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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Atlanta Hawks: View From the Moda Center Seats

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Special Correspondent Peter Sampson takes his first shot as our In-Arena correspondent. Ride the ups and downs of this game from inside the Moda Center!

Tonight Special Correspondent Peter Sampson joins the Blazer's Edge team, giving you the view of the Portland Trail Blazers' 115-107 tussle with the Atlanta Hawks. Even though the Blazers came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard on this one, Mr. Sampson still found plenty of excitement in the proceedings. Welcome, Peter!

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Greetings Blazers Edge readers!  I'm Peter and I am thrilled to be your Blazers in-arena correspondent over the next several games. I'm a long time die-hard Blazer fan, and a first year season ticket holder in section 333, row H, 1-2.

I got to the arena about an hour early to grab a bite to eat and visit the fan shop (side note: my wife has been wrestling with whether to pick up an Aldridge or Lopez jersey.  Tonight she finally committed and picked up an LMA jersey in road black).  I've got to hand it to the Blazers/Moda Center; the food selections this year are light years ahead of where they were a couple of years ago.  Right outside my section, we have Bunk Sandwiches, Guacos Tacos, and The Pines.  Tonight, I ventured a few sections down the concourse and had a fantastic pulled pork sandwich from Seven Rivers BBQ while watching Dorell Wright get up some corner 3's about 45 minutes before the opening tip.

This was the perfect night to start my contribution, because the game ball drop started in our section tonight! About 15 minutes before tip-off, they walked up and down the aisle and let us know the two simple rules. "Keep it moving, and don't let any Hawks fans touch the ball".  I was on the lookout for Hawks jerseys, but I didn't see a single one all night.  (Which makes sense, considering the team  can't even draw fans in their home arena no matter how good they get.) Once the game ball started its way down, I knew I had to get my hands on it for just a second.  Here's a shot right before it was passed to me.  I wanted to take a selfie with it, but I'm pretty sure it would've been in poor taste to hold up the proceedings.

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Once the ball made it to the floor, it was time for the National Anthem.  Brianna Williams, from Vancouver, did a fantastic rendition.  I'm always a bit ho-hum about the interpretations, preferring the more straight-ahead versions, but Miss Williams pretty much owned it, nailing the high-pitched, song-closing acrobatics that cause so many singers to crash and burn.

The Blazers went with their typical high-energy "yelling" intro tonight.  Probably the right call, considering the quality of the opponent.  Here's Wes Matthews being introduced.

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Finally, tip off arrived and we were underway!

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The crowd was rocking early, with the Blazers opening up on an 8-0 run.  It looked like it could be one of those nights where you just sit back and revel in the greatness that is Portland Trailblazers basketball.

Then the turnovers started.

Things got so bad, I was starting to wonder if I had wiped grease from my pulled pork sandwich on the ball.  But they HAVE to towel it off first, right?  They must. I mean, Marcus Camby wouldn't even high-five people with the front of his hand, and he was fine using the crowd-produced game ball.

During a timeout toward the end of the first quarter, we were treated to a nice tribute to LaMarcus Aldridge's Blazer career on the big screen.  It was clearly to encourage fans to vote for him for the all-star game, but it was really well done and received applause throughout the arena.  It was good timing too, because on the sidelines Stotts was clearly giving it to Kaman about his defense as he walked toward the bench.  I'm not sure what was going on with Chris tonight (turnovers, bad defense, no boxing out), but he looked horribly out of sorts in the first half and was visibly frustrated while Stotts was talking to him.  Fans were getting audibly frustrated with him as well during his first half stint.

The crowd wanted badly to get into the game, and when the Blazers closed the gap in the final 2 minutes of the half, we got LOUD.  Incidentally, there was a lot of chanting coming out of Sections 331/332 for the entire game, including a successfully maintained DE-FENSE chant 11 seconds into the game (surely some sort of January record).  Their enthusiasm spilled over to the rest of our side of the arena every time the Blazers made a run.

The ups and downs of the second half are chronicled in the game recap, but the most notable moment of the second half occurred when Joel Freeland injured his shoulder while blocking a Paul Millsap dunk attempt. On the replay it looked like an elbow to me, but either way the crowd was clearly concerned.  Not only for Joel, but for the possibility that we may be without Freeland and Robin Lopez for an extended period of time.

It says a lot about this team that even being down 20 in the second half and I'm still slightly surprised that we lost. All in all it was what you would expect from a Blazer game. Exciting, spirited, and EVER so slightly frustrating.  I look forward to taking out our frustrations on the Lakers on Monday.  I'm curious to see if the crowd gets up for it like a typical Lakers-Blazers matchup, or if we simply boo Kobe and enjoy being light years ahead of his team. Either one works.

Non-Game Notes:

It was Robin Lopez "Fropez" night.  A lot of great Rolo fros (say that 5 times fast).  Here were a couple of "fro bros" after the game.

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KD Lang was in the house, and tried to get the crowd hyped up when they showed her on the big screen.

Leupold honored Navy seaman SN Kevin Vides during a second half timeout.

They did a "Name That Tune" segment with various Blazers.  Chris Kaman is the only Blazer who knows "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons.  I don't know why, but I'm cool with that.

They held the famous Toyota half-court shot contest tonight.  I didn't catch the contest participant's name, but I do know that he was wearing a Dorell Wright jersey.  He didn't have the same shooting stroke, however, as his attempt at a new Corolla cleared the backboard by about 25 feet. C'est la vie.

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Or, perhaps as a consolation prize, c'est la VW?

Thanks to Peter for a rousing first In-Arena report of the new year and his two-week tenure. We're looking forward to Monday night at the Moda Center versus the Los Angeles L*kers.