Monday, April 25, 2011

The Sixth Man by Aubrey Wieber

Game 4 was special. Blazer fans got to witness one of the most improbable come backs of NBA playoff history and they got to watch their resurrected hero, Brandon Roy, pull of the incredible feat. There was however another hero in the Rose Garden on Saturday afternoon that deserves a thanking; the fans.

I have been in attendance at many Blazer playoff games and big regular season matches, as well as Duck football home games against OSU, USC, ect. Nothing compared to the crowd on Saturday at the Rose Garden. The atmosphere was so electric that I frequently caught myself taking notes on the crowd rather than the game.

Through three of the worst quarters of basketball that I’ve ever seen, I witnessed a fan base that refused to give up. During an offensively abysmal first quarter the cheering never subsided. During a 3rd quarter when the Blazers went 0-14 and scoreless during the first 9:03 of the second half, the crowd still chanted “Defense!” on almost every Mavs possession. When a Blazer would get fouled, the crowd erupted. This scenario would be repeated when that same player went to the line and hit a free throw. I remember thinking that if by some miraculous long shot the Blazers turn this around, it will be because of the fans.

After the game I asked Andre Miller if the crowd was a factor in them not giving up on themselves. “It was definitely a factor, it was big,” he replied, “The energy in the building just kind of took over for us.”

In a post-game conference after the game Roy said that he has never in his life been in that sort of zone. No one could have predicted this after game two when he admitted to being near tears due to only 8 minutes of playing time in the game and going 1-8 from the floor in the series. Roy has had some big moments during his career, but that was by far his best quarter. In the final 12:45 of the game his player efficiency rating was an incredible 89.68. How could such an unpredictable turn around happen so rapidly? Roy has played well in high pressure situations and has been fueled by rowdy crowds his entire career, but didn’t have a chance to experience that this season. I think he was a little starved for those big moments with his loyal fan base cheering him on. When he saw those first buckets go down during a 5-0 Blazer run to close out the third, I believe Roy felt something he hadn’t in a long time. And he liked it. When he started making shots at the beginning of the fourth and the crowd went wild even though the Blazers were still in a huge hole, it sparked something in Brandon Roy.

Had fans left at half time and not given their team something to rally for, I believe it would be a much different series. When asked about the crowd, veteran Marcus Camby responded, “The crowd was as advertised, I think we have the best fan base in the league. We needed that, being down they could have easily kicked us while we were down but true Trail Blazer fans always seem to rise to the occasion. They definitely willed us to a win tonight.”

As I was leaving the arena I heard screams permeate through the Rose Garden doors from the player’s parking lot. A group of loyal and patient fans were waiting over an hour after the game to catch a sighting of their hero, Brandon Roy. When he came through the doors, the fans showered him with praise.

Walking back to my car I passed a house with a red jersey hanging with pride from the roof of the front porch. It was a Brandon Roy jersey fluttering in the wind for all to see. The blazermaniacs are a special breed, and their devout loyalty was definitely on display Saturday, as it will be again for game 6.


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