Mount Rushmore is in South Dakota. Once, a long time ago—like, 100 years ago—a sculptor carved their faces into the mountain. The faces are: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt was instrumental in making Rushmore happen, which explains why he's, like, clearly the least important figure on the mountain. Maybe in a stretch, you could argue that his ascension to the presidency after the assassination of McKinley by lonely, weird anarchist Leon Czolgosz was a kind of highly symbolic catalyzing moment, when the cultlike madnesses of the 19th century finally broke through and wired themselves into the essential everyday life components of the 20th. But, if you're going by canonical American history, John Adams probably would have been a better choice.
What does this have to do with the Blazers? Nothing. It was an object lesson in disappointment. You opened this article expecting my piercing insights into the Portland Trail Blazers' myriad failures as they get pounded out of the first round, but instead, you were greeted by a dry, half-informed paragraph about the history of Mount Rushmore and a tangent about William McKinley. "I didn't want this," you thought, "If I had known that this article was going to be a bad lecture about a tourist trap, I would have never wanted the Blazers to make the playoffs in the first place."
But it's important to remember that the crucial thing is the journey: you being interested, either in the series or this article, seeking out the secrets of its form, and taking them in for yourself and letting it move you. And if you're a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, it's safe for you have been disappointed by both. But it's fine! Disappointment is a feeling we need to hold onto and treasure, like all of our feelings!
The Los Angeles Clippers have absolutely steamrolled the Blazers, making them look sluggish, disorganized and thoroughly outclassed at their present level of competition. Chris Paul and his squad of low-key unlikeable dudes seem completely determined to arrive at the second round and take a fucking beating from the Golden State Warriors. Most people—me, for certain—would see the oncoming cloud and take shelter, let the Blazers beat me so I can embrace an easier, quieter death. But here's the Lil' Commandant giving the finger to the oncoming inevitability, sweaty and spitting and flopping and complaining like his life depends on it. The camera even caught him talking trash to Lillard, looking something like a 5,000 year old man yelling at a 24-year-old:
Lillard and McCollum have shot less than 40 percent from the field and are hovering around 20 percent from three-point range, the Clippers have been slagging off Al-Farouq Aminu, allowing him open shots that he's regressed into not even kind-of-making. Mason Plumlee has been OK. He had seven assists in Game 2. No one has been notably good. Chris Kaman played big minutes in the second game, suggesting that Terry Stotts is responding to the generalized stress of the series by retreating to the comforts of warm, well-worn veterans. The scene is just a mess.
Gerald Henderson has been better than you would think. What does that mean to you?
Even the Clippers abjectly terrible bench is shredding the Blazers, a source of shame and dishonor that is, frankly, unacceptable. Getting picked apart by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin playing center is one thing. But letting Austin Rivers- and Jeff Green-based lineups split open the Blazer defense, crawl inside and build a giant lead in there? That's just shameful stuff, man. That's "think about your life, and how you're living it" kind of stuff. The main way the Blazers can seek and receive redemption in this series is to do something to press back against this dull, ignoble fire burning off their chest hair.
Unfortunately, every Western Conference series has so far looked a little like this. The Thunder are making the Mavs look old (while also seeming vaguely cursed themselves). The depleted-ass Grizzlies are taking an epoch-ending back-to-front whipping from the Spurs. The Warriors decimated the Rockets at full strength. The fact of the matter is that, for reasons both cosmic (luck) and practical (Warriors and Spurs devouring all available wins), the playoff bracket in the West was particularly hyper-stratified, with four hardcore, "ready to compete up and down the roster, year in, year out" playoff teams against squads that are too young or too old to do much.
Blessedly, the Blazers have the former problem, and will hopefully take something—be it a game or a more intangible lesson about winning or teamwork or some shit—from this horrible nightmare. Who knows? They might even take something in the next game. But they almost certainly won't win the series. Two 20-point losses isn't exactly a good omen.