1. My predictions, gut feelings, and premonitions generally do nothing to effect my emotional state as a fan. Meaning if I expect them to a lose a game, that expectation doesn’t necessarily make it any less frustrating or painful when they do. But every now and then I have a certain sense of calm about a situation. That is where I was today. While I was very excited that the playoffs are here, I wasn’t on pins and needles for this game and while it was taking place I was not much more emotionally engaged than I would have been for a regular season game. Most importantly, afterwards I didn’t have any feelings of dread or worry or disappointment. I said in the preview blog that I expected to lose game 1 and still win the series in 6. I didn’t see anything today that makes me want to alter that prediction. I can’t stress enough how big of a game this was for Portland. They HAD to win this game. Even if they ultimately lose this series they absolutely could not get obliterated again like they did the last two years— if they did it could very well cost people their jobs. And their guys were well rested and playing at home while the Thunder have been grinding for two weeks. Then considering how poorly the Thunder shot the ball, it became a game Portland REALLY had to win. To me, this loss was the last bit of punishment for our second half swoon. This game set up very favorably for the Blazers and we helped create it by having to exert so much energy just to get here. I think it’s funny, people will make predictions on a series and then still flip out after Game 1. Most people I have seen picking the Thunder had them predicted to win in 6 or 7 games. Well, it’s pretty basic math. If the Thunder win in 6 or 7, that means the Blazers are going to win 2 or 3. I always figured Game 1 was going to go Portland’s way. The game didn’t really play out the way I thought it would, but the result was what I expected. As far as playoff losses go, this was an easy one to swallow.
2. Look, no one really knows how hurt PG is right now. At least no one I know. I’ll say this: from my standpoint I was actually a little encouraged by what I saw today. I have no doubt the guy is battling soreness and some pain. But nothing he was doing today indicated to me that he was favoring it or shying away from anything because of it. It’s easy to say, his shoulder hurts and he missed shots so therefore he missed shots because his shoulder hurts. But it’s also possible he just had a bad game. It’s been a little bit of a wacky week for him and the team. The wild win Tuesday against Houston, then a plane to Milwaukee, treatment on his shoulder, sits out game, flies back to OKC, more treatment, then a plan to Portland. It’s out of balance from a normal routine and he looked a bit scrambled. Very late in the game he hit a couple and looked like maybe he was settling in a bit. If we find out he can’t play Game 2 for some reason then I’ll be really worried, but my guess is he just had a lousy shooting night-a VERY lousy shooting night. It’s somewhat encouraging to know that we can stay that close with the Blazers with PG creating a negative effect offensively. I didn’t think that would be possible. And make no mistake, the Thunder can’t win this series with PG shooting the ball like that— he MUST be better. I’m confident he will be. Game 2 will show me a lot. If he lays another egg then you have to start to wonder if the shoulder is going to prevent him from being anywhere close to what he normally is. But my gut tells me he plays much better and everyone starts to chill out.3. Hats off to Kanter. He played a tremendous game today. I wasn’t even mad watching it unfold, I didn’t think we were necessarily doing anything “wrong”— he just played really well and got the best of us today. Early in the game we attacked him with Adams. We put him in the pick and roll. Russ and PG and Dennis all tried to drive at him. For the most part, he held his own. On the other end he had some big offensive rebounds and second chance points that really hurt us. If he continues to be this effective the series will look a lot different than I thought it would. I am going to play the law of averages and say he won’t be this effective all series. I don’t think he is going to crash and burn after this, but I kind of think maybe we saw his best game of the series already. Overall, I liked what we did defensively. After a terrible start where we lost Lillard and CJ far too often, we really clamped down on them. We played the pick and roll beautifully and did exactly what I wanted them to do— make life tough on their guards and you make life tough on the Blazers. No one else creates for them. The one thing I didn’t like was that CJ got loose more than I would like to see. TFerg defended him very well this season, but struggled today and got in foul trouble to boot. I want to see us make this series ALL about Lillard. I don’t want him to feel like he has a Robin he can count on out there. I want the weight of the world on Lillard’s shoulders. Today, Kanter and CJ did enough to give Lillard room to play what was probably a so-so game for him. One thing we did see was that it’s very dangerous to get into a shooting contest with Lillard late in a game. He is absolutely a money shot maker. We need those hero shots to come when Portland is down by 6 and he feels desperate to save them as opposed to when he can drop them as daggers.
4. The story from this game is pretty damn easy to write. After 82 games we made fewer three’s today than in ANY of them AND we shot a lower percentage than in ANY of them. So even if you acknowledge we are a bad/streaky shooting team, we aren’t THAT bad and it’s unlikely we will be again. Now, Portland fans can turn around and say that Lillard wasn’t really all that great and Portland won’t go as cold as they did from range after their hot start. They can also probably say they can reasonably expect more from Harkless and Aminu in the games to come. While OKC put forth arguably their worst offensive outing of the entire season, I don’t think we saw Portland at their best either. That said, I do think for the balance of the game that OKC looked like the better team. And I do think the Blazers are going to have a very hard time once the series shifts to OKC. However, if they carry a 2-0 lead to OKC, that will be a much lighter load to carry for them. I said prior to the series I think we could go down 0-2 and still win. I’ll stick to that. Even if we lose Tuesday, I won’t go into panic mode. But I will go into “will be nervous for two days prior to Game 3” mode for sure. And I’d rather not enter that mode because that mode is no fun. I wasn’t stressing about Game 1 before, during, or after. I don’t think I’ll stress much about Game 2 before, but I do think I’ll be pretty anxious during, and I sure as hell will have a different reaction after. There was never a doubt in my mind that that Thunder wouldn’t do this the easy way— that simply isn’t who they are or how they operate. It’s going to be a grind. Down 0-1 seems an appropriate place to be. Seems like we’ve been “down” in almost every game/situation all year long. It has netted some great comebacks and some disappointing defeats. But it’s who we are. Had we won today I think this could have turned into an easy series win for us. So therefore I never had any doubt we’d lose.
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