I get the feeling that there is a underlying line of tension present amongst the more learned, less reactionary Blazer fans at the moment. Its the anxious ambivalence of the " my mind is telling me no...but my body is telling me yeaaaaah" variety. How much can you trust the explosive results of a small sample size? Can you believe that if it feels and looks right, it is right. Can the eye or the heart be closer to the truth than the mind? The elephant in the room is the question of whether the blazers are officially relevant again?
This question is a scientific as well as emotional. Of course, many of us are fairly versed in the numbers thus far this season. We have an elite offense and a statistically less than mediocre defense. We defy the traditional recipe for success in basketball by eschewing our responsibilities in the paint. We give up a lot in the key and don't score much at all from there. We shoot a lot threes, and give up too many open looks at the rim. Our guards often get beat on pick and rolls and our interior players often have trouble challenging penetration. We have what all the basketball pundits would label a "shaky foundation for future success." I think we all know what the public consensus is at this point. "They've played well, but due to factors out of their control - injuries, strength of schedule, lack of opponent tactical adjustment or mere luck - we have bumbled and twisted into a 9 game winning streak and 11-2 record.
This sentiment is echoed by Dave, who supposes that his - and for all intents OUR - preconceived notions about this team will surely bring us back down to earth at some point - a basement filled with limited expectation and pragmatism.
"The error will correct itself"
Here's the thing though... I don't think there is an error here. I think what we are witnessing is a team, defined by a matured core - flourishing right before our eyes in ways that we surely could not have expected a month ago. Through a coalescence of role refinement, strategy, talent, effort and the birth of an identity, the blazers have finally reestablished themselves as an identity. This is the major breakthrough. The team has determined who they are and what they want to do.
More importantly, they have declared what they plan to do and will do on a night to night basis. This has been the major revelation in their path towards rejoining the contingent of Western Conference contenders. Even tonight, on a night where they shot 40% from the field and got killed on the boards (by an outstanding rebounding team), they executed their game plan and took a victory that they believed was theirs to be had. Key stats:
12-26 from three (46%)
93% from the line
21-11 victory in the assist category
The Blazers hit from long range on good passing, despite a coherent and unrelenting defense, converted on free throws, didn't turn the ball over and forced the opposing team to play one on one when they had the ball. Outside of losing the rebounding battle, which has been consistently won by Portland this year, they managed to prevail in all of the main points of emphasis for their attack.
It is no longer a matter of stumbling into victories as a byproduct of what their opponents weren't able to do on a given night - as in years past. The team now has a blueprint for their victories, a blueprint that the entire club has bought into. The magical thing, folks, is that they are regularly ASSERTING that blueprint on the opponent, against their will, and with legitimate unrelenting purpose. At the moment, opposing teams simply can not stop Portland from doing what it wants nearly every night they play. It is this fact that has been THE factor in the sudden turnaround for this franchise.
The Blazers are now doing what only a handful of teams in the league are able to do...asserting their play onto their opponent. In my mind, this signifies that the team has jumped back into the upper echelon of the league. They are intentionally aggressive in asserting themselves onto their opponent.
Statistics may continue to express their desire for a correction in the teams record, and I do not mean to imply that the team will win 70 games this year. However, if it looks good and it feels good, sometimes it is good. The mystery is how good and the question is:: are the Blazers relevant again? I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks.
As an aside, I - like most everybody else - hope Rose didn't stumble into more misfortune.