mikebarrett

Jan 21

Blazers Shot Down at the Buzzer

By mikebarrett Posted in: Wizards
When you're riding a winning streak in the NBA at times it seems you can do no wrong.  You get strange bounces, calls go your way, and you come to expect clutch shot attempts to fall. When you're suffering through a losing skid, even the routine turns into a struggle, and nothing ever seems to come easy.  You no longer seem to get the breaks, or the shots to drop, and it can almost feel like fate conspires to keep you in a downward tumble. 

For the Trail Blazers right now, what started out as a small ding in their confidence has grown into a major dent.  The losing streak has reached six, and even though some of his can be explained away, much of it can't.  Is it really just as easy as saying the law of averages has caught up with this team?  Or, are they just simply missing on opportunities that they were cashing in on seemingly just days ago?

After putting together a 9-4 December, the Blazers started the month of January 5-1, and were starting to become the talk of the Western Conference.  They were surprising all of the experts and saw their record improve to 20-15.  Now, at the midway point of the season, they are 20-21, and are about to hit a brutal stretch of the schedule.  

It's time to employ a little perspective.  I realize that it's almost unconventional-type thinking to bring up such a foreign word in today's cynical world.  It is an undeniable fact that not many people expected Portland to have 20 wins at the halfway point.  But, I also realize that expectations change on a daily basis in this league, and while 20 wins after 41 games at one time sounded pretty good, it now seems painful.

Not that long ago this team was simply finding a way to win close games.  Now, they're suffering through a period where they're discovering new ways to lose.  

Credit where credit is due, firstly.  Washington has won five of their last seven.  During that stretch they've beaten Oklahoma City, Atlanta, Orlando, won at Denver, and have now won in Portland.  They lost at Sacramento in the closing seconds, and took the Clippers to the wire in L.A. for their two losses during this stretch, otherwise we're talking about one of the more impressive runs in the NBA this season.

That doesn't make Monday night's loss feel any better, nor does it make the fact that of Washington's two of their nine wins have come over the Blazers.  

In this game it was Jordan Crawford who painfully ripped out the hearts of the Trail Blazers, at the buzzer, hitting a 28-foot shot for the win.  Crawford ended with 13 points, all in the second half, and his last three send the Wizards dancing off the floor in Portland.

The Blazers led this game by one point at halftime, and despite holding Washington to 6 for 21 shooting in the third quarter, the Blazers could never gain control of the game.  After all, Portland shot just 4 for 20 in that third quarter.  In the fourth, the offense returned for the Blazers, as they shot 12 for 16, and put together a 31-point final quarter.  It's amazing that despite that, we're talking about a loss.

The loss also ruined a terrific second half for Damian Lillard, who scored 16 in the final two quarters, and spoiled Nic Batum's, first-career triple-double.  He scored 12 points, dished out 11 assists, and grabbed 10 rebounds.  

Even after the Trail Blazers suffered back-to-back turnovers with just over a minute left, Wesley Matthews knotted the game at 95, with a huge three pointer.  But, Washington then put the ball in Crawford's hands, and he did what Portland has done so many times this season- he hit a huge shot.  It was a low-percentage shot, but these things happen when you're struggling.

Yes, it was yet another close game.  Make it 10-straight games decided by 6 points or fewer. Most of those were one-possession games in the closing seconds.  Now 26 of Portland's 41 games have been decided by 8 points or fewer.  I don't remember a season as long as I've been either working for the Blazers, or covering the team (and this goes back to 1992) that there's been a stretch like this.  The once-sterling record of 11-2 in games decided by 6 or less, is now 11-11.

Sometimes simple things win you games, and simple things lose you games.  How's that for a foggy and vague explanation?  Sadly, that's all I have.

As I mentioned above, the Trail Blazers are 20-21, and we're only halfway through the season. There is some promise in the fact that this team is fighting to the finish in every single game, and has put itself in a position to win, time and time again.  Yeah, that probably doesn't feel good at this point either.  But, I didn't have this team down for 20 wins in the first 41, and neither did you.

It only gets more difficult now, as the Indiana Pacers, the team with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, comes to town on Wednesday.  

I bet it'll be a close game.



 

10 Comments

  1. Hey Mike: I am still going by being competitive, and playing smart. You have to admit it was an exciting game that either team could have won. Our mistakes got us in trouble, their mistakes got us in trouble, but any time you go to the wire tied and just one shot left anything could have happened.

    I can't figure out what is happening with our team, I thought they played a very good 48 minutes of ball tonight.

    I am thinking we will win the Indy game because it is a team we are not supposed to beat. We will win one of the Clippers games and lose the second and lose to Dallas, split with Utah. That is all the further I dare predict.

    by Hg on 1/22/2013 12:41 AM
  2. I didn't see this one. I was kinda hoping that by missing a game, I'd change our luck. It didn't work.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 1/22/2013 12:53 AM
  3. The real opportunities the Blazers are missing fall squarely on Olshey. This team, and coaching staff are working their heinies off to do the best they can with the tools they have. Tweeks here and there, coaching adjustments, film sessions, silly turnovers... and the list of things the team is doing to change that is even longer, but unlike the team - Olshey has done nothing and plans on doing nothing till next season. Ya, ya, hind sight, perspective. That's why you pay a GM. To have perspective, and not leave gaping descrepancies between hindsight shoulda/woulda/coulda and the past. My frustration comes from what is not being done now, or even last month, when it was clear this team was much better than even Olshey thought. The bench problems were crystal clear a months ago. The ability of the starters was known months ago. Can you say Rookie of the Year for November? I have a hard time accepting that nothing can be done between now and the trade dead-line. And if for no other reason that to give the starter some relief. Ya, I'm talking injuries, and even to a lesser degree that the starters have not been able to sit on the bench for any length of time without getting beat down on the score board.

    Portland was abused in the post in the 1st and 4th quarter, and that allowed a seemingly endless barrage of corner 3s to rain like a monsoon. Team defense was poor.

    And, are players allowed to wear wide reciever type gloves during play? I want to get some for JJ. He works so hard, but he's got butter issue on his hands... litterally.

    by Blazer Fanatic on 1/22/2013 1:29 AM
  4. @ Blazeer Fanatic: I have begun to wonder if Chris Dudly has come in to coach JJ on catching the ball

    This game was lost once again in the 1st quarter when the Blazers seemed to think defense was foreign concept.

    I'm looking for a positive in this game. Batum passing up open shots to pad his assists-nope, Damien being passive until the second half in games-nope, JJ's cute bunny hop before dribbleing-nope, solid backup point guard-nope.

    I know, Aldridge's offense which unfortunately we ignored in the 2nd half.

    Leonard played very well in his first game back. There I found a positive.

    by Ancientone on 1/22/2013 6:46 AM
  5. Blazer Fanatic hit the nail on the head about JJ. We all love his energy, and Nic is getting really good at feeding him, but he's too short to stop a quality center, or to help much on drives to the hoop, and in addition to his "butter" and "bunny hop" problems also misses too many point-blank shots. I was yelling at him a lot last night. Ancientone is right, though, to remind us that Meyers looked good tonight. If he can keep that up I think we'll feel a little better when the trade of JJ everyone seems to expect finally happens.
    I was afraid that this would happen precisely because we had won so many close games to get off to our good start. The sad truth is that while we love to attribute wins in close games to "grit" and "character" and some special clutch ability, it's really about 80% luck when a game is close going down the stretch. JJ fumbles the ball away, so we lose serve, and are just hanging on in a position where Wes can tie it--which he does--but then his man can win it with a long shot, and he does. Nobody makes all of those shots, so it's the percentages, which means that on a given shot it's luck. And you can't ride luck for very long. There's a reason the really good teams win a lot of games by more than six.

    by David Maclaine on 1/22/2013 10:07 AM
  6. Don't get me wrong. I love JJ and his effort and the way he blocks out and positions for rebounds. However he is too small against the true centers and to plug the lane for the drivers. He can't grow any taller so he has a handicap at his position (after all he's really a power forward and would be a great backup for LA).

    by Ancientone on 1/22/2013 11:47 AM
  7. Good job Nic. Nice all around performance. Sore wrist and all.
    Hang in there boys. Keep improving.
    Every team in every sport goes through some adversity. They all say the adversity is what made them stronger as a team.
    Stay healthy. Keep working at getting better. Remember team.
    GO BLAZERS !!

    by Divotking on 1/22/2013 4:38 PM
  8. Digging holes where the Blazers need to climb out of is a bad habit that needs to be broken.

    by Shem on 1/22/2013 4:56 PM
  9. The true character of a man is revealed under stress. I've been waiting for this stretch of the season where the rest of the league has gained there sea legs.
    Where a plan of attack has proven successful against the Blazers. Pressuring Damian. With a schedule of upcoming games against solid, hard playing teams.
    It was 6 games ago LaMarcus called his player meeting. It was after a loss in a close game. He said "we can't lose the close games".
    One could argue that LaMarcus is the best power forward in the game right now but a leader of men he is not.
    This teams pecking order is still up for grabs. It doesn't have to be one man, it can be by commitee.
    Real pressure is at hand. We'll be watching to see how things shake out.

    by the golden ladder on 1/23/2013 9:30 AM
  10. just gonna to down the same road as Shem here; putting ourselves in a position you have to climb out of is a pattern which cannot continue. we've climbed out of a few games that way, but much more often than not, it has been the catalyst for the loss. this was the kind of game, against this opponent, we should have built a lead, then put off a couple Wizards runs late to get a semi-comfortable win.

    it's sad when you have to say you lost to the worst team in the league -- twice -- just because you're team cannot come out strong nor play a 48-minute game.

    i could go on, but i won't for this comment.

    unfortunately, the loss overshadowed one of the best all-around games i've ever seen from a Blazer. when that 10th rebound fell into Nicolas' hands during the last minute of the game, i jumped out of my seat at my desk and instantly became teary eyed (hey, that's emotional stuff!). it wasn't until a couple minutes after the game that i looked at his entire statline: 12 points (50% shooting), 10 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers & 3 fouls. i know there are some who are frustrated with his turnover ratio in some games, but i'll take 5.5-1 any day. this shows how far he has come from last year to this year. i think he's added a couple things to his arsenal at both ends of the court and has become a more complete player. and to think, there are many out there with low-basketball-iqs who think he's overpaid. i think not.

    at college it's difficult to actually get to watch games unless they are nationally televised or i make it to a particular pizza place which has nbatv (when we're on that night), so it was wonderful to take advantage of the league's free league pass week. while i loathed the loss, i loved to see Nicolas' great night. it was also great to get the game via the Mikes (no offense to Wheels & Tone who are unimaginably awesome in their own right).

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 1/23/2013 1:00 PM
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