar was sponsored by Crown which I really liked. Cause I like Crown Royal. But that's gone too, and Pendleton distillery (the pride of Pendleton except it's bottled in Hood River and actually distilled in CANADA) has gone whole hog. Branding errrrrrywhere, down to "Let 'Er Buck" bronco silhouettes in the seating area glass.
LaMarcus Aldridge hit the court for first warmups at 610 and got an excited hand from the early arrivals. He's wearing a small black brace on his left thumb and at least on shots it wasn't bothering him a bit. You know they'll be going after it tonight to make it hurt tho.
Two preteen youth teams from Tualatin Hills took the court before the game and put on a fun show. That's gotta be a treat, right down to the loud buzzer at the end of the game. Best move was a Wes-like hop step into the lane with the 10 foot floater for the deuce.
Wes gets the warmup music tonight: By the Way from Young Jeezy: Another excited ovation for the sight of LA on court.
Poor "Hailey," the 10 year old honorary ball girl; she looked like she expected to be beaned to tears by flying basketballs. That did not in fact happen so all was well in the end.
Crowd is pumped tonight! You can feel it. Emily Saalfels sings the anthem, stopping in from Gervais to deliver a sweet and simple rendition. I like those, not trying to make a diva appearance out of things. It's the anthem. It's got a melody. Deliver it well, that's your job. Well done Emily.
You think the crowd was happy to see LaMarcus introduced? A bit. (See above.) Allen Crabbe starts for Batum tonight.
Kaman loses tip. Naturalement.
Pierce the deep top of line three to open the scoring. Then a midranger, then another by Nene, then two by John Wall, then a fast break slam--the 6th and 7th fast break points of the first 3 minutes by Washington--and its 2-13. The crowd tried to get the Blazers untracked at 2-9 to no avail. Only two free throws from LIllard prevented the early extended bagel on the board.
LA fittingly scored the first bucket. And the second. And the fourth. And the fifth and sixth. He did airball his first three badly though. Dunks from Barton and TRob pick up the slack.
Barton the sub in for Crabbe at the 3 and Andre Miller gets a nice hand from the hometown folks.
Hobby horse race! "Michael," "Justin" and "Troy" battled for the Portland Meadows prize, Troy in the pink heart silks with the very Portland winter shorts claiming it.
Crowd not happy as Barton ball hogs a fast break and messes it up, and shot after shot bounces out. For yet another game the threes are off to a poor start (1-8) and there seems like no other option.
The Sloans and the Gibsons battled to place all their pepperoni onto their respective pizza rugs, the Sloans winning a free large pizza for section 329. (Well, one for each seatholder, not one for the whole section).
A good sequence of defense and made threes plus fast break finishing has the crowd pumped at 36-41. They tried to keep up the love as the lead hovered between 5-6, but late runs by DC restored the 12 point lead at the half to groans from the concourse-shuffling crowd. During halftime the late dunk by Nene was disallowed so we actually stood 55-45.
Karl Urban (Star Trek) and Katie Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) literally brought the "Star" power to the Moda tonight. Also Gary Payton in Beavers gear!
Dog races at halftime! The Tail Blazers took on Muddy Paws in a series of hurdle relays. Tail Blazers win! Tail Blazers win!
A little tip if you are disheartened by the epic lines for Salt and Straw at halftime--Ruby Jewel sells sandwiches on the other side of the club level and the line is always quick. I got the Oregon berry ice cream with hazelnuts dipped in chocolate. YESSS. And no dude, I did NOT cut in front of you; you tried to make a new secondary line.
Halftime semi-local tunes: "No Cities to Love" from the brand new reunion album dropped this week by Sleater-Kinney. Go women!
Back to back Wes threes get the crowd going again as the Blazers close once more to five at 61-66. The defense is tightening ever so slightly and now it's time to get over the hump. The enormous save by Barton from an over and back call leads to one of those no-it's-too-early-to-bail threes by Dorrell that nonetheless goes in...and the foul! Fans go apey.
DC take a time out with their lead down to two at 66-68. It's also the first time in a good while the Wizards are under 50% shooting. LA buries the jumper for the 69-68 lead before Dre drops his own to retake it and finish the quarter ahead 70-69. But the defense did its job, holding the Wiz to 15 in the quarter and knocking nine points off the lead. To the fourth!
Until Bo Jackson or Jay Buhner become Blazer cheerleaders, I am never getting a free basketball from my seat thrown from the court. I did however briefly grasp a free T-shirt that ended up in the hands of the gentleman sitting behind me. Partially because I was also holding my phone, partially because I knew it would never fit me in a million diets, and partially because I am Stone Hands Jack in the clutch.
Blake gets an appreciative "whoa" for his fake out on Dre at the baseline for the easy two. Savvy old-fart reserve guards going one on one, be good times.
Half court shot time! "Keith" from Molalla gets a spin on the big wheel...shooting for the Tacoma. Good distance but a hair to the right. Toyota's insurance company breathes easy once again.
50/50 raffle yields $8,054, a nice kitty!
LA battles Nene hard, drawing three fouls on him (and two FT finally) in one trip. Wes goes back to back "archer" for the second time to reclaim the lead at 87-85 and DC has to take another pause to refresh. Unlike Thursday where the crowd were hopeful in its entreaties, tonight the mood was distinctly more "OK you bast...uh, Blazers--let's get this done." Confidence is louder than hope, it turns out.
HUGE bailout by Nene with an ill advised 6th foul on Meyers taking a desperation three. Leonard cans all three for the 107-101 lead with just over a minute to go. We like. Apparently everything given must be taken away and Wall is also awarded three shots for knocking over Dame before shooting. LA then makes it eight FT in a row to comprise the scoring, finding only Marcin "Cochese Haircut" Gortat where Nene used to be and drawing yet another key foul.
DC gets the quick layup, and the Blazers hold for a late three by Wes which misses--but Portland gets the bound and Wall waits a full ten seconds to foul. Damian buries the 17th and 18th FT for the Blazers and DC takes its last timeout at 101-96, 7.9 remaining. The crowd can feel a big win. LA steals the inbound and they get their wish! Our stud hits FT 19 and 20 without a miss (only the 7th perfecto of at least 20 FT in team history) for personal points 25 and 26, amid MVP chants. That's it! 103-96 and the return of LaMarcus yields a big win over a very talented team. See you back here in Section 216 against Phoenix, fans!
our Leader our Legend our LaMarcus
Blazer Mania Lives On
Wes Matthews: Fear This
Thanks LA for lending a hand
Thank You LaMarcus