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Live Journal: Blazin' In Portland...And Kevin Durant, Too

In Tuesday's Daily Babble, we implored you to watch as the hottest team in basketball hosted the team that includes the most popular currently active member of the 2007 draft class.  Given this sentiment, it seemed only right to do the same and perhaps offer some commentary along the way.  So away we go with the first Live Journal of my CelticsBlog tenure, with the Blazers and Sonics going at it on ESPN.

8:07:  We're off and running with each team missing mid-range jumpers to start.

8:08:  Fun graphic from ESPN: On Christmas Day, Seattle is 0-10 and Portland 12-1 all time.

8:08:  The Blazers have roughly seventeen shots roll around the rim and out on the same possession before Steve Blake knocks down a baby jumper to open the scoring.

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8:11:  Brandon Roy dishes beautifully to a wide-open Joel Przybilla for an uncontested dunk.  Excellent penetration.

8:12:  It takes approximately four seconds for Wally Szczerbiak to attempt his first shot of the game after coming off the bench, a long jumper that swishes through.  Just as with the Celtics last season, I can't understand why this guy is playing significant minutes for the Sonics.  He is a veteran with only one certifiable skill and a host of injury problems, and it is hard to imagine that he is part of the long-term solution in Seattle.  There isn't a youngster on this team who could be using Wally's 21.6 minutes per game to audition?

8:16: Two quick dunks for Kevin Durant sandwich a Martell Webster trey, and we're headed for our first TV timeout with the Sonics ahead, 11-10.

8:20:  Really nice ball movement from Durant. Caught a pass on the right wing with just seconds left on the shot clock, but rather than firing away he swung the ball right across to Earl Watson for a wide-open three as the clock expired.  Perfect execution.

8:21:  Roy comes right back with a lay-in and dunk to break out of an 0-for-6 start to the game.

8:23:  Perhaps someone on the Seattle coaching staff is reading these words and whispering them to Wally from the sidelines.  He is suddenly 4-for-5 for 10 points.  Still don't think he should be playing so many minutes for a rebuilding team.

8:24:  The pace of this game is nothing short of frenetic.  Earl Watson and the Sonics (fourth in pace) are sprinting out to start every possession, whether it be off a make or miss from Portland.  Thus far, the normally walk-it-up Blazers (29th) seem content to play the Sonics' game.

8:27:  Wally!  He is now 5-of-6 and has the last ten Seattle points.

8:28:  What point guard woes?  Sergio Rodriguez looks temporarily unstoppable, finding Jarrett Jack wide open for a lay-up and then going coast to coast for a lay-in of his own.

8:29:  An end-of-quarter play for the Sonics somehow ends with point guard Luke Ridnour taking a fall-away running hook as time expires.  Not even close.  The chances that P.J. Carlesimo drew that one up in the huddle range somewhere between zero and none.  At the end of one, we're knotted at 24.

8:33:  Hey, the Celts reunion continues!  Delonte West enters the game and is serenaded with compliments from Jon Barry.  Good to know there is still some love out there for D-West.  Not so good to see Luke Ridnour flinging from the right wing (way off the mark) on Delonte's first possession on the floor.

8:34:  Ridnour takes his third bad shot in three minutes but manages to hit this time on an off-one-foot fling from just above the right elbow with the shot clock expiring.  Thus far, he has taken three bad-looking shots and thrown one cross-court pass a mile out of bounds.  Not encouraging.

8:38:  Currently imagining how much more dangerous the Blazers will be when the man posting on the low blocks is Greg Oden rather than Channing Frye.  For those who watched him in New York, Frye is a frustrating case, as he has effectively amounted to a 6-foot-11 small forward sans swingman athleticism thus far in his career.  He isn't really much of an interior presence on either end of the floor, and the best part of his game is that he shoots the ball fairly well from midrange.  The fact that he doesn't rebound or block shots and that he doesn't have the athleticism to defend small forwards and as such is usually on the floor to play the four or the five (positions he doesn't play particularly well) is the discouraging part.  Nice guy, smart player, good shot.  Too bad everything else seems so far away right now.

8:43:  Jarrett Jack is 4-for-4, all on lay-ups.  Wally bangs another trey in response.

8:44:  Brandon Roy can't get anything to fall.  He makes a beautiful move to the rim for a baby bank shot, but it rims out and Roy drops to 2-for-11 on the night.  We're tied once more, this time at 34, as we head to another timeout.

8:48:  Alert Craig Sager!  Someone broke into his house and stole his scarlet red jacket to give to Greg Oden for tonight's courtside interview with Ric Bucher.  Like everyone else, I can't put my finger on it, but there is something quite endearing about listening to the young big man chat.

8:49:  As if one cue, Oden tells us, "I don't do much after practice, man.  I just get home and play video games."  He is 19 years old and seemingly unburdened by the fact that an entire fan base's hopes rest on him in many regards.   Pretty cool dude.

8:52:  Kurt Thomas needs to be playing on a relevant team again.  He plays gritty defense, takes charges, crashes the glass hard and over the past few years has improved his midrange game and significantly straightened out his act from his younger days in New York.  A classic 'little things' guy for a winning team.

8:57:  Durant walks.  He is a very quiet 3-for-8 for six points so far, four of which came on two dunks in the game's opening minutes.

8:59:  Brandon Roy heads to locker room after an inadvertent elbow from Chris Wilcox.  Hopefully the type of thing that will require nothing more than a quick patch-up job before allowing him back into action.

9:01:  Wally passes!  A quick swing back to the top of the key.  Possibly his first of the night.

9:02:  The Sonics get a better look than they did at the end of the first quarter as the half expires, but Kurt Thomas back-rims a short jumper.  All things considered (particularly Brandon Roy's poor shooting), the Blazers can't be too bummed about heading to the locker room up by a 46-44 count.  Back after the break. 

9:13:  Ahhhh...."House" re-runs airing on FOX during halftime.  Houshamazoli.

9:20:  "Good shot, Jack [high five ensues]."  "Dang [after a missed shot]."  Moving insights from LaMarcus Aldridge's first half thanks to NBA-mandated wireless mikes.  This will lead to a ratings bonanza, no doubt.

9:22:  Roy bangs one from just inside the right corner to start the second half.  A promising sign for the Blazers.

9:24:  Mark Jones calls Kurt Thomas "the quintessential pick-and-pop big man."  Good to know my sentiments about his improved midrange game are shared by other credible observers.

9:25:  I'll be out with a sore arm for the next few minutes after hyper-extending a muscle patting myself on the back over my agreement with Mark Jones regarding the jump shooting of Kurt Thomas.

9:26:  Quick rehab for the arm.  Aldridge follows up a series of foot-fakes with a soft-touch baby turnaround jumper.  This kid is on his way to being a very good NBA player for a long time to come.

9:29:  Brandon Roy can make a difference on nights when his shot isn't falling.  Another well-executed penetrate-and-dish leads to a lay-in for Joel Przybilla.  Credit Przybilla for doing everything asked of him early on this season: He defends, rebounds and finishes open looks.  Just one more man doing his part on this balanced Portland team.

9:31:  The Blazers fly down the floor, and Steve Blake finishes a lay-up to suddenly open up a 58-50 lead as we approach the halfway point of the third.  P.J. Carlesimo wants timeout.

9:35:  Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster have to be eligibile to receive some award for the pair of teammates with the ugliest looking shots between them.  Of course, if Indiana's Troy Murphy has a semi-competent partner here, the Blazer boys will be playing for second.

9:36:  While I'm busy ripping on Outlaw and Webster, Steve Blake and Brandon Roy drain back-to-back threes, and the Portland lead balloons to 16.  Seattle needs time, I'm back to "House," and this game is on the verge of getting out of hand.

9:41:  Channing Frye hits from 18 feet.  That would be his game in a nutshell.

9:44:  Can't help but marvel -- as everyone else already has -- about Durant's offensive versatility, this time after a pull-up runner from the foul line extended.  He shoots the three, can hit from midrange and has the capability to be absolutely explosive inside.  This latest offensive display is followed by an emphatic block of Jarrett Jack on the other end.  Fun to watch, indeed.

9:50:  Durant misses a step-back as the third quarter closes, but the Sonics have made a late run, and Portland holds a 70-62 advantage as we head to the final quarter.

9:56:  Travis Outlaw bursts to the rim for a lay-up.  The athleticism on this team never ceases to amaze.

9:57:  "You can tell Ridnour doesn't have his usual burst and explosiveness."  Mark Jones and I are feeling the flow together tonight.

9:58:  Misses galore for Wally, who has dropped to 7-for-13 overall despite his hot start and has just two points in the second half.

9:58:30:  Make that 7-for-14.

10:03:  7-for-15.  Blazers by ten.

10:04:  Another midrange bucket for Channing Frye.  This might be the quietest 14-point performance of the season.  He is 6-for-7 from the field to boot.  If there was a night to criticize him (as I did earlier), this hasn't been it.

10:06:  Wally finally bags another one, but the Blazers lead by 11 as we go to timeout with just outside of five minutes to play.

10:08:  Highlight of the night: Jarrett Jack taking the ESPN gang with him on his shopping trip to Mario's, where he guides, "You know you're in the expensive section where you can't pronounce the names of none of the clothes."  Good times all around, the unintended double negative notwithstanding.

10:17:  Jack for three.  He is 7-for-11 on the night, and the Blazers lead by 14 with inside of two to play.  Eleven straight, here they come.

10:20:  Big dunk for Chris Wilcox.  It is all formality now, though.

10:21:  Roy dribbles out the clock, and the final buzzer sounds on an 89-79 Portland win.  They have won 11 straight and sit at 16-12, half a game out of the lead in the Northwest Division.  Refreshing it is, but after a long Live Journal, I'm drained.  Enjoy what's left of the holiday, folks! 


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