Wednesday night at the Moda Center, there was an incredibly average basketball game played. Most of the buzz in the arena was about the 90’s-inspired Damian Lillard glasses that would be handed out at the door after the game. There really wasn’t anything to buzz about on the court.
Not very often in an NBA basketball game does the game’s leading scorer only have 16 points; the Blazers have 3 players that average more than 16 points per game. LaMarcus Aldridge shot the ball terribly, 1-13 from the floor. Neither Robin Lopez nor Aldridge reached double digits in rebounds, although Nicolas Batum grabbed a career-high 18. All in all it was a very lackluster game that ended in a 24 point victory for the home team.
The old saying is, “A win is a win.” There is some merit there; I feel like there is something missing from this team that was there at the beginning of the season.
Perennially successful teams know how to win when it matters. Things start to get serious now in the month of March and the teams that are still going to be around in June are playing better and better basketball every night. The Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat are some of the hottest teams in the league right now … and for good reason.
That is one thing this Blazer team is lacking: postseason experience from their leaders. The fact that not one of the starters have made it out of the first round is troubling. Dorell Wright and Mo Williams are the only two on the roster with substantial postseason experience. And what is even more troubling is that the inexperience travels down the bench to the coaching staff. Terry Stotts has never led a team to a winning record, let alone to the playoffs. I understand he was on the bench in Dallas when they won their championship, but I want to see him out front leading.
The concept of peaking at the right time is a popular one, especially in the NFL. It is not uncommon for the lower seeded teams heading into the playoffs to go all the way because they get a few good bounces and they peak at the right time.
This stretch upcoming tells you a lot about a team in the NBA. Is a team on an upward or downward trajectory heading into the playoffs? Is this Blazers roster constructed in a way that they can peak at the right time?
Sitting in section 210 of the Moda Center Monday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and Wednesday verse the Atlanta Hawks, I would say the Blazers are on a downward trajectory in relationship with how they played at the beginning of the season. There is still time to get some of the swagger back that they brought onto the court earlier in the year.
On the cover of the Rip City program handed out at the door Wednesday was the headline “Stay United” with a picture of team huddled on the court. That united effort is what is going to be needed this next week on their 5 –game road trip. Peaking at the right time starts now.