The L.A. game tonight was very telling. Not because Portland outplayed the Lakers. They did. Not because the Blazers seem to be coming together with a critical mass of toughness with Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews and Gerald Wallace on the squad now. They are. (Or so I hope)
No, what was telling about the game was the way Los Angeles attempted to intimidate the Blazers. It may seem to the Portland fans (who tend to spend all their energy and focus yelling about the refereeing) that Ron Artest was simply a little unhinged tonight. Or that Andrew Bynum is a dirty player. But these are not accidents. I think little that happens under Phil Jackson is an accident.
No, the Blazers have been throughout this era, and still are, SOFT! And the Lakers know that after being outplayed, outhustled and outshot, that they can still beat the Blazers with one simple tactic: intimidate them down the stretch. Elbows; pushes; bumps; etc. They will back down. They will start shying from the rim as they get near it. LMA will start missing his shots. Brandon will start whining more and more shrilly at the refs. Rudy and Nic will disappear.
Now the telling part. The Lakers, turning their tactic towards intimidation, had only one player on the Blazers to go after. Because they already owned the manhood of the rest of this team. And who was that player?
Well, obviously, Gerald Wallace. What that tells you, is that Phil Jackson, and the Lakers knew, that if they owned Gerald, they would own the whole team.
I don't know, but from where i sat, I think Gerald still has his. Will the rest of the puppies on this "high character" team take the cue and learn something tonight?
When they start pushing you around, Blazers, its because what you're doing on the court is working. IT MEANS YOU'VE GOT THEM!!
Man up, Portland.