Well played Portland, well played indeed. Of course the Blazers have to know at this point what winning games like Sunday’s means. Of course they know that starting Hasheem Thabeet at center for the injured Joel Przybilla instead of moving LaMarcus Aldridge to center and starting J.J. Hickson at the power forward is probably a much more efficient way to tank. And of course they know that the idea of crawling out of a three-game hole in 13 games is just enough to make every professional basketball fan in Portland have an aneurism.
Whatever. I’m over it (for now). I’m done talking about tanking versus pushing for the Playoffs. I feel like right now that’s been done to death. We all know it’s in the team’s best interest to lose games. We also know the company line for at least the next few weeks is that this team thinks they can still make the Playoffs.
Personally, I know longer care. I’m not going to root for the Blazers to lose. Not now; not ever. And in that spirit, I’m happy to say that Sunday’s win made me very happy. I’m interested in seeing a Portland team play with pride, take care of home court, and not get swept in a season series by the Minnesota Timberwovles. The T-Wolves are one day going to be a contender, assuming that Ricky Rubio returns from ACL surgery without missing much, but right now they’re not. They beat the pants off of Portland twice in less than a week, two wins they earned and most definitely deserved. It’s a testament to the Blazers’ will that they didn’t let Minny get that third straight win.
Portland was all about offense Sunday, which is good, because high-scoring teams draw large crowds and large crowds are good. The Blazers didn’t play a ton of defense, but the best defense is always a good offense. Giving up 106 points is OK as long as you score at least 107.
Sunday Portland’s starters set the pace, a starting lineup, that I might add, will probably start to look pretty familiar come 2012-13. LaMarcus is not a natural five, and J.J. Hickson is even shorter than LA. If it were up to me, I would move Hickson to center and leave LaMarcus at power forward. I think Hickson would do better defensively on the few huge guys in the league (Andrew Bynum, Marc Gasol, and guys like that). There are enough teams that run a three forward front line that having two big but undersized pivot players isn’t terrible if both guys can score like J.J. and LA can. I imagine Hickson stays in the starting lineup, even when Joel comes back.
I don’t really have much more to add, except to say that I agree with Blazer sketch artists par excellence Maddison Bond who had this to say during Sunday’s second half:
I’ve never felt so good about watching the Blazers
It is April Fool’s Day, so there’s always a 50/50 chance he’s making a joke. Even if he is, then I’m the fool who believes him. It has felt good watching these Blazers play. And I bet it feels good for them to beat a team that’s had their number this season, a Wolves team that has basically assumed a role the Blazers owned not that long ago.
There are more big games to come, that’s for sure. Knowledgeable Blazer fans shake their heads and sigh every time Mike Rice mentions the Playoffs, and they’re right to do it. But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if there are games left to be played why shouldn’t Portland play to win?
Now go enjoy season two of Game of Thrones.
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