Run Down in Indy
This won't likely be a long blog post. For one thing, it's after 2 am in Manhattan, but mostly I'm not sure what to say about what happened in Indianapolis.
As you likely know, it's very tough to predict this stuff. Once in a while, you can guess right. Like the other night in Boston, for instance. The Celtics were angry, desperate, and were about to head out on a long road trip. You knew that was going to be a long night before we even arrived at the arena. But, Tuesday night's game in Indiana? No way. Not this way.
This team's confidence is very fragile right now. Perhaps you've figured that out. We say this all this time on our TV broadcasts, but if the Blazers don't get off to a great start in games, they're finished. By great start I don't mean the first 10 or 12 minutes of a game, I mean the first two or three minutes.
A couple of years ago the Blazers led the NBA in come-from-behind victories. You'd get them down heading into the fourth quarter and it didn't matter. They had that belief, that confidence, and that resolve to always come back. And, a long-standing cliche in the NBA goes something like "nothing is more meaningless than an early double-digit lead." Well, that doesn't hold true with this Portland team. Get them down early, break their spirit in the opening minutes, and you've got them.
That is troubling, and I can't really figure out why that is. The conclusion I keep coming up with is that they just lack confidence, plain and simple. If you have another explanation, I'd like to hear it.
The Indiana Pacers certainly realized this going into the game. Problem was, as bad as they were offensively, they still led and eventually took total control of the game. The Blazers couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. They shot 2 for 15 in the first quarter, were just 9 for 30 in the first half, and had just one assist in the game until about the five-minute mark of the third quarter. You're not coming back from that.
Portland ended up shooting just 31 percent for the game, and ended with a franchise-record low five assists on the night.
What had me scratching my head after the game was the fact that we had talked so much about the fact that Saturday's win in Washington seemed to be such a confidence-building win. They followed up that win with a great practice on Monday. Spirits were high, their focus was right on the mark, and everyone left that practice feeling very good about Tuesday's game. Then, in a matter of minutes it went up in smoke.
We knew the start of the game against the Pacers would be so vital, too. Not only did we consider this the "hump game" of this trip, but the opening minutes would be extremely crucial in establishing the tone of the night. We know how that turned out.
The problem now is, it just gets tougher from here. There are three games left on this road trip. Wednesday night it's the second of a back to back when we take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. New York is frustrated, hungry, and desperate for a win. They've been getting killed by the New York media, and will come out looking for blood. That's followed by games against Chicago, and Oklahoma City.
Perhaps this is a good time to say this Blazer team is unpredictable. Maybe that'll work the other way this time.
We'll find out a lot, as always, in the first few possessions of the game in New York.