On Saturday, while watching a less than impressive victory over the undermanned Sacramento squad, I was entertained by a closely fought game which added to an impressive record for March and the start of April. This win did nothing, however, to allay my developing concerns about the Blazers ability to get out of the first round. I’m seeing a team that struggles at times with teams far less talented than themselves, but even more troubling is their demeanor in games versus teams that the could likely face in te first round of the playoffs. With the exception of Dallas (please, please) I see in the Blazers a group of core players who are easily robbed of the belief that they can win. The first sign of adversity against Denver and Utah seems to prompt an attitude change that is palpable. A bad call, a couple of turnovers, several missed shots, and the air seems to go out of our team and they are put on their heels, resorting to a one on one, stand around and watch, no belief in each other style of play that takes them deep into every shot clock and resulting in hurried, hand in the face jump shots bouncing off the rims and igniting an opponents fast break. When things get tough, it looks like they don’t believe that they can win. If they don’t think that they can win, how are we supposed to believe?
Utah has spanked Portland each time they have met this year, including that last debacle which proved that not even a 25 point lead is like smoke in the wind if the other team gets on a roll.
Portland broke through in Phoenix this year, but so far have yet t back that up as a turning point. More like even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
Even Dallas will not roll over for us in the playoffs. It’s not as though Portland has really put the fear into them going into the second season. Does anybody tink that Dirk and company won’t be ready to step it up a notch for the playoffs?
And the Lakers. Regardless of the regular season record which shows that LA has trouble winning in Portland, and the talk that Portland matches up as well as anyone with the Lakers. I do think that Portland has as good a chance as anyone to beat the Lakers this year: slim to none. If Kevin Pritchard’s job depends on the Blazers getting out of the first round this year, pray that we don’t play the Lakers. If we get that matchup, we may as well start the farewell party the day the regular season ends. It is simple economics, along with the fact that the Lakers, despite the recent swoon, are still the defending champions and have added a few key components specifically targeted toward the intensity and physicality of the playoffs. Not to mention that they have the coldest blooded assassin in the history of the NBA.
And they beat Portland the last time that they played, without Kobe, in Portland. Does anyone really think that they won’t be more deadly with Kobe in full playoff mode? I’m not a Kobe fan, but is there anyone that you would choose over him for a game-winning shot? I though not.
On top of what LA brings to the table in the playoffs, the NBA, according to them, are bleeding money, looking at a real possibility of a work stoppage next year, and fighting through our worst recession since the eighties. They are looking for a bg payday, and that probably means an LA- Cleveland matchup in a six or seven game championship matchup. Anyone across the court from those two teams is just sacrificial meat. If you think Brian Wheeler howls about calls now, wait until we play the Lakers five on eight.
Our best scenario for this year would be to get Dallas in the first round, avoid the Lakers until the WC finals and hope that Phoenix or OKC can handle the Jazz for us. If not, we could be looking at a new general manager, a coach on the hot seat, a couple of knee-jerk trades, and a deterioration on the character of the team as Vulcan leans farther into the ear of Paul Allen and once again our team will be run by the non basketball geeks who carried us down before.
A far the promise this team displayed leading up to the start of this season
I love the Blazers. I hope I’m wrong. What do you think?