Make no mistake about it, the Blazers are the reason they lost last night’s game to Dallas. Not the referees. That may not be the popular sentiment but it is true. Were the refs anywhere near great? No. But, Portland still had enough control of this game to the point that they could have overcome all of that. In basketball, you can’t control whether or not the refs are great, you’re not always going to make every shot or get every stop. However you can always control your heart, your will and your composure. And down the stretch the Blazers lost their composure and ended up losing the game. The determination to win wasn’t there, replaced almost by a ‘we’re the victim’ type vibe at times. The focus was not on executing and winning and I don’t know if that can be argued.
The reason why I don’t blame the refs is because Portland had their chances to win this game. Rewind back to 5:46 left in the game or as I like to call it ‘before hell broke loose in the RG’. Brandon Roy is at the line and the Blazers are down 67-65. Two free throws tie it but Roy gets one out of two. Dallas comes back down and LaMarcus forces Dirk into a tough and contested jumper late in the shot clock. There is the stop…oh wait Portland didn’t finish it. Brendan Haywood misses a tip, gets another chance at the offensive board. Caron Butler gets said rebound and nails a jumper. 69-66. Fast forward to the same score and Andre Miller’s layup that could have been called an and-one…but was not. 69-68 until Miller gets whistled for a T. 70-68 Dallas with 4:16 left, all Portland needs is a stop. LMA contests another Dirk jumper, he misses…Brendan Haywood beasts Camby and gets the board and gets fouled. 71-68. Then all hell broke loose, B Roy’s turnover led to Nate’s technical. 72-68. Then Caron Butler hits an open jumper, Terry baits Batum into that call, the RG and Blazers are rattled and Dirk ices it with a three pointer. And those Butler and Dirk buckets weren’t off fouls but off no rotation. That quick it went to a 77-68 game. Can you give up second shots in the post season and hope to win? No.
And that’s why I can’t blame the refs for the loss because Portland was right there. Camby gets one of those boards we might be talking about a completely different story. This was a playoff type game, a grind-it-out slugfest that was far from pretty but the type of game Portland needed before the real show. In such a low scoring game like last night’s, every possession counts…just like in the playoffs. It’s even way more important when you factor in how poorly the Blazers were shooting. Before you blame the refs, look back to Portland’s 4th quarter. Bayless’ turnover with Portland up 61-59 or Juwan Howard’s turnover up 65-64. At the end of the day those TO’s add up.
Looking past the execution problems and all that, simply put Portland didn’t shoot the ball well at all. It’s tough for Portland to win games when Brandon Roy is 4/14, Andre Miller shoots 2/12 and Batum shoots 3/9. Even LaMarcus shot 9/20 and those four have been carrying the load offensively for a while now. Combo that with Dirk getting to the line 17 times and you can see how tough it would be to get a W. Speaking of Dirk, he was the big difference in this one. A couple weeks back in an L he was held to 13. In this W he dropped 40.
Dallas showed us all exactly what to expect in the playoffs. It was a tough reminder reminiscent to last year’s series against Houston. Teams clearly are not going to let #7 score. Guys are going to have to score, this is exactly why we got Andre Miller. He just happened to have an off night as did the majority of the Blazers offensively. I think this team is better built for the playoffs. One, because of Miller’s ability to make plays. Two, because they have already been through this experience. Bayless and Rudy showed signs of life off the bench so that’s another positive. I could understand why people might be a bit hesitant about playing Dallas now. I’m not. I want their blood, I wish Vince McMahon was running the NBA so we would for sure face off with them (you gotta admit Dirk plays a great heel). The loss is not the end of the world. Portland has shown the ability to execute in late game situations against playoff teams. It’s just not easy to sweep a 50-win team, particularly one you’ve needed excellent defensive efforts or 52 points from Andre Miller to beat..