HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Desperate times call for desperate measures.
And prior to Sunday’s game at the Rose Garden, the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers were the living, breathing, jump-shooting and dunking embodiment of desperate.
The Blazers were trying to snap a six-game losing streak. The Clippers were trying to win on the road for the first time this season. The result was a fantastic wrestling match with some pretty good basketball mixed in for good measure.
Seriously, though, both of these teams will continue to fight to save their seasons. They have to, with so much drama swirling around their respective camps.
The Blazers (players, not the organization) issued a peculiar vote of confidence for their coach, Nate McMillan, after the wrestling match ended, per Jason Quick of the Oregonian:
There have been bonehead passes. Poor decisions. Sloppy play execution. And no one has had their shooting touch.
Sooner or later, of course, the coach becomes responsible for the play of the team. It is his job to help make the shots easier. To make the decisions more simple. And to demand perfection of how plays are executed.
Right now, however, the players are still taking ownership of this debacle, and that’s important to note. Because in the NBA, the first thing that always goes overboard on a sinking ship is the players’ support of the coach.
Saw it here with Mike Dunleavy. Saw it here with Maurice Cheeks.
And on Friday, when McMillan lamented that “evidently, they’re not responding to me” after the team’s loss in Washington, it seemed as if the writing was on the wall once again in Portland: The players had subtly told the coach it was time to go.
But on Sunday, the three Blazers — chosen only because of their availability in the post-game locker room — said McMillan still commands respect and control of the locker room.
“I’ve played for coaches where you can get a feel that they have lost the team, and the guys are tuning the coach out,” said Andre Miller, in his 12th season. “But not in this case. It’s been a tough schedule. Tough trips. And we are still playing hard. So I wouldn’t go as far to say that he has lost the team. We’ve just hit a tough stretch.”
The Clippers, meanwhile, have the league’s worst record (4-17, including a horrific 0-10 on the road). So they’re fighting for their basketball lives every night. And it’s actually refreshing to see a team this bad fight this hard on a nightly basis.
Having our main man Blake Griffin lead the charge certainly helps. We’re lucky that he only knows one way to play and refuses to compromise that because of his circumstances. But who knew Brian Cook and even Baron Davis would follow his lead?
Two Clippers, Brian Cook and Craig Smith, were ejected, and the team received five technical fouls in all, most of them resulting from a late-third-quarter scrum. Cook was tossed for a flagrant foul two on the Trail Blazers’ Joel Przybilla.
Cook was quickly replaced by Baron Davis as No. 1 enemy when Davis got into it with Nicolas Batum amid pushing and shoving among multiple players. Then Davis was supplanted a few minutes later by Smith, who went after Rudy Fernandez after taking one in the face.
Smith was restrained by none other than former Clippers teammate Marcus Camby. Minutes later, Camby got a flagrant foul, against the kid he once mentored, Blake Griffin.
If it sounds wild, that would be correct.
“Everybody started to feel that brotherly love for one another,” Clippers rookie guard Eric Bledsoe said.
They always said there was a thin (free-throw) line between love and hate.
“I was just trying to save [Smith] some money,” joked Camby, who had one of those typical Camby games, a season-high 19 rebounds along with 12 points. Wesley Matthews scored 26 points for Portland, whose losing streak ended at six games.
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said that they would appeal the flagrant foul assessed to Cook. He and the Clippers viewed it as a hard foul but officials disagreed after multiple looks at the play.
“I think I just got him at a bad point while he was in the air,” Cook said. “I didn’t want to give him a layup. I knew he had the back side cleared out.”
We know Stu Jackson is busy this morning and by no means do we condone excessive boxing during a basketball game. But we must admit that it feels good knowing that these two teams are going to fight to save their seasons.
If you see either of them anytime soon (Sacramento, Phoenix) you better knuckle up!