Thanks to Ben for the awesome recap last night. I don't think I need to go over too much about the game. Lamarcus had an amazing offensive night. Roy did very well too. The supporting cast outside of maybe Frye and Jones had a generally poor night. Even in the first quarter when every shot was falling you suspected we were in trouble. We hoisted so many long shots. We weren't going to beat Utah that way and we didn't. The points in the paint deficit looked like a Donald Trump marriage--one party in the 50's and 60's, the other in the teens. That was mitigated by our scoring 13 more at the line, but it wasn't near enough. The rebounding was also disturbing. We started out the game with a slight edge because we never missed and thus Utah didn't get any boards. The whole rest of the game we got pounded. Rewind the tape and count the number of rebounds we had position for, or our hands on, that went to the other team. It was semi-disgusting. You can't spot a team like the Jazz an advantage like that and expect to win. There were no fourth-quarter heroics on the road, and that was that. Nevertheless it was a well-fought game and for the most part did us credit. Earlier in the season we would have pointed to this game as a positive in general. It wasn't a positive at this point but it wasn't that big of a negative either.
It's more satisfying, though, to skip the game and focus on putting the streak in perspective. 13 wins in a row was unbelievable. I don't care if you were at home most of the time. I don't care if the schedule was somewhat favorable. (It wasn't an A-list but the streak certainly wasn't built on the dregs of the league either.) Young teams like ours just do...not...do what we just saw. Never happens. Period. The Blazers were far, far more likely to win 13 games in the whole season than they were to win 13 games in December. We have witnessed something you could literally go a whole lifetime without seeing again when you factor in our experience level. What's more this team won these games honestly. Few of those wins were anything resembling fluky. Some nights we shot better than our opponents, some nights we defended better, sometimes we had a half-dozen in double figures, sometimes we rode our stars. Every night we worked harder than the other team. Whatever it took to win, we did it. It didn't matter if we were ahead or behind, we seldom let the outcome be in doubt. We didn't just look like an NBA team (something in short supply around here for the last few years) we looked like a good NBA team. I watched the Utah Jazz feed of this last game and those guys talked like they feared the talent of this team (not in future terms, but right now in this game), respected its ability, and thought a win against us was a feather in their cap. How long has it been since somebody said that? A standing ovation isn't enough to cover that accomplishment.
The question remaining for the Blazers is what this streak will mean in the grand scope of things. Right now it's like a ribbon from your Middle School Field Day...a cool memory of a great event, but not something bankable in isolation. It doesn't feel at all to me like this team is in danger of spiralling back into an emotional funk, but it's possible I suppose...not so much because they are fragile but because they don't have a track record of handling adversity with confidence. In that sense, other than the rebounding issue which definitely needs addressing, I hope they just put this game behind them as if it didn't matter a bit.
In the long run perspective on the positive will be just as important as handling the potential negative. Finishing the month 13-2 exceeded anyone's expectations. Because of who we are and where we've been that's become known as The Streak and talked about from coast to coast. But let's talk turkey here. If we're going to get where we are capable of going then instead of being known as "The Streak!" a month like that will soon be called "December". Really, really brilliant teams lose around 4-5 games a month and sometimes get a month or two with only 2 losses. If this streak doesn't indicate our potential to be, and doesn't propel us towards being, a really, really brilliant team then what is it good for? The Blazers might as well start right now saying, "Hey...call it amazing if you want, but to us that's just doing business."
It's been a wonderful December. It's hard to envision any month matching it. But it doesn't have to as long as we continue to play hard, develop our style of basketball, and close out games and opponents with the same guts and poise we've shown. Manage that and the future is as bright as anyone could imagine.