Blazers 93, Hornets 90

Ouch indeed. Why oh why did I change my initial projection? Basically I did not want to seem too optimistic, especially with the red-hot Hornets coming in. I really thought the Blazers should win...but I thought they should have won in New Orleans, too.

Portland started off curiously. With Aldridge, Roy, and Webster on the floor, they inexplicably went to Frye on the block. Blake was their next shooter. When they did go to Aldridge he produced 4 quick points.

Defensively, he was having trouble. The officiating was horrendous all night. Early on it favored the Hornets. There were some brutal, brutal calls and Aldridge ended up on the bench with 4 points and 3 fouls against Tyson Chandler.

Chandler, by the way, is the dirtiest player I have seen in a long, long time. He is forever taking cheap shots while running through the lane, while away from the ball, and any other time he can get away with it. His first Technical came on a bush league, punk play. He got called for a charge on Pryzybilla, an easy and obvious call for the officials. So with Joel sitting on the floor, Chandler dropped the ball on his head. It was a well-deserved T, one of many he will get this year, I am sure. He is also one of the whiniest players this side of Tim Duncan.

Meanwhile, with Aldridge on the bench, the Blazers ran three quick plays for Webster. He dropped in three smooth shots and was rolling. So the Blazers showed why they were 0-3 coming in...they played keep away from Webster. For the next few minutes the ball went to Frye, Przybilla, Blake...basically, anyone but Roy and Webster, the best offensive players they had on the floor.

A quick start faded down the stretch, though they still landed 26 on the Hornets. A lot of that came from Przybilla and his offensive explosion and Jarrett Jack coming out hot.

Then the second quarter came around. With Aldridge saddled with 3 fouls, Roy and Webster on the bench, the offense rested in the hands of Outlaw and Rodriguez. They were not up to it. Outlaw was cold, cold, cold. Rodriguez was a mess, heaving up 4 blanks and contributing turnovers at a frenetic pace.

Fortunately, the Hornets were fairly cold as well, though they did manage to match the Blazers first quarter total of 26 to take a 49-43 lead into the break.

The third quarter was huge for Portland. They got a few nice calls of questionable legitimacy from the officials...a nice relief after the brutality of the first half...and came out HOT. Webster was on fire, Roy was scoring, Aldridge was hitting. And they were competing HARD. Tyson Chandler seemed to be a focal point...they were tired of his dirty play. When he melted down and picked up his second technical, it was the Blazers biggest lead to that point, 12.

Shortly thereafter they crested at a 15 point lead...and then forgot where the offense was supposed to come from. Webster had 17...and would end with 20. Aldridge had a dozen...and would end there. And for whatever reason we got a heavy dose of Raef Lafrentz and Sergio Rodriguez.

All night they had problems with David West. On a night Stojakovich was a miserable 2-13 and Jackson was little better at 3-11, he stepped into the gap with a monstrous game, 34 points and 18 boards, 8 of them offensive, on 14-26 shooting. And he came up huge in the fourth, teaming with Chris Paul to pull them within 5.

But then Brandon Roy took over. He drove to the basket repeatedly, came up big on defense, and, at one point, with the clock running down, triggered a clutch try to build the lead to 7.

At the end of the game it was Jack going to the line again and again and again. Paul would score at one end, Jack would hit free throws at the other.

He finally had the game we have been waiting for. He was getting...and taking...his shot on offense, playing rugged defense, and ended up with 20 points.

It was a great night for Portland as they won their home opener, saw the stars shine, and turned back a surprisingly good Hornets team.

Oh, and as for my first prediction...Blazers by 4 -6 with a score in the low 90s. Final...93-90, though 3 of those Hornets points came on a buzzer beater 3.