To quote Lil Wayne…I feel big.
Finally, the playoffs are coming back to Portland. After five straight seasons of being mathematically eliminated, an x now appears next to Portland in the standings. Never has the appearance of a letter meant so much. There will be no sighing, no coulda/woulda/shouldas. No mock drafting immediately after the season or feeling deflated during the post-season. Why? The post-season is a guarantee and no matter where the Blazers finish will be a special time for Rip City. I say the entire fanbase because fans both young and old can appreciate this. For the older generation, it’s a return to glory. It’s validation for sticking with this franchise. Not a lot of people did this, but I can speak for Coup and myself…this feels great. For the newer fans slash next generation, it’s a chance to experience the playoffs for the first time. It’s a chance to make their own memories like the ones a lot of us hold dear to our heart. I’ve been thinking about how I was going to feel about this ever since Jason Kidd decided to party like it was 1999 on the Suns. It was kind of anti-climatic as we clinched without even being involved. But that didn’t make it any less special. It’s Alanis-type ironic that the team who eliminated us from the playoffs in our last appearance is “responsible” for us clinching. I still have no clue how I feel about all of this. I’ll admit, there were times over the past few years where I wondered if we’d ever get back. Every Zach Randolph jumper, every time Jarrett Jack botched a fast-break or anytime Khryapa, Monia and the gang were on the court. But all of that is in the past where it should be, and this Blazer team has done something very special.
As Coup said in his pre-thoughts, tonight is not the end-all. Home-court is still very much reality as we find ourselves only a 1/2 game behind Houston. It might be concerning that we got dusted again by a playoff contender on the road, but on a day when a playoff birth was clinched that can get lost in the shuffle. Tonight’s game…Houston played their brand of basketball. They were tough and physical. The Rockets rebounded the ball well. Houston did a great job of dictating tonight and that’s a reason why they were able to win. They were just a little bit better every quarter and it just added up. They played a really good first quarter and never looked back. Everytime Portland had a run and cut it to 4 or 5, Houston answered and pushed the lead back up. How many times have we done that to teams at home? It happens. There are a lot of things you can point to why the Blazers lost. Houston shot 51% percent from the field. It’s tough to beat teams in this league giving that kind of percentage up. Let alone, really good home teams like the Rockets. Their bench produced 27 points. Anytime Houston is getting 27 points from Von Wafer, Chuck Hayes and Kyle Lowry, I bet they are happy with the result. No answer for Yao or Scola which are their two big guns. Yao was especially devastating early and changed the whole facet of the game. And the Blazers were jumper happy. You can see why tonight’s result ended up the way it did. The sky is not falling and if we see the Rockets again in the playoffs, things should be different.
On the positive side, LaMarcus continued his strong play. Some will say that he was stifled by Chuck Hayes…but I’m not sure I buy it. He shot 11 free throws and shot just under 50%. Roy has kind of had a weird stretch here where he hasn’t quite been himself. I don’t know if it’s the knee or something but I expect him to shake that off. Not too many nights where he shoots 20 shots but only gets 22 points. The fact that he didn’t get much help surely did not aid his cause. Other than Outlaw, there wasn’t much there. In a game with a good post defender and a great perimeter defender, other guys needed to step up. Roy was going to have a tough match-up against Battier, we all know this. Rudy and Blake had to produce..they didn’t.
We’re still going to playoffs though.
I could hear that all day.