Monday, December 01, 2008

Rose Garden Holiday Road Trip

Hi folks, hope the Americans among you had a nice holiday weekend. We had a healthy serving of hoops ourselves, with a jaunt down to Portland for the Blazers-Hornets game on Friday, and then on Sunday I had a P.J. Carlesimo sighting at my local supermarket here in Seattle (he never moved his family to OKC). While I'm sorry that P.J. got the axe, at least he now has good reason to join the Seattle community in wishing bad karma upon the franchise.

Anyhow, we thought we'd share a few photos from our trip to the Rose Garden for Friday's game between playoff contenders (click for larger images if you so desire):

The Blazers won the contest 101-86, keyed by a 17-0 run in the 3rd/4th quarters which turned a 69-65 deficit into an 82-69 lead.

I got my first in-person look at Greg Oden, who thankfully has shaved his regrettable beard, and now looks just 37 instead of 53. Young fella had a tough night, with just 1 pt, 8 reb, 3 ast, 1 blk in 24 min. He actually showed nice patience in the post - New Orleans was running double teams at him, and Oden passed well out of them, as the 3 assists would indicate.

But the name of Oden's game is supposed to be defense, and he is clearly not yet the same guy who patrolled the paint before his microfracture surgery. A couple times guys were able to come at him and shoot over him, which shouldn't happen. We just need to remember that it took Amare a while to get his legs back after microfracture, and I expect it to be the same case with Oden. I still believe in the big fella. And let's be clear: he still played good position defense and altered several shots, and he is actually averaging 1.55 blocks in just 20.5 minutes per game. This is the area of his game where it is scary to imagine how good he can become.

This was the story of the game on this night - Brandon Roy got into the painted area and Chris Paul by and large did not. B-Roy went off for 25 pts, 6 reb, 10 ast, while CP3 had a subpar game with 16 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast and 5 TO. The Blazers really did an outstanding job of keeping CP3 out of the lane, where he normally does so much of his damage, with a combination of some zone looks and some good team defense on the N.O. pick-and-rolls, with especially good help from the Portland bigs.

So Portland is now 7-0 at home and 12-6 overall, while New Orleans is 9-6. Not to go all Abbotty on you here, but the question of which of these teams is better is worth asking.

I think that the conventional wisdom is that the Hornets are still a title contender because they were last year. But Hollinger has been far ahead of the CW, as he is so often, by pointing out since the preseason that the Hornets' bench on the frontline is atrocious.

That's all I could think of when I was inspired to take the next shot - a Sean Marks sighting! With the result still in the balance, no less!

Let me note that Marks came in at the start of the 4th, with the Hornets still down just 8. Marks played the next 6:40 and N.O. was down 15 when he left. I ain't sayin' Kiwi lost the game for them, but he didn't exactly help.

Terrible bench. (And I'd note that, although James Posey has been a good addition, I still think this team misses Jannero Pargo's potential instant O off the pine in the backcourt.)

Contrast that with Portland bringing in Rudy, Travis Outlaw, and Joel Pryzbilla (shooting 83% FG!) as part of its second unit.

All in all, it was a fairly nondescript game. Not a lot of highlight plays and, relatedly, CP3 was pretty much bottled up all night.

While it was a good, sellout crowd - as has once again become the norm in Portland - let me note that the biggest cheer of the night was related to the following:

The Blazers crossed the magical 100-point Chalupian threshold with about a minute left, the crowd erupted, and summarily streamed for the exits to collect their coupons for free food, with the important business of the night now truly complete.

As Phil Jackson once said (I'm paraphrasing), "I've never understood how people in $100 seats could get so excited about $1 tacos."

One other notable aspect of the night was the preponderance of green/gold and orange/black in the crowd on the eve of the first Oregon-Oregon State "Civil War" with both teams in the Top 25 in something like 400 years.

During the timeouts there were various "Civil War Olympics" contested between the schools' mascots and dance teams. Below, you can see Benny Beaver propelled across the court in mascot bowling:

Just trying to report on the flavor of the evening for you. Again, the crowd responded vigorously to these various activities, as it did not take much to get these folks worked up into a Civil War frenzy.

Finally, just because: Big Red:

Good times are once again ahead in Portland. Take a deep breath, Henry, and all you other Maniacs out there.