Peter Sampson shares the rollicking good time at the Moda Center during the Portland Trail Blazers' 115-112 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What. A. Game.
I haven't been to a Blazers playoff game in probably 15-16 years. At this point, it's just a nice, fuzzy memory. I remember that it happened, and that Sabas and Steve Smith and Rasheed all played. Or at least I think they were all there. But I don't really remember the intricacies of the game itself.
The best playoff-type atmosphere games are a visceral experience, the crowd unified in urging the home team toward victory, as well as in hatred of the opposition. As far as the Moda Center crowd was concerned, tonight was a playoff game. It was loud, it was intense, and it went down to the wire.
I got to the arena about an hour before tip and Dorell Wright was working on his jumper out on the perimeter. Every time I've gotten to the arena well in advance of game time, he's out there, making sure his shot is sound.
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In honor of Meyers Leonard's birthday, he got to choose the warm up music tonight. But they never said what it actually was! It wasn't Drake, which would've made it 3 for 3 on this home stand. It was some nondescript hip hop/pop song.
Before intros, we were treated to both the National Anthem and the African American National Anthem. Both were sung beautifully.
After the "Blazers doing cool stuff in an animated Portland" intro, we were underway!
The first quarter moved quickly, with the crowd still filing in to their seats. During the first timeout, season ticket holders (since 1974!) Brett and Brad were honored with a piece of the '77 championship hardwood. Coming out of the timeout, Arron Afflalo received yet another nice hand from the crowd.
After the 1st quarter, children Eli and Ty bowled for the chance to win free Happy Meals for a year. Ty clearly has a future in the PBA, and made section 112 very happy by winning them a prize courtesy of McDonalds.
I commented last game about the questionable calls that went against the Blazers during the second quarter. Well, the same thing happened tonight. Paging Ed Malloy... It got to the point where Kaman had enough and got T'd up for waving his hand at the official. I don't blame him. In the meantime, the Thunder were making their run, going up 10 on the Blazers. At this point, the crowd willed themselves back into the game.
This is one thing I love about Blazer fans. They really can sense when a run is manageable versus when one is getting away from the team. This was clearly the latter, so we reminded the team that we all wanted to get involved in the game. Sadly, Portland wasn't able to close the gap, and we went into halftime down 59-47.
The halftime entertainment was a dance routine from sorority Zeta Phi Beta and fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. Pretty cool.
Coming out of halftime, Portland came out firing, Lillard was especially hot as he began matching Westbrook shot for shot. Sound familiar?
During the midpoint 3rd quarter timeout, Charlie won the whole arena Jamba Juice by hitting his required three free throws in 27 seconds. He had nice form, though he tended to pull the string on his follow through. The next timeout featured a few Blazers sharing their favorite movie quotes. C.J. McCollum's favorite line is "I'll be back". Dame went with "We can't change the world unless we change ourselves" from Notorious. Rolo picked, you guessed it, "Goonies never say die". Finally, Chris Kaman tried to get a Dumb and Dumber quote going, but ultimately went with "Come get some ham, Tina", from Napoleon Dynamite.
The second half of the 3rd quarter was highlighted by very frustrating Blazer defense around the rim. It's one thing for a team to work for good looks, but it's another to get completely uncontested layups after only one off-ball screen. I'm looking at you, Nico. Every time OKC would get a point blank shot, it felt like someone was letting the air out of the building.
It didn't help that the officiating went through another "questionable" period at the end of the 3rd. Incidentally, I'm not a big "blame the refs" guy, but there were some serious inconsistencies for a 2-3 minute stretch at the end of the quarter. This culminated in Terry Stotts getting a technical foul and being as angry as I've ever seen him, literally hopping mad. I was surprised he didn't get tossed right there.
But like any good drama, you can't have resolution without conflict preceding it. The Blazers clamped down in the fourth and chipped away. At the 7:19 mark, I turned to my friend Keegan and said "It might be one of those nights..."
I can't convey just how LOUD the crowd was tonight during the 4th quarter. This video doesn't do it justice, but you know how Brian Wheeler sometimes says "and they're dancing in the aisles here at the Moda Center"? Tonight that wasn't hyperbole.
We really do have the best fans in the NBA. And the Blazers rewarded them with a win! You can read all about that in the Game Recap. For now...
Non Game Notes:
The Leupold Home Town Hero of the game was Jason Mcutchen.
Bonus: Mr. Mcutchen's wife let him know that they were expecting while he was being honored.
Alex won a washer and dryer from Standard TV and Appliance. Jealous again.
Signs seen: "Time to Afflalo", "Lillard goes dynamite", "L-Train will take the team to victory" and my personal favorite, "ThreeFense"
Upon leaving the arena, I saw that Kersey's #25 is shining on the side of the Moda Center. This might be old news, but I hadn't caught it before (Thunder 3)