Gritty Blazers narrowly miss upset in Los Angeles

Aldridge goes for 29 in 103-96 loss to the Lakers
March 23, 2012

With the public expecting regular blowouts, the Portland Trail Blazers continued to show the side of their game that's been lost the past two months, even though they didn't win Friday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 29 points and grabbed nine rebounds and the Blazers' bench outscored the Lakers 34-14 during a 103-96 loss at the Staples Center.

Portland trailed just 87-86 with 5:00 left before the Lakers went on a 9-3 run to create a scoring cushion.

J.J. Hickson, acquired this week, scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field and had a pair of assists off the bench.

Ramon Sessions, recently acquired by the Lakers, went for 20 points and 11 rebounds in a starting role. Andrew Bynum led the Lakers with 28 points, while Pau Gasol helped the team to a 53-29 rebounding edge with 16.

The Blazers, 22-26, begin a three-game homestand Sunday at 6 p.m. against Golden State.


Louisville flows into NCAA second round

Favorites go 3-1 at Rose Garden as NCAA Tourney ramps up
March 15, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

Peyton Siva had 17 points and six assists to lead the fourth-seeded Louiville Cardinals to their first NCAA Tournament win in four years, 69-62, over Davidson in the marquee match-up at the Rose Garden Thursday.

Indiana and New Mexico also won as expected, while 12th seed VCU upset fifth seed Witchita State as the tournament hit full stride with 16 games at four sites across the nation.

On the day only two underdogs - teams with lower seeds - won: VCU and 11th seed Colorado, which upended sixth seed UNLV.

Among other tournament highlights, Kentucky, which features Oregoniana Terrence Jones and Kyle Wiltjer, beat Western Kentucky, and Vanderbilt, which features Oregonian Brad Tinsley, beat Harvard.

The second round continues today with third-round games Saturday and Sunday.

Louisville plays New Mexico and Indiana plays VCU Saturday at the Rose Garden in a doubleheader that begins a 1 p.m.

In other basketball news, Oregon announced it will play host to Iowa in the second round of the National Invitational Tournament Sunday at 2 p.m. at Matthew Knight Arena. Third-seeded Oregon, 23-9, beat LSU 96-76 in the first round Tuesday.

Iowa, 18-16 and a No. 7 seed, posted an 84-75 home win over Dayton in the first round. The UO-Iowa winner advances to the quarterfinals to face the winner of No. 1 Washington and No. 4 Northwestern.

Oregon State will play host to Texas Christian Monday in the quarterfinals of the College Basketball Invitational. The Beavers beat Western Illinois 80-59 on Tuesday for their 20th win of the season, the most the program has won since 1990, when Gary Payton, who entered the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame two years ago, was a senior.

OSU is 20-14 under fourth-year coach Craig Robinson, who guided the team to the CBI title in 2009. TCU is 18-14.

Oregon State's women's team won its first-round game of the Women's NIT Thursday against UC Davis, 66-48, and will play St. Mary's at Gill Coliseum Saturday.


Jesuit repeats for a third time

Crusaders create first boys 4Peat with win over Lake Oswego
March 10, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

A year after establishing a win at one level, the Jesuit Crusaders established one for all levels with a 52-42 win over Lake Oswego in the Class 6A boys basketball final at the Rose Garden Saturday.

Last year, the Crusaders became the first school to win three-straight titles at the large-school classification, and matched three-peats by several other schools at lower classifications, including Jefferson's run at Class 5A (2008-10).

No school in Oregon had ever won four straight titles until Saturday.

With speedy guards Khyan Rayner and Xavier Coleman combining for 30 points, and suffocating defense holding LO's star junior Calvin Hermanson to a respectable 20 points, the Crusaders capped off another memorable season and won the school's sixth title since 1999 - all of them under coach Gene Potter.


CLASS 5A - Corvallis repeats

A night after title rematch in the semifinals, Corvallis defended its 2011 title with a 63-51 win over stubborn Milwaukie at Matthew Knight Arena.

Henry Parker and Jake Ehlers both scored 19 points to lead the Spartans, who finished at 24-4.

Milwaukie trailed just 34-32 midway through the third quarter, but couldn't sustain the momentum that had carried it through upsets the previous two days.


CLASS 4A - Central earns another title

Tanner Omlid scored on a lay-up with five seconds left to propel Central to a 49-47 win over defending champion Phoenix at Gill Coliseum.

Omlid, who led all scorers with 17 points, took a pass from Brendan Cutsforth on the way to the basket as the Panthers won for the second time in three years.



Beavers believe, upset top-seed Washington

Jared Cunningham and Joe Burton hit double-doubles, Ducks lose
March 8, 2012

A night after struggling to score four points, Jared Cunningham busted loose for 18 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Burton came off the bench for 14 points and 10 rebounds to lead Oregon State to an improbable 86-84 win over top-seed Washington at the Pac-12 Conference Tournament at the Staples Center Thursday.

OSU, which narrowly edged Washington State 69-64 Wednesday,

The Beavers trailed 79-73 with 2:44 left, but ended the game on a 13-5 run, with Cunningham hitting the go-ahead basket with 31 seconds remaining for an 84-83 lead. The final points were scored at the free-throw line.

Tony Wroten scored 29 points to lead the Huskies, who are still likely to receive an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.

Both teams struggled at the free-throw line, with the Beavers hitting just 17 of 32 attempts (53 percent), while the Huskies managed just 12 of 26 (46 percent). Both teams missed five free throws in the final 31 seconds.

Oregon State will play Arizona in the semifinals.

Oregon had its season end with an 63-62 loss to Colorado when senior Devoe Joseph missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.




The Big Hurt - Greg Oden wants back on the court

EPISODE 1: What if he just played with pain, a lot of pain?
March 5, 2012 / By Kokoma Ika and Cliff Pfenning

As much as the public can make fun of Greg Oden's career, or cringe at the thought of Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge playing alongside one another, or even shake a fist at the NBA Salary structure that has paid out so much for potential, you have to feel a little for the guy.

If there's one thing worse than playing poorly, it's not playing at all.

And, Portland seems to have given up on him, or at least his knees.

If the only future career he's going to have in Portland is fictitious, here's our version:



Written by
Kokoma Ika
and Cliff Pfenning





BLAZE, The official Portland Trail Blazers mascot, paces back and forth, in front of the Blazers locker room as a package delivery driver walks up, looks both ways, then hands him an envelope.


In huge block letters - VAIL COLORADO ORTHOPEDIC CENTER - is
stamped in the left hand corner. In the center, Greg Oden.

Blaze looks around and sees no one.  He opens the package and pulls out a plain brown 9 X 12 envelope with X-RAY written in block letters in the center.  He frees the clasp and pulls out a single sheet of medical information, which he holds up to a light.

He stares at the X-RAY for a moment, then puts it back into the envelope.
His head slumps as he heads for the door to the locker room.


GREG ODEN, a 7-foot, 285-pound basketball player, pedals vigorously on a
stationary bike.  He watches a television showing a replay of the 2007 NCAA final
between Ohio State and Florida.  A determined focus, a driven stare,
occupies his demeanor.
Sweat cascades down his face.

 A BLAZER TRAINER enters and heads straight over to Oden.

                    BLAZER TRAINER
    Man, you were a beast in that game.  
    I love the dunk that’s about to come up.

Greg slows down his pace, wipes his brow, and stops pedaling.

                    GREG ODEN
    Those were good times...

                    BLAZER TRAINER
    Seen anything yet?

                    GREG ODEN
    Just 25 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

                    BLAZER TRAINER
    A delivery guy is supposed to be here soon.

He points at Oden’s knees

    Make sure you ice those down when you’re done.

                    GREG ODEN
    The ice machine.  I’m about ready to give it a first name.

The Blazer Trainer walks away.  Oden grabs the remote control off a stool next
to him and increases the volume on the TV.  He pedals harder and harder as the
game nears its conclusion with Florida winning.  As Florida celebrates, Blaze appears.
Oden slows down and stops.

Blaze walks over to Oden and pauses for one second, two seconds, three seconds.  
Then, he hands Oden the envelope.

                    GREG ODEN
     That bad, huh?

Oden takes hold of the envelope so the contents can slide out.  
He raises the X-RAY to the light and takes a deep breath.  
Then, he looks down at his knees.

                    GREG ODEN
    Man, the media is going to eat this up.  
    Sports radio is gonna eat this up.  
    My agent’s gonna hate me.  

He pauses

    This probably won’t even make Sportscenter.

He glances back down at his knees.

                    GREG ODEN
    Why do you guys hate me so much?

Oden looks fixedly at Blaze.

                    GREG ODEN
    Hey, get me some ice...

He casts his attention away for a moment, then looks back at Blaze scooping ice
out of the ice machine.

                    GREG ODEN
    Those guys from 20 years ago, 30 years ago, 40 years ago, you think
    their knees hurt after a game? Moses. Kareem. Mikan. Wilt. Those guys
    probably would’ve thought a micro-fracture was something that happened
    to a pencil. You think Bill Russell ever missed a season because his knees hurt?  
    Or his team sat him down because he was an investment? He probably would
    have told some writer the team didn’t want him to play because it didn’t want
    to sell tickets. Then, he would’ve put on a jersey, walked onto the court and
    grabbed 30 rebounds. Walton had major problems and he still won a title.

    What if I just played?  

    I gave myself the summer to heal as much as possible from this ...

He picks up the X-ray and glares at it.

    ... and then just played? I get paid whether I play or not.  Think
    they’ll sit me out because I grind my teeth when I run? Or I look like a convict
    when I’m not on the bench with ice on my knees? That would be a look for
    those point guards coming down the lane. “Hey boy, you don’t want to be coming
    down here because I’m not a center, I’m a defensive tackle! So you just stay
    out there in three-point land!”

Blaze looks at him and shakes his head

              GREG ODEN
    What? You saying I can’t act?
    The public would love me do death if I get on the court, even if I had to play with
    ice bags on my knees instead of knee pads.

Oden shakes his head slightly and grins

              GREG ODEN
    I could run for President if I could play 10 games.  
    “Ice Man!”  I already got my nickname.

He fixes his stare intently at Blaze.

                    GREG ODEN
    I know. There’s already an “Ice Man” in the Hall.  “The Ice Man Returneth!”  Sports Illustrated cover right there.
    Refrigerator companies will be begging to get me as a spokesman.

His head slumps, he looks at the floor and then back at
Blaze.  Blaze shoots a look back at him and tips his head
down slightly.

                    GREG ODEN
    Think I can do it?  Ten games?  If I could just play ten games. All those surgeries.  All that time off.  I bet no one even remembers
    the last time I played.  I barely remember.

    You know, I have 41 different suits - one for each home game I can’t play in.

Blaze shakes his head slightly

             GREG ODEN
    Yes, I’m only using 33 this season.
    I don’t want to wear those suits at games.
    I want to suit up in Nike, not Armani.

    If I could just play 10 games, I’ll bet they’d make a movie about me.
    You know that football movie ... “Rudy”? That guy didn’t play 10 games.  

Oden gets off the exercise bike and walks gingerly to a nearby couch and sits down.  
Blaze returns with two large bags of ice.  Oden puts them on his knees.

                    GREG ODEN
    If I could just play 10 games. We could pick the games, too. Home games.
    Important home games. Why do I need to play against the Hornets
    or Bobcats ... or the Spurs when they sit their starters?
    The team really only needs me for big home games and the playoffs.

    They could sell it as a 10-game package.
    We could make it a big deal when I do play. Tweet to the world - Oden
    on the floor tonight! I could appear ... yeah ... like a bullfighter!
    My own dance team ... “The Odenettes!”

    They could dress like nurses!

Blaze looks at the floor and puts his paw over his eyes
Oden pauses and rubs his forehead with the back of one hand.

Short pause

             GREG ODEN
    I had this dream the other night where the inside of my house had been
    transformed into the ice planet Hoth. And, this tall dude walks in and over
    to me and ... and it’s Wilt. He says to me, “Greg, I am your father.”

Oden looks at Blaze and shakes his head

            GREG ODEN
    This not playing is killing me. I’m goin’ nuts. I gotta get on the court.
    Play in front of people.
    Talk to reporters while I’m still sweating.
    Get a highlight on Sportscenter!
    There’s barely any centers in the league anymore. I could be an All-Star on 10 games.

    Man, I’m gonna do it!  I’m gonna play no matter how much it kills me.
    Ten games. We can film it as a documentary and then donate the proceeds
    from the DVD to a charity that helps kids walk.

Blaze and Oden stare at each other. Then Oden looks away and slowly shakes his head.

              GREG ODEN
    Gonna play. I’m gonna play. Man, I’m gonna play. Ten games.
    I’ll get my face back on that grain elevator across the street from the Garden.

Oden looks back at Blaze

              GREG ODEN
    Hey, tonight, get me a photo of Wilt and one of Russell. And Walton. And the name
    of his surgeon. We don’t want that guy.
    And, look up the history of ice ... get me some background so I can dazzle
    all those bloggers who work out the salary cap in their Cheerios.

    ”The Ice Man Returneth.”  

    I’ve got a college buddy who can start that onto the web.
Blaze nods his head slightly

              GREG ODEN
    My body is gonna hurt like hell, but I’m gonna play.

Blaze holds the envelope forward and slowly rips it in two.
Then he and Oden clasp forearms.

              GREG ODEN
    I’ll ask Obama to be my VP. He can do that, you know?

                                              FADE TO BLACK:

Large schools get to business

Class 6A, 5A, 4A teams play into state tournaments
March 3, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

It's down to crunch time for the large schools in prep basketball.

And, almost all of the top teams will be involved - all of them but Westview.

Only one team seeded No. 1 in the Class 6A, 5A and 4A playoffs lost Friday, while only one home team lost in boys baskteball Saturday in the way to the eight-team tournaments. The biggest upset, although it wasn't technically an upset, happened at David Douglas, where the second-seeded Scots beat third seed Westview Saturday, 54-53. Westview, which features Kansas-bound Landen Lucas, reached the boys final the past two seasons.

Girls quarterfinal action begins Wednesday at three sites in the Willamette Valley, while boys quarterfinals begin Thursday.

State finals are set for Saturday night for Class 6A teams at the Rose Garden, Matthew Knight Arena for Class 5A and Gill Coliseum for Class 4A schools.

Among the top stories is South Medford, which has never played past the quarterfinals, ranked No. 1 at Class 6A, and coming off a 98-54 win over Tualatin Friday - the highest score of any boys or girls team in the playoffs. Defending champion Jesuit was an upset victim Friday, 66-48 at St. Mary's.

Jesuit's boys team, which has won the last three 6A tournaments, returns. The tournament features both North and South Medford, who will play each others Thursday at 3:15 p.m. at the Rose Garden in the quarterfinals.

At 5A, Benson, which lost in the boys final in double-overtime last season, used a 17-0 first-quarter run to ease past Liberty, 75-52, and is aiming for the tournament's other No. 1 seed, Mountain View, in the final. Those teams met in the quarterfinals last year with Benson winning.

Defending champion Corvallis returns.

Springfield, the defending champion, and Willamette are the top seeds in the girls 5A tournament. 

At Class 4A, defending girls champion Cascade won on the road Friday to reach the quarterfinals.

And Phoenix, the defending 4A boys champion, returns as a second seed.


Hoop playoff season in full swing

Class 3A, 2A, 1A tournaments begin
March 1, 2012

The annual rush to tournament glory began Wednesday with first-round games for Class 2A and 1A basketball teams in Pendleton and Baker, respectively.

Top seeds Regis and Scio won in the Class 2A girls bracket, while tiop seed McKenzie won in the Class 1A girls tournament in Baker.

The Class 3A tournament begins today in Coos Bay, while boys tournament games are scheduled for Pendleton and Baker.

All three tournaments end with championship games for both boys and girls Saturday night.

In boys action, Dayton will begin its drive for the Class 3A title after finishing second the past two seasons. McKenzie will aim for its first title, keeping up with the girls team, which is also aiming for its first title.

In Class 6A playoff games, only two boys teams won on the road among 15 first-round games played Wednesday. The McMinnville at South Medford game was postponed due to travel conditions.

Road teams won just one of 16 playoff games in Class 6A first-round games Tuesday.

Tournament qualification games for 6A, 5A, and 4A boys and girls teams are scheduled for Friday and Saturday night.



Are you ready for Lin City?

Wed, 02/15/2012 - 7:40am
Cliff Pfenning
Cliff Pfenning's picture
Last seen: 2 days 19 hours ago
Joined: 2010-07-01

So, when do the Knicks play in Portland?

Watching the highlights of Tuesday's NBA game in Toronto, it hit me that the home crowd for the Raptors wasn't hoping for their team to win. Instead, fans were standing, screaming in the final seconds hoping to see something memorable as Jeremy Lin held the ball at the top of the key with time running down: 5, 4, 3. And, they got it.

Lin, the flavor of the moment in the sports world whose biography on Wikipedia is being updated daily, hit a game-winning, fade-away three-point shot with 0.5 seconds left to push the New York Knicks to a 90-87 win, their sixth straight since he moved into the starting line-up. Into the line-up from basically no where.

How often does that get said about a Harvard grad?

So, when do the Knicks play in Portland?

Well, they don't. Blame the NBA Lockout and reduced 66-game schedule.

Portland plays New York just once this season - March 14 at Madison Square Garden. By then, Lin could have guided the Knicks to 19-straight wins and be on the Republican ballot for President.

Or maybe the Democrats' ballot for as Vice-President. ("We just need his name to guarantee the Asian vote. He doesn't have to do anything - Vice-President is perfect!")

Tim Tebow. Remember him being mentioned for NFL MVP or even President?

How about the Giants? They play in New York, too, but that was so, like, two weeks ago.

Blazers fans got to experience the Rose City version of Linsanity four seasons ago when Brandon Roy took the team from the depths of the league to 13 straight wins, which eventually led to a 41-41 record and started better-than three seasons of sellout crowds at the Rose Garden.

The rest of the sports world might have yawned because the streak happened in Portland and didn't even get the Blazers to the playoffs. But, it started the home crowd back into screaming in unison for the team, and that's still in force even when the team loses by 15 to the Wizards.

Perhaps it's a good thing the Knicks aren't going to play in Portland because the way the seasons are going for the two teams, the Rose Garden might turn into Madison Square Garden - West with fans looking for something really, really memorable ... along with answers for how to get the Columbia River Crossing project moving again, more funding for Portland Public Schools, guidance on selecting a new mayor, about 21,000 autographs (each with a certificate of authenticy), and so on.

Or maybe, the Blazers would win and ruin the sports world.


Cunningham leads Beavers past Utah

Oregon State rebounds from blowout loss with a blowout win
Feb. 4, 2012

Jared Cunningham scored 20 points to help Oregon State pound Utah 76-58 in a Pac-12 Conference men's basketball game Saturday.

Cunningham, who scored 27 in an upset of Oregon last week, hit seven of 16 shots from the field and six free throws to help the Beavers win for the fourth time in five games.

Devon Coliier added 14 points on 6-fof-10 shooting and Joe Burton added eight points and 11 rebounds for Oregon State, which improved to 15-8 overall, 5-6 in Pac-12 play.

The Beavers missed all nine of their three-point attempts, but finished hitting 46 percent of their field-goal attempts.

Oregon State plays host to Washington State on Thursday.


Batum, Aldridge overpower Denver, 117-97

Batum returns and hits 9 three-pointers in home series opener
Feb. 4, 2012

Nicolas Batum returned from a two-game leave and pounded the Denver Nuggets with nine three-point shots Saturday night.

Batum hit nine of 15 three-point attempts and 11 of 19 field-goal attempts overall to finish with a game-high 33 points as Portland beat the Nuggets 119-97 in the first of a three-game homestand against Western Conference playoff contenders.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 29 points and nine rebounds and Marcus Camby grabbed 20 rebounds for the third time this season to help the Blazers improve to 11-1 at home and 14-10 overall.

Denver got 20 points from Danilo Gallinari, but made just five three-pointers in the game. Portland made 15.

The Blazers moved to within 4.5 games Oklahoma City in the Western Conference and play host to the Thunder Monday night.



In spite of 28 points abnd 145 rebounds from LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers lost on the road again Thursday night as the Sacramento Kings closed the game on a 7-4 run to win 95-92 at Arco Arena.

Adridge hit 12 of 19 shots from the field and grabbed seven offensive rebounds, but the Blazers were outscored 22-8 at the free-throw line and fell to 3-9 in road games, 13-10 overall.

Raymond Felton had 15 points and 10 assists for the Blazers, who also got 17 points from Jamal Crawford.

The Kings, who improved to 5-4 at home, 7-15 overall, got 20 points from guard Marcus Thornton and 19 from forward John Salmons in the win before 11,740 spectators.

Portland, which dropped into a seventh-place tie with Utah in the Western Conference, plays host to Denver, Oklahoma City and Houston in its next three games. The Nuggets (15-7, 8-5 road), beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-91 in Los Angeles Thursday. Oklahoma City, which lost in Portland in the second week of the season, is a league-best 17-4 and 9-3 on the road, also a league-best.



Even Elliot Williams got into the act Wednesday during Portland's historic win over Charlotte at the Rose Garden.

It wasn't historic in a good way, though.

Jamal Crawford scored 24 points in 21 minutes, Gerald Wallace had 23 points and five rebounds and LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points as the Blazers beat Charlotte by 44 points, 112-68, handing the Bobcats their worst loss in franchise history.

Gerald Henderson led Charlotte with 16 points, but was the lone starter to make more than two field goals. The Bobcats' starters were a combined 12-38 from the field, while Portland's starters were 25 of 47.

Wiliams, a first-round pick of the Blazers from 2010 who has been averaging just 3 minutes per game of action, saw 18 minutes and scored seven points.

Portland led 61-35 at the half on the way to improving to 10-1 at home and 13-9 overall heading into a road game at Sacramento Thursday.

Charlotte, which was outscored 58-26 in the paint, lost for the 11th-straight game, including 106-73 at the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday.



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