After muddling through the opening two quarters the Portland Trail Blazers wiped out the Miami Heat tonight with a brilliant second half. You can read our Instant Recap of the game here. Due to unforeseen circumstances we won't have a detailed recap tonight, but Peter Sampson brings you his always-entertaining report from the Moda Center.
Revenge is a dish best served cold. Just over a year ago, the LeBron-less Miami Heat walked into the Moda Center and stole a last second victory from the Blazers, capped by Chris Bosh's game winning 3. This time around, the Blazers ramped up their second half defense and made sure that someone besides Bosh and Wade (who sunk two baskets combined in the second half) would be forced to beat them. No one was worthy of the challenge. For all of the highs and lows of the game itself, make sure to check out the game recap thread. Now, on to the in-arena experience!
It was Comic-Con night at the Moda Center tonight. Now, I didn't know this ahead of time, or even as I was walking through the door. I only realized this when I was greeted by Wonder Woman, The Green Lantern, Captain America, and friends.
They also handed out a really sweet poster featuring the Blazers starting five as superheroes. My buddy John was clearly excited to get his.
There was a comment on the last in-arena recap that some of you like to know about the warm up song, so here you go. Meyers Leonard got the nod today and chose "Take Kare" by Lil' Wayne. I know I'm getting old, because I didn't have the foggiest idea what it was. Sigh...I used to be "with it". But then they changed what "it" was.
During warmups, Nicolas Batum was wearing a shirt supporting Charlie Hebdo that said "Je Suis Charlie". The pen is mightier than the sword.
The National Anthem was phenomenal tonight, one of the best I've seen. Jackie Butler, from Beaver Creek, has a serious set of pipes, with just a touch of country twinge. The Heat lineup was introduced to near unanimous boos (Where did the bandwagon "fans" go?) aside from light applause for former Portland resident, Coach Spoelstra. Afterward the Blazers went with the "yelling" intro, and the crowd kicked into overdrive. We wanted this one. It helped that it was a TNT game. It helped the Wes Matthews was in the starting lineup. It helped that we saw Joey Crawford on the court and knew we had to bring it extra hard.
And with tip-off we were underway! Notice Dame rocking the white headband tonight.
The Blazers started a bit cold before suddenly remembered how their offensive sets worked. A Massive T-Rob throwdown at the 3:45 mark of the first half got the crowed hyped. Overall the Blazers struggled to find a rhythm and continued to repeatedly miss good shots.
Speaking of repeatedly missing, after the 1st quarter, children Kyla and Mark took part in a bowling duel in order to win free Happy Meals for a year. While last game it was an epic tricycle race, including a huge wipeout and a near photo finish, tonight's bowling competition was painful. Don't get me wrong, they're just little kids. It's not like I'm looking for them to duke it out American Gladiators style. I'm just saying it felt like a very loooooooooong timeout. Major props to Ronny McDonald for eventually just kicking a couple of Andrew's pins over.
On a more exciting note, Fletcher from Battle Ground got to demonstrate his pure shooting stroke in the Ford "42 Seconds" game. In case you aren't familiar, a contestant has 42 seconds to hit a layup, a free throw, a 17 footer from the wing, and a 19-20 footer from the baseline. Fletcher only took 22 seconds to earn his $250 prize. When you're on, you're on.
With the Blazers down 8 in the second quarter, the crowd really started urging them on, especially on the defensive end. The Blazers responded with some inspired play, especially from LaMarcus Aldridge, who picked up a couple of offensive rebounds. Then with 35 seconds left, Damian Lillard was involved in a nasty collision with Dwayne Wade while going for a loose ball. Both players went down hard, and you could actually hear everyone in the crowd go "Oh no", at once. Lillard grabbed at his lower back for a spell and then slowly hobbled to his feet, to a round of applause. Seconds later Meyers Leonard missed a 3 point attempt at the buzzer that would have made the Moda Center spontaneously combust had it gone in. Halftime!
The halftime entertainment was the best I've seen in the arena in years. We were treated to the Russian Bar Trio (Youtube it. I'll wait) and let me tell you, that business is CRAZY. Essentially, a female gymnast is bounced around on a bar held by two men. She gets incredible air. Meanwhile, "Moves Like Jagger" is playing over the sound system. I remarked to my buddy that if Jagger actually had moves like that, then The Rolling Stones would be worth the $300 a pop that they charge these days.
The second half was typical Blazer basketball; play lockdown defense and work your offensive sets until someone gets hot. Then just let it flow. The loudest in-game moment for the crowd was probably Dorell Wright's buzzer beating jumper from just a hair inside the 3-point line. It felt like the crowd never really felt the game was in doubt, even down 10. It just goes to show what a second half team the Blazers are.
I saw two great things tonight. First, Matthews got comfortable in the second half. He locked Dwayne Wade up, got out in transition, and even started hitting the step back three. It's clear that the leg was feeling better as the game went on. Hopefully it doesn't tighten up overnight. Secondly, Meyers Leonard had a second consecutive solid contribution. He didn't score much, but he played adequate defense, and hauled in 9 rebounds, many in traffic. I mentioned it in my last write-up, but it bears repeating; when he's doing good things, the crowd gets behind him like no other Blazer.
Non Game Notes:
Get to know your Blazers - In honor of the Comic-Con themed night, the team was asked "If you could have any super power, what would it be?" Barton would be able to jump higher, Claver, Blake, and CJ would fly, T-Rob and Stotts would fly. Nico would be Iron Man, Rolo would have super speed, and Dame said he would be able to grow to 6'7"...could you imagine?
Leupold Hero of the Game was Officer Russ George from Ranier. He received a wonderful ovation.
The loudest moment of the night, by far, was when they had a 45 second free throw shooting contest. 1 make meant the 300 level got a free Jamba Juice, 2 makes added the 200 level, and 3 makes got the whole arena a free beverage. Not only did contestant Bobby sink his free throws like Steve Nash, he worked the crowd like Freddie Mercury afterward, because he had us HYPED for a free 12 oz. smoothie. Like I said. When you're on, you're on.
The Blazers face the Orlando Magic on Saturday. We're looking forward to another of Peter's great reports...after another win, naturally!