First things first: If Game 2 was a gut punch, Game 3 was a knee to the dick.
The final score was 110-99 Warriors advantage; But really the damage was a lot worse than an 11 point margin suggests. It was a gut punch, a soul crusher, a hope eraser. It was the type of loss capable of eroding any optimism a fan base might possibly possess.
The final seconds ticked off and I sat on my couch just dumbfounded over what I had seen. Two straight games saw the Blazers piss away a second half lead and now we face a real possibility of the Warriors turning out the lights on our season in four games.
I handled this loss like I would any other dick punch game: a shower, a beer, and an early bedtime. I’ve sat through enough of these to realize I’m no good to my family in that mood. I'm also a Mariners fan after all.
I woke up this morning feeling reenergized. Yeah, last night sucked- but we are in the Western Conference Finals and we got here without (in my opinion) our second best player. No matter what happens Monday or beyond, that’s a win in my book.
This morning I felt happy; At least I did until I started checking my phone.
Literally the first thing I saw today was a tweet by the Oregonian compiling an assortment of tweets and views from across social media. It was highlighted with a headline that said “trash brothers” and had Dames face altered to reflect the Jordan Cry face meme.
Then I flipped on Facebook to see a guy I used to work with write
“Dame was horrible felt like he was playing with a hangover. I know people are going to say great season which I would agree but I’m not satisfied. Warriors have heart, hustle, and great coaching. Dame and CJ need to be broken up we need to go after a big name free agent by either trading CJ or Lillard. I’m tired of waiting for something to happen. Very frustrated fan here.”
First thing you notice after you get over the grammar, is that even though the dude who wrote this might be an idiot- he is not alone. Scroll through Rip City related tweets and Reddits and you'll find folks who traded in their enthusiasm from a week ago for some ol’ fashioned Portland anguish. Last month, after Dame showed the Oklahoma City Thunder the door, he probably could have been unanimously elected as Governor of Oregon. His statue for outside the Rose Garden (yep, not Moda) was already being molded and cast. Today, I’m fielding texts about if it’s time to consider trading him for the rights to RJ Barrett.
In all honesty, that trade suggestion broke me.
So I’m going to provide some context regarding Damian Lillard and his run here in Portland and take a quick moment to remind everyone of what seems to be overlooked in the wake of Game 3.
The first thing I want to highlight is that we are talking about a man who has lead this team- his team- to the Western Conference Finals; Its first Western Conference Finals in 19 years. Even in the aftermath of last night, we are still four wins away from playing in the finals for the third time in franchise history. Don’t let the high from ousting Denver last week cloud your ability to remember that as recently as March we just wanted to get out of the first round.
Now, think about what he has to work with. Did we land a prized free agent last summer that helped us escape the first round this year? No. Does he even have another All-Star on the team? No. Our guy has been going to war with a roster made up of CJ McCollum, castoffs, and development projects. And for as much as we all love CJ, our guy has never even been particularly close to joining Dame at the mid-season showcase. He is a talented scorer and a wonderful human; unfortunately, being a humanitarian doesn’t help defend a pick and roll or improve court vision though. The other three teams still actively playing have a minimum of two All-Stars from this season on their roster.
Yet here we are, the Western Conference Finals!
Sure, three games in and we are getting speed bagged by the Warriors. But if we want to be honest, isn’t that to be expected? The Warriors have been historically great over the last half decade. This is a team that is vying for their opportunity to play in the Finals for the 5th consecutive year. This is the same team that waxed Lebron so hard in three of the last four finals that he forgot he wrote a letter and promised to retire in Cleveland and left to go find new teammates. Years from now, we are all going to be talking about these Warrior teams with the same admiration that we do the 90’s Bulls, 80’s Lakers and the 60’s Celtics.
It's great that you’ve allowed this team to reset your expectations, but it's also important to remember to look at the big picture. Knicks fans of the 90’s weren’t asking for Patrick Ewing's head when he got rolled by Jordan in the playoffs, so why are we doing that to Dame?
It's easy to feel beaten down this today, but remember the state of the team when LaMarcus Aldridge left? LaMarcus was, and remains to this day, the most talented teammate Damian Lillard has ever had. And in time, following Wes Matthews blowing out an achilles leading up to LaMarcus leaving us holding the bag, the 2015 Blazers went from a team that could make a run at the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS to a team forced with a rebuild.
Only that didn’t happen. What did happen was the same thing that we would eventually realize would always happen: Damian Lillard took a team projected to be lottery bound and dragged them to the playoffs.
All teams hit a bump in the road. Dwayne Wade’s Heat ended up in the lottery on a couple of occasions during his prime. One time it landed them Michael Beasley. The other time, he just recruited Lebron James and Chris Bosh to come play with him. Retooling a roster is a lot easier when you acquire assets like lottery picks.
But Dame, unlike Wade, has not allowed Neil Olshey that luxury. Which is probably why Neil ended up panicking in 2016 and handing out $250 million in contract commitments to Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard, and Evan Turner. He needed to get his hands on, and retain, as many assets as possible to help this roster grow.
Over commitments and misinterpreting potential like that has crippled many franchises in the past. The New York Knicks, whom are constantly in a state of paying for past sins, have made the playoffs one time this century. Portland, who is at a considerable disadvantage when it comes luring talented free agents to relocate, should have been settled with a reoccurring lottery date since those free agent contracts were handed out. But we weren’t. Why? Because of Damian Lillard.
Instead, every year, just as he did in 2016, he drags the roster given to him to the playoffs; And this year, we are in the WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS.
Look, I get being upset. I’m right there with you. But if you are looking for someone to blame, it needs to be on someone other than Dame. Think about this: Anthony Davis was drafted 1st overall the same year that Dame was drafted 6th. Davis, despite ample evidence that he is a bitch, is widely considered one of the five best players in the NBA. He has acquired this title even though he has only made the playoffs on two occasions in his career. Lillard, often an afterthought when it comes to the hierarchy of talent in the NBA, has only MISSED the playoffs one time in his career.
The national narrative might not ever give Dame the love he deserves until the moments they have to (what up, PG?) But never, and I mean fucking ever, should his heart, ability or production ever be second guessed. We probably shouldn’t even be in the position to be down 3-0 right now, but when your team has Damian Lillard, all things are possible. All his accomplishments aside, there is a real argument to have that he is probably the best player this franchise has ever had.
This series has not gone the way that I had hoped. It has not been the perfect demonstration of Lillard and all his powers. We don’t appear to be primed to cut the head off this Warrior dynasty. It sucks to say that, but it’s the reality. That being said, regardless if the series continues past Monday or not, this season was an unmitigated success. This team, like those of the last five years before it, have outperformed even our loftiest of expectations- but none of this happens without Dame.
If we lose on Monday, or Wednesday, or ever again- I implore anyone reading this to take a deep breath, go drink a beer, and take a shower. Take a walk around your block. Don’t say some crazy shit on Twitter because you’re disappointed. Nobody wants a championship parade in downtown Portland more than Damian Lillard; so stay the hell off the ESPN Trade Machine. We owe him our loyalty.
Blazers in 7.
Image Credit: NBA on TNT
In true Sir Charles Barkley fashion, Chuck provided unorthodox, funny, yet valid analysis by proclaiming the following about the Portland Trail Blazers and their lack of success against Nikola Jokic after halftime:
“Let me just say this, they too light in the ass. They haven’t grown no ass since last week”
said Barkley. So...basically, the Portland Trail Blazers need to come together and get fatter in order for the Trail Blazers to have success moving forward. “...Portland just needs some more ass.” Barkley went on to say. Perhaps the organization could hire Raymond Felton as a consultant on the matter.
Now, I’m not sure if Charles Barkley is using the word ass as a euphemism for cojones, which can be grown and shrunk on a game by game basis, but it is pretty hard to just grow your ass in a matter of a two-day span. However the overall point that Barkley was trying to make actually held true from a scientific standpoint:
The combined weight of all the Portland Trail Blazers is 3,291 lbs, whereas the Denver Nuggets clock in at 3,656 lbs. This means that the Nuggets have a good 400+ lbs on the Trail Blazers.
Given this newfound information, who can truly blame the Trail Blazers for being based out of one of the most health conscious cities in the United States? Who can blame this squad for succumbing to the delicious and healthy food options in the Portland area that seem to be keeping the Trail Blazers leaner than that of the Denver Nuggets and the potato wrapped oysters that they seem to gorge on with some regularity,
However, that extra seafood and potato weight sure would come in handy for the Blazer bigs against Nikola Jokic and his physical barrage against them and seemingly the rest of the Blazers. In terms of size and depth, we don’t seem have a player that can match Jokic outright. Portland can’t help the fact that Denver has a whopping 31 Papa John’s locations. We just can’t compete with that level of commitment, in regards to possessing such a high quantity of shitty food.
In terms of actual hooping, the Blazers are going to need to do what they have to do and get Enes Kanter, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins to step up, in terms of minutes and quality of play. They need to collectively ensure that they grow their cojones for Game 6 and give us everything they’ve got against in order to shut down Nikola Jokic and the rest Denver Nuggets (even their name implies food!).
Getting back to the pressing matter at hand: growing some ass, as Charles Barkley or Raymond Felton would recommend, I would maybe suggest taking a few team trips over to Voodoo doughnut and hitting the leg press while chowing down. Maybe then there could begin to be some balance and forced compromise, in regards to Nikola Jokic doing whatever the hell he wants to do. At this point, I’m open to anything.
PICTURE CREDIT: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
It sucks after a disappointing playoffs loss where it really felt the momentum was swinging our way before tipoff. It would have been a whole hell of a lot better to be up 3-1, but as Coach Stotts said regarding the matter: “Now It’s a three game series.” When you look at it that way, it takes a little bit of the playoffs jitters away for me. Especially knowing that we can’t get much worse in the third quarter again terms of turnovers and sloppy play
I would like to think that at this point of the season and given the way the Blazers are gelling as a unit, it would be improbable for the Nuggets to take the Trail Blazers. I for one would like to iterate friend of the show Chad Doing‘s line of thinking when I say that I am sick and tired of fatass Jokic balling all over us for the majority of each game. Especially when you consider that he does not seem to be healthy in the “not overweight” sense.
Now, now. It’s not fat shaming if I can simultaneously tip my cap, acknowledge and wonder how Jokic can keep up the intensity and level of play for the amount of time that he does. The dude balls out and his playing style does not always seem to fit his body type, which can be a nightmare for the dismantling of Portland’s defensive groove.
Blazer fans know that Damian Lillard is a late bloomer when it comes to showing his prowess in relation to the overall progression of a game. To me, Dame’s playing style is reminiscent of Floyd Mayweather’s counterpunching style; where it often feels like Lillard could go off at any time, but once you start feeling the onslaught, it's often already too late anyways.
I am predicting that in order to for Rip City to take Game 5, everyone is going to have to stay extremely steady and on course, stat-wise; but we can’t just continue to obliterate and void out any momentum garnered during halftime or during any other hot streaks. Damian Lillard is also going to have to initiate Dame Time and go for at least 40 points. We know that CJ is going to get his looks and we also know the potential of Rodney Hood, who I hope has more of an impact moving forward. Especially given his known potential. Kanter is going to do Kanter things and maybe we will see a breakout benefit not previously provided by Collins and Leonard. God knows it would be needed. We’ve got everyone busting their ass out here as much as they progressively can.
The NBA that we all know and love today is a completely different beast than it was 40 years ago. Hand checking used to be a one of the best tools in a defenders utility belt for helping keep his man in front of him. The 3-point line was first being introduced, with teams maybe averaging only 1 or 2 shot attempts per game from that distance because they thought it was just a gimmick. Hell, a 1986 Western Conference Finals game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets was the last game that was ever shown on a tape delay. Nowadays, with social media, which the NBA has the highest follower count and interactions out of all the major sports, people know everything that goes on in the league 10 seconds after it happens (or maybe 5 minutes before if there’s a Woj Bomb). Every trade, every injury, every practice court scuffle, we know about it and have an unlimited number of options to read about it and discuss it with other fans. But for all the positive growth and fan engagement that the NBA has going for it, there is one single issue that seems to be taking over the narrative this season and especially these playoffs.
The NBA is finding itself in a situation where it seems as though almost nobody cares about the actual game of basketball anymore and instead focuses on the referees and the officiating. Your team lost a game by 3 points in the closing seconds because a ref “blew a call” and Star Player X didn’t get to go to the line for free throws? Must be the refs, who are either crooked or horrible at their jobs. Nevermind that before that one single possession, that you as a fan think should have gone differently so your team could win, that your team also had 14 turnovers and shot 37% from the field for the previous 47 minutes. It was the refs fault. We have become so enamored with the refs that as soon as the officiating crew is announced the day of a game, we already know who is going to win and who is going to lose because “that ref hates us.”
Going in to Game 2 of the Western Conference Semis between the Warriors and Rockets on Tuesday, I don’t think I saw a single article talking about what changes the Rockets needed to make in order to sneak out a win and steal home court. Not one mention of possible coaching adjustments or how the hell they were going to try and keep Durant from going off (hint, nobody can). Every single sports media outlet was talking about the memo to the league that Houston drafted and replaying clips of Harden whining about just wanting the game called fair (pot, kettle, black). Replays of Harden launching for a 3-pointer and not getting a whistled were shown while the talking heads tried to figure out exactly what an accurate definition of “landing zone” is. And all of this was BEFORE we found out that the dreaded DUN…..DUN…..DUN…...Scott Foster was going to be the lead official. When that news came out, it felt like your drunk uncle found the gas can and decided that that was exactly what the raging bonfire needed at that moment.
The whole point of this rant is to try and point out that we as NBA fans need to stop focusing so much on the officiating and the officials, no matter how much they can legitimately anger us, and go back to focusing on the beautiful game of basketball. I can’t speak for everybody, but when I first became a fan of the league it was because of seeing Clyde Drexler glide to the rim like a flying unicorn, not because I was amazed at the whistle blowing skill of Dick Bavetta. Fans now are quicker to jump on Twitter and complain about a bad call/non-call than they are to talk about an amazing play and that just kills me. Fans need to get back to caring about the game itself, because the beauty of the game is one of the more joyous things to observe.
The league has taken tremendous steps over the years, especially under Adam Silver, to be more transparent and open with why the zebras call what they do and not what they don’t. Trust them, they’ve earned it. They’ll fix it and make it better. It will never be perfect, because nothing ever is when the premise demands a loser to go along with a winner. But that doesn't mean it’s broken. There are only two teams playing out on the court, not three. So lay off the hashtags, put down the pitchforks, and go to the fridge to grab a beer cause we are probably pretty damn close to another amazing playoff game tipping off.
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A group of life long blazer fans that are dedicated to sharing our authentic thoughts about the team. This unfiltered group is all about sharing the highs and lows of being a Blazer fan. We commit to one podcast a week where we encourage our fans to drink along with us and join the fun!