Special Correspondent Arthur Bradford gives us the eyewitness view from the Moda Center last night as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Dallas Mavericks 109-103 in a game with strong playoff implications. Enjoy!
Most of us wouldn't have circled Portland vs. Dallas on the calendar back in the fall, but after last week's OT loss to and the Blazers' unlikely playoff push, this matchup became a hot ticket. Often you'll see empty seats well into the first and second quarter as late-comers skip the early action, but that wasn't the case tonight. The place felt packed right from the start.
Blazers fans are a discerning bunch and I was interested to see how various old friends and foes would be received. Wes Matthews got a nice cheer from the crowd when he was introduced, and he acknowledged it with a humble wave. Raymond Felton was booed throughout and you could see he was trying to ignore that, staring down at the ground and shaking his head at times. Any reaction on his part only fueled the booing. Good old Wes was hitting threes all night, just like he used to when he was a Blazer and we greeted his success with a bittersweet silence. It was kind of like seeing an ex-girlfriend looking good at a party. Oh well. This kid summed up the general sentiment:
Another kid held up a sign which read, "Welcome back to the West, Wes."
Speaking of exes, it was fun to watch Al-Farouq Aminu work his stuff against his old team. He and Harkless were giving Dirk their best on defense all night. My biggest take-away from seeing Aminu play up close is that he has incredibly long arms. Here's a cool sign in support of the chief:
Meyers Leonard was dressed in a very tight suit. At first I thought, "Well, that makes sense, he's such a large guy he probably can't find one that fits." But then I realized he probably gets them custom made and this is simply the look kids are going for these days. Leonard was active throughout the game, despite his shoulder injury and those tight street clothes. He rose to his feet at every time out and gave out hi-fives generously.
During one time-out an interesting contest was held between two fans. They were each challenged to pedal stationary exercise cycles throughout the break. The fan who burned the most calories won some kind of gift certificate. After it started we all forgot about this contest until the jumbotron returned several minutes later to show these two exhausted guys still pedaling away. The winner burned 54 calories which didn't seem like that much considering all the effort he'd put in. I looked down at the beer I was holding and realized it would take a lot of cycling to work that off. Oh well!
The Blazers were up at the half, but none of us felt comfortable with the lead. I hit the hallways looking for fun fan ensembles. Public schools are on spring break this week and it seemed like a lot of parents decided to take advantage and bring the kids for a special night out. Don't you love it when kids get properly decked out for the big game?
This couple got these shirts specially made in Israel:
Blazer's knit hats are very popular items this winter:
These two have been season ticket holders for over 30 years. Nice!
Did you know you get a special pin and certificate if it's your first Blazer's game? Well, you do!
The second half treated us all to continued solid play from the home team. Ed Davis has clearly become a crowd favorite. He was feeling the love, putting in extra hustle all night long. I was starting to feel a little sorry for Ray Felton as the jeers weren't letting up at all each time he touched the ball. He made a nice steal and lay-up in the third quarter and one fan yelled out, "Where was that hustle when you were with us, Ray?"
Matthews got started jawing with one of the fans sitting courtside at one point. I wish I could have heard what was being said. I guess even our heroes can become foes once they sign with another team.
I spotted another ex-Blazer in the crowd as well. Martell Webster! He was waived by the Wizards at the beginning of this season after having hip surgery, but apparently he can't get enough NBA action. He was taking pictures from courtside and chatting up players during timeouts. I asked if I could take his picture and he grabbed my phone and did this:
Ex-Maverick Michael Finley was also in the crowd but when I asked to take his picture he said, "Not right now, man". I took that to mean, "leave me alone" so I didn't try again. Apparently Finley works for the Mavericks these days.
The crowd stayed in this game till the very end, rising to their feet for the final defensive stand and giving the home team a loud cheer at the final buzzer. We could never really relax against after those two OT loses to the Mavs this season and it sure was nice to get a win at last.
Outside the Moda Center the street musicians were in good moods as well. I bet they make 3x as much money when the Blazers win. These two guys were laying down an impressive grove despite the rainy Portland weather and we all journeyed home with an extra skip in our steps.
Thanks to Arthur for the fun report. Always great to be a part of the Moda Center crowd!