Posted by: bkivey | 12 May 2019

Blazers Win!

Portland’s NBA team defeated the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals to advance to the Western Conference Finals and end a 19-year drought in that contest. The Blazers’ run has been a bit improbable, and the recently finished series was a nail-biter. Game 3 went four overtimes before Portland secured a victory. I think the last time a team for whom I was rooting caused so much anxiety was N.C. State’s championship run in 1982. The Blazer’s are grown men (Zach Collins excepted), so ‘Kardiac Kids’ won’t do, but this team needs a nickname.

And that nickname probably won’t be coming from the national press. I listened to some ESPN radio while working on projects the last week, and it was all Golden State, all the time. The Denver – Portland series was barely mentioned, and Portland was pretty well dismissed out-of-hand. Huh.

Although it was my letter sport, basketball isn’t my favorite sport. That would be baseball: a sport I never played on a league team. Basketball has moved ahead of football on the personal favorites list, mostly due to the politicization of the NFL. I’ve spent the last couple of seasons paying attention to the game and how it’s played at the elite level. Not just how players play the game, but how coaching staffs manage games. And I thought the Blazer’s coaching staff did something very interesting this season.

Head Coach Terry Stotts divided his team into two teams, the starting unit and the second unit. Then he played them during games as units. Of course, personnel decisions are largely dictated by the run-of-play, but more than any other NBA team, the Trailblazers would play for minutes at a time with four and five guys off the bench. And they would stay on the floor in leverage situations. The second unit’s primary job was to either hold on to a lead, or not increase a deficit. But as the season went on, they would make runs. They would turn a deficit into a lead, sometimes against the opponent’s starting five.

This approach does require that everyone buy in to the system. Elite professional athletes have large egos; it’s a requirement to perform at that level, and it’s difficult accepting the second-banana role when your whole life has been first-team. But at the start of the season everyone seemed willing to give it a try, and as players adjusted and adapted to their roles, the team’s effectiveness increased.

This strategy suggested that the coaching staff would use depth of experience to overcome difficult match-ups during the playoffs, and that’s what has happened to date. It is becoming a bit of a Trailblazer’s trademark to insert bench players late in games with the specific job of impacting the game however their skills may allow. Late 3’s, solid rim protection, crucial free throws, shrink-wrap defense: all provided by the Blazer’s bench in critical playoff moments.

The athletic ability and organizational success has been fun to watch as the home team makes good, but I find the unfolding real-time management case study to be as fascinating.

A True Story

I was sitting at the bar the day after the 4 OT Blazer win, and someone asked one of the patrons when the next game was.

“It starts tomorrow at 7, but should be over by 10 or 11.”

Columbia and Clatsop Counties

A day off recently found me with sunny skies and an itchy right foot, so I drove out to Astoria for the afternoon. Astoria is about 2 hours from the house, 3 in season. After a pleasant drive out, I had lunch at Astoria Brewing Company.

OR Astoria Astoria Brewing Co exterior

OR Astoria ships from Astoria Brewing Co

OR Astoria ships in roads 190507

The second ship from the right was under way, and arrived before my food.

OR Astoria pilot boat and ship Astoria Brewing Co

Pilot boat in the foreground. The freighter had it’s anchors nearly touching the water, and I wondered why. Maybe just moving to a new anchorage.

OR Astoria Rueben Astoria Brewing Co 190507

The serving board isn’t actually wood, but a plastic or ceramic. I had the ‘mild’ house IPA, because I was driving.

OR Wolf Bay wetlands panorama 190507

I took US 30 East back home because I hadn’t driven the section between Astoria and Ranier. Along the way is the Wolf Bay Wetland, also home to the Twilight Eagle Sanctuary. The sanctuary is used by a pair of bald eagles nesting about a quarter-mile behind me to the South. No eagles sighted but a nice view.

OR Twilight Eagle sanctuary 190507

OR Wahkiakum ferry (2)

The town of Waldport is about halfway between Astoria and Ranier, and the Oregon terminal of the Wahkiakum County ferry. It’s about 60 miles between the bridges at Astoria and Ranier, so the ferry saves considerable driving.

OR Clatskanie toward ferry

Standing in downtown Waldport looking down the ferry road.

OR Clatskanie looking East

More of Waldport. Well, that’s pretty much it.

OR Clatskanie railroad bridge

Just West of Clatskanie is this railroad bridge to the Simpson Lumber mill about a quarter-mile to the right. US 30 is on the left. The spur appears to be out of use, as overhead photos don’t show any rail cars.

I visited Clatskanie last Summer, and I’ll likely make a couple more trips to this part of the state this year. Clatsop and Columbia counties are the heart of Oregon Coast Range logging, and besides being interesting to visit, are a pleasant place to be.



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