Still Looking for Complete Game
Sometime soon we're going to see the Trail Blazers put together a complete game. It certainly hasn't happened yet. In fact, listening to the coaches and players, they haven't been truly satisfied with any one performance so far.
The positive side of this, of course, is that they're 3-1 and haven't even scratched the surface on what they're capable of as a team. When this team does start to find its groove, it could be scary.
The good chemistry that exists on this team is very apparent, and the roster has a good balance to it. And, it's easy to forget we are as so early in this whole process. The Blazers have played just six games total, including the two in the preseason. In other words, it's a work in progress. I suppose you can always say that, but when you've got a new point guard, a new sixth man, are running a new system, and no longer have your three-time all-star, it's natural that it is going to take a little time.
The biggest positive I take out of Sunday's first road game of the season is that this team played one good quarter out of the four, and it was nearly enough to get a win. Consider they were playing a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Caron Butler, that had called Sunday a "must win," makes the loss easier to swallow.
We talked during the broadcast about how it appeared Portland was simply unable to flip the switch until the fourth quarter, and then stormed from behind to make it a near miss. But, looking back on it now, I'm not sure it was as much about the team thinking it could get away with skating through three quarters, but think it was more about simply the adjustment process this team is going through.
The one glaring stat that sunk Portland's chances in this one was the turnover catagory. They were able to beat Denver on Thursday, while suffering 25 turnovers. They turned it over 21 times against the Clippers, and you just can't get away with that on the road.
When you're trying to change your system from one of the slowest-paced teams to one of the fastest you're going to suffer some miscues. We knew that coming in. And, the coaches have conditioned themselves to having to accept some of that. Personally, I hope the turnover total in the last two games doesn't scare Nate McMillan into putting on the breaks and reverting back to a half-court, isolation-type offense. There is a happy medium here, the team just hasn't found it yet. It will.
We're also going to see a game very soon where a few of this team's weapons are going to start working simultaneously. So far, there have been singular bright spots at various points of these games. It's either been Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge carrying the load while the backcourt struggles, or it's been Wesley Matthews and Raymond Felton hot, while the frontcourt struggles. Or, it's been like the Clipper game, where they've just relied on one hot player, Jamal Crawford, to keep them close. These things can work together, at the same time, and that just takes some on-the-job training. That's what they're getting now.
Clearly, opening the schedule with three-straight home games, gave the Blazers some margin for error. And, they got the attention of many around the country with their 3-0 start. Portland shot up in the power rankings, and had people adjusting their expectations. But, now they've gotten their first test away from the Rose Garden, and didn't pass it.
Tuesday night's game in Oklahoma City will be another stiff challenge for the Trail Blazers, and will serve as another measuring stick for this team. The Thunder don't screw around at home, as we know, and Portland won't be able to fumble around for it's groove for three quarters and still be in the game.
Practices will be rare during this condensed schedule, but the Trail Blazers got one on Monday afternoon. Sunday was a teaching opportunity for McMillan and his staff, and practice was a chance to plug in the results. It's very, very early, as we all know. BUT, we're going to find out a lot about this team when it takes on the Thunder.