When I sit down to write these previews, I do my best to look at Portland’s opponent, decide what their strengths are, what weaknesses the Blazers can exploit, things of that nature, in an effort to put together a reasoned, admittedly biased, prediction of the game at hand.
I’m leading off this preview in this way to say that reason is probably not something Blazer fans need to spend too much energy on at the present moment.
If I can draw a metaphor for the Trail Blazers right now, it would be to compare them to a poker player on tilt. For those of you non-poker players out there, tilt is the period of time following a bad beat when a player goes absolutely balls out trying to recover from said bad beat. Often tilt ends up in a player busting out. Very very infrequently does tilt result in a player hitting a big hand and getting back into the game. Tilt is not a place anybody ever wants to be.
Portland changes their lineup again. They start talking about pride. They start second guessing themselves. They start trying to change everything at once. In this situation the likelihood that something terrible is going to happen–another 30-point deficit less than 20 minutes into a game or another quarter where the first bucket and the third bucket are 11 minutes apart–increases exponentially.
I’ve excluded the traditional heading for this preview (the game is at 7 PM and is being broadcast on Comcast, the Spurs are tops in their division) for symbolic purposes. This game is not about records or starting lineups. This game is about Portland deciding that they value this season. That they want to participate or even compete. That they realize that in this league nothing is given, everything is earned. This is not a bad team, far from it. But February has been a bad month. It doesn’t have to be the end though.
The best way for a poker player to come off tilt is to take a deep breath, stand up from the table (if that’s allowed), and muck a few hands regardless of what they are. Of course my extended metaphor peters out when it gets to this point. The Blazers aren’t going to walk away from the table, not when there are still 33 hands left to be play (OK, I’ll stop now). But they can take a deep breath, find a big enough mirror so they can look at themselves as a group, and decide to play hard, cohesive, and winning basketball: Blazer basketball.
This is the final game before an eight-day break. There is no reason that every single guy playing for Portland shouldn’t give every last ounce of effort they have. The home crowd is going to want to see it, that’s for sure. Teams around the league need to see it too. A national TV audience saw Kobe Bryant jawing with Reggie Miller while he was playing, that’s how badly his Lakers were whipping the Blazers. He didn’t even have to pay attention. Something like that doesn’t go unnoticed.
The Blazers should be embarrassed. But they should also be empowered. One game, good or bad, doesn’t make a season. But one good game, one convincing win against a good team, will do wonders for this team.
There are no individual elements or players to watch for in this one. Pay attention to the whole thing, from every loose ball, to every lay-up. That’s what the Blazers are going to have to do.
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