How far do you think the Blazers can go? I think that, given the right circumstances, they could actually play in the western conference finals. A month ago I wouldn’t have been so confident, but they have jelled in a big way over the last few weeks of the season, ending up in a far better position than anyone reasonably expected.
It is a great feeling to have our team back, a team that we can feel good about supporting. Kudos to K.P. For bringing in the right people, even though the moves were forced upon him by circumstance. I don’t think that anyone can fault the overall performance this year of either Pritchart or McMillan. They have taken the adversity that might have stopped a lessor team and turned the misfortune into opportunity, and the group of players that they have assembled proved themselves to be up to the challenge, both physically, and mentally. Gut-check time came early and often to the Blazers this year and they met the challenge to a man. Even our coach played hurt!
I hear a lot of naysayers lamenting that the Suns are playing perhaps their best basketball of the season. That their uptempo play will give the Blazers match-up problems. That Stoudamire is playing his best basketball since his injury.
The Blazers have a pretty good record over the last month, and they are just beginning to see what they are capable of. They are on the rise and just keep getting better, and now they have seven games to slow the suns down and disrupt their fast-paced game. It has served the Blazers well to play ugly lately, and if you haven’t noticed, ugly is kind of pretty when it is done right. When the Blazers do it. When they make supposedly better teams play their game, they are winning.
It looks like Martel is getting his stroke back, and he has been supplementing his spotty offense with some pretty heady defense on some of the biggest stars in the league. It looks like Rudy is getting more comfortable again, and Nicolas is ready to show what he can do on the big stage. He seems close to being ready to play Robin to Roy’s Batman.
And Aldridge has been showing us what we’ve been crying for, more and tougher inside play to complement his sweet fade-away. He has become that 20/10 guy that we knew he was. The great thing is, he still isn’t forcing anything; it seems to be a natural growth process borne of the extreme necessity that has been thrust upon the team this season. (Having a pair of mentors like Howard and Camby hasn’t hurt his game any, either.)
Thank goodness Turkaglu and Milsap turned us down. Andre Miller turned out to be just what we needed, whether or not we were enlightened enough to realize it. The guy has simply done whatever the team needed of him in any situation and, along with Juwann Howard and Marcus Camby, has become in essence another coach on the floor, as well as a steadying influence when things go sideways in the game.
I don’t know just how far they will go in the playoffs, but I like their chances to see the second round, and Portland has won the season series from every team that they might face before the conference finals. From that point, anything can happen.
A good long run would solve a lot of the worries about unwanted change during the off-season and allow the team and it’s fans to focus on a constructive summer and the continuing rebirth of our proud franchise from the purgatory of the pre-Roy years.
Rip City! Beat Phoenix!!