Recent history, and many NBA analysts, say that the Portland Trail Blazers are still not true contenders. I am not a doom and gloom kind of guy, but I am starting to agree more and more as I watch this team. Oddly enough it was watching the Super Bowl that really made it click for me.
The Denver Broncos seemed an unstoppable force (on offense) all season long, then they ran into a defensive powerhouse in the Seattle Seahawks and the result was utter and embarrassing domination by the team with defense. Portland is entertaining to watch and everyone wants to see points, but when they aren’t scoring the basketball they lose, because they simply cannot stop anyone from scoring.
If you take a look at the last 13 NBA champions, the one with the highest opponent points per game average was the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers at 97.2 points per game allowed. Why do I bring this up?
Well, the Blazers allow 103.3 points per night — horrid. The only teams worse than them right now; Kings 103.8, Lakers 106.1 and the 76ers at a whopping 109.9 points allowed per game. “But Chris the Blazers run and gun, which means they are going to give up more points by virtue of their style of play!” Yes and no. Do the Warriors run? You bet your ass they do and they only give up 99.0 points per contest.
The Blazers simply aren’t getting stops. Explain this. Monday night against the Wizards (a game they ended up losing 100-90) they shot an unreal 61.0 percent from the floor in the first half — and were DOWN by one. Go ahead, I’ll wait … by the way if my math is correct the Blazers scored 35 points in the second half after posting 55 in the first, ouch.
I’ll admit it, I drank the Kool-Aid early in the season and I still see this team getting no worse than a fourth seed in the West, which means home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. However, without some sort of magical move at the trade deadline, or some insertion of a defense-first player (EG: Will Barton) the Blazers will make it to the second round and lose to a better (defensive) team.
The teams that are on top and are considered to be the true contenders are the Pacers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. All of these teams give up less than 99 points a night, and while they don’t score as much as the Blazers (nobody does, they’re first in the NBA at 108.0 points a night) they have a wider margin of error due to their defense. That’s what this boils down to. On a night where shots aren’t falling for the aforementioned teams, there is still a viable shot at them winning the game due to their defensive prowess.
If the Blazers are not hitting shots — they are not winning and it’s as simple as that.
In case you were wondering the Pacers give up an ungodly 90.3 points a night to lead the NBA (+8.2 differential), Spurs give up 96.7 points (+7.0), the Thunder are at 97.4 points (+7.6) and the Heat give up 98.7 (+5.4). Portland’s differential is +4.6 so again the margin of error is not on their side, especially given the fact that they play so many close games. They are 20-7 in games decided by 10 points or less, which is great, but again it’s worrisome as the season plays out.
Portland has lost three of their last four after dropping their road contest Monday night to the Wizards. Their next game is Wednesday in Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, who are 4-6 over their last 10, so the Blazers desperately need to use that game as a springboard, because their Friday-Saturday back-to-back is going to be brutal. Friday night it’s a visit to the Indiana Pacers, who hold a home record of 23-2, and then the last game of their four-game road trip is at Minnesota.
One thing is for certain, nobody likes to lose as Dane Carbaugh noted during the end of Monday night’s game:
Portland cares when they lose. That’s a good thing pic.twitter.com/IkbRyhYDZJ
— Dane Carbaugh (@danecarbaugh) February 4, 2014
A record of 34-14 gives no reason to panic — as long as a second-round playoff loss is your goal. Time for Neil Olshey to work his trade magic at the deadline.
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Tags: Portland Trail Blazers