Feb 05

Just Another Unusual Win

By mikebarrett Posted in: Blazers, Timberwolves
Only this team, during this strange season, could mix such positives with such negatives, on the same night, and walk away with a victory.

While it's true that all that really mattered on this night is that they got a win, and started this long six-game road trip with a victory, this one was far from conventional.  The Blazers combined a season-high 59 percent shooting clip, with a season-high 28 turnovers, and beat Minnesota 100-98.  It was the third time the Blazers have beaten the Timberwolves this season, and have now won 20 of the last 22 in the series.

After our broadcast, after I interviewed LaMarcus Aldridge in front of our broadcast position, I started leafing through my game notes and then probably spent too much time tossing out all of the strange stats from this game and odd numbers that are stacking up this season.  

As you undoubtedly know by now, this is not a good front-running team.  At times it seems they can't stand prosperity.  The Blazers have trailed late in so many games and have come from behind so often this season, they don't seem to know how to handle actually sustaining or building on a lead.  Because of that, even when they led by 19 points in the second half, nothing felt comfortable.  I suspect we weren't the only ones feeling that way. 

So, as we were enjoying talking about a 19-point lead, I decided to toss out the fact that the Trail Blazers have only had four wins by more than 10 points this season, and that every single game seems to come down to the wire.  I had been talking to a couple of nice people sitting behind our broadcast table throughout the night, and during one time out, when Portland seemingly in total control, I was told that we had this thing in the bag.  I simply said to the guy, "don't leave early. This thing will go down to the wire.  They always do."

Dirk Nowitzki made a comment the other night about the fine line in the NBA between winning and losing in this league.  He was referring to the fact that Dallas has lost so many close games this season, and had just lost thanks to a game-winning shot by LaMarcus Aldridge. They have established failure in those moments, and Dirk even admitted as much.  The Blazers, on the other hand, have earned a master's degree in "the nail-biter." 

I suppose then it all comes down to personal expectations.  When you get into a jam, do you expect to win or expect to lose?  Past performance certainly dictates future results, especially when it all gets mental.  Late in NBA games, in a league where so many players are capable, it's all mental, isn't it?  The Blazers, it appears, have simply conditioned themselves to find a way to win.  

I've heard others say it's simply luck.  While I do believe that there's a bit of truth to that, this has happened so many times this season (and the sample size continues to get bigger and bigger), there's got to be more to it.  Are we simply dealing with a team that is very mentally tough, and maintains a belief in even the most dire of situations?  The evidence this season is stacking up to back that argument.

The Blazers are now 8-1 in games decided by two points or fewer.  Dallas, for example, is 2-8 in games decided by four points or fewer.  Portland is 5-1 in overtime games this season.  The Mavericks are 1-8 in overtime.  It's just a coincidence that I'm talking about Dallas here as I'm sitting in Dallas.  Dirk's statement from last week was just fresh in my mind and was even thinking about it during last night's wild finish.

I'm not bagging on the Mavs here, but you could argue that in tight situations the Mavs prepare themselves for the worst, simply because that's what is fresh in their minds.  The Blazers serve as the example at the other end of the scale.  They've come to expect to to win, in any situation. That's very powerful, and can make all the difference in the world.

The catch here, in all of this, is that things can change quickly.  We're talking about short memories here, and we always hear that being able to put the past quickly behind you is the goal.  Perhaps that's really only the case when you're fighting negative thoughts.  When you've got so many good experiences in your recent past, go ahead and lean on them.  The Blazers seem to do that well.  That can be the only difference between being 25-23, like the Blazers are, versus being 20-28, where the Mavs currently find themselves.  A couple of shots here or there, a couple of turnovers, a couple of free throws.

Speaking of turnovers, I'm not going to get totally caught up in the fact that Portland coughed up the ball 28 times against Minnesota on Monday night.  The Blazers lost the all-important points-off-turnovers battle 33-8.  That's a staggering number.  It would be getting much more attention, obviously, if Portland had lost that game.  As it is, at least mentally, it can actually work for them, and add to their mental resolve.  "We turned it over 28 times, and won?"  Yes, they did.

We gave so much attention to the fourth quarter of Monday night's game, as Portland was outscored 40 to 23.  I know, that was crazy.  But, the third quarter was just as bizarre.  The Blazers had 25 offensive possessions in that quarter.  They suffered 9 turnovers, but scored on 13 of the other 16 possessions and actually went on a 20-4 run.  Do you realize how nutty that is?

Much was made of LaMarcus Aldridge's statement after Saturday's win over Utah when he called this a "make-or-break" trip.  And, losing most of a 19-point lead on the first game of the trip, and losing in Minnesota, would have had everyone using L.A.'s quote in their game stories and saying, "okay, what now?"  Instead, we'll all sit on that one for a few more days.

Aldridge ended with 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists against Minnesota, and hit another huge shot.  After the Timberwolves had closed to within one at 97-96, Aldridge, early in the shot clock, took a long jumper and nailed it.  He looked confident in taking the shot, and believed it was going in.  It was the biggest shot of the night, another in the clutch, and allowed him to actually be able to smile when talking about missing two free throws at the line moments later that kept the Timberwolves alive.  It wasn't because he was happy about missing the free throws, but was simply relieved they were able to win in spite of the misses-  and the turnovers, and giving back 18 points of a 19-point lead.

Just another day in the life of this team, during this improbable season.  



  1. If we aren't careful those late game free throws are going to cost us games.

    Yes we were sloppy with the ball and poor Nic looked like a turn over machine, but many of those turn overs were questionable calls by the officials. The litany of them is too long for me and I'll leave that to HG and Kassandra. It was one of the most poorly officiated games I've ever seen. Instead of the league reviewing one charge/bock call they should review this whole game.

    by Ancientone on 2/5/2013 10:17 AM
  2. It is amazing...one would think with a 19 point 4th quarter lead that it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way. Not with this years team, at least so far! Yes Ancientone, those late game free throws are eventually going to cost us badly. Had Luke just made one more or LA just made one it would have took so much pressure off. Once again, I wonder where Nic's head was at on this night? He seems to have these "spell's" where he does not even look involved or even at times what he is even doing in the offensive set! SEVEN turnovers with some being at a very crucial time...not to mention he just makes some really bad passes across the court. We also missed him on looking for his shot, but from what I hear it is from a sore wrist? I also agree that this game was one of the worst officiated games of the year. Sometimes you just shake your head and wonder!!! LOL I have always thought to myself about the self control that Mike and Mike must have to endure being that they are announcers...if I was in there place there is no way I could stop myself from going ballistic on some of those calls!!! Well, bottom line is we get the win, more grey hair for some of us and the cardiac kids pull off another win that on paper defies all logic! On to the home of "the flopper (Dirk)" and hopefully we can pick up another road win. GO BLAZERS!

    peace out,

    by daddylogan on 2/5/2013 11:38 AM
  3. Wow Mike: this was horrible and great at the same time. One of the Wolves announcers said they talked to you at half time when we got about a 15 pt lead twice and gave it back, that you said the Blazers were just like that, they get a lead then give it back or get way behind and gain it back, They just play back and forth like a bouncy ball.

    I am not real good at spotting refs bias because many times there is actually a foul. I do get peeved when they call an offensive foul on LaMarcus for dropping his shoulder and driving into a defender and on the other end when Griffin and also Howard drops their shoulder and drive into LaMarcus; they call a foul on LaMarcus. But this bad refereeing was of the type that when PDX was being aggressive they would throw their bodies into the ball handler trying to get the ball, and saying the refs will get tired of calling all the fouls and will quit calling them, that is what caused most of the turn overs. They probably got the idea from Utah as they do the same thing while going up for a lay-up.
    Nevertheless we won, but I am wondering if that might make the Blazers more timid and take away half of their offense. I have said often that everybody loves this fast action free flowing offense, but with a new team there will be many errant passes and missed passes, but the secret is to keep it going until the team gels more and get synergy. And also occasionally like last night the Blazers let reckless abandon opponents defense and bad calls to no calls from the officials get in their head, they are growing up in front of our very eyes. Think back, we have lost a few of these very type games in the past. I have often said that if we are ahead at half time we have a chance of losing, but if we are behind at half time we usually win the second half. It is like we will go out the first half and play tough or we will go out the second half and play tough, you get one or the other but not often can you get both. I am glad, like last night, we could get ahead and then kind of coast until the the other team cuts into the lead, then kick it in overdrive again. it worked the whole game until the last three minutes. when like in football they started playing prevent defense, designed for not to lose, but often as not it prevents us from winning, as it gives the opponents the thought that they could win.

    It has been a wried year, but from the young team and injuries to Batum and Wesley as you said in your last blog we just found another way to win or fighting off defeat.

    by Hg on 2/5/2013 12:32 PM
  4. How can it be ? Riding in a wheelchair and wearing a boot, 2 days later he is lighting it up in an NBA game. Matthews is an absolute warrior. If you want to explain where the belief comes from start with Wesley.
    This team keeps us guessing. They are like a good book. I'm tempted to jump ahead and peek at the ending. That would spoil it. Enjoy the ride.

    by the golden ladder on 2/5/2013 1:11 PM
  5. What this game reminded me of was one of those comedies where both teams are trying to lose. Actually, it was more complicated than that; it was as though the refs and our ballhandlers had bet on the Wolves, and the shooters on both teams had bet on the Blazers. Well, except for Dante, who perhaps forgot which team he was playing for.
    Wes was in good shooting form, but I still wish we could send him home a couple of games early to try to get better healed for the second half. And Nic looks like he needs a few games off right now; the wrist is obviously hurting badly, and it has disrupted his entire game. He's reluctant to shoot, but then ends up forcing passes that he can't fully control. He's less inclined to drive to the hoop or crash the boards. I think it's a bad idea to let someone keep playing once they have shown that the pain pushes him toward bad habits. That's where the "warrior" mentality ends up hurting the team. And those of us who remember the great crash of 78, the collapse of Walton's already tender feet, the snapping of Bob Gross' leg bone while running up the court on painkillers that kept him from feeling the break, know what the worst case scenario when you encourage guys to prove how tough they are by playing hurt.

    by David Maclaine on 2/5/2013 2:54 PM
  6. Mike B will you please tell the guys that my finger nails are gone...no more nail biters. PLEASE!

    by allie-oop on 2/5/2013 5:35 PM
  7. Has JJ rubbed off on him or has LaMarcus come of age cleaning the glass. Another strong rebounding night.
    Dallas coming off a whoopin' from OKC. Memory still fresh of the loss in the RG. Will be tough sledding. Get this one for coach Stotts.
    Babbit is +45 when playing with 4 starters.
    John Harbaugh could have been describing the Blazers. " It's not perfect, it's not always pretty, but it's us."

    by Divotking on 2/5/2013 5:55 PM
  8. @Divotking: Good point about Babbitt. His game is slowly but surely getting better and one of these days he's gonna start hitting 3s like we know he can.

    We've actually got two teams in Portland: one that strikes with the speed and precision of Seal Team Six, and one that more resembles the Three Stooges. But we love 'em both! One thing though -- I need to buy one of those portable defibrillators and make sure my wife knows how to operate it.

    by dgpdx on 2/5/2013 8:42 PM
  9. i suppose we just say that we got the win and that's all that matters. it is good the game was only 48 minutes. i think maybe a few more and the outcome could have been different. we had the 28 turnovers, but we also shot the lights out -- almost 60 percent. i suppose those end up cancelling out each other.

    personally, i'm going to chalk this win up to a home team making a strong run at the end, but falling short. of course, it could have been a tad more comfortable of a win had we made those free throws at the end. as MB often says (well, it seems often at least!): this sport is a game of runs. Minnesota made their final run. we held them off. we leave with the win.

    i'm concerned about Nicolas and his wrist. during tonight's Courtside, Chris Haynes talked about Nicolas re-injuring the wrist defending a transition basket. if we really are beginning a push to the playoffs, this is the last thing we need. he's been so incredibly valuable to us this season. the problem is i'd want him to sit out and rest but, despite the upswing of bench play the past couple of games, i would hate to not have him in there. ultimately, i think he needs some time to heal it. in the end, that's the most important thing.

    i'm trying to get away from criticizing the refs. not being able to actually watch the game, all i can rely on are the eyes of Wheels and Tone, and the interpretation of others in chat. the anti-officiating comments flooded the chat and Wheels seemed shocked (more than normal) at a barrage of non-calls. the reason i'm trying to avoid criticizing the officiating is that it''s just no use. most of us understand that the officiating in this league is atrocious at best. fortunately, we shot the ball well enough that the zebras couldn't even steal this win from us.

    it's always great to get the first win of a long road trip. i think we can go 4-2 on this trip but, realistically, we should probably be happy with 3-3.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 2/5/2013 9:12 PM
  10. @dgpdx: my wife bought one after my first stent and she's an OR nurse. My sons joke that she follows me around with the paddles charged so I'd better snore when I take a nap.

    by Ancientone on 2/5/2013 9:12 PM
  11. Hey Mike,
    If you get a chance let Micheal Holton know he has fans out here. I like the work he does on the sidelines. His basketball knowledge. His sense of humor. Most of all his quit witted one liners. They crack me up.
    Thanks Mike

    by the golden ladder on 2/6/2013 4:25 PM
  12. @Ancientone: I could ask my wife to watch the games with me, with the paddles ready ;-)

    by dgpdx on 2/8/2013 1:53 AM
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