Last Monday (3/9/09) The Portland Trail Blazers dominated the No. 1 team in the Western Conference, the Los Angeles Lakers, at home, giving Los Angeles their most embarrassing loss of the season. This resulted in the Lakers slamming the ball on the court, committing flagrant fouls, and even had Kobe Bryant leaving the Rose Garden without speaking to reporters.
After the game, there was a lot of talk amongst Blazers broadcasters and fans that it would not be such a bad thing to drop to the eighth, and final, seed in the Western Conference playoff standings, because we play so well against number one Los Angeles at the Rose Garden.
At work, I ask Blazer fans going to the next game which team they would want to face in the first round. An overwhelming majority say they want to face the Lakers.
"We can beat them at home..." says one.
"I want to face Los Angeles so we can kill them..." says another.
"We have Brandon Roy this time round..." proclaims a third.
Blazer fans, the LAST team Portland wants to face in the first round of the playoffs is the Los Angeles Lakers.
True, the Trail Blazers played well last Monday against them. Very well, in fact.
True, the Trail Blazers have mauled their way to wins at the Rose Garden for the last four seasons.
BUT...ever since our team dismantled the so called "Jail Blazers" (A term I think is disgusting, racist, and convenient over true) Lakers head coach Phil Jackson has rarely even played Kobe in the fourth quarter at the Rose Garden.
Phil Jackson silently tells our franchise, "I don't need Kobe to beat you. And if you win...big deal...you are just scrimmage for the rest of my lineup."
It's a big insult and Phil intends it that way. He wants our franchise to know we are barely worth his attention.
My last article pointed out that on the Sunday before the game certain Lakers were seen drinking until the early hours of the morning.
So the Lakers, or at least some of them, showed up on Mar. 9 with at least a hint of a hangover. Which means face it Blazer fans...the Lakers just did not show up at all.
They did NOT think our team was worthy of their undivided attention.
And like anyone who shows up to work with a hangover, they did not do a very good job. The work environment got more stressful than they could handle, and they just had a bad day at work. Happens everyday. End of story.
Yet Blazer fans got hopping wild at how well we played and proclaimed we could face Los Angeles in the first round???
If we face L.A. (our most hated nemesis) they will sweep us. They will embarrass us. They will hurt our feelings. There will be no late night drinking before games. Kobe will not get benched in the fourth quarter. No, the Lakers will make us look like little kids. And they will add to their long list of playoff defeats...the only real games in a season that count.
They will slaughter us in the first two games in Los Angeles, let us put up a fight in game three back at the Rose Garden, yet win in dramatic fashion, dance on our home court, then put us out of our misery.
It will be yet another excuse for Laker fans, everytime we insult them, to simply reply, "Playoffs?"
In 2002 the Blazers played a great come-from-behind victory over Los Angeles. Bonzi Wells went 4-of-4 from beyond the arch, Scottie Pippen's ejection led to Blazer fans throwing dozens of Bill Walton dolls onto the court, Rasheed Wallace hit a big three to tie the game, and we won in overtime.
The overwhemling response across the nation, including ESPN polls, showed that people wanted to see the Blazers face L.A. in the playoffs.
We did face L.A., for the third time in a row, and we got swept with a Robert Horry three that still wields power in NBA playoff lore.
As a Blazer fan, nothing hurts worse that losing to Los Angeles.
So let's face Houston, New Orleans, or Utah. Let's face a team that we do not have an overwhelming hatred of, a team who, if they advance, we can applaud them as well as pat our own backs for our brilliant effort in the 2008-09 season.
Let's not embarrass ourselves and think a first-round battle against L.A. would be fruitful.
We would get whooped.
I hate L.A.
And I hate to say it...
But The Lakers are still light-years out of our league.
Let's not give them a chance to prove it unless it's the second or even third round.