This is the beginning Trail Blazers fans.
Opening night at the Rose Garden. Wow, what a ride. There is nothing that compares with the first night our Trail Blazers play a season game at home. It's electrifying. From larger than life intros with players entering the court from the stands, to the fall of victory confetti, the feeling of sheer happiness and relief reverberates through the walls. Whew, the season is finally here.
The Rose City opener ended in cheers as our Trail Blazers 18-1 game-ending run led to a 106-92 victory over the Phoenix Suns. The energy level in the Garden was through the roof. The thrill of victory over the Suns, who cut our season short in the first round of the playoffs last year, will not soon be forgotten. Nor will the first impressions made by rookie Armon Johnson.
In just under 10 minutes on the court Johnson had 6 points, 3 assists, and some seriously notable heart. His scrappy play really stirred the pot for the Suns. Did you see Hedo Turkgolu wrap up his arm? I love that Johnson just shrugged it off while veteran Turkgolu got so heated. The boos from the stands directed at Turkgolu were almost as loud as the cheers for Johnson. I don't know about you, but nothing brings me into the game like a well-deserved boo-sesh directed at a Phoenix villain. The energy and class that Johnson brought to the floor had the Rose Garden crowd on their feet and carried the Blazers to the final buzzer. Nate had some great things to say about Johnson and the run of the second unit. "I thought our second unit got scrappy. Wesley and Rudy and Armon- both times we put that group in, they got after the ball defensively which created some offense." Defense producing offense, it doesn't get any better than that. I'm willing to bet that Portland fans are feeling quite a bit more comfortable with Johnson as the back-up PG following last night's performance. While Johnson's vibe certainly invigorated the crowd, the play of Nicolas Batum to end the game added to the hype as well. Batum ended with 11 points and was 3-for-3 from downtown, with every single shot bringing the Rose Garden crowd to their feet. We're suckers for the three, it's true. Late in the fourth, every ball released from behind the arc was preceded by the crowd leaping to their feet with three fingers held high and followed by monstrous cheers or oh's. Just thinking about that makes me smile. Check out all the highlights of the opener here.
The end of last night's game and the electricity and fan buzz in the concourse reminded me why I love being a Blazers fan. The high of a victory, the random high-fives exchanged between strangers who happen to be wearing the same jerseys, and the overall camaraderie found in a love for our Portland Trail Blazers makes the Rose Garden a special place. And on Opening Night, after pining away for basketball all summer, the taste of victory is that much sweeter.
How do you feel about Opening Night? What keeps you coming back to the Rose Garden? Armon Johnson is going to rock, am I right?