Arthur Bradford checks in with the In-Arena Report from last night's 99-92 victory for the Portland Trail Blazers over the Memphis Grizzlies. How did the Moda Center feel during Portland's first playoff win of 2014-15? Read on!
A sour evening might have awaited those who dared venture out to the Moda Center tonight, a lackluster ending to what has been a fun season. We took a risk and it paid off.
Those of us who keep an eye on ticket prices for Blazer games noticed an interesting trend leading up to Game 4. The asking price for premium seats took a huge dive after Saturday's loss. An enterprising shopper could have sat ten rows back at center court for about 100 bucks. That's still a hefty ticket price, but for an NBA playoff game it's a nice opportunity.
Given the fire sale I was curious to see if all the seats would be filled. After all, who wants to sit courtside while their team gets eliminated for the season?
But Blazers fans, of course, are a hearty bunch. Behold the scene as they introduced the starting line up:
Those red LED lightsticks made for a nice scene. The crowd roared into it as if this series were actually close. Once the game started, there were a few collective groans. It looked like out Blazers might fade away just like the previous 7 match-ups with this formidable team. But it was not to be. You could feel it in the air, truly. We were not going to go out without a fight.
Handmade crowd signs were abundant.
"Fear the 6th Man"
"Let's Make History"
"Never Say die"
And prominently figured were various versions of: "Please Stay LA"
I swear it felt like the fans were pleading their case to LaMarcus and company. "Please give us one more shot. Let us show you how just how great Blazers fans can be."
Meyers Leonard clearly got the message. After a energetic stint in the first quarter he pounded his chest and implored the crowd to give more. They were glad to do so. It felt great to have something to cheer about. The Blazers had a lead!
I was curious about the empty seats, though. Surely some season ticket holders were going to chose to sit this one out. Cleverly, the Moda Center staff had placed T-Shirts on all of the seats beforehand so it was hard to see if a place was empty. I did notice a few vacant spots however. Here's a block of unclaimed shirts near the end of the first quarter:
Regardless, it sure felt nice to be ahead going into halftime. As the teams left the floor you could see Aldridge give young Meyers Leonard a nice pat on the back. Meyers had a heck of a half. But we all wondered how quickly that lead would disappear. Those empty seats served as a sort of reminder. This could be our last game of the year.
In the meantime, I was excited to scout the hallways for fun fan ensembles during intermission. I was about to hit the halls when this halftime acrobat show drew me in. This dude was stacking chairs and climbing on top to them with incredible speed. What if he fell? (Would it be a metaphor for Portland's playoff run?)
He didn't fall, you'll be surprised to hear, though there were times when it seemed like he might. (Yes! Metaphor intact!) But it was time for the hallways. Despite the free Rip City playoff T-shirts, most fans were sporting their own Blazers gear:
[ed. Those folks could not look more "Portland" if they tried. Beards, beers, jerseys...put 'em on a billboard. The one guy even looks like former Portland radio host Chad Doing.]
It was certainly a good night to impress your date with Playoff tickets and there were many happy couples in the house.
It was also a good night to bring your kids. Bedtime? HA!
This guy made his very own Blazers-themed suit. How cool is that? The fellow next to him is apparently a frequent reader and commenter on BlazersEdge, but I forgot to record his username. Who are you, and will you tell us about this suit? Cuz yeah, Dave wants one.
Speaking of unusual Blazers gear, check out this Rip City wrestling mask. Who knew they made such things?
We were ready for that second half, but so were the small handful of Grizzlies fans in the house:
These guys came all the way from Memphis to see this game. I told them I liked their team. I suspect most Portland fans respect Memphis fans as we are all in a similar boat, small market teams who struggle for national recognition. I also told these guys they should have saved their money for a trip to Oakland.
But wait, not so fast! Despite the obligatory 3rd quarter collapse, our Blazers held strong into the fourth quarter. One way or another it was going to be a good finish. The crowd was surely amped up as this prospect. One more close game for 2015. We were ready to bring it!
Good fan signs:
"The Kaman ate the Grizzly"
"Break their brooms"
"Let's Go Blazers. If I can beat cancer, you can beat this!"
As fans, we hold dearly to the notion that we can affect the course of the game. Sometimes, fans do just that. Tonight I believe Blazers fans helped their team win. Or, at least, we made it very clear we appreciated their effort. The cheering during each possession was tremendous. We had nothing to lose except our voices, and most of us were happy to give that if it might help our team live to fight another day.
During one of the breaks, local celebrity "The Free Throw Guy" got to shoot free throws in an attempt to give us all free smoothies. This was exciting.
Ironically, Free Throw Guy seemed nervous and thrown off by the crowd. He missed his first ten shots, but then drained 3 out of his next 6 to give us all smoothies.
The final minutes of the fourth quarter were stupendous. We all went nuts. For once the balls seemed to be bouncing our way. Oh yes, it was Lillard Time once again. How nice it was to be on that clock for one more ride this season.
CJ McCollum also got in on the action and I managed to shoot a quick video of the crowd reaction as he hit this big shot in the final minutes:
It felt so good to be in the Moda Center once more, for another great win. The Grizzlies didn't want the series to go back to Memphis. They were playing hard, but tonight we got to see our Blazers play just a little harder.
I'm guessing seats for game 6 won't be as easy to come by.