Stopping a slide is difficult. The law of averages will glibly tell you winning was a matter of time. Any statistician will tell you streaks happen both ways, a mathematical inevitability. The longer the losing or winning continues, but losing especially, and it takes on the consistency of gravity. Play too long in that other world, you're playing not to lose, and that's no way to win.
Of course, this is one of the head coach's primary functions, and it's a responsibility they execute well. We were right there in overtime with the Thunder, the Cavaliers were right there with the Mavericks. And while we have varying degrees of confidence in the coaching staff, the team's mental toughness is still a major question mark going forward. As Rook commented in the gamethread:
Just have to guard against their usual 3rd quarter collapse...and their usual 4th quarter collapse. They already avoided their usual 1st and 2nd quarter collapses.
When the Wizards visit the Magic on Wedensday, it will be with another two days rest. I hope they're taking this game just as seriously as the Cleveland game, because tomorrow's effort will set the tone for the rest of the season.
If you haven't read Prada's recap, do so. A lot of things went right Sunday night, perhaps things many would argue can't be brought on anything beyond a one-in-five basis. I would argue that the odds of everyone bringing their 'A' game in their best chance to break the road losing streak defies that assessment.
Every student of the NBA knows games are won one possession at a time. We'll see a beautifully executed offensive set followed up by a terrible basket in transition, a smart, gritty defensive stop ruined by 16-23 foot fadeaway with twenty seconds left on the shot clock. The problem is that it takes the entire team to make the machine run smoothly, and only one bad decision on the other end to waste all that good effort.
Take all those possessions, add 'em up, and you've got a game. A passel of blocks, plenty of drawn charges, generating turnovers was enough to overcome a horrifying disparity at the free throw line (14 FTA versus 31 FTA for CLE), but we can attribute at least part of the blame to Cleveland's defensive miscues. Put everything together, and it totals up to a win.
"...in Washington, we hoped we could win. [In Dallas], they expect to." These are the expectations perennial playoff teams possess, granted, but the last thing a developing talent like Andray Blatche needs to feel is futile.
Substitute John Wall for Andray Blatche, and I could be writing about this year. But wait a moment. I know a lot of us are feeling pretty down right now, but cheer up. While our record is poor as ever, we're in much better shape. Gilbert Arenas and his contract are gone. Nick Young has done an about face. John Wall is coming along. Dray is showing signs of life. Javale McGee continues to improve. Trevor Booker is becoming a solid bench player. Kevin Seraphin is showing a soft touch with the hook shot and knocked Brandon Jennings into next week. The Alonzo Gee saga that felt like the end of the world when we were looking for ANYTHING positive has concluded with Cartier Martin, the 'lesser' D-leaguer, filling the role we needed. And we got that awesome Chinese guy.
Yi Jianlian will never get backed down in the post again...but on a serious note, I'm sure the last thing any of us expected was getting a small ball 5 for Quinton Ross. Ernie Grunfeld is another polarizing subject, but our veterans right now are Josh Howard, Kirk Hinrich, and Rashard Lewis. Howard is playing solid when he can get on the floor, Hinrich is drawing trade interest (not even expiring until next year), and Lewis is producing while all three are net positives when Flip resists overplaying them.
Who thought this time last year we'd have a trio of legitimate veterans with a little trade value, a backcourt of the future, while still looking at another high lottery pick? That light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, and it's not the C-train.
Back to Orlando. After the Spurs took us out to the woodshed, I understand any reluctance to get our hopes up. Watch for the points Prada mentioned, if we see enough of that effort, we can win possessions. If we can string enough of those together we can win the game. Keep it physical and have Seraphin hammering Dwight in the second. Somebody get that man, T'ed up. Keep pressure on the perimeter and the Magic will shoot themselves out of the game (unless that pesky law of averages kicks in again).
I want to see the level of effort that tells me our young guys believe they can help this team win. There are 29 games left to play, and we're only 23.5 games out of first place. Piece of cake.