Post-Christmas Trip Rolls On
By mikebarrett Posted in: Warriors
The headlines were very easy to come up with following the Christmas-Day game at Golden State. Anything having to do with Portland's giving spirit in the fourth quarter, to gift-wrapping a win for the Warriors, to getting coal in their own stockings while playing Santa Claus in the East Bay. Easy stuff.
The sad part is, this kind of stuff was rolling around in my mind with just over five minutes left in the game, with the Trail Blazers holding a 97-90 lead. Thoughts like, "wow, if somehow we don't get this one now, it'll really be painful." Terrible attitude, I realize. That has a lot more to do with playing not to lose rather than playing to win. And, I don't think I'm alone with thoughts like that during the fourth quarter this season.
They're rolling around in your head too. If I'm thinking it, and fearing it, and you are too, then you know that negative feeling creeps into the players' minds as well. This latest incident happened when it really felt like perhaps we were through with that part of the season. I didn't want to have to remind you again how good Portland was in fourth quarters the last two seasons, and how different things have been this year.
The Trail Blazers have now lost 7 games this season when leading after three quarters. They lost 9 games when leading after the third quarter in all of last season.
Now, I will say, this one felt differently than some of the other situations like this so far this season. Even though no one else seems to ever want to do it, I always try to give credit to the opponents when they deserve it. Yes, Portland could have done things better. When you end a game on the bad side of a 19-5 run, there's blame to go around.
It wasn't surprising how Golden State was able to battle back and continue its dominance over Portland at Oracle. Monta Ellis was the guy we talked about in the pre-game show, the guy you were fearing, and the guy who Portland was setting its defense around. And, he went out and got 39 points and was huge late in the game.
The Warriors are also making an effort to play some defense this season (unlike in the recent past). LaMarcus Aldridge shot 7 for 21 from the field and had 15 points. He did miss some very makeable shots, but I thought David Lee played him very well. Two other starters recorded double-doubles. Nicolas Batum had 18 and 10, and Andre Miller had 12 points and 15 assists.
In the end it's a painful way for the Trail Blazers to lose a game, after playing well for 3 and a-half quarters, and outrebounding the Warriors a whopping 53 to 32. But, again, we've seen this same situation this season. It kind of makes you fear playing with a lead in the fourth quarter in the near future. Tough to say you'd rather play from behind, but I'm willing to try anything at this point.
Now, this trip gets tougher. We're in Salt Lake City, and Monday night the Trail Blazers take on the Utah Jazz. We mentioned this on the air the other night, but if you were to hand pick the three places in the NBA where Portland has had the least success (in modern times, anyway), it would be Utah, Denver, and Golden State. The Jazz hold a 62-14 all-time record against the Blazers in this city. And, most of those wins came for Portland at the old Salt Palace. I actually started this post telling myself not to throw numbers like that out there. Oh well.
One other note about the Jazz.. Jerry Sloan, as you know, is in his 23rd season in Utah. Do you realize how amazing that is? He's the longest tenured head coach in any of the four major professional sports. There have been 243 coaching changes in the NBA since Sloan was named the coach of the Jazz in 1988. Which team has had the most coaching changes in that time? The Clips, with 13. No huge surprise there. It kind of surprised me that the Lakers have had 11 coaching changes in the time Sloan has been in Utah. The Blazers are near the bottom of the list with only 6 (amazing what you come up with when you're alone in a hotel room on Christmas Day).
By the way, there's another factor that makes these next two games even tougher, besides the fact that it's Utah and Denver. It's a back-to-back. Talk to you Monday night.