The Last 48 Hours Of Being A Blazers Fan
Thursday, November 13, 2014
It wasn’t supposed to start this way. After the gauntlet home games the Blazers have had to run through (the Thunder [with Russell Westbrook], the Warriors, the Cavs, the Mavericks) the Eastern Conference-lite Charlotte Hornets were in town Tuesday night and were supposed to be the easiest of the batch the Blazers have faced at home so far, a welcome reprieve from the elite of the NBA. But, then something odd happened. Before you could blink, the Blazers were gut punched by the Hornets and found themselves down by 14 points after the first quarter and were staggering into the second. Things didn’t improve much at first as the Hornets ran up a 23 point lead on the Blazers by the second quarter and were shooting lights out from the field, even their ugliest shots somehow found a way to inside the bucket. It’s what happens when you sleep on a team and allow them to gain some confidence. The Blazers have had issues coming out the gate this season before and it looked as if this time it was really going to bite them. The sound of silence in the arena was the sound of shock followed by….
The defense was bad. The bench was worse than ever. The fans were checking Facebook more than the court action. There was no Nicolas Batum who is out for at least a couple games with a knee contusion. The Blazers were getting blown out in their own building. Was this a sign of things to come? It was a worst case scenario on the first of back-to-back nights with a trip to Denver to follow. For 5 minutes in the second quarter of the Charlotte game the Blazers produced only 6 points. The Portland bench was on amateur-night auto pilot as the Hornets continued to toy with Blazers and shoot well over 50% for the game. With the damage done, the starters returned before the end of the first half and provided the first spark of life. A few consecutive buckets including a couple three pointers provided a bit of a comeback and the Blazers found themselves down by only 13 at the half. Depression gave way to a glimmer of hope.
A Zone of Hope
The Blazers used a zone defense to begin the second half of the Charlotte game. This forced the tempo to slow down a bit and the Hornets began going to their big guy down low in Al Jefferson. Al Jefferson is a solid big man, but a LaMarcus Aldridge he is not. The Hornets were scintillating from the field in the first half and coach Stotts must have been playing the odds that that couldn’t last forever. And he was right. The Hornets began to miss shots that routinely fell in the first half and the Blazers began to cut into the lead ever so slowly. But, for nearly the entire quarter Portland couldn’t break the lead below double digits. It seemed as if every big shot the Blazers would take that would really get them going was destined to miss badly. By the end of the third, however, the Blazers had cut three more points off the lead. It was enough to keep hope alive.
This next sentence is completely true and gives me hope for the world. The Blazers bench cut the Hornets lead to 4 in the fourth quarter. Joel Freeland, absent much of the season, was huge in the fourth quarter. His defense on Al Jefferson was more than admirable and his rebounding was a sight for sore eyes. Steve Blake was solid and provided one of clutchiest of clutch three pointers of the young season to give the Blazers their first lead of the game and completely rid the 23 point deficit. The bench, much maligned in recent years, was terrific during this fourth quarter stretch. The only blight in the fourth quarter was another odd miscue near the end of the game when it looked like the ghosts of the previous Golden State game were going to scare off another win when Damian Lillard, who could have done next to nothing in the last 10 seconds of the game, inexplicably threw up a wild layin that missed. Charlotte rebounded the ball and found themselves with one last shot to redeem their own failings, down only two with 3.5 seconds left. The last play of the game was its own stages of emotion. 1.Hope) that Blazers can escape this game with a win. 2. Fear) Seeing the Hornets Gary Neal finding an opening for a layin. 3. Despair) Watching Gary Neal seemingly scoring a bucket as time expires. 4. Joy) Finding out Neal’s bucket came .1 second too late. The Blazers had won. It was a maddening game; the Blazers had escaped with a win by the slimmest of clock violations. Somehow, through that awfulness of the first half the Blazers found a way to win. Oh, what a relief it was.
All is Right with World
Fast forward one night later and Denver is usually never an easy place for the Blazers to win on the road, especially on the second night of back-to-backs. But, in the rarest of rarities after the Blazers spotted the Nuggets an early 7-point lead, Portland raced out in front and never looked back. The Blazers scored 84 points in the first half, just short of a franchise record. In the end, the Blazers thumped the Nuggets 130-113 in what was a welcome laugher after the previous night’s events. Damian Lillard recorded 27 points and 9!! assists. Lopez added 19 points of his and to continue the promising signs from the bench, CJ McCollum added 15 points. After a night of Tums this was a night of leisurely red wine. How bad was it for the Nuggets? Ben Golliver of SI.com, formerly of BlazersEdge.com, posted on Twitter that all 13 Nuggets who played posted a negative +/-. That’s bad. After a turbulent run of emotions the night before, this was a welcome relief for Blazers fans who could just sit back and watch with little fear of this Denver team coming back, a Denver team who was 1-5 coming into this night and is showing no signs of being any good this season. It was a feel good win against a Western Conference opponent that will offer very little nights like this. It was the ending stage of an emotional 48 hours for Blazers fans.
To end, here are some fun facts from the Denver game:
- This is the line from the Miami Heat after an entire game last night: 75 points total, 29 FG made, 9 3-pt FG made, 18 Assists and 28 rebounds
- Here is Portland’s first half line on the same night: 84 points total, 30 FG made, 9 3-pt FG made, 20 Assists and 28 rebounds
- The Blazers became the first team to score 84 points on the road in a half since 1991.
- The Blazers 45 points tied a franchise record for points in a second quarter.
- Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets wins the Caption Obvious Quote of the Year Award for his remarkably insightful comment after the game. “Have to play better.” Great insight Ty! You’ve unlocked the secret to winning in the NBA!
- The Nuggets are not any good