Perspective. That’s the name of the game these days, as we try to come to grips with the fact that our precious Portland Trail Blazers are out of the playoffs. While it’s easy to give in to frustration at the team’s poor showing against San Antonio, the season as a whole needs to be considered.
The 22-4 start at the beginning of the year was downright magical. I’m not sure I have ever had as much fun watching the Blazers as during that stretch. An 11 game win streak is pretty rare in today’s NBA, yet the Blazers delivered it. Not only did the team make the playoffs, but they did it as a fifth seed in one of the all-time loaded conferences. They made a 21-win improvement and had two All-Star selections.
The accolades can go on, and rightfully so. It was a memorable season, and Damian Lillard’s shot against Houston (which I have already heard referred to as the “point nine shot”) is one of my fondest Blazer memories. For the rest of my life I will remember where I was when I watched that shot. That euphoria won’t be fading for a while.
And ultimately, the one shot is a great anchor with which to keep a grip on perspective. Let’s face the reality – out of 30 teams in the NBA, a grand total of one will win the championship. If you pin your hopes and dreams on your team getting a ring, and consider anything else a failure, you’re going to have a bad time.
That’s asinine actually – “rings or nothing” is a terrible attitude to have, and would destroy the NBA watching experience. So here I am, sitting and typing a few days after the season has ended, trying to figure out if I’m “happy” or “satisfied” with the season as a whole. Really, losing sucks, but the clear answer is yes, I am. This team provided great memories (the aforementioned Lillard shot will be one for the ages), and ultimately did as much (more in fact) as could be expected of them.
But, and there is always a but, I can’t help but be disappointed by the Blazers’ performance against the Spurs. Holistically, yes, the season has to be considered a success, but I’m still quite sour about that series. Are the Spurs the better team? Certainly. Were they four blowout victories in five games better than the Blazers? Not at all. Not by a long shot.
Anyone who watched the beginning of the season saw just how good this Blazers team could be. That team is not what we saw at the end of the year, and especially against the Spurs. As for what caused this, we’ll probably never know – injuries, fatigue, improved scouting by opponents, etc. could have all contributed.
It isfrustrating to watch your favorite time go down with a whimper. If they play their hearts out and leave everything on the court, and still lose, that’s one thing, but this performance against the Spurs was on the other end of the spectrum. Now, I doubt fans of any losing team will say “Our team played its best and still lost,” but there is definitely a point where you can say, “I couldn’t have asked anything more from my team.”
And the Blazers did not reach this point against the Spurs. Far from it. This series was only a small part of the entire season, but let’s be honest, the real reason you play the regular season is for the playoffs. This is what the entire season led to. To then watch the Blazers get so thoroughly demolished left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Even if they played their best, would the Blazers still have lost? Most likely. There is still a huge difference, though, between going out in a burst of pride and passion, heads held high, versus slowly fading into the sunset as Kawhi Leonard steal after Kawhi Leonard steal off of sloppy passes signaled the end.
So while it was a generally successful season, I don’t want complacency and satisfaction to cloud what happened. The Blazers got utterly dismantled against the Spurs, to a shocking extent that simply shouldn’t have happened. There’s no denying this, but it seems to have been largely ignored these past few days. What’s done is done, but let’s hope this team carries the trouncing with them as motivation for a long time to come.