How do you feel about moral victories? Personally, I prefer real victories. They go in the win column. Moral victories might make you feel better about a loss, but it’s still a loss. I bring up the topic of moral victory, obviously, because Saturday night was a tough loss, but it’s the kind of loss that might actually lead to something positive at some later date. Portland should have lost this game a bunch of times, and they only did lose it after making a pretty nice little comeback and taking it to two overtimes.
It was bad in the first half, when the Blazers couldn’t score or play defense. It should have been over in the third quarter when Portland could score and play a little defense, but couldn’t get any closer than 10. And it really should have been over in regulation when the Blazers got stops and buckets, but not enough of them or in the right order to come all the way back. That it took the defending NBA Champs, who have rolled through the Northwest Division in the last three weeks, not one but two extra periods to finish a game that they led by double digits most of the way has to be worth something to Portland. It’s not a win, but for what it’s worth it could have been a lot worse.
What’s going to kill these guys, and what killed Blazer fans whilst watching this game, is the undeniable fact that Portland could have won this one. They led in the first overtime by four, but they couldn’t finish it off. They answered a couple of times in the second overtime, but missed key looks that could have given them a lead. All night nobody but LaMarcus Aldridge could hit the anything from anywhere. This game wasn’t exactly there for the taking, and it wasn’t really one Portland gave away. But it was one that the Blazers had chances to win, and they didn’t.
So what is Portland to do now? This team has shown that they can play poorly and lose by one basket to a pretty good team in their arena. But that’s not quite good enough. And that’s the problem with moral victories. They can make you forget about what went wrong, or that there are problems that need to be addressed.
Right now, Portland’s biggest problem is guard play. Ben from Blazersedge has the definitive tweet to show just how badly the Blazers’ guards shot Saturday night. I’m not going to put up the numbers because I don’t want to see them again, but check the box score. It was bad. Portland needs to find a fix for this. Does that mean putting Raymond Felton on the bench and starting Jamal Crawford? Or maybe building a package to try and get Steve Nash (only in a fantasy world) or another, more consistent point guard? How about building a time machine, going back draft day and not trading Andre Miller? There’s a possibility coach Nate McMillan switches the starting lineup, although he seems to only do that kind of thing when injuries are involved, but there’s a pretty good chance that won’t make much of a difference.
What the Blazers really need is a couple of good games from the guards they already have. I personally believe that when it comes to players at the NBA level, the difference between winning and losing, playing well and playing poorly, is mental. And a big part, maybe the biggest part, of that mental game is confidence. Players that exude confidence at all times play better than those that don’t. Players that lose confidence in their ability to make plays, hit shots, whatever it is they do so well on the basketball court that they get paid for it, can find themselves in sink holes that take years to climb out of.
Raymond Felton might be in one of those holes. Wesley Matthews too. What they both need, Felton more than anybody, is a good game. Not a good stretch or a good play–Saturday Felton hit a game-tying three late in the fourth quarter after not having a very good evening–but a full 48 minutes where their shots go in, their passes are crisp, they don’t turn it over, and they don’t make terrible crunch time decisions. The problem with this season is that there just aren’t enough games and there isn’t enough practice time to make the kind of adjustments that can lead to a guy having a slump-breaking kind of night. That’s why, if Portland can’t turn it around on the road or in close games before the end of February, a move might be the only answer. Missing the Playoffs isn’t an option with this team.
The Blazers will be back in Portland for a Valentine’s Day match-up with the Washington Wizards. No better way to get over a heart breaker than facing the worst team in the league on your home floor.
Couple of quick things:
- Portland took their first lead of the night to start the first overtime. This means a couple things. First, the Blazers didn’t get into this game until way late. Second, they didn’t give up. Third, 12 hard minutes in the first half and we’d be talking about Portland’s big win in the Big D.
- LaMarcus Aldridge had another All-Star night: 14-of-26 from the field 5-of-5 from the line 33 points. LA also played 52 minutes. Good thing the Blazers have a couple of days off coming.
- Minutes watch: 16:02 for Marcus Camby. Marcus left the game after have Lamar Odom fall on him in the first half. Cam should be fine to go when Portland returns home, but it would have been nice to have him in for Saturday’s second overtime. He might have been able to keep Brandon Haywood from tipping in a go-ahead lay-up in the game’s 58th minute of play
- Standings Watch: Portland starts the game at the six spot, loses and falls to the eighth.
- The Jeremy Lin saga continues. Maybe, if the Knicks have found their point guard, Steve Nash might be available for the right group of Blazer players.
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