Those without League Pass, a reliable stream or residents of Portland and its surrounding areas probably never saw Monday night’s contest between the Trail Blazers and Pacers. That’s too bad. Accept these three takeaways from the observations of one man and his remote as a consolation prize.
1. I really, really, really hope and pray Portland keeps this up for the entire season. They aren’t shown on national television a lot, but trust and believe they’re one of the most fun watches in the Association. And they’re an entirely different squad from last year with an improved bench, a LaMarcus Aldridge who wants to be there and Damian Lillard who appears to be fending off any resemblance of a sophomore slump with ease. It was Lillard (26-6) and Aldridge (28-10) who stepped up in the fourth quarter going shot-for-shot with the league’s best defensive team in a 106-102 win.
2. Local play-by-play announcers are fascinating. And wild corny (which makes them hilarious at the same time; ex. San Antonio’s team refer to Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli the “M&M Boys”). They exhibit no hesitation in showing bias to their hometown squad, which is to be expected. But the awkward moments are plentiful. Case in point, last night following Lance Stephenson fouling out and slapping the scorer’s table, one of the Trail Blazers announcers says to the other, “You’re used to violence since you’re from Detroit, right?” From there, a weird five-to-seven second exchange about stepping to Lance Stephenson occurred.
And since we’re on the topic of local broadcast teams, Portland’s falls right in the middle of the pack. If an award for best local duo existed, Orlando’s would probably get the nod (they’re about as unbiased as it’s going to get) while Chicago’s has to fall in the most annoying category based solely off Stacey King.
3. Here’s how I described Paul George February 24, 2013:
Here’s to hoping Danny Granger is okay with not being the number one option anymore. Paul George is more versatile, longer, more disruptive on defense, a budding star altogether and a guy with two first names which has to account for something. Granted, Granger was near this same mold at one point and could be the boost this year’s Pacers need to make a serious run come spring, but PG24 has the “it” factor and has “breakout playoff series” written all over him.
So that was slightly off-base about Granger returning healthy last year, but everything else is on the money.
PG24 already has a vote from yours truly as All-Star Game starter. Without getting into rankings, George has hands down been must-see TV this still young season and while his game has taken strides to improve upon last year, it’s his confidence in being “the man ’round here” that’s evident with each dribble, shot and lockdown defensive possession. That’s the most beautiful part about watching game’s mature. We saw it when he completely made Madison Square Garden his personal playground a few weeks back, and we saw it again in Portland.
George poured in 43 points last night, including 15 in the final three minutes. Hell, he was one missed three away from a made three-inbounds steal-another made three sequence from conjuring memories of Reggie Miller in New York late in the fourth.
The storyline being forced down our collective throats now is “the arrival of the NBA’s next superstar,” only in this case the assessment feels like it’s spot-on. Even in a loss, watching George nail miraculous shot after miraculous shot – and do it all with a stoic “this is what I’m built for” demeanor – completely made up for a Monday Night Football game that was effectively over by the end of the first quarter.
With games against the Clippers and Blazers already in the rearview, five of Indy’s next eight work nights look like this – @San Antonio, @Oklahoma City, vs. Miami, @Miami and vs. Houston. So much is already known, anticipated and expected from a squad who was literally a quarter away from the NBA Finals last year. And even before Christmas, we’re about to find out a lot about these Pacers.
Consider it an early gift for basketball fans everywhere.