Because of my busy schedule and limited time, I have taken a cursory glance at the Trail Blazers hopes for the NBA Playoffs of 2019. For the most part there are not any heavy indications one way or another and I am pretty much left to go with the general consensus. Way before the first of the season I was the only sports prognosticator in the land to pick 47-49 wins with a high side of 52 in the regular season.
The numerical formula was clear: play the talent and get out of a fixation with an 8 or 9 man rotation. This included a plea to let go of the morbid fear of playing rookies and turn them loose. We got to see what they could do in the last game, but unfortunately that was about the only time they got real time, other than clean up time in blow outs. Don’t rely on Dame to bail them out in the last minute. Remember what Moe did in the next to the last game against the Lakers?
I clearly indicated in that preseason missive, the killer to success would be further outbreaks of SSS. When they played the talent and turned the bench loose they won more often than not. When things got tight and Stotts clung to his limited rotation and heavy time for the starters they played valiantly and were more often than not defeated and exhausted. The biggest case was in the last loss to OKC. Now, by the fate of the NBA gods, the Blazers face them in the first round.
The unconscious message to the bench is that I do not trust you in tight places, and the regulars will play. It undermines the team confidence and distracts form the good will and chemistry that was born out of the collective effort. All you have to do is look at the team record without Nurk and without Nurk and CJ. Turn ‘em loose and let them play. It is, after all, just a game!
If this happens the Blazers will be competitive. Go back to old form and they are gone quickly once again. Even with this said, the numbers for the first round slightly favor the Thunder, and the Blazers will be out after a competitive first round. If they play loose and use all of their talent, there is a slight chance they get by first two rounds and make Chuck immortal by getting to the conference finals. It does not look like they are ready to handle the Warriors.