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In-Arena Report: Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans, Game 2

Steve Dewald recaps the sights and sounds from Game 2 of the NBA playoff series between the Trail Blazers and Pelicans.

NBA: Playoffs-New Orleans Pelicans at Portland Trail Blazers Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers dug themselves into a deeper hole on Tuesday night by dropping Game 2 to the New Orleans Pelicans. The Rip City faithful were restless from Saturday’s defeat, but remained upbeat as the Blazers were able to avoid extended double-digit deficits in this contest. Here is what I took in from my seat perched in the 300 level of the Moda Center.

Early Jitters

Fans arriving from a day at work were greeted by long lines to get into the stadium, and the angst of waiting in line seemed to carry over to the first three minutes of the game. The enthusiasm provided by the opening introductions quickly evaporated as the Blazers fell into an early hole.

On the plus side, the crowd looked much more menacing thanks to the complimentary red t-shirts left on everyone’s seat for Game 2.

A Hero’s Welcome

Maurice Harkless’ unexpected return for Game 2 generated an impressive ovation from the crowd. Harkless returned the love by immediately providing some highlight-worthy plays. Along with a handful of baskets from CJ McCollum, Harkless’ block on Solomon Hill that was followed by a transition dunk nearly brought the house down at the end of the first quarter. After being down early, you could feel the crowd begin to gain a little steam after pulling within two points to finish the first quarter.

Jrue “Crowd Silencer” Holiday

Anthony Davis was an early target for boos, but it was Jrue Holiday’s momentum-killing baskets that stood out. It seemed like every potential run by the Blazers was stifled by Holiday getting to the basket with ease. Unlike points from Davis, Holiday’s play left the crowd perplexed at every turn. Even the fervor that followed Harkless’ dunk was dulled by the 27-year-old point guard’s shooting touch. Holiday racked up 33 points, and each one seemed to come at a crucial moment.

Frustration Finds a New Target

Unlike the palpable discontent toward the sloppy play from the Blazers in Game 1, the anger from the stands in Game 2 was directed at the officials for extended stretches of the contest. The first hint of this uneasiness with the referees appeared late in the first half when Evan Turner was called for a questionable foul on Rajon Rondo. A few tight calls on out-of-bounds plays that didn’t go Portland’s way ended with a unifying “refs you suck” chant from the crowd. In a game where the Blazers’ heroes looked like mortals, the crowd appeared to find solace in taking their frustration out on the officiating crew.

Hitting the Exits in a Hole

The optimism that was rampant before Game 1 felt like it took place inside another universe, as the despair of dropping consecutive home games in the playoffs began to take hold as I exited. I listened to one group of fans discuss the real possibility of this outing being the final time they see the team play in person this season.

The frustration spurred by the final outcome bubbled over to fan-to-fan interactions as the evening wrapped up. A heated expletive-filled discussion between strangers about peanut shell disposal etiquette erupted near me, and it nearly escalated to fisticuffs. Maybe it was the long day that preceded a rough performance from the Blazers, but it was certainly not a good look.

Odds & Ends

Unlike Game 1, I was able to get to my seat before the majority of my section reached their spots. Due to this, the shirt on the back of my seat was much closer to my actual size. If you show up late, don’t be surprised if you find your shirt missing or in a size that might have fit you when you were in middle school.

Wade Baldwin’s cameo appearance got a surprising roar from the crowd. The former Grizzlies guard appears to have built himself a bit of a cult following in Portland.

—Steve / @SteveDHoops /