That was an outstanding loss for Portland.
— Sean Highkin (@shighkinNBA) March 7, 2013
We’ve made it, you guys. We’ve reached the point in the Blazer season when it’s time to start talking about productive losses and how they are more important than morale boosting wins or blowouts of inferior opponents.
I won’t go searching for the articles written in seasons past that highlight how important it is for a bad Blazer team to lose without letting down the fan base, suffice it to say, winning right now is not important, but getting blown out all the time by good teams can be harmful to the brand.
Staying competitive is important for the image of the Blazers, but winning and thus losing the team’s draft pick for next season can seriously handicap Portland’s future (especially if the Blazers get super lucky and pull a very high draft pick). By that logic, playing well and then ultimately losing to the Memphis Grizzlies is about as good as it gets right now for the Blazers.
Tanking is something that gets brought up at this point in every NBA season. Teams have to decide whether or not to continue to try for wins or to shut down their best players in an all out war for the number one pick in the draft. Portland doesn’t really meet the criteria of most lottery teams. Yes they are 10th in the West, nearly 11th, and likely to have their first round selection. That being said, there is still time for the Blazers to continue their downward trajectory in the conference.
Though I don’t really think that teams intentionally try to lose games, there are things that can be done to ensure, or at least promote, negative outcomes. The main thing Portland can do to try to lose games is play their rookies. Wednesday night, the Blazers’ rotation was no different than it has been at any point in 2012-13, an indication that this team is still trying to win games. Turns out, the type of defense played by the Memphis Grizzlies is enough to combat any and all heroic efforts put out by Portland.
Memphis held the Blazers to 35 second half points, and in the process erased a 12-point deficit. Getting down early and coming back to win against a sub .500 team at home is what playoff teams do. Coming out strong then fading down the stretch is something a non playoff team does. Essentially, Wednesday night went down exactly as it was supposed to.
This is what late-season NBA is all about. The Grizzlies are firmly in the playoffs, but with only a game and a half advantage over the Nuggets, Memphis needs to keep winning to avoid having to travel to Denver to start the first round of the playoffs.
That Portland didn’t get blown out in a very tough arena by a very solid team is a testament to how well this Blazer team can actually play. That Portland played well, got good contributions from a lot of players, and still lost is why Wednesday was such a good loss for the Blazers.
When Portland gets back to the Rose Garden next week to face a tough three-game slate, there will be fans in the seats. This team continues to give reasons to tune in and pay attention. They also continue to stay right on track to keep their pick. A good draft pick, a free agent signing or two, and in 2013-14, the Blazers will be the playoff team that toys with a sub .500 team in the first week of March.
If Portland had been able to hold on to their double digit first half lead on Wednesday, or if they had been able to adjust offensively to the adjustments Memphis made on defense, there’s a possibility (however slim because there are still 22 games left and one game isn’t really make or break at this point) the Blazers lose their draft pick. Or at least continue to believe that the playoffs are in play.
As long as the playoffs are the goal, Portland is in danger of damaging their future. We can be thankful that teams like Memphis can keep the Blazers on track for next year.
Portland travels to San Antonio to face the Spurs, the team with the best record in the NBA.
Couple of quick things:
- Eric Maynor had another strong evening. He collected 12 points, four rebounds, and four assists in 25 plus minutes. Remember, 25 minutes was what I said Maynor was going to average for this season as a Blazer. The more minutes he plays, the better. And in his extended minutes, he seems to be getting into the flow of Portland’s offense. Maynor was a great pick-up. Now all we have to worry about is his playing too well and getting a toxic offer from another team that could hurt the Blazers’ ability to sign free agents.
- Along with Eric Maynor, Victor Claver and Meyers Leonard have continued to play pretty well. That threesome is starting to look like Portland’s bench of the future. It still needs work, mostly because guys like Will Barton and Joel Freeland need to figure out a way to get involved, but if after Portland finishes its last 22 games they have a better handle on who is going to take some of the minutes load off the starters, I would say the season is a success overall.