Backyard loss could spawn future Blazers success

From the outset, it was a backyard whippin’. It was a clinic—a teacher versus student moment on the biggest stage. It was experience versus youthful exuberance and it was, above all, a disaster.

But for Portland in the long term, losing to the Spurs could hammer home some lessons this team needs to learn.

For large chunks of the season, the Blazers were playing with fire, coasting through games which were often decided by their ability to hit, or not hit, timely shots. Even in round one against the Rockets, they trailed for 65 percent of the series—a staggering number to overcome.

They were carried by a belief that they could overcome, that no obstacle was too high to climb.

Against the Spurs, those beliefs were shattered. Reality has set in.

Portland was never supposed to be here, making this round a learning experience from the opening tip. This roster is not second round worthy, going only six, maybe seven deep consistently. They’re missing pieces—a lock-down defender and a second scoring threat off the bench. On a night when the first string was shut down, you saw the result.

Neil Olshey, the team’s general manager, has done a wonderful job in less than two years on the job. He snagged Damian Lillard, the pillar of the franchise. He added depth in Mo Williams, Dorell Wright and Thomas Robinson. He even found an answer at center in unheralded Robin Lopez.

But what Olshey needs more than anything is time.
He built the Clippers into the machine you see today, because he had the time and resources to do it. You have to believe the Blazers unlikely success this season only adds to his belief that the organization can win big. They’re close, but not close enough.

Which is why, short of a victory, getting blown out might be the best thing that could have happened.

They can learn from this, take the video and study the way the Spurs dismantled them. It won’t take long to figure out—these were not just X’s and O’s victories; San Antonio knew the stakes and played like it. Portland did not. They were out-hustled and outclassed in every phase.

Head coach Terry Stotts was brought in because of his basketball IQ and his ability to relate to players, two traits that will be tested now more than ever. Stotts is a smart coach, having learned under Rick Carlisle—regarded as one of the brightest minds in the game. He sees the big picture and has a way of getting the most out of his guys. So today, when the team sits down to talk, he can’t harp. He needs to let this be a lesson learned.

They played against a well-oiled machine, and were hopefully taking notes the whole time.

San Antonio is a model franchise from top to bottom. From GM to the last man off the bench, they do it right. Their offense is silk, beautifully strung together in an intricate weave of movement. Their defense is predicated on effort, something they never seem to lack. But, most of all, they play with a sense of urgency that Portland does not have, from the opening tip to the final buzzer. It’s a beautiful thing to watch, and if you’re smart, imitate.

As we go to press the series isn’t over, but if Portland has any chance of making a comeback, and improving for the future, they need to look at this series as a learning experience, not just a beat down.

If they can, it could be a launching point for even
better things.