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Better off without our All-Star? -- Blazers Finally win in Oakland
By portjd Posted in: Blazers
By Jonathan Ryan Davis
Just a quick review for the readers about Portland's two biggest
struggles/flaws for this year:
1) Winning close games
2) Winning on the road
If the Blazers had won all of their close games (5 points or less), they
would have the best record in the league. Simply looking at point
differential, Portland should be third in the Western Conference behind
OKC and San Antonio. If Portland had simply won 5 of their 9 losses by
five points or less, Portland would be tied with the Spurs for second in
the West. Unfortunately, Brandon Roy is gone and Portland has
struggled in close games and have been abysmal on the road.
So, heading into last night's game against Golden State, a team that had
won three straight games and is a team on the rise under the tutelage
of Mark Jackson, AND factoring in that Portland was on the second game
of a back-to-back-to-back, AND considering Portland was without their
All-Star and the most consistent player the team has had this year, AND
understanding that Portland would rather play the Lakers at home than
Golden State at Oracle...Portland was destined to lose.
Last night started out how most people probably expected. The Warriors
dominated the boards, out-shot the Blazers, and extended the lead
multiple times in the first quarter, to as many as 8 points. But
Portland fought back. By focusing on controlling the defensive boards,
corralling and putting back multiple baskets, and FINALLY hitting
outside shots, Portland climbed back into the game by scoring 37 points
in the second quarter and taking a three point lead into halftime.
Then, as we all expected against one of the best shooting and higher
scoring teams in the league, the second half was all about defense.
Portland combined to score 36 points in the half, one less than they
managed in the second quarter alone. Yet Portland's defense was just as
stifling against Golden State.
Going down the stretch in the fourth quarter, the inevitable pattern was
playing out. Portland was within a couple of possessions of their
opponent. They started to miss shot after shot while their opponent
steadily hit baskets. Portland throws away possessions, and eventually,
they lose by three points. But this night was different from all other
Without Aldridge, Portland ran their offense through Gerald Wallace and
Jamal Crawford. Crash was stellar, knocking down four clutch threes and
slashing to the hoop. Crawford was off and on all night, but hit every
key free throw and the deciding three point shot that gave Portland the
lead in the closing minute. Then, the Warriors played the role of the
Blazers by fumbling their final possession where they could have forced
OT or won the game outright. Instead, BLAZERS WIN!
So, what does this tell us about the formula for winning close games?
Let Crash let it fly from beyond the arc. Ensure LMA is in street
clothes. Give Elliot Williams plenty of playing time. And most of all,
play every close game on the road.
Who knows if Portland can use this victory to propel them in the right
direction; but it was sure nice to go to sleep after winning a close
game. We can all hope that the Blazers are learning about what it takes
to win close games. I'd rather them learn now and build on it going
into the playoffs than forget how to win close games down the stretch.
Great game last night and one more to go tonight!