Portland was spoiled when they were able to come back and beat the Miami Heat after being down by double-digits for most of the game. They’ve since dropped the next two while following the same blueprint: play hard but still be losing, then make a miraculous fourth quarter comeback. Unfortunately they reached a transcendent level before experiencing the torture of not being able to close the deal. And while the effort is there, right now they seem like the hot guy in middle school that can’t seem to understand why popping his collar isn’t the same chick-magnet in college as it once was: the Blazers need to figure out some new moves, and I don’t doubt that they will.
I hate “moral victories” because they’re an excuse to lose when the object is to win. But this current two game losing streak for the Portland Trail Blazers is still negated by the win against Miami; that, and Portland’s effort to make games close in the end with a sense they feel they can win them.
Last year after the Blazers lost a close game, oddly enough to this Oklahoma City Thunder team off a bad goaltending call, that was the end of the line. The wheels came off and the season screeched to a bickering halt that ended with a fired coach, traded players and a second rebuilding project in six years. Losing that one game made everything else seem impossible. But this year, this team seems to think they can win any game, and they have Miami to thank for that.
Portland beating the Heat will forever define this team this season, and they’ve proven that with two close loses after being down big in each. Both against Golden State and Oklahoma City, Portland rallied back to make the fourth quarter interesting before ultimately making one too many mistakes to seal the comeback. But the fact they already one won should make them think they have it in them to do it again.
They say the blessing of being a young team is that you’re too unaware of when big moments are actually big, but I think this Blazer team works against that because they have players that seem to want to the big moment. They want to shine. Damian Lillard was shooting from San Mateo against the Warriors, and obviously Wes Matthews had no problem pulling the trigger on a few big shots himself both off the dribble and wide open in front of the other team’s bench. Throw in Nic Batum’s pull up three against the Thunder in transition (as well as his previous game winners already this season), and even though it didn’t go in, Lamarcus’ willingness to create his own shot and rise up for the win Sunday night, and you’ve got yourself a quartet with stones big enough to sculpt another Stonehenge.
Hopefully Portland can get it figured out enough by Tuesday when they go to Denver to play the Nuggets. A 2-2 record against four really tough teams is a good outcome for such a young squad trying to figure out all they can do.
While that may be true, and even though we’re finding out this team is better than most rational people thought going into the season, the best thing about them is they’re thinking of moral victories.