this crucial point in the season, it’s all about taking care of business. How do you take care of business? By winning games silly. The playoffs are guaranteed but in the battle for seeding, if you’re a Western Conference team you have to keep putting W’s on the board. Despite the nature of the game, let us not forgot that Portland put up a W. Portland’s 98-87 victory over Sacramento last night was not pretty, but it was in fact a win. It reminded me of the type of games that Portland would lose a couple years back against the playoff level teams. You know the ones where Portland would hang around, hang around and then watch the other team pull away in the 4th. That is exactly what they did to the Kings last night. It was not the ideal way that Blazer fans probably wanted to win, not exactly the type of win that’s going to boost your confidence in this team, but is a W either way you want to slice it.
One positive you can point to is that Portland found a way to win without having their best stuff on them. Portland survived a particularly awful 2nd quarter where it looked like things were going to be all bad. The Blazers went scoreless for nearly the first four minutes of this quarter. They ended up turning it over 6 times in this quarter (only 11 for the entire night) and shot a miserable 4-for-13 in that 12 minute span. That being said they still managed to pull this one out. They held an opponent to 90 or less points for the 5th time in the last 8 games. The starting lineup continues to do the heavy lifting, scoring 91 of the 98 points on the night. You don’t see this very often, but every starter not named Marcus Camby scored 20+ points. You have to like the chemistry these guys have developed. Nic Batum had 21 which makes Portland 5-0 when he scores 20 points or more. On the other hand…the bench is a mess. And I’m talking Lindsay Lohan level mess here. I’m concerned that our starters had to log such heavy minutes in an April game against the Kings. Last night the second unit contributed 7 points on 3-for-14 shooting. They got outscored 15-7 by Sacramento’s second unit, I kid you not. This has become a full-fledged problem. If you look at the other Western Conference playoff teams, they can all clearly depend on their bench. It’s not good with 5 games left in the season to say that I’m not sure we can depend on ours. Maybe it was the absence of Juwan Howard….wow I can’t believe I just typed that. It just feels like when Martell/Jerryd/Rudy/Dante go out there it’s either a jumper or a turnover. And sure enough to start the second quarter that’s what the Blazers got…jumpers and turnovers. If you remember last year in the playoffs we struggled mightily because we didn’t get much help from the bench. It looks like this trend may be continuing.
One could argue that if the Kings’ super-stud Tyreke Evans didn’t struggle (6 pts, 2/12 shooting) that perhaps the result would have been different. That’s fair. Ditto for the note about the Kings missing free throws. But also, let’s realize that everyone and their mom not named Tyreke Evans went off on Portland. The whole gang performed well in ways I did not think they could. If you had told me before the game Reke was going 2/12 I would have been sure Portland would have won by 20. They didn’t but you see the point I’m trying to make. At the end of the day Portland won, and really that’s all that matters. Take care of the Clippers and then get ready for that key 3-game, playoff preview stretch. That’s when we’ll learn more about this team, not against lottery opponents.