We’ve talked about preseason expectations for the Portland Trail Blazers and we know they’re a hard working team. I think everyone has come to the conclusion that as long as they continue to work hard, they will meet expectations. They may win the majority of their games to end the season, but they could also miss the playoffs entirely. The fact remains that the end of the season schedule is going to be tough. Out of the remaining 26 games, 20 of them are against legitimate playoff contenders. That means a playoff-type atmosphere. No matter what the outcome is, it is my belief that as long as the Trail Blazers show up ready to play as hard as they can and leave it all on the floor, we can call it a successful year.
If you saw the last two games against the Lakers and the Celtics, you understand what I’m talking about. Those two games were both grind-it-out basketball games where the Blazers held a lead throughout. They haven’t had much success in LA or against Boston, even at home, so naturally I was expecting at best to go 1-1. That is exactly what they did. However, it was not because the Celtics lay down and handed the Blazers their lunch money. Boston fought hard, narrowly escaping the Rose Garden with a victory, and it was Portland’s defense that won the game this time. I’ll take great defense over great offense any day.
I am a firm believer in the theory that the Blazers play to their opponent’s level. Sometimes it’s up and sometimes it’s down. Against the Celtics, the Blazers played with the type of defensive ferocity that Doc Rivers, Boston’s coach, expects every night. I honestly didn’t know they could play like that. I just assumed that Coach Terry Stotts asked his players to act as if they are playing freeze tag out there, flailing their arms about like spaghetti noodles. I am happy to be wrong, and also kind of want some of my mom’s spaghetti. Portland could have won in LA, too. It was their game to win; the Lakers simply had more in the tank down the stretch. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of this guy named Kobe Bryant, but yeah, he’s kind of a big deal. At any rate, you get a sense of what the last stretch of the season will be like: a dogfight. Each team will try to scratch and claw their way into the playoffs because that is the type of league we have this year.
Win or lose, I am excited about the last 26 games. They will be intense and competitive. As fans, don’t we want to see great games? I coached in a tournament league for a great group of boys from SE Portland two years ago. That was some of the most exciting basketball I have ever seen. Do you know why? Those boys came out each game and gave it their all. That was all I ever asked of them. I said, “I don’t care if we win even one game. Just go out and play as hard as you can and have fun.” They responded well. Even though we were in a very competitive league, they managed to play without fear and as a result we got quality basketball out of it. It was amazing. All of the fans (family) that came to watch enjoyed the games. The kids played their hearts out and left everything on the floor. A wise man once said, “Do your best and forget the rest.” After that, what else can we expect from the game?
If I had a message for the Trail Blazers it would be to go out, play fearless basketball, and have fun, win or lose. I think that is just the sort of basketball we are going to get out of them. It will be fun to watch and, best of all, worth watching.