Blazers Hang On, Then Exhale
Losing streaks are odd. They are certainly no fun. The most damaging thing about them is that they erode confidence, and they chip away at your belief. I know that's not exactly profound. But, we just witnessed a perfect example of what can happen when your foundation has been rattled by a losing skid. You start not only fearing the worst, but expecting the worst.
The Trail Blazers lead the all-time series with the L.A. Clippers 134-60. They lead the series in Portland 80-16. So, you would think that a 22-point halftime lead, at home, would feel routine and expected. But, because of what has happened lately, and the pattern that has been established, this just meant that Portland would potentially have to deal with an even more
devistating loss if they happened to suffer another third-quarter drought.
Jeez.. that's an awful way to think, I know. But, streaks do that to you.
Fortunately, in this case, our worst fears were only almost
realized. Hardly a confidence-building attitude, but hey, that's a step in the right direction.
Early in this game everything came so easy, and the Portland offense was rolling. They were hitting outside shots, were getting into the open court and getting easy buckets, and were dominating the Clippers on the backboards. Portland shot 56% in the first quarter and led 30-15.
iIn the second quarter it was more of the same, as Portland outscored the Clippers 29-22, and carried a very nice 22-point lead to the locker room. Then came (cue the dramatic music, like when the killer steps into the room) the third quarter (cue the loud woman's scream).
The dreaded third quarter. I know the Trail Blazers were outscored 23-10 in the third quarter at Washington on Friday night and blew a 12-point lead, but again? Yep. Only this time it wasn't quite as bad- only because the Clippers didn't take what was handed to them. The Blazers shot 5 for 22 in the third (that's 23 percent), and kicked the door wide open. But, the Clippers were only able to cut 10 points off Portland's halftime lead.
The fourth quarter, which was supposed to be fun time, was nail-biting time, as the Trail Blazers saw their lead cut to just three measily points on several occasions. But, the Clippers couldn't hit free throws, and the Blazers made just enough plays to survive and win the game. Remember, the Blazers led 94-91 with just over a mintue left, and then scored the final six points to win it 100-91.
Now then, a win is a win is a win. But, when you're struggling like the Blazers have been struggling, it means more than that. It's almost like you forget how to win. You play not to lose rather than to win, and I still think Portland got caught up a bit in that in this game.
Let me also say that the Clippers are better than their record. They've beaten San Antonio and New Orleans in recent days, and have a very talented roster. In fact, when you look up and down their roster it's incredible that they only have 4 wins. Blake Griffin will be the Rookie of the Year, by the way. What a beast.
This was a very physical game, complete with flagrant fouls, an ejection, a near fight, and seven technical fouls.
Joel Przybilla, who returned was playing his first basketball at the Rose Garden in nearly a year, was given a standing ovation by Portland fans. Later in the evening, while going up for a dunk, was pushed on to his back by Brian Cook in a scary-looking play. Joel wasn't hurt, but plenty of Portland players wanted to hurt Cook right after the foul. Cook was tossed, and a brawl almost broke out. This will be closely looked at by the NBA. Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge, who weren't in the game, came dangerously close to leaving the bench area (Matthews came the closest to violating this well-known rule). If it's ruled that Wesley indeed went too far down toward the scuffle, he'll be suspended a game.
It'll be too bad if that happens, because Matthews is becoming one of Portland's go-to guys. He had 26 points, on 10-19 shooting in this game, and was terrifc early. Keep in mind, Brandon Roy and Aldridge were a combined 4 for 16 in this game, and Portland won. That's not going to happen very often.
But, the stars of the night for the Blazers were Marcus Camby and Nicolas Batum. Camby, who was yanked in the opening minutes of the game at Washington for not hitting the defensive boards harder, evidently got the message. Camby had 19 rebounds in this game, and also scored 12 points. Batum had 11 rebounds at halftime, and ended with career-high 14 rebounds, and also had 13 points. Huge. And, that's what they need out of Batum on a more regular basis.
To listen to Nate McMillan's post-game comments, click here
This quick three-game home stand continues Tuesday night, when the Blazers host the Phoenix Suns. Then, it's Orlando Thursday before we head out on another four-game road trip, which is going to be brutal. But, the good news following this game is the streak is over. The Blazers don't have any finger nails left as a result, but you'll take them any way you can get them during a time like this.