Blazers Shot Down at the Buzzer
By mikebarrett Posted in: Wizards
When you're riding a winning streak in the NBA at times it seems you can do no wrong. You get strange bounces, calls go your way, and you come to expect clutch shot attempts to fall. When you're suffering through a losing skid, even the routine turns into a struggle, and nothing ever seems to come easy. You no longer seem to get the breaks, or the shots to drop, and it can almost feel like fate conspires to keep you in a downward tumble.
For the Trail Blazers right now, what started out as a small ding in their confidence has grown into a major dent. The losing streak has reached six, and even though some of his can be explained away, much of it can't. Is it really just as easy as saying the law of averages has caught up with this team? Or, are they just simply missing on opportunities that they were cashing in on seemingly just days ago?
After putting together a 9-4 December, the Blazers started the month of January 5-1, and were starting to become the talk of the Western Conference. They were surprising all of the experts and saw their record improve to 20-15. Now, at the midway point of the season, they are 20-21, and are about to hit a brutal stretch of the schedule.
It's time to employ a little perspective. I realize that it's almost unconventional-type thinking to bring up such a foreign word in today's cynical world. It is an undeniable fact that not many people expected Portland to have 20 wins at the halfway point. But, I also realize that expectations change on a daily basis in this league, and while 20 wins after 41 games at one time sounded pretty good, it now seems painful.
Not that long ago this team was simply finding a way to win close games. Now, they're suffering through a period where they're discovering new ways to lose.
Credit where credit is due, firstly. Washington has won five of their last seven. During that stretch they've beaten Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Orlando, won at Denver, and have now won in Portland. They lost at Sacramento in the closing seconds, and took the Clippers to the wire in L.A. for their two losses during this stretch, otherwise we're talking about one of the more impressive runs in the NBA this season.
That doesn't make Monday night's loss feel any better, nor does it make the fact that of Washington's two of their nine wins have come over the Blazers.
In this game it was Jordan Crawford who painfully ripped out the hearts of the Trail Blazers, at the buzzer, hitting a 28-foot shot for the win. Crawford ended with 13 points, all in the second half, and his last three send the Wizards dancing off the floor in Portland.
The Blazers led this game by one point at halftime, and despite holding Washington to 6 for 21 shooting in the third quarter, the Blazers could never gain control of the game. After all, Portland shot just 4 for 20 in that third quarter. In the fourth, the offense returned for the Blazers, as they shot 12 for 16, and put together a 31-point final quarter. It's amazing that despite that, we're talking about a loss.
The loss also ruined a terrific second half for Damian Lillard, who scored 16 in the final two quarters, and spoiled Nic Batum's, first-career triple-double. He scored 12 points, dished out 11 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Even after the Trail Blazers suffered back-to-back turnovers with just over a minute left, Wesley Matthews knotted the game at 95, with a huge three pointer. But, Washington then put the ball in Crawford's hands, and he did what Portland has done so many times this season- he hit a huge shot. It was a low-percentage shot, but these things happen when you're struggling.
Yes, it was yet another close game. Make it 10-straight games decided by 6 points or fewer. Most of those were one-possession games in the closing seconds. Now 26 of Portland's 41 games have been decided by 8 points or fewer. I don't remember a season as long as I've been either working for the Blazers, or covering the team (and this goes back to 1992) that there's been a stretch like this. The once-sterling record of 11-2 in games decided by 6 or less, is now 11-11.
Sometimes simple things win you games, and simple things lose you games. How's that for a foggy and vague explanation? Sadly, that's all I have.
As I mentioned above, the Trail Blazers are 20-21, and we're only halfway through the season. There is some promise in the fact that this team is fighting to the finish in every single game, and has put itself in a position to win, time and time again. Yeah, that probably doesn't feel good at this point either. But, I didn't have this team down for 20 wins in the first 41, and neither did you.
It only gets more difficult now, as the Indiana Pacers, the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, comes to town on Wednesday.
I bet it'll be a close game.