Nov 11, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter of the game against the Detroit Pistons at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes - USA TODAY Sports

Just How Good Are The Trail Blazers?

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Just how good are the Trail Blazers? This is the million dollar question these days in Portland, and one without an easy answer. A 10-2 record 12 games into the season is something that can’t be overlooked. Winning an NBA game is hard. The league is a conglomerate of the top basketball talent in the world. To think that a team will be able to walk into any arena and easily leave with a win ignores this fact. Grinding out a 48 minute victory in 10 out of 12 attempts is something any team should be proud of.

With that out of the way, there are a multitude of reasons to slam on the breaks for a premature championship parade. While it in no way diminishes the team’s accomplishments, it’s true that the Blazers have had an easy schedule up to this point. As of writing, their strength of schedule only ranks a paltry 24th in the NBA. Of the Blazers’ ten wins, nine have come against teams with a losing record. The two teams that have beaten the Blazers have a combined record of 13-11. Their opponents’ combined record as of writing is 0.436.

I could go on – beating the Raptors required overtime. The Nets were missing two all-star starters. The lone win against Phoenix required them missing three point-blank shots in the final five seconds. Against the Pistons they squandered a late fourth quarter lead. The chinks in the armor are there if you want to seek them out [1], but, here is the bottom line:

The Trail Blazers are winning games that they should be winning.

That’s it. That’s what to think so far. And this is absolutely FANTASTIC for the Trail Blazers. More likely than not, when everything evens out in the absolutely loaded Western Conference, the Blazers will be scrapping for a final playoff spot (just a fact of life in the West). This means that every single win the Blazers can accrue now, at the beginning of the season, will pay unbelievable dividends for the team at the end of the season.

That Toronto overtime game? That first quarter blitzing by the Nets (both of which came in the middle of an East Coast road trip)? Those are the types of games that the Blazers could have simply folded during. But, those are exactly the types of games that the Trail Blazers HAVE win in order to be in position for a playoff spot at the end of the season. A record of 10-2 is pretty to stare at, but right now it is meaningless. Sure, it’s much better than being 2-10 or 6-6, but a team’s record means something on exactly one day of the season, and one day only: the last day.

If the Trail Blazers have enough wins on that day to make the playoffs(and I hope they do), they can look back on this hot start as a huge part of the reason why. This team not only expects to win the games they “should,” but it is going out and doing it. This attitude is worth more than any number in the wins column right now.

A true competitor will tell you that losing hurts ten times worse than winning feels good. A competitor always, ALWAYS, expects to win. Thus, when they win, it’s nothing special – all is right with the world and life goes on. This is the attitude that I think the Blazers are starting to embrace: go in, take care of business, and don’t be caught up in the immediate moment. There will be hiccups this season, mark my words, but this expectation of winning will make it all the easier for the Trail Blazers to pull themselves out of the inevitable slumps.

When it’s all said and done, if the Trail Blazers keep on playing like they are right now, winning the games they should, they will make the playoffs. THAT is what Blazers fans should be excited about.

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 [1] But Jason, you say, what about that glorious ten-point Spurs win? We’re the only ones who have beaten the mighty Spurs! First off, that was a seven point win thanks to Nicolas Batum’s meaningless chuck at the end of the game. Secondly, it may not be a popular opinion, but the refs were rather friendly towards the Blazers that game, especially at the end. The Spurs were called for seven fouls in the fourth to the Blazers’ one. The Blazers shot over double the amount of free throws, 19-8. Throughout the whole game, the Spurs were whistled for a whopping 66% more fouls than the Blazers, 25-15. But still, a victory is a victory, especially against the top team in the league right now.

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