ShalamarClark's Blog

ShalamarClark

Feb 07

A Super Lesson For The Trail Blazers

By ShalamarClark Posted in: AndreMiller, Cavaliers, LaMarcusAldridge, Nuggets, Pacers, RudyFernandez, Spurs, WesleyMatthews
In this game, nothing is guaranteed.

That’s one thing I love about sports. On any day an elite team can fall to an underdog, not because of stats, numbers or experience, but because of heart.

I sat watching the Super Bowl showdown on Sunday featuring the NFL’s hottest team, the Green Bay Packers, square up against the hardnosed Pittsburgh Steelers, who at times earlier in the week had already been crowned as Super Bowl champs based purely on experience of the big game.

I sat in a room with two couches pressed on opposite walls and a coffee table that split the sides in half–Terrible Towel lovers on one side and cheeseheads on the other.

I do admit, I was nervous. Why? Because there’s a point where experience can alleviate some of the stresses that go along with the game. But when it comes down to it, how can anyone count out the team that decides to show up and execute when its time is called?

That’s exactly what happened for Green Bay as it struck the first blow connecting with Jordy Nelson on a 29-yard touchdown pass. On the Steelers’ next possession, it was the Packers’ defense that answered the call, picking off Big Ben and returning it to the house to go up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, Aaron Rogers had found Greg Jennings on a 21-yard pass to take an 18-point lead before going into halftime ahead 21-10.

Stunned? A little. Why? Because Pittsburgh’s squad is chasing a seventh title, the most of any franchise, and have won two in the last five years. Green Bay hasn’t been to the big dance in 14 years, but as a fifth seed, they managed to beat Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago all on the road to make it to the big stage.

I couldn’t help but think that if the room was filled with the Portland Trail Blazers, which side would they be on? But most importantly, what would they take away from the game?

For me, it’s the value of heart. Unlike experience, which is measureable, heart can be limitless.

Heart is what drove LaMarcus Aldridge to drop a career-high 40 points and 11 rebounds to soar past the NBA’s top-seed San Antonio Spurs on Feb. 1. It’s also what propelled Rudy Fernandez to score 19 points and five assists off the bench to fight back against the Indiana Pacers, even though, the Trail Blazers’ bench had been outscored three games in a row. And it pushed Wesley Matthews to connect on five 3-pointers for 31 points to give Cleveland its 24th straight loss of the season and help Portland bounce back into the eight spot in the Western Conference after taking a quick exit.

Playing with heart may be the most valuable lesson the Trail Blazers have learned this season after dealing with another year headlined by injuries. You always hear players in the locker room say when it’s someone’s time to step up, they have to make the most of it. 

Witnessing Matthews roll around on the court, pounding his fist, after banging up his ankle and knee in Denver last week, he did one thing that was a testament to his team and a symbolism of all the obstacles the team had faced–he got back up. Not only did he will himself back to his own feet, but he finished the game even if it meant taking a loss in the opener of a three-game road trip.  

When you talk about experience you say the Trail Blazers have beaten the Pacers five games in a row, so statistically they should win. But statistics were wrong on Friday. Watching the game, you could sense that Indiana had something to prove, something more desired than Portland. This isn’t saying that the Trail Blazers didn’t play with heart, it simply means that the Pacers were playing with more on that night. The same can be said of the Cavaliers, who have lost 24 matchups in a row, but the final 111-105 outcome on Saturday was closer than most people would have predicted.

We get lost in numbers and forget that heart and hustle aren’t tallied on a stat sheet, but both can be game changers. 

Rally back to bring the game within a possession of a lead change. Finish on one end of the court and be ready to defend. You know they’re coming, so be ready.

And like that, the fourth quarter started and the Packers’ Clay Matthews beat his defender to lay a hit on the Steelers’ running back Rashard Mendenhall, forcing a fumble in the backfield that Green Bay recovered and converted into another touchdown completion to Jennings.

Portland was locked in with Cleveland, 94-94 with 7:51 left in the final quarter, when the Trail Blazers needed an answer. And who rose up for the team? Andre Miller, who scored six down the stretch to complete a 17-11 run to avoid a three-game slide.

I say forget the numbers and just play with heart. 

Treat each game like it’s a championship scenario. And for the Trail Blazers, that’s 31 more championships to win. How will they play the remaining games of the season? And how much heart will they have?

9 Comments

  1. It's all about killer instinct; it needs to be more consistent, not just against the elite teams, but the teams w/losing records.

    by blazerdarren77 on 2/7/2011 10:25 PM
  2. I am so with you shalamar on this one. I see that heart and hustle with this team more then any other blazer team I have seen. great blog great analogy. did you see sam elliotts speech about the packers? the thing that stuck with me was this..this town of green bay is hungry for a championship and the fans are willing it. I think tonights game showed the will and heart example lma points. the last person to do two forty plus nights a game was clyde the glide....i saw la rise to that level tonight and i thought we are onto something great here. I belive it

    by oregongal47 view (TG) on 2/7/2011 10:50 PM
  3. GREAT blog Shal!

    I'm right there with you on the heart factor. For me, watching an underdog fight with heart endears me to the group even more. It's real.

    Yeah, it's a bummer that we tend to be the underdog with a depleted roster. But WOW! It's so awesome to watch them come through.

    Love it. Love my Blazers. And watch out NBA, we'll be healthy someday. RIP CITY!

    by sarahhecht on 2/7/2011 11:11 PM
  4. Perfect timing considering last night's win over Chicago. The Trail Blazers put it all on the table. It was simply amazing to see the team rally around each other, even helping LA score 42, and the fan support. Portland fans are truly one of a kind. Props to LA and MIller for leading the way. 30 more championships to win!

    by ShalamarClark on 2/8/2011 8:50 AM
  5. Nice work Shalamar.

    by caseyholdahl on 2/8/2011 10:43 AM
  6. I agree about heart, and I think Defense, Rebounding, and Hustle wins games.

    by mbmurr1 on 2/8/2011 4:29 PM
  7. GREAT post! Totally agree :)

    by SisillaRiann on 2/8/2011 4:44 PM
  8. Good post, pal!

    by dasage504 on 2/9/2011 11:05 AM
  9. they DO play with heart & guts! i <3 them Blazers!

    by Gabrielle James on 2/9/2011 11:59 AM
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