Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Blazers at Midseason

Halfway through last season the Blazers had the same record they do halfway through this season, 25 wins and 16 losses. Last season Portland stumbled to a 41-41 finish and missed the playoffs. The lackluster finish could be attributed to a young team cooling off and veteran squads gearing up their play down the stretch.

This year's team is still young, the second youngest in the League. The second half of the season will also see a lot of contenders out West step up their game, just like last year. So will we see a repeat of last season? Will we see the young Blazers sputter once again and miss out on the playoffs? Maybe.

But there is reason for hope. This is not the same team as last season. This team's record is not inflated by a surprising thirteen-game winning streak. These Blazers are much more consistent and have already shown they can push through adversity. The beginning of the season couldn't have been much worse, losing Oden to injury and getting blown out by the Lakers on national television. Even now, the Blazers are finding ways to win while key players are injured. When things don't go their way, this team will have the confidence of knowing that they have turned things around in the past.

Another factor working in favor of this team is their schedule. Portland had the hardest early schedule in the NBA, and now will start to enjoy the benefits of that front-loaded difficulty. They played 22 games on the road in the first half, so get 22 at home in the second. Four of Portland's second half games will be against Oklahoma City, a team currently with a 19% winning percentage. And check out this stretch of opponents February 6 through the 22nd: Oklahoma City, New York, Oklahoma City, Golden State, Memphis, Atlanta, and the Clippers. Portland's five game road trip March 15 through the 21st is similarly reassuring: Atlanta, Memphis, Indiana, Cleveland, and Milwaukee.

Consider also that this team is more talented than last season's group. Rookie Rudy Fernandez is one of the best in the League off the bench. The too often hated on Greg Oden leads all rookies with 12 double doubles. Along with talented newcomers, players from last season are a year closer to their primes. Brandon Roy is no longer looking like a player that will be elite eventually, he has undeniably set himself among the NBA's best two-guards. If he shakes some of his nagging injuries in the second half, look out for Portland.

So on Barack Obama's inauguration day (I'm topical!), Rip City fans have a lot to be hopeful about. Nothing is certain about the second half of the season, there is a long ways to go. But one can easily see that certain things seem to be lining up for the Blazers. All they have to do now is win.

2 comments:

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