How exactly does one write about an end-of-season game in which one team – the vastly superior one, playing at home no less – desperately wants to win and the other wouldn’t at all mind losing? Around the blogosphere, much has been made of the finer points of tanking during the latest, greatest edition of “Find the NBA loophole and drive a truck through it” into which this season has, for many teams, devolved. More than one observer has made the point that since any individual player always stands to gain by playing his best, the only really effective way to engineer a tank is by fabricating injuries and/or illnesses on the part of long-lost third cousins to keep your best players off the court.

But some players, no matter how hard they may try, just suck at basketball. Here’s where we come to last night’s “contest.” The Blazers, those clever bastards, reminded us in one deft stroke that tanking isn’t always about who you sit out as much as who you sit in. While the balanced Clipper attack featured many fine performances (4 starters with 17 points or over – how many times has that been done this entire season?), no player came up bigger for the Clippers than Luke Schenscher...of the Blazers.

I thus dedicate this post to the analysis of a performance that only Pete Rose (the manager, not the player) could love:

4:00 first quarter – Schenscher lumbers onto the court to applause from, well, no one – not even his college teammate Jarrett Jack.

3:57 – he’s already waving his hands frantically, calling for the ball from 20 feet away, despite not being all that open.

3:42 – after an offensive rebound (not by Schenscher, hold your horses), the aforementioned old buddy Jack takes a contested three with 17 on the clock when Schenscher is now certifiably wide open right in front of him. C’est la vie.

3:31 – off a missed jumper from Mobley, Schenscher marshals all his forces to box out Kaman, who I can only assume is at least somewhat bemused by this fly on his windshield. Again, don’t think I’m implying Schenscher got the rebound, he just did his job not letting his man get it. Nice little game going for Luke, so far.

3:24 – Schenscher sets a candy-ass high screen for Jack, who parlays it into a wild shot in the lane, high off glass, which miraculously drops in. Luke’s gotta be feeling good now.

3:06 – Cassell feeds Kaman deep in the lane, forcing Schenscher to leave his own man, Brand, and come over to help. Kaman throws it off the side of the backboard. Did Schenscher get inside Kaman’s head? I doubt it. I’m not sure Kaman’s inside Kaman’s head.

2:44 – as Brandon Roy misses a three, Brand boxes Schenscher out by tossing him aside like the giant Raggedy Andy doll that he is.

2:31 – Schenscher attempts to tie up Corey, who’s sitting on the ground in the lane, approximately three seconds after Corey’s already gotten the time out whistle. Still no big errors – however, I haven’t exactly noticed him adding much of anything, either.

2:23 – Schenschy loses his man on a switch, so Sam gets it to an unguarded TT, who, as Schenscher tries to recover, playfully chucks up an off-the-mark shot knowing that he gets to take the free throw candy from the Schenscher baby. Finally, a stat, at least, even if it is just a foul. Waiting for the free throw, Luke looks unfazed. I take that back, he does look fazed. Or at least winded. We’re not in Fort Worth anymore, Toto.

2:08 – Outlaw chucks up a brick. Two full minutes of PT, and Schenscher hasn’t so much as touched the ball yet.

2:00 – finally, the Clippers go at Schenscher, getting it to Brand in the lane, but Brand gets either a) blinded by Schenscher’s paleness or b) frustrated by Freddie Jones’s help defense, and he throws it right to Sergio Rodriguez, who’s fouled immediately by Sammy. Luke shows Sergio, an 89% FT shooter, some low-five love after he misses his first. Happy to be here.

1:45 – they attack Schenscher again. Brand spins baseline and shoots a fallaway 12-footer. Good. I’d like to think Schenscher made him work for it, but lets be real, the guy has a 5-inch height advantage on Elton. He ought to be able to make him work harder than that.

1:30 – again, Schenscher sets a weak high screen, this time for Freddie Jones, who also throws up a wild shot in the lane, but this time it doesn’t go in. Schenscher flails at the rebound to no avail.

:04 – Brand rebounds a Blazer miss right in Schenscher’s mug. First quarter stat line for Schenscher: 0 touches, 1 foul, 4 points conceded.

11:50 second quarter – Freddie Jones feeds Schenscher with a slick entry pass, Schenscher throws up a near-wedgeball from 4 feet after nicely pump-faking Kaman off his feet. Kaman boards. Good to get the feel of the ol’ leather, at least. (Looking at the play-by-play, I see that this was actually scored as a block for Kaman. Guess it was an even worse effort than I thought by Schenscher.)

11:27 – Schenschy almost gets a defensive rebound, but Kaman taps it away. May have been scored as a board to Schenschy. We’ll have to see if he got one somewhere else.

11:16 – Schenscher gets whistled for three seconds. Come on, ref, two-and-a-half at worst. No respect.

11:01 – entry pass to Kaman, Schenscher pokes it away but Clippers get it back. Ralph Lawler seems not to notice that Schenscher is even on the court, describing the play as a “terrible pass by Kaman.”

10:55 – Schenscher inbounds the ball flawlessly after a made Clips basket. Just saying.

10:17 – off an errant shot from Sam, Kaman beats Schenscher for a tap-out rebound. Sam misses again, Kaman again outwrestles Schenscher, but this time the ball falls to the Blazers.

9:55 – Schenscher sits after a timeout. Must have been a matchup adjustment by Nate McMillan.

10:36 third quarter – Lawler announces Schenscher’s return to the game by saying, “Here’s good news – Luke Schenscher comes back, for all you Luke Schenscher fans.” Except he pronounces it “Sencher.” À propos of the point of this post, I think we can safely call Ralph Lawler a Luke Sencher fan, at least for the purposes of this game.

10:02 – Schenscher, with inside position, loses a potential offensive rebound to Brand.

9:35 – off the pick and roll, Brand faces up and shoots a 17-footer over Schensch. It’s an absolute brick. All glory to Luke.

9:02 – Kaman tries to back Schenscher down, has it stripped by Jack. Gotta count this one as an unforced error on Kaman, since he has it stripped one out of every three times he gets the ball in the post.

8:32 – Kaman, guarded by Schenscher, is stripped by the help for the second play in a row. Schenscher has hit his stride.

8:20 – Jack to Schenscher down low (finally some Yellowjacket love!). Kamanesque series of useless moves, nothing doing, Schenscher passes back out.

7:38 – Corey fouled by Schenscher. Except the whistle is so late, Schenscher is nowhere near by the time it’s called. But he knows not to complain. He’s not a superstar yet.

6:37 – Schenscher gives EB a hard foul in the lane. Somewhere, John Chaney is smiling.

5:22 – EB gets a step on Schenscher, but doesn’t have a clear shot so he kicks it out to TT for a threeball which doesn’t go. Round to Schenscher.

4:35 – again, Schenscher almost corrals an offensive board.

3:40 – EB faces up Schenscher and sticks it. Round: EB.

3:11 – EB gets fouled on a runout by Outlaw. Schenscher arrives at the scene less than 10 seconds later.

2:17 – Schenscher fouls TT, who, in Luke’s defense, would have had a gimme.

1:48 – EB lays it in over Schenscher. 20 for EB. Pure coincidence that Schenscher has been guarding him much of the game.

1:30 – at the other end, Outlaw is forced to pass to Schenscher when he finds himself in midair with no other options (and it was an exhaustive search – Outlaw has the highest vertical in the NBA, I believe). Schenscher sends a missile directly into the front rim from 3 feet.

1:04 – in the scrum after a missed Brandon Roy layup, the ball caroms right to Schenscher. First rebound in 20 minutes’ work for the 7’ 1” giant from Down Under. He does what anyone who never gets passed to would do: rushes a shot, which goes somewhere near, but not into, the basket. Lawler gem: “I guess Sencher’s not a brilliant finisher.”

:45 – TT sticks a three from the corner with Schenscher flying at him (maybe ambling towards him is more like it).

:00 – Schenscher has played over ten uninterrupted minutes, during which time the Blazers have turned a 15-point deficit into a 22-point deficit.

6:47 fourth quarter – Schenscher, having reentered a minute earlier, rips down his first defensive rebound of the game.

4:16 – EB shoots over Schenscher, no good.

2:53 – Schenscher loses Kaman, who puts in a pretty reverse layup.

:18 – Paul Davis scores right at the rim, directly in Schenscher’s face.

:00 – and there you have it: 24 minutes played, 0-3 from the field, an offensive and a defensive rebound, one turnover and 3 fouls. Not bad. But definitely not good.

The truth is, I feel for the Lukes of the world, whether we’re talking about Schenscher, who’s desperately hoping to make an opening day NBA roster next year, or Jackson, the onetime Clipper who – it will reportedly be announced today – has latched on with the Toronto Raptors for the rest of the season. Because as sweet as it is to watch Cuttino glide effortlessly and throw down a dunk after taking off from 9 feet away – which he did at the end of the third – I can’t relate to that, even metaphorically. I see the world more like a Schenscher, hoping that this time the rebound won’t glance off my fingertips, that this time I’ll hit that tough putback in the lane when the hoop seems as small as a pinhole.