PORTLAND — For more than three quarters, the normally raucous Rose Garden crowd sounded like its cheers had a muffler.
Those triple-digit decibel cheers were absent, that raw emotion was on hiatus.
Then the jumbotron showed Man vs. Food host Adam Richman, which elicited the loudest roar of the night. At that point, it was as if the Blazers thought “are we really less exciting than a dude from the Food Network?”
What ensued was the most thrilling back-and-forth basketball the building had seen in weeks. To the point that, during Portland’s 118-110 win over the Warriors — fans seemed to forget that the game didn’t matter.
“(Blazers acting general manager) Chad Buchanan came in and told us to keep having fun like that,” said Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who scored 14 points and knocked down 4 of his 9 3-point attempts Wednesday. “That will be good for us.”
But Batum wondered before the game if taking the court would be good for him. The Frenchman sat out Monday night due to left quadriceps tendinitis and was listed as a game-time decision during morning shootaround. And even though he felt playing might present a health risk, he felt obligated to activate himself since LaMarcus Aldridge sat out.
Yes, the All-Star center was absent from the Rose Garden due to the recent discovery of an “abnormality” in his right hip, which has perturbed him throughout the year. However, that did no’t matter from either an entertainment or efficiency standpoint Wednesday — as Portland fell just one point short of its season-high point total.
Five different Blazers scored in double figures, including Jamal Crawford, who tallied a season-high 34 points. But more importantly for the fans, there was an eight-minute stretch in the fourth quarter during which 44 points were scored between both teams while neither led by more than four.
The Blazers (28-31) led 85-81 early in the final period and 109-107 with 54 seconds to go. That was when Wesley Matthews knocked down a 17-foot jump shot and a 24-foot 3-pointer on back-to-back possessions to put away the game.
J.J. Hickson added 23 points and 13 rebounds for Portland, which sits in 11th place in the Western Conference and trails Denver by 4 1/2 games with seven to go.
“We prepare for every game the same way,” Hickson said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time, but hopefully some of these teams in front of us slip up.”
Crawford hit all 13 of his free throws to put the pressure on New Jersey’s Anthony Morrow for the free-throw shooting title. He also busted out of a shooting slump that has plagued him since late March.
The shooting guard hit 10 of his 18 field-goal attempts Wednesday and got most of his open looks via his world-class crossover.
As Crawford said after the game, “Not trying to sound cocky, but I have one of the best handles in the NBA.”
Raymond Felton, meanwhile, had 16 points and 10 assists while hitting the coveted “Chalupa” shot (putting the Blazers over the 100 point mark) — thus redeeming himself after missing two free throws in the final seconds against New Orleans last month, which cost the fans the Taco Bell item.
Said the point guard after the game: “There you go, fans. I made up for it.”
David Lee led the Warriors (22-35) with 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org