Does watching what Memphis is doing to Golden State make you feel any different about Portland's rough showing in the playoffs? I'm seeing Damian Lillard in particular a bit differently seeing the Grizzlies make Steph Curry look sloppy.
No, for several reasons.
1. We knew the Memphis Grizzlies were a defensive nightmare long before the playoffs began. This is what they do. Win or lose, I don't expect them to roll over for anybody and I don't expect any opponent will have an easy time with them.
2. The Warriors aren't doing quite as badly against them as the Blazers did.
3. The Blazers getting mauled was partially about the matchup but also about injuries. I don't think there's any doubt that Portland would have performed better with a healthy Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, Arron Afflalo, Dorell Wright, Chris Kaman...you get the picture. That's plenty enough extra credit for the Blazers without giving more for the Grizzlies' second-round performance.
4. Golden State became a clear favorite in the West in part because of injuries to Portland and Memphis...and Oklahoma City...and other teams. That's taking nothing away from their regular season performance. They got the #1 seed and deserved same. If everybody else had the same health they did heading into the post-season the Warriors still would be the #1 seed but not prohibitive favorites. It's not surprising that somebody is challenging them. It'll be mildly surprising if they don't emerge from the second round but not a complete shock.
In any case, the series is a long way from being decided. At this point we're giving Portland extra strokes because the Grizz won 2 games. That feels like reaching.
5. Portland's defeat wasn't happenstance. This wasn't about encountering hot teams or eventual champions. For the second year in a row the Blazers ran up against an opponent who knew their systemic weaknesses and was able to exploit same. This will continue to happen until they get less limited or get enough new talent to make up for it.
We can come up with 100 reasons for the loss other than, "They got exploited by a better team," some legitimate and some less so. Those explanations don't matter. This kind of loss will always happen--there'll always be somebody-- until the team is good enough to not let it happen anymore.
Whatever Memphis does or doesn't do in subsequent rounds won't help the Blazers a bit. When the two teams met the Grizzlies looked the Blazers in the eye, stared them down, and sent them home with superior play, causing no little amount of consternation and frustration in Portland in the process.
Because of extenuating circumstances, Portland's loss to Memphis wasn't quite as bad as it looked. We can make an argument that "4-1 first-round series loser" isn't sufficient to describe the Blazers' season or ability. But that can't take away the actual loss, which is what counts. The Blazers need more wins, not better excuses. That won't change whether Memphis bows to Golden State in 6 or goes on to win the NBA title.
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