When a win isn't a win

With the new schedule at work I have not been able to listen to or watch the last few Blazer games.  I did catch the last 5 minutes or so of the New York game, but otherwise it has simply been post-game shows. On the bright side, those post-game shows have all been after victories. On the downside, I note a trend among Blazer broadcasters. They are showing disappointment at times over margin of victory. 

The difference between good teams and bad teams has never been margin of victory. Sure, your Boston Celtic type teams will have more big-margin wins than a Minnesota, for example. More importantly, however, is they find a way to win all the games they are supposed to, even when the opponent plays over their head.

There is not an NBA team that is not extremely talented from top to bottom. When you watch pre-game warm-ups, for example, you will see the 12th man on the glorified D-League team the Oklahoma (lack of) Thunder drill shot after shot after shot, demonstrate lateral movement that ordinary people can only dream of, and just generally show in every way, shape and form that he is a superior athlete.

Yet Oklahoma has won 2 games in nineteen attempts. Sure, the players on the Celtics are slightly stronger, faster, better shooters and rebounders, but not so much so that on a great night for Oklahoma where every Celtic has a horrific night, the Thunder could not win.

Yet if teams like Oklahoma have good games for 40 minutes, they will still lose because teams like Boston figure out ways to win. They come up with the big stops, find ways to put the ball in the bucket at the end of the game, and come away with the W. 

By contrast, mediocre teams like New York or Golden State often build leads but find ways to fritter them away and pull defeat out of the jaws of victory. 

And at the end of the day, they find a loss is still a loss just as the winning teams figure out a win is still a win.

Portland is a team moving towards being outstanding. They are winning at home and on the road. They are beating all the teams they should and a couple teams where the outcome might be surprising. However, sometimes that is not enough for their announcers or some fans.

Again and again after the Washington Wizard game I heard the phrase, "Well, they didn't win by as much as you might have expected but it was still a victory."

I would take a certain exception to that phrase. How can you say ahead of time that one team should win by x number of points? There are so many uncertain factors that come into play.

 Will young legs be unprepared for the second night of a back to back after playing New York the night before? Will Washington get jacked up about all the losing, come out and play over their heads all night? Will Brandon Roy see his shot off by just that tiny bit that turns 2 points into a fast break the other way?

One difference between the good teams and the bad ones is that even when they don't get the "expected" margin of victory, they still come away with the victory. It is not as if the game suddenly goes in the loss column after a team wins by less than they expected.

Last year's Memphis game provides an excellent example. Prior to the game, it seemed Portland should win by at least 10 points.  As it turned out, they didn't...they won inside the last second on a bucket that had to be reviewed for about 3 minutes to determine if it beat the buzzer or not. 

While it was not the double digit win that it should have been, it was still a key moment. Portland did not stop winning for quite some time, going on to win their next 12 games after the Memphis win. That last-second bank shot turned around their season.

Mostly, it turned it around because it was a win. Their final record of 41-41 counted it as just one game. If they lost, they would have finished 40-42. Obvious, right? Well, if they had won by 20, they still would have finished 41-41. Unlike the bizarre, Machiavellian machinations of the BCS system, in the NBA a one point win is as good as a 38 point win in the standings.

The main thing is to get that win. It doesn't matter if it is one point or 20, the point is to get the win. When the team has an off-night, whether offensively, defensively, or both, the good teams still find a way to win games against the teams they should beat. 

Right now, Portland is doing that. Sure, in a perfect world they beat both the Wizards and Knicks by double digits, but come playoff time when they are doing the seeding, a pair of wins by a combined 13 points will look just as good to Portland as the 2 wins by a combined 78 they had last week. 

So an open memo to Blazer fans; worry less about margin of victory and more about enjoying the wins. It hasn't been that long since winning seven road games in a season would have been a success, so enjoy winning that many in the first 13 attempts. A win is a win whether by one or one hundred and, far from being a reason to worry, it is a reason to celebrate.