Remember the Fourth-Quarter Magic?
We are now in Boston, as this four-game road trip continues. This is the only back-to-back set on this trip, and that’s a positive. But, consider it will be Portland’s fifth back-to-back set this season, as the team is in the midst of starting the season with 12 of its first 19 games on the road.
I’m hoping that’s the explanation for some of what we’re seeing. I realize that sounds a tad optimistic, to think it could be qualified that easily. Clearly, that’s a difficult way to start the season, but it doesn’t begin to explain the last four losses. No excuse there.
To state the obvious, the Trail Blazers are stuck in a rut. It’s an emotional rut without a doubt. There are probably several contributing factors, but that’s the frustrating part- it doesn’t seem like anyone really knows how this team got here this quickly. There’s certainly the hope that somehow they can escape just as quickly.
The Blazers have been just plain awful in the fourth quarter lately. Last night in Philly it was more of the same. You could feel it coming. I hated to keep bringing it up as we approached the fourth quarter last night, but it was smacking us across the face. By the time the fourth quarter actually started, the wheels were well in motion. It was over.
Even at that point we weren’t aware how rough things would be in the quarter. The Blazers, who led by as many as 8 points in the second half, shot just 4-20 in the final quarter and scored just 11 points. I’d love to say that was a result of lock-down defense by Philadelphia, but that’s just not true. Portland was outscored 22-11, and lost the game 88-79.
In the last four games the Trail Blazers have been outscored in the fourth quarter 110-62. That’s incredible. I did the math about five times to make sure I was getting that right. This is so completely out of character for this team. You can roll your eyes at that, but let me give you some numbers.
In the two previous seasons, when the Blazers held a lead after the third quarter, it was basically over. They were never great at blowing teams away in the fourth, but almost always won. Giving up fourth-quarter leads was extremely rare.
Two seasons ago, in the 08-09 season, the Blazers were 41-3 when holding a lead coming into the fourth quarter, including a very impressive 13-1 mark on the road. Last season, the Blazers were 42-9 when leading going into the fourth, and 21-3 on the road. That’s a combined record of 83-12 in the two previous seasons when leading going into the fourth, and an amazing 34-4 on the road.
That’s a result of execution, of hitting big shots, and of being a very confident team. It also shows confidence when you can win close games. Last season the Blazers led the NBA with a record of 9-1 in games decided by 3 points or fewer.
I bring all of this up to illustrate what I said above- this is out of character for what we’ve come to know about this Portland team. That doesn’t make this stretch any easier to take, but I’d like to think this is perhaps the exception to the rule.
Tonight, the trip continues with a game against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, who are rolling right now.
Gotta get ready for the game. Talk to you after.