A one-time Trail Blazer coach looked at me after a harrowing win over a mediocre team long ago and smiled. "I promised myself I'd never complain about a win," he said. "You take them any way you can get them."
And he was correct, of course. Portland's managed to win 51 games so far this season and there's no separate column in the standings for lucky wins, unlucky losses, close games or routs. You win and that's all that is asked. Besides, there's so much to complain about in losses, why waste your time and space fretting about things in the wins?
But let me make one quick point after the Trail Blazers' 100-99 win over the Kings Wednesday night, a game fraught with turnovers, rebounding problems and inconsistent defense:
I loved Portland's final play. I loved the final shot. And I think plays like that leading to game-winning shots do a team a world of good.
Portland didn't just run a 1-4 spread for Damian Lillard. The Blazers didn't just loop the ball down to LaMarcus Aldridge and get out of his way. Nope, none of that. There was time to spread the floor, run a high pick and roll and let Lillard use his creativity and quickness to find his best option on the fly. He found that option -- a wide-open Dorell Wright spotted up in the corner -- after choosing between trying to finish his own drive down the right side of the lane or laying the ball off to a slicing Aldridge, who was headed toward the basket. It was the right pass to the right guy.
And Wright's shot -- he's a line-drive shooter and often it appears he's going to leave the shot short -- was perfect. And a lot of good things will happen from that event.
First, Lillard showed supreme confidence in a teammate with the game on the line, something that is going to work for the entire team. When opposing teams look at video of this play they're going to know they can't totally sell out on Lillard, thinking he's not going to give the ball up. Aldridge, too, is going to know that the player who is supposed to be defending the forward in that corner cannot be as anxious now to cheat away and help on the pick-and-roll action. So ultimately, the Blazers are going to be able to spread the court better on this play, giving Lillard and Aldridge more room to work game-ending magic.
That's not even mentioning the mental benefits of Wright's success -- the idea that he now can feel better about himself in such situations and he has built more trust within the team.
And if the traffic is too heavy in the middle for Lillard and Aldridge, they see now there is help in other places. I've always believed in the mantra that a wide-open shot for a veteran NBA shooter is a better bet than a contested shot for the team's star. I think that play proved that theory -- At least this time.
And the Trail Blazers are a better team because of it.