Monday’s loss in Brooklyn was a tough one, especially because the Blazers no longer have first round home court in their control at this point. But let’s get this straight now: if they do not get home court advantage, it isn’t because of the decision to leave three banged up veterans at home for this one game.
You could point to Portland's mediocre road record, where they have lost as many as they have won; you could point to all the games lost due to injury; or you can point to any number of losses which were gut-wrenching for any number of reasons, but mostly because they were winnable.
The plays at the end of games are often remembered most as why a team won or lost a game, while we regularly forget or discount plays earlier in the game that may well have altered the outcome. Similarly, there is a tendency to focus on games at the end of the season while overlooking games earlier in the season that got away. Each game out of 82 is of equal importance when you’re in a standings race this close.
So without the need to explain irony to anyone associated with Portland, let's look at the closing moments of a bunch of games! Specifically, as part of the pile of excruciating losses we've endured this year. Let’s hope you’re feeling masochistic. (Hey, you’re a Blazers fan, right?) Then you’ll be in the unenviable position of deciding which one was most brutal.
November 2, vs. Golden State, 95-90
Before the Warriors became the juggernaut they are now, the Blazers had a chance to score an early season win on them in a hard fought see-saw affair. Portland held a 90-88 lead with just over two minutes to go, but the rest of the way was characterized by disjointed play, as they went 0-for-3 from the field, committed 3 turnovers (including a loose ball madcap scramble that ended up going out of bounds off of Steve Blake’s butt), and couldn’t draw a foul when they needed to salt the game away. Klay Thompson hit the go-ahead shot with 8.9 seconds left, and Stephen Curry did the rest from the free throw line.
December 10, @ Minnesota, 90-82
Minnesota was without Ricky Rubio, Nicola Pekovic, and Kevin Martin, but the Blazers played like they were on the second night of a back-to-back (they were), shooting 38.8% from the floor and trailing by double digits for most of the second half. LaMarcus Aldridge shot only 3 of 14 for 10 points, and the Wolves consistently attacked the rim leading to a gobsmacking 33-12 free throw attempt advantage.
January 17, @ Memphis, 102-98
For a while this looked like another typical loss at the hands of the Grizzlies, as Portland trailed by as many as 20 in the second half before turning in one of their patented spirited comebacks. The Blazers got within one possession of Memphis SEVEN TIMES in the last 5 minutes plus, but never did tie or go ahead. Beno (Expletive Deleted) Udrih had his personal best game of HORSE ever, scoring 17 on a perfect 7 of 7 from the field, including two backbreaking jumpers with under 40 seconds to play.
January 21, @ Phoenix, 118-113
The first game without LaMarcus because of the torn thumb ligament was another manic comeback aborted. The Blazers were down by 15 to start the fourth, and actually went up 5 with 2:20 to go on a Nicolas Batum 3-ball. They couldn’t get a field goal in the last 1:22, while Phoenix piled up points at the charity stripe to seal the deal.
January 22, vs. Boston, 90-89
This loss was so bad that LaMarcus opted not to have surgery and play on afterwards. With an 87-81 lead with 4:43 left, Portland did not score again from the field, while Wes and T-Rob each went 1-for-2 from the free throw line in the closing moments. Jared Sullinger somehow managed to pass the ball while being laid out in the paint and surrounded by Blazers, finding Evan Turner in the corner, who then stroked a three-pointer with 1 second left to cap this shocker.
January 28, @ Cleveland, 99-94
Portland seemed to luck out since LeBron James sat this one out, but they played from behind the entire night. They claimed the lead with four minutes to go in the game, but in the end they simply couldn’t contain Kyrie Irving, who dropped a double-nickel on them, including the go-ahead trey off the dribble with 27 seconds left.
February 7, @ Dallas, 111-101 (OT)
Portland had an 11 point lead with under 2 minutes to play. ‘Nuff said.
February 20, @ Utah, 92-76
The Blazers seemed like they were still in vacation mode in the first game after the All-Star break, scoring a season low on 36% shooting, 4 of 22 from three, while getting outmuscled on the boards 48-37.
March 7, @ Minnesota, 121-113
In a theme that has become familiar by now, the Blazers struggled defensively in their first game without Wes Matthews, allowing a blistering 54.1 FG % to the lowly Wolves. This was the second loss to a cellar dweller that has managed only 14 other W’s to date.
March 18, @ Miami, 108-104
In a nip and tuck affair against a creaky Miami team that had recently lost Chris Bosh for the year, the Blazers had the lead with under a minute to go, but Dwyane Wade turned back the clock with 6 unanswered points to tip the scales.
March 20, @ Orlando, 111-104
With a comfortable 7 point lead early in the fourth against a young team, the Blazers proceeded to get run out of the building. Orlando hasn’t won at home since.
April 1, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, 126-122
Losing a 15 point halftime lead against a prospective playoff opponent with home court on the line: yep, there’s no emoji for that one. (I looked.)
Monday, @ Brooklyn, 106-96
The terrible luck of this one was multi-fold, considering the blizzard that postponed this was a day late, the Nets were a much weaker opponent in January, and the necessity of two 6 hour flights within a couple of days. Anyone who’s ever flown knows that it has physical effects: it is harder for your body to heal if it’s already under other stressors, so hopefully the vets who didn’t make the trip get some benefits from their mini-break. We may well need them to lead the way the next two nights.
The best part of talking about these losses? We can now exorcise their demons and move on. But after you vote.