This wasn’t a particularly pretty game, but the perseverance demonstrated by this Trail Blazers team as they fell to the Orlando Magic was enthralling.
Sticking to a team when they’re shooting the lights out is no easy task, and tonight the Trail Blazers did just that. (For the most part.) As I digest this game the term “moral victory” keeps coming up. Some say these moral wins don’t mean a thing, I say they do. They're lessons on how strong a team can stay when faced with adversity. And they're doubly important when they come in the form of a close loss instead of a blowout.
Orlando shot 58.6 percent in their 107-104 defeat of the Trail Blazers. Sounds like a good number, but doesn’t necessary stand out as fantastic, right? Wrong. They shot 70 percent in the first quarter and slightly dipped to 63.2 percent heading into the half. All this while killing it with 61.1 percent from downtown. Thirty-three of the Magic’s 62 points at the midpoint were from behind the arc. That is flat out amazing.
They followed that up with a 58.8 percent in the third and at one point extended their lead to 23. It was an incredible shooting night for Orlando. When you’re the Trail Blazers and playing a team the seemingly couldn’t miss if they tried, it’s all you can do to stay in the mix.
But Portland thrilled again and mounted another amazing fourth quarter comeback to get the game to within three. A comeback after being down in the fourth by twenty!
This team gutted it out. No white flag. The extra steps to get the stops, force the turnovers and trap the ball were beautiful. Portland balled in the final period like Orlando did in the first shooting 60.9 percent.
Though it didn’t end with another notch in the win column there’s a lesson to be had and a “moral victory” to be owned. This team doesn’t give up. This team can dig out of holes. And even though this team isn’t heading out onto the road with a win, they’re taking their fourth quarter “moral victory” with them.
A victory of the heart that says WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP. No matter what.
I’ll leave you with thoughts on tonight’s "moral victory," the lessons learned and the upcoming road trip from Gerald Wallace, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews.
On tonight’s comeback
“It feels good. It shows the fight in the team, the team can keep fighting. We easily could’ve gave up this game, mad excuses, but the guys kept fighting and we gave ourselves an opportunity to win at the end and I think that’s the positive thing you can take out of that.”
“The thing about this team is we have too many guys that are winners and who are gonna lay it on the line every single night no matter what. Good or bad we’re gonna play hard. And that’s what we did tonight. We came up a little bit short but I think we can learn from it and when we’re in that situation again hopefully capitalize on it.”
On the feeling on the bench during the fourth quarter
“Basically just keep fighting. Keep playing and I think our main thing was lets keep chipping away at it. Lets cut it to ten by this time, lets get it under ten by this time. Just keep fighting. I don’t think anybody was down. Our main thing was try to get the game close and then see what happens from there.”
“Excited. Just keep it going. We were happy for each other and just constant talk, constant chatter. That’s what we need to start doing at the beginning of games.”
On the upcoming six-game road trip
“We just gotta take care of business. We gotta play our type of ball. We gotta take the attitude that we had tonight out on the road and continue to build off it. I think that never-quit, never-die attitude. Teams are gonna make runs at home, things aren’t gonna always go our way on the road, but we gotta keep fighting. We can’t give into it and push ourselves to a win.”
“You take the positives of what we did tonight. It would be different if they were doing their thing and we said ‘okay, we’re gonna lose by 20 tonight, lets mail it in.’ We didn’t do that. You take the positives, the never say die attitude and keep going.”
“We need the way we finished the game to be the way we start the game. We need to bring our own juice, our own crowd, the crowd really got behind us as we started making our rally and we need to bring that with us otherwise it’s gonna be a long road trip. Just play basketball. Play it the right way. Like we’ve been doing just buckling down on D, really focusing on D.”
On the mentality of the team
“We feel good about what we’re doing, honestly. I mean we had a tough one tonight, but I just like our team so much. We’re so selfless. I think guys are really just, I know we’re gonna say it I saw your blog (hey-yo!!), we play for each other but that’s the truth.”