Wednesday, May 23, 2007

a newspaper article i found...

Blazing a Championship Trail
(AP) Sunday, June 13, 2010

Portland, OR -- Thirty-three years removed from their last NBA title, and twenty-six years after they passed up Michael Jordan to take Sam Bowie with the 2nd overall pick, the Portland Trail Blazers have come full circle to win the 2009-2010 NBA Championship. This win will do much to erase the memories of heartbreaking losses and off-court incidents that have haunted Blazer fans for years. And with a young team of All-Stars entering the prime of their careers, Portland looks poised to celebrate many more such wins in the coming decade.

A Look Back:

The young Trailblazers started the season off strong, intent on building on the success of the past two years. After successive playoffs berths, Nate McMillan and his team made no secret of their desire to attain a high seed and homecourt advantage. They roared out to a 25-9 record, prompting speculation across the country as to who could slow them. However, a tough road trip just before the All-Star break brought the young team back down to earth, and only two wins out of seven games had them sitting at 27-14, and the third seed in the West at the break.

A remarkable weekend for the Portland players seemed to revive the team. After Sergio Rodriguez won the skills competition in scintillating fashion, Brandon Roy, Greg Oden and Lamarcus Aldridge led the West team past the East in a 142-121 pasting. Oden garnered MVP honors for his 24 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks, including several highlight-reel swats.

After the break, an energized Blazers squad started the second half much the way they began the season. Eight wins out of their first nine brought them to 35-15, and vaulted them into second place behind Dallas. Another tough road swing slowed them a bit, as they went 3-3, but winning their next five kept them just ahead of Denver in the race for the second seed. At 43-18, a mild ankle sprain to All-Star forward Lamarcus Aldridge seemed that it might slow the team. Roy responded in magnificent fashion however, picking up the scoring slack and averaging 26 points a game for the 8 games that Aldridge missed. Portland won six of those eight, and with only thirteen games left to play, Portland had a solid grip on the second seed with a record of 49-20. After Aldridge returned from injury, the Blazers won ten of their final thirteen to finish 59-23 and enter the playoffs as the second seed.

The Playoffs

The Blazers made short work of the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. An aging Kobe Bryant managed to pull his team into the playoffs in the final weeks of the season, but he was no match for the talented young Blazers. Roy dominated Bryant on both ends of the floor, averaging 25, 8 and 8 while holding Bryant to just 18 points a game on 41% shooting on the other end. After four easy wins, the Blazers moved on to face the team that ended their run the year before, the Denver Nuggets.

This time, however, Greg Oden avoided foul trouble early in the series and dominated the front line of the Nuggets. He averaged 21 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in the Blazers' first four games, as the Blazers won the first two in Portland easily before stealing one of two in Denver. Back in Portland, Carmelo Anthony shook off the tenacious defense of Roy and Richard Jefferson to explode for 41 points in a hard-fought 112-109 win for the Nuggets. This success was not to last though, and in Game 6 the Blazers closed out the series with a high-flying 124-109 win.

At the other end of the Western Conference bracket, Dallas was struggling to beat a resilient Seattle team. The Supersonics, led by All-Star Kevin Durant and former All-Star Ray Allen, stretched the series to seven games with a last-gasp three by Durant to win Game 6 in Seattle. Game 7 was a tense affair, with the two teams trading the lead for three quarters. Then disaster struck for the Mavericks early the fourth when Dirk Nowitski picked up his fifth foul attempting to slow Durant. With Nowitski on the bench for the next five minutes, Durant went wild, scoring 8 straight and 12 of Seattle's next 15, opening up a seven point lead with five minutes to play. Nowitski came back in, but it wasn't enough as Durant helped his young Sonics hold on to a two-point win.

The Western Conference Finals were a hyped affair, with fans across the country salivating over the prospect of the first two picks of the 2007 draft going head to head. But while Durant and Oden lived up to the hype, the rest of the Seattle team was lacking. Brandon Roy and the Blazers ran the Sonics ragged, winning the first three games in a row, despite Durant's 28 points and 9 rebounds per game. The Sonics managed to win Game 4, but that only made it sweeter when the Blazers raced to a 21 point half-time lead in front of the home crowd in Portland, and then cruised to an easy win in the second half. For the first time in more than a decade, the Portland Trailblazers were back in the NBA Finals.

The Finals:

In the Finals, the Blazers faced the defending champions, the Chicago Bulls. Only a year before, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Kirk Heinrich had led the Bulls to their first title since Michael Jordan left Chicago. They looked set to repeat as they faced a talented but much younger Portland team. For Portland, this would be a chance to avenge history, as memories of Michael Jordan's wins over Portland in the mid-nineties still lingered in the minds of Blazer fans. However, these were two entirely different teams, and the Bulls lost homecourt advantage after the Blazers shocked the overconfident champions with a Game 1 win in Chicago. Oden terrorized the Chicago front line, while Roy and Jefferson outdueled Gordon and Heinrich.

In Game 2, the Bulls came back with a hard-fought win, despite another monster game from Oden and Roy. Game 3 was another matter though, as Portland rode the home crowd to a big win. Travis Outlaw, the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, finally broke out of his playoff slump and exploded for 18 points off the bench, 14 of those in the second half. The Blazers won comfortably by a margin of 105-93.

Game 4 was not to be as easy, as a fired-up Bulls squad scratched and clawed their way to an eight point lead going into the fourth quarter. The suffocating Bulls defense held Portland to 38% shooting through three quarters. In the fourth quarter, veteran forward Richard Jefferson showed his playoff experience and hit four huge threes. This brought the Blazers within one point, and with 20 seconds left on the clock, the Blazers had the ball with a chance to win. Unsurprisingly, they went to Roy, and as he had done so many times in his short career, he calmly surveyed the defense. With five seconds to go, he split two defenders and buried a pull-up jumper at the top of the key. WIth less than a second on the clock, the Bulls never got a shot off, and the Rose Garden crowd exploded in celebration

After the game, when asked about his fourth quarter heroics, Jefferson said, "that's just what I'm here for, man. I mean, playing with Brandon [Roy] and Lamarcus [Aldridge] and Greg [Oden], you just gotta hit the shots when you get them. I'm just glad I could help." For his part, Roy simply said, "this city deserved it. I knew I wasn't gonna miss that shot."

With the entire city of Portland amped up for a potentially series-clinching win, Game 6 was a tense affair. Chicago again brought some serious defensive intensity. With its starters stifled by Chicago's defense, Portland looked to its bench. Travis Outlaw and Portland native Fred Jones responded with a combined 31 points in the first half, keeping the Blazers within three by half-time.

At the start of the second half, Sergio Rodriguez came alive, nailing two threes and dishing out two perfect lobs to Fred Jones in the span of three minutes. Instantly, the Rose Garden was rocking. The Bulls were still clinging to a one point lead, but the momentum had shifted. Finally, after being silent for most of the game, Roy and Aldridge started hitting their shots, and just before the fourth quarter, the Blazers took their first lead of the game. As the fourth quarter began, Oden's defense shut down any interior game for the Bulls, and with Heinrich, Deng and Gordon finally looking tired, the Blazers opened up an eight-point lead. With less than two minutes left, the Blazers' win was punctuated by a Roy steal and dish to Rodriguez, who lofted a picture-perfect lob to a soaring Travis Outlaw. The Bulls were clearly broken, and with only a few free throws between themselves and victory, the Blazers and their fans began the celebration.

With a final score of 103-93, the Blazers won their first NBA title in more than 30 years, and in the words of Finals MVP Brandon Roy, "We're just gettin' started, baby!"


At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, that's awesome! Nice work!

At 4:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didnt know if I should laugh or cry, but it IS a great story. good job. lets just hope this does indeed become reality and we can dethrone Bron the year after, then Wade, and so on haha. HILARIOUS about an aging kobe haha. Its our time finally!

At 5:24 PM, Blogger Oppy said...

This post is dedicated to Russ, because he's the one who demanded I come up with something original.

Hopefully it's a sign of things to come.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Oppy said...

Also, nothing would make me happier than getting to watch highlights of B-Roy driving down the lane before lobbing to Oden for the one-handed flush on Bynum's ugly mug. Maybe then the nightmares about Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals will stop.

I hope the Lakers enjoy the next few years of futility.

At 10:46 PM, Blogger Matthew said...

Dude, I'm a little teary-eyed imagining that scene. Just wanted to throw a little potential Brian Wheeler at ya...

"Kobe down the lane, blocked by Oden! Controls to Roy! Two on one on the break! LOB TO ALDRIDGE FOR THE DUNK! BOOM SHAKA LAKA!"

At 11:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many think the San Antonio Spurs will win this year.

NBA Champion Poll:

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous RWhitt said...

Great work by a talented author. Especially the Richard Jefferson bit. Here in 2016,you nailed it. I think your follow up column should be about Antonio Harvey and Mike & Mike being unceremoniously jettisoned by the franchise. Thoughts?


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