Last night I treated my parents to the Blazers vs. Wizards game at the Rose Garden. My father was excited to get a glance at this year’s squad, while my mother was dismayed that she could not bring her knitting (or at least, I wouldn’t let her). As we crossed the bridge and drew closer to the arena, my excitement grew. The prospect of watching the Washington Wizards play may often go unappreciated by the non-John Wall enthusiast, but I was pumped. And, of course, I wanted to see my Blazers in action.
We ascended into nosebleed heaven and took our seats as the respective starters were announced. Amazing what $5 can get you if you know where to look. To the chagrin of my Portland pride and the benefit of my fantasy team, Nene started red hot with 17 points in the 1st quarter. Wouldn’t you know it, the onliest, loneliest Wizards fan in Portland was seated 2 rows back. And his kid was louder than Rambo III.
Unfortunately, there was little to quiet the aspiring Green Beret because the Wizards continued bringing heat. The Brazilian behemoth was intent on exploiting our lack of a traditional center and Hickson was hurting for it. It might have been alright if J.J. had answered on offense, but he kept traveling like Tom Hanks was chasing him down for check fraud. That isn’t to say he was entirely ineffective, he was just frustrating. The dunks were well appreciated though.
By the 2nd half we had gotten our act together enough to elect Nicolas Batum “Mr. Everything”. He heroically picked up the slack the rest of the Blazers had left for him. But one man can only do so much; the Wizards were finding their deep game. Turns out we didn’t want to guard the perimeter either. I suppose that’s a bit unfair. I have to commend Randy Wittman. He read our defense like he was a 12 year old girl and we were Twilight fan-fiction.
Now remember the little Rambo 2 rows back? Well an avid Blazer fan of the same age had made it his duty to be the Soviets to his Stallone. As the game tightened they were trying to out-loud each other’s chants of “DEFENSE!” That is until that crafty John Rambo discovered he could yell “OFFENSE!” to counteract the rest of the Rose Garden. This resulted in the rare “DOFFENSE!” chant, rendered in the earsplitting harmony only a duet of battling 5 year olds can create.
But back to the game. John Wall was struggling, as was Damian Lillard. The point guard showdown I had envisioned was slowly trickling toward an ugly end. I didn’t have my fancy game stats in front of me, but I believe my beloved R.O.Y. candidate was 1/10 at one point. Of course, in true Lillard fashion, he lit up the 4th quarter with 12 points, including a savage dunk on Nene. It was rather gratifying after watching the braided big man decimate us for 3 quarters.
Regrettably, Jordan Crawford heated up at the same time and killed us from the arc. After a mini-comeback, the Blazers brought the game within 3. With 7.9 seconds remaining, Westchester Matthews (as my college roommate dubbed him) had a Miami flashback and drilled a clutch trey to tie the game. Talk about an eruption. It was like Neil Peart played a solo on my ear drums, but I’d gladly relive that moment 1,000 times.
However, I am satisfied with once for the moment that followed. Jordan Crawford pulled up over Westchester for an off balance 3 as time expired. You could have heard a pin drop if Rambo wasn’t blowing up helicopters. A quick review confirmed that the shot would count and the Blazers would lose their 6th game in a row. I’m proud of Washington though. They have now won 4 of their last 6 games since Wall’s return from injury. It would take a more scornful man than I to begrudge them their 9th win of the season.
I look forward to Tuesday’s game against Indiana. If you recall, we had made a bid for their center, Roy Hibbert, last year but focused on keeping Nicolas Batum when Indiana matched our offer. If tonight has proven anything to me, it is that we ended up with a stud nonetheless. But can we step it up as a team in time to face the Pacers?
Happy retroactive MLK Day- David MacKay