A friend asked me yesterday afternoon if I was going to last night’s Blazers-Lakers game. No, I said. But I would be watching at home, jabbing needles into the groin of my Kobe Bryant voodoo doll. Ya know, maybe sideline him with VD or something?
Turns out I was stabbing the wrong genitalia.
The Blazers won last night in one of their most impressive wins of the season, blowing out the hated Hell-A Lakers 111-94. It was the Lakers biggest loss of the season. But all anybody who watched the game remembers is the flying body block that L.A.’s Trevor Ariza put on Rudy Fernandez in the third quarter—a hard, unnecessary foul that landed our beloved Spaniard on a stretcher and earned him a night in the hospital.
It was Ariza’s privates I should’ve been gouging.
Quick flashback: With seconds left in the third quarter Rudy is on a fast break surging basically uncontested to the basket when out of nowhere Ariza comes in and swats violently at the forearms of an airborne Fernandez. The momentum of the blow twists the gangly forward just enough to where he can’t get his feet under him. He crashes to the floor awkwardly, rib cage and right armpit first. Chaos ensued. And in living rooms across this city, the rivalry with the Lakers was reignited in a white-hot stream of choice cuss words. (My bus driver was STILL ticked about it this morning.)
Was the hit dirty? I’m not sure. And watching it again today I feel like, honestly, Rudy’s penchant for selling fouls (a trait all the new school European players share…I blame soccer) may have actually made things worse. But the fact of the matter is that at this point the Lakers are down by 28 points and Ariza has been playing like dog…he was pissed and he was looking to take it out on our guy. So he did.
Ariza was tossed and the NBA is reviewing the play to see if he’ll be suspended. As for Rudy, x-rays and a CT scan were negative and he’s listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks. With the Western Conference a free-for-all knife fight in positions three through eight, this is not what the Blazers need.
But lost in the horrifying sight of Rudy being carried off in a neck brace was this: Portland fans finally got a chance to see what happens when the Blazers get angry. This is a team of nice, mild-mannered dudes, but if they’re ever going to evolve into something resembling an NBA championship team they need to hone their nasty side (don’t believe me, watch last year’s NBA Finals). And last night, our boys got pissed off. As soon as Rudy hit the floor, Brandon Roy got up in Ariza’s face. And since the play happened near the Lakers’ end of the court, both he and Nosfertu waded into the L.A. bench unafraid, basically having to be dragged away by their teammates.
Basketball isn’t like baseball, where retribution comes in the form of fastballs to the hip, so I don’t expect to see Shavlik Randolph leaving the bench to go Tonya Harding on Kobe. But the rest of the league learned last night that this Blazers team has a little fire in its belly. And that it’s totally capable of destroying the supposed best team in the West.