Monday, February 2, 2009

Trail Blazers 97, Hornets 89: A Lesson In Faith

Sometime around the middle of the third quarter, my girlfriend called to let me know she would be home a little later than expected. Toward the end of the conversation she asked me how the Trail Blazers were doing down in New Orleans.

My reply: "There's no way we're going to win this game."

Shows what I know.

When Chris Paul left the game with a strained groin, I thought we might be able to make the final score respectable. And when Jerryd Bayless scored 13 of his 19 points in a crucial seven minute stretch, I thought we might get find a way to have at least a chance at a W late in the game. But Bayless was called for a truly laughable offensive foul with the game tied at 81-81, and I figured that if that was the way it was going to be, a Trail Blazers victory was again out of the question.

Turns out my paranoia was unwarranted. Bayless and Travis Outlaw kept making timely buckets and Joel Przybilla played smothering defense on David West on the way to a 97-89 victory. Hello fourth-best record in the Western Conference.

People are going to point to Paul leaving with injury and say that's the reason why Portland escaped with a win. And those people aren't necessarily wrong, but the Blazers got next to nothing offensively from four fifths of the starting lineup (and even though LaMarcus Aldridge ended with 22 points, he did so on 9-of-21 shooting) and still managed to comes away with a win. A road win. Their first road win against the Hornets in the last seven attempts. Their first road win against a team Western Conference team with a winning record, in the fifth largest lead lost in Hornets franchise history. So enjoy. And keep believing.


Stephen said...

I hope we keep getting lucky like this, but we will need to play a good team when we hit the payoffs. You see, we were being handed a loss by the first good team we've played since the loss to the Cavs, and then it happened: Chris Paul went down, and all of the sudden The Hornets were a team no better than the depleted Clippers we beat last week. Let's look at our recent wins for real. The team seems to be flying high, but let's keep it in perspective. We beat a Clippers team without B Davis or Marcus Camby, the Bucks with no big men, a Utah team without Boozer or Kiralenko, a Memphis team without G Wallace, and now we were on the verge of getting blown out by the Hornets without Chandler, until CP3 pulled his groin. Two of those teams were on the second of back to backs, and Memphis went to overtime beating the Lakers.

Don't get me wrong, the Blazers are coming together as a team right now as Roy has found his game again following his injury, but we've been blowing out teams riddled with injuries, most of whom are under .500. This game was to be our first test against a good team, but after CP went out they were down three starters, and at that point their roster looks worse than the weakest teams in the league. This wasn't a big win, this was a lucky win. We should be blowing all these teams out, because we have a deep team with four out of five starters healthy. We have two legit centers hitting their stride, an all-star, and a couple productive forwards, and a killer bench. So lets not go crazy here. The true praise for this Blazers team is to look back at the hard part of the schedule, that we came out of ahead, in the playoff race, with injuries to key players, lots of road games and games against good teams. That is the real achievement. We are lucky now, that we are hitting the easy part of the schedule, while all the other teams are hitting their hard part, and are all banged up. Even LA has lost Bynum. But, in the playoffs luck won't do it. 15 turnovers won't cut it. So let's just count our blessings on this one, and not make it out to be some amazing comeback, because in the end, a talented Blazers team beat down David West and what would otherwise be a D-League team for the last quarter and a half. We have to win in situations like this, and we are, that is why we are playoff bound. Now let's clean up the turnovers and beat Dallas.

John said...

first road win vs a team with a winning record? A western team with a winning record maybe you mean? Blazers kill the East on the road!

Casey Holdahl said...

Stephen: Excellent points. While the schedule might have seemed difficult early in the season, it's equally less difficult right now, at least for the time being.

Consider that in Feb. we play just 5 of 12 games at home. But in March, we play 10 of 16 at the Rose Garden. It's hot and cold.

John: Good catch. Much appreciated. I've made the change in the post.