mikebarrett

Mar 31

Seven To Go

By mikebarrett
The road trip to Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and New Orleans was similar to the road trip earlier in the month.  After that trip everyone agreed, considering the competition, a 2-2 mark was pretty acceptable, and that before the trip started we probably would have been okay with that.  But, after dropping games in Charlotte and Atlanta, it felt more like a missed opportunity, following wins at Miami and Orlando to start the trip.

Following this most recent trip, there's no doubt the Trail Blazers are once again disappointed, even though a lot of teams could have found a way to live with a 1-2 record after visiting OKC, San Antonio, and New Orleans. 

Wednesday night the trip ended with a 95-91 loss to the Hornets, in a game that had tremendous meaning for both teams.  Even though it wasn't a devastating loss for Portland, it did increase the chance that they'll meet either the Lakers or Spurs in the first round.  And, of course, the playoffs aren't even a sure thing yet.  Houston losing at Philly helped minimize the damage done by the loss.  If they had won, the collar would really be getting tight.

You don't need a game summary at this point, but it was very similar to the game at Oklahoma City on Sunday.  The Blazers led most of the way, had opportunities to stretch the lead several times, but left the door open enough to allow the game to be decided by a few big possessions.  Like the Thunder, the Hornets took full advantage, and hit big shot after big shot, and recorded big wins. 

It's certainly true that it was a "swing game," because by winning the season series New Orleans essentially took a one-game lead over the Blazers.  If Portland would have won, the series would have been split, and the Blazers have a better conference record than the Hornets at this point, that would have been the second tie breaker.  That's why we were talking about it being a potential three-game swing.  In short, it'll be very tough for Portland to finish in sixth place now in the west.  It isn't impossible, but we're realistically looking at seventh or eigth.

Because the Trail Blazers don't have total control of their own destiny, in terms of who they will play in the playoffs (assuming all goes well and they get in), the damage done by these two losses left a significant mental dent as well.  Bagging statement road wins in the final few games of a regular season can be very important to a team's confidence, especially seeing how they won't have homecourt advantage in the first round no matter who they play.

Everyone seems to be in agreement that Dallas would be a better potential first-round opponent than the Lakers or Spurs.  I agree with that as well, and also believe that's likely out the window now. 

We've been saying this a lot lately, but the Trail Blazers have, without a doubt, the most difficult remaining schedule of the teams we've been watching closely in this race.  The good news about Portland's last seven games is that five of them will be at home.  But, those home games are Oklahoma City, Dallas, Golden State, the Lakers, and Memphis.  The two remaining road games are at Utah and Golden State. 

Houston isn't dead yet.  But, Wednesday's loss at Philadelphia was brutal for them.  Left on the Rockets schedule are home games against San Antonio, Atlanta, Sacramento, the Clippers, and Dallas.  They have road games remaining at New Orleans and Minnesota.  

The Rockets are now basically feeling like they've got to run the table to have a chance.  If they don't, Portland or Memphis will really have to fall flat in the final seven for them to have any hope.  The Blazers lead Houston by four games right now, and because the Blazers won the season series, you can basically call it a five-game lead.

New Orleans badly wants the sixth spot, and because of the win over the Blazers, are feeling pretty good about their chances to grab it.  The Hornets have beaten Dallas 11-straight times in New Orleans, and have confidence against the Mavs, obviously.  They really struggle against the Lakers, and weren't close in any of the regular-season games against them.  

The other factor in all of this is Memphis.  The Grizzlies have been amazing down the stretch, even if their fans don't seem to notice.  They've got the easiest remaining schedule of these teams we've been talking about (not scientific, just my opinion).  They've got home games against Minnesota, the Clippers, Sacramento, and New Orleans, and are on the road for New Orleans, Portland, and the Clippers.  That final game against Portland, on April 12th, could be for the 7th spot.  The season series is tied 1-1, and that tie-breaker could come into play.  

Things change every single night in this race, and that's why we always scoreboard watch like we do.  The top isn't settled, and obviously, the bottom is far from settled.  As I've been saying for a while, the number-one priority is clinching a spot, and the rest will sort itself out.  Even though the Blazers have a little cushion right now over Houston, things can change quickly.  

So, just playing the odds here, let's assume Dallas is out of the mix for Portland in the playoffs.  We're down to San Antonio or the Lakers.  The Blazers won the season series against the Spurs 3-1, and are down 0-3 to the Lakers in that series.

Spurs then, right?  Or, wrong?

You tell me.




 

26 Comments

  1. Hey Mike,

    I am new to the blogging network. I really enjoy your insightful commentary and behind the scenes insights. I agree with you that the Blazers just need to clinch a playoff spot before worrying about seeding. I overall think that we match up better with the Spurs. Overall we are a young team with young legs that hopefully won't wear down in the playoffs. Over the last couple of years the Spurs have shown that they wear down once the playoffs start. I think that we can def. challenge the Lakers. in a seven-game series. Very few teams can compete with the Lakers when it comes to size and athleticism. I think the Blazers just need to take care of business at home and they will be fine. It would be nice to beat OKC and the Lakers once, just for the confidence factor. It would not be good to play the Lakers in a playoff series if they swept us in the season series. Even though I live on the East Coast I am still a die-hard Blazer fan. Do you agree with my thoughts?? Let me know. Keep up the great work.

    by Kurtis Dement on 3/31/2011 5:52 PM
  2. Mike: I am glad to hear from you. Are you rested up from the trip yet? Remember you can rest in July and August, right now you have games to broadcast LOL.

    I think LAL will over take SAS for first place and if we drop to eighth. We would still have to play the Lakers. If we can beat OKC tomorrow night, either wasy the Grizzlies-NOH game goes we will benifit. I don't think Dallas will beat the Lakers, but I will be rooting for Dallas. It looks like SAS might lose to the Celtics, so the drama continues.

    It was a tough loss, I feel we are us against the world again. So we just have to tighten up and get back to the grind.

    GW really got his bell rang last night, I hope he comes out of it OK.

    I want to thank you for shout out on Up and Adam. As I have said many times, I would just love to go down there to shake your hand, a chance I won't let go by the second time.

    I tried to get down to you one other time, but the security guard wouldn't let me get down that far.

    I am trying to listen to court-side and post to you at the same time and as I said, I am not multitask. Heck I couldn't chew gum and walk at the same time until was 12 LOL.

    by Hg on 3/31/2011 6:17 PM
  3. Nice blog Mike, but I'm still going with the Blazers sweeping April. It all matters on how NOH can do.

    Basically, my thought is that if the Blazers don't make the playoffs, it doesn't matter, because if we can't win games down this stretch with the chance of not making the playoffs, then we won't win a single playoff game.

    Luckily, I'm not concerned of that. I'm saying we win 7 straight and close the season as 6th. It all depends on NOH. They need to drop just one game.

    by Herr on 3/31/2011 6:26 PM
  4. Kurtis,

    Welcome, and good thoughts. You're right about taking care of business at home. And, I wrote all of the above and then went in the other room and watched Boston beat San Antonio. So, yes, one scenario I didn't put out there is that the Spurs could fall to third, and the seventh-seeded team could still get Dallas. Just goes back to the whole notion that nothing is decided yet, and things change quickly.

    MB

    by mikebarrett on 3/31/2011 6:32 PM
  5. Either Texas team is preferable to meeting the Lakers in the first round. They are peaking at the right time, as usual.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 3/31/2011 6:33 PM
  6. Mike, I know shocking. It's amazing the Spurs have now lost five in a row. I guess missing Tim Duncan does mean something. Many media outlets all year have said he is washed up and lost his edge. This Spurs team obviously needs him. I think his presence on the court has great effect on his teammates.

    by Kurtis Dement on 3/31/2011 6:48 PM
  7. MB,

    I wouldn't give up on the 6th spot. We are tied, ok they have the tie breaker, but come on we just have to finish with one more win than the Hornets and we move pass them. And LA only has a half game lead on the Mavs, which might change tonite, so even if we stay in the 7th spot we could just as easily be playing the Mavs as the Lakers.

    by mgb on 3/31/2011 6:50 PM
  8. GO BLAZERS!!!!

    by mgb on 3/31/2011 6:50 PM
  9. Wesley's gonna have to really step up on D and shhut down Westbrook. Batum's gonna get worn out chasing Durant all over creation

    by Tobyus Sanchezo on 3/31/2011 7:22 PM
  10. I refuse to comment on Lakers vs Spurs until I KNOW we won't be facing the Mavs. My preference is Mavs, Spurs, OKC (which won't happen most likely), and then Lakers last. I couldn't possibly begin to say who is actually the better match up. However, the primary reason I would like to avoid the Lakers is because I believe they are the very best team in the offseason. They have the most experience, the most wins, the most rings, the winningest coach, and most importantly, they have Kobe. Imo, Kobe is the single player in all of this that can will his team to a win when everything is on the line consistently. I still will not wager against Kobe's will, not yet, he's still too hungry.

    Though I do not share Herr's enthusiasm about sweeping April (thinking a loss at GS is probable), I have not given up on 6th either, especially since NO and Memphis play each other twice. Also, the Blazers and Hornets play 4 teams +.500 with 5 games at home, while Memphis plays 3 teams +.500 with only 4 games at home. To me, that could even out the remaining competition, at least to some degree.

    Looking forward to tomorrow's game. I think that one and Sunday's will tell us even more about where we are headed this off-season. The thing I fear more than anything is not making it out of the first round, provided we make it to the off-season of course. I am digging deep to have faith, and to trust that whatever happens will be the best thing for this team/franchise's development, but man....it is really hard!

    Go Blazers!!!!

    by SisillaRiann on 3/31/2011 8:09 PM
  11. Tobyus Sanchezo: I think we will put GW on KD and Batum on Westbrook, although we played both of them pretty well last game.

    It wasn't our D that made us lose it was the change in our offensive sets and not being able to hit ours shots. We forced Westbrook to shoot the shots from the outside because he wasn't supposed to be able to make those shots consistently. Well so much for that game plan.

    But that is why I think we will beat them tomorrow; our game plan basically worked and I think our outside shooting is due to return that will take the pressure off LMA which will have more room to operate and GW will be able to drive to the hoop easier.

    by Hg on 3/31/2011 8:19 PM
  12. EowynAmarie:

    Did you watch the Lakers-Mavs game. quite a bit of fighting. that is another reason for not wanting to play the Lakers, they get under the other teams skin and either intimidate or make them mad, either way they win. Maybe Jason Terry and Haywood will be suspended for our Sunday match-up with them. Although, I am not one to ask for the BB gods to be on our side, we could use all the help we can get to finish off the gallant season.

    by Hg on 3/31/2011 9:23 PM
  13. I for one don't care who we play. Just get in the playoffs and we'll kick butt!

    by mgb on 3/31/2011 9:28 PM
  14. OMG, the Spurs for sure. We have a much better chance against them than the all ego/confident, Lakers. It looked to me, in the SA and New Orleans games, that the Blazers caved either to fatigue or ... what? What's missing? We need to kill in the remaining games because if we can do that, we can go to the playoffs with all the confidence in the world and make a hell of a good showing there!
    Nice Blog, Mike!

    by kaemicha on 3/31/2011 9:28 PM
  15. Wow..even though there is only 7 games left in the regular season, I feel it is too early to talk playoffs. Im just going to keep it one game at atime, see where it goes, Hope Herr is right, that would be awesome. I will say that Lakers are playing VERY well, very hot team..getting ready for playoffs...Not exactly a team you want to face.

    Anyways next game OKC....A must win for sure, I do not want us to get swept by the Thunder. We gotta take care of business from here on out. Dig DEEP. Go Blazers.

    by whitefeather21380 on 3/31/2011 10:25 PM
  16. I agree that the focus right now has to be on what the Blazers can do in the next game, and then the one after that. The test for this team comes right now, and if we fail it, the playoffs won't last long.
    That said, the loss could be a preview of the challenges we face against the tough opponents coming up. When was the last time we got more shots than another team, shot a higher percentage, got more rebounds and still lost? The difference was all those extra free throws. Why did they get them? Partly because of a few home-leaning calls, but mostly because the Hornets were aggressive going to the basket. They exploited the current reality that when Camby is out--as he was for two-thirds of the game--it's easy to pull our only other big man out of the middle and then drive to the hoop. Landry fully exploited the fact that Wallace isn't a real power forward, pushing him around in the paint. Give Monte credit, because he put his finger on the weakness the Wallace trade created and was able to avoid our usual compensation, the high-energy defensive that creates steals--only 2 all night!--and neutralized most of our added offensive mobility. I'd love to take heart from the fact that Nate came around to the position that Patty needs to be in the line-up in both halves. All he needed to do was be perfect in his first-half stint. But in his second-half run he got burned three straight times by Chris Paul, not a huge surprise for any guard, but I'm guessing it will loom large in our coach's thinking. Brandon did very little, certainly far, far less than Patty in twice as many minutes, but, you know, he's Brandon, so I don't really expect his minutes to be trimmed. But let's hope Nate comes up with some answers Friday night, because we need to bounce back strong and get this crucial stretch off to a good start.

    by Islander on 3/31/2011 11:28 PM
  17. Personally, I could care less who we play in the first round. I think we match up well with every team in the west. We have length, we have athleticism and we have solid defense. With that said, it does still worry me that the Blazers are STILL having droughts offensively. Scoring 9 points in a quarter isn't going to get the job done in the playoffs. The 4th quarter against the Hornets was another example. Don't get me wrong, the Spurs and Hornets get my respect defensively, but we just can't be having those offensive droughts when the playoffs get here.

    I just don't think we should be wishing or hoping to play any team over any other because let's be honest, it's going to be a dog fight no matter who we play. I just hope that we play solid defensively and play smart offensively whoever we play. Also, I just have to give a shout out to Rick Adelman.. The Rockets still have playoff hopes with less than 7-8 games left in the season. Who would have thought?

    by Mark on 3/31/2011 11:46 PM
  18. Mark, I agree with your analogy, but my concern is not the physical match-ups but the head games that they play on opponents can cause many problems for teams with less experience. They either intimidate you are make you so mad you can't play. So it is the bullying game that I don't know if the Blazers are up to, not the physical game and that is only because of the lack of confidence. Other then that, I am with you, I don't care who we play as long as we hold on to getting into the play-offs. The Rockets are for real and we have to stay on our toes to stop them from passing us. I think the magic number is two though, so I am getting more confident.

    by Hg on 4/1/2011 3:23 AM
  19. Mike: Last night on Court-side, many of my questions were answered. When our offensive game goes south, it is usually because the back court is passing the ball like it was a hot potato around the perimeter rather then to pass the ball to make the defense scramble. That is why Nate says you have to shoot the ball when you are open or drive to the rim to force the defense to react then pass to the next open man. Passing it around the perimeter and the last guy that is caught holding the ball when the shot clock wears down is the rotten egg. That as Islander says lets the defense be lazy and wait or time the next pass and pick it off. That may be the problem that causes our drought.

    by Hg on 4/1/2011 3:37 AM
  20. I'm with Mark. Bring on whoever we're matched with. Any other attitude is weak. Every round should be treated like it's the championship round. First we need to win now to get into the playoffs. The rest of the season is all about advancing. There is no easy match at this point. Everyone is tired. This is the time that separates the boys from the men.

    Go Blazers!

    by thedanman on 4/1/2011 5:12 AM
  21. Let's not forget how badly the blazers were wishing for Houston in their return to the playoffs, and the genie granted their wish. They were promptly trounced in the first game at home, and whoops, there it went, home court was gone.

    by Phi Slamma on 4/1/2011 9:27 AM
  22. while it would be nice to pick our opponent (provided we get to the playoffs), i don't think we can worry about anyone else but ourselves. i don't think it's a good idea to worry about who we play. sure, we can wish for other teams to win or lose on any given night, but we've still got seven games left, and each promises to bring its own set of challenges.

    that being said, i'd like for us to get out of the first round. we probably have the best chance of that against san antonio than the lakers (but i'm still hoping for dallas).

    we've had success against the spurs the past few seasons, and i think we match up against them pretty well. there's not really much of a barometer by which to measure this year's series, though. they handled us pretty well in the first game, but we came back in the second. to get the win. we needed some heroics in the third game and in the fourth we weren't playing against the regulars. we can beat them; it's just a matter of playing our type of game.

    i'm not really sure what has happened this year against the lakers. they blew us out in the first matchup, while we've suffered some close losses -- one in overtime -- to them more recently. i really don't think the lakers have improved on us that much over the course of a season. if we face them in the playoffs we will have to give Marcus some heavy minutes. the matchup determines that we need him to bring to the team what he does best (rebounding and, despite what the thunder announcers think, defense).

    none of these wishes amount to a hill of beans if we don't get to the playoffs in the first place. that should be the focus.

    ~ Kassandra

    by Kassandra on 4/1/2011 10:55 AM
  23. Although it would be nice to pick our opponent, I don't think any losses at this point are gonna help with our mental toughness come playoff time. We need to just focus on winning and closing games out strong, areas of deep concern, and let the pieces fall into place however they do. It's tough watching these guys winning the whole game and then falter down the stretch. Go Blazers! An OKC win would be nice before the playoffs!

    by RipcityTodd on 4/1/2011 2:26 PM
  24. I agree, mental smental, if our mentality is so fragile it can't handle pressure from another team, any team, we are in trouble. It's just basketball, go out and play.

    by mgb on 4/1/2011 3:50 PM
  25. THANK GOD!!!!

    They FINALLY got the starting line up right tonight against OKC!!! Woot.. looking forward to it!! And to everybody who will take offense to Wallace starting in place of Batum.. I'm sorry. The kid may have all the potential in the world.. but so far, with exception to one stand out play in the last 3 months... well, 2, if you wanna count lebrons blocked shot... Wallace is far better than Batum!!

    IF.. and I'll repeat it.. IF... Anybody truly does care about LMA.. you are ALSO happy that he's not being worn down by the opponents bigs.. at least for the start..

    LMA IS A POWER FORWARD
    WALLACE IS A SMALL FORWARD

    Look, It's nice to use a smaller lineup as an option.....OPTION.... and they are great at it.. but you can see the fatigue/frustration mounding on both players. Just cuz they're WILLING.. doesn't mean they should have to.. WE ARE HEALTHY!!! YAY!!! so.. lets quit abusing awesome, willing, and GREAT Trailblazers.. and let them play the position the want/deserve!!

    Go BLAZERS!!!!!

    by Blazermaniak on 4/1/2011 5:42 PM
  26. Good stuff by Everybody.
    Blazermaniak..I do like Camby at the 5 LMA -4 Wallace at the3,That is a STRONG ,TOUGH lineup.
    Mark...Word ..win out,then find out.

    ANYBODY but the LACKERS.SA or Dallas would be my preferred matchup, obviously.

    by DowntownVinnie on 4/3/2011 8:45 AM
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