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Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Pelicans: Distracted Crowd Comes to Life in the 4th

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Moda Center fans were distracted from multiple angles last night but a beautiful 4th quarter by the Blazers brought them to life.

Peter Sampson joins us from the Moda Center, describing last night's Portland Trail Blazers victory over the New Orleans Pelicans!

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Happy Easter, Blazer fans!! Last night the Moda Center faithful got to welcome home our NW Division champion Portland Trail Blazers as they clinched a 50 win season for the second year in a row!  The entire Rose Quarter was hopping, because the Portland Winterhawks had a big playoff game at Memorial Coliseum next door. It was quite an evening.

I got to the arena early and watched pieces of the Kentucky/Wisconsin game on the big screen.  The score was kept up on a small scoreboard in the corner of the arena throughout the night, but I was here for the Blazers, and the Blazers only.

After intros (during which, former Blazer assistant Monty Williams received a nice hand) we were underway!

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I asked folks in my section what they were looking forward to tonight, and everyone said "LaMarcus Aldridge vs. Anthony Davis" or simply "Anthony Davis".  Every time I've seen him play in person, he's done something to make me say "wow", whether he has a big night or not, and tonight was no exception.  Davis gave Aldridge fits early, forcing him into tough shots and even blocking his patented turnaround jumper.  I don't think there's another player in the league that can get a hand on that shot, and he seems to do it once per game!

The Blazers started out cold on both sides of the ball.  New Orleans was shutting down the lane defensively, while they were able to get pretty much anything they wanted on offense.  The Blazers' performance, combined with a late arriving crowd (and much of them following the Final Four on their various mobile devices), led to a lifeless feeling in the opening few minutes.  The team was down 16-8 halfway through the quarter.  The first subs off the bench were Chris Kaman and (fresh off of his domination of the Lakers last night) C.J. McCollum.  McCollum got a big hand from the crowd and went right to work, probing the lane, keeping his defender off balance, and basically just making things happen.

The Blazers started chipping away at the lead, and the crowd finally settled in and started to cheer.  This play to end the 1st quarter brought us to our feet.

Just like C.J. got us going in the first quarter, Steve Blake brought the crowd to its feet in the second by scoring 8 quick points early.  When the offense is flowing and Blazer bigs are gobbling up every rebound in sight, it makes for a happy home crowd.  Heading into halftime, the Blazers were up 12. Check out the halftime rebound differential!

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And here is everyone checking out the end of the Kentucky/Wisconsin game at The Pines:

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Unfortunately, the party didn't last.  The Pelicans came out in the 3rd quarter seemingly playing 8 on 5, with five or six very questionable (and a couple just plain bad) calls going against the Blazers.  Portland couldn't get in a groove while Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis were scoring at will.  The frustration culminated with Robin Lopez getting a technical after being mugged with no call.  I took video of the crowd around this point to get a shot of the boos raining down on the officials, but none of it turned out usable for a family friendly site. I think that the wounds from the Clippers game are still a little too fresh. Not all of the Blazers' struggles in the period could be attributed to the officiating, but the crowd disagreed.

When the going gets tough, we turn to two men, Damian Lillard and....Chris Kaman!  Tonight was possibly Kaman's best game as a Blazer.  He shot effectively, played solid defense, and boxed Davis out on the boards.  Dame did Dame things, lurking until halfway through the 4th quarter and then just taking over, scoring 9 points in the final 6 minutes to put the game out of reach.  The struggles of the 3rd quarter actually helped get the crowd involved in the game, and by the 4th quarter everyone in the arena was fired up for Lillard Time.

Then we all got what we came for:

We're in the home stretch now, and Blazer fans are ready for the playoffs.  Tonight was a unique game in that it was the bench unit that really carried us.  If Blake, McCollum, and Kaman can maintain their recent play, we might just make some real noise - both in the stands and in the postseason.

Non Game Notes:

Meyers Leonard picked the warm up music, G Men by Drake.  I'm pretty sure that Drake has been running at a 30-35% clip during warmups since the All Star break.

Wilsonville's Soul'd Out did a great job with the National Anthem.  Probably the quickest anthem of the season by far.  Incidentally, the longest would be Taylor John Williams (Of NBC's The Voice fame) during the Nuggets game last week.

Bobby Gross was on hand to deliver a piece of the '77 championship hardwood to a longtime season ticket holder.

Tonight's Leupold Hometown Hero - Patrick Huey

Finally, at some point during every home game, Blaze the Trail Cat does his thing and they show him on the big screen, where they mention that you can rent him for your event.  Does anyone know how much he costs?  My wife and I are discussing the possibility of having our next dinner party (black tie, wine/cheese pairings, 5 courses...the works) be graced with his presence.  Good idea, or great idea?

Other possible Blaze uses - joining me for my annual performance review at work, power washing my front deck, finally having a friend that could hold a candle to me in Dance Dance Revolution, taking a pottery class together at PCC...the possibilities are endless.

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My suggestion...Peter should hire Blaze to do what he does best, follow Peter around and applaud every little thing Peter does, encouraging others to do the same. It'd change everyone's perspective of you...work, out on the street, everywhere!