Another Missed Opportunity
One of the many trademarks of successful and happy people is that they always expect good things to happen. Visualize things working out for you, and more often than not, they do. That's what building your confidence is all about. But, it's also not as easy at it sounds, especially during trying moments. That's where timing enters in to everything. Ultimately, we're judged on what we do, and how we react during the key moments of our lives.
Not to get too deep here on this Sunday morning, but I found myself thinking about this on the flight home from Dallas late last night. You obviously know where I'm going with all of this.
This is such a slippery slope, and your successes feed off your successes, and of course, your failures can snowball the other way if you're not careful. A few bad things happen, and it's difficult not to begin to expect those bad things to keep happening.
The Trail Blazers are in a deep mental rut right now, I don't think there's anyone who would argue that. The 1-9 record in games decided by six points or fewer is as surprising as it is troubling. As I've said so many times before, in recent years you never wanted to get Portland into a close game- they'd beat you.
This year, there's this growing expectation of failure in crunch time. It's new for this team, and it's extremely unsettling. Opportunities continue to present themselves, and rather than seizing the moment to right the ship, it appears there's now an overwhelming urge to crawl away and hide.
There is seemingly such a fine line between winning and losing. Like me, I'm sure you're able to recall countless crucial situations that have gone against the Blazers late in games so far this season. Some of them have been of their own doing, and others have been a bit out of their control.
Last night is Dallas was exactly what we had been waiting for, again. It was a chance for a signature win, and a 2-0 road trip, that potentially could have gotten this team over this mental hurdle.
As I write this, I'm watching golf, so stick with me. Phil Mickelson was that guy, for so many years, who couldn't get it done in the major events. He holds the record for second place finishes in U.S. Open events. They always used to say, "once he breaks through in a big-time event, he'll win a bunch of them- it's all mental." He finally won the 2004 Masters, and three more major events quickly followed. The flood gates didn't exactly open, but finally started to expect victory, and that's when things changed.
On the flight home I sat there and thought about all of the situations, late in games this season, where one bounce, one shot, one call, one loose ball, and the Blazers would have won instead of lost. I know there's a lot more that goes into it than just stuff in the closing seconds, and we can debate that too, but what I'm talking about are breaks. They just haven't gotten a break at the end of a close game yet.
Now, here's where there are a lot of reasons to maintain faith in this team. The Blazers are 15-13. That's not where they should be, and not where they want to be. But, when you start thinking about all the multiple situations where they've come up empty, and then consider they're still two over .500, it's cause for optimism. They are going to get this late-game stuff figured out at some point. I believe that. I hope they do too.
Glancing at the stat sheet from last night, it's actually pretty amazing Portland had so many opportunties to win this game. They shot 37 percent, were outrebounded by 11, recorded only 11 assists in the game, and fell behind by as many as 18 points. So, despite all of the bad, they did enough good to give themselves a chance to win. That should count for something.
LaMarcus Aldridge was fantastic last night. He had 33 points, 12 rebounds, and shot over 50 percent. He also had several wide open looks during both overtimes that would have probably sealed the win for the Blazers. He simply missed them.
As for the backcourt, it's an understatement to say that hitting shots was a challenge last night. You've heard the stat, but Raymond Felton, Wesley Matthews, and Jamal Crawford were a combined 13 for 50. That's 26 percent, and that's 50 of the team's 97 total attempts, a staggering number.
Yet, the team was in a position to beat the defending champs on their home court. Is that a reason for optimism, or is this this just another brick in this growing mental wall that has boxed this team into a corner of late-game despair?
We can wring our hands all we want, but it's up to the team to answer that question.