Hello, Blazer fans, Antonio here. The Blazers returned after a weeklong break that saw Damian Lillard take over in the All-Star game and Anfernee Simons win the Dunk Contest. The Phoenix Suns cared little about those accomplishments though, as they took down Portland, winning 127-121 on Thursday night. Let’s take a closer look.
Offensive Rebounds Keep Blazers Close
The Blazers were not making shots to begin the game. The Suns were. But after the first quarter of play, Portland was up three despite Phoenix shooting 62% from the field. The key was rebounding. Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony helped the Blazers out-rebound the Suns mightily in the first period.
This strategy helped keep the Blazers slightly ahead of their opponents throughout the first three quarters of play. For every Gary Trent miss (He had 11 of them!), it seemed like Kanter was there to clean up the mess and put points on the board. Kanter, Anthony, and Nassir Little combined for 12 offensive rebounds. The Suns only had five. This was a pleasant way to keep scoring despite missing, but was it sustainable?
Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
The Blazers have always been good about limiting turnovers and being safe with the ball, and on Thursday, only committed 11. It was not the quantity that did the Blazers in though. It was the timing. Up by 13 in the third quarter, a couple of turnovers by Lillard and Kanter soured the stretch and let the Suns inch closer. To start the fourth, Anfernee Simons had an early turnover that gave the Suns a four-point lead.
Simon’s turnover was emblematic of Portland’s night: They kept shooting themselves in the foot and struggled at the wrong times. Turnovers came in key moments, shots went cold when it mattered, the defense fell apart when the offense was struggling. The Suns may be the second-best team in the league, but a lesser team would have beaten the Blazers as well.
What to Do Now?
Another Blazers loss to a contending team shows that this iteration of the Portland Trail Blazers is not good enough to beat playoff teams. Hopefully, CJ and Nurk return soon, and Portland gets their mojo back against winning teams. Knowing this, I still expect GM Neil Olshey to make a move.
Olshey is known for his tinkering at the trade deadline, usually for supporting players. Some have been winners (the Plumlee-Nurkic deal), and some have kept me up at night (Will Barton for 30 games of Arron Afflalo). There are several names on the market that look intriguing. Andre Drummond, PJ Tucker, and…
Oh boy. If the Spurs waive Aldridge, then Portland should be scampering to reunite Aldridge and Lillard. However, the San Antonio big man is not trade-worthy. I’m not willing to give up prospects and picks for a player past his glory days if I’m Neil Olshey. The Blazers may be weak even if they pick up Aldridge, Tucker, or Drummond. But with them, there’s a better chance for a postseason run.
Plus, it’s fun to imagine.
Next Up: Back-to-back away games against the Timberwolves on Saturday and Sunday. Get ready for a two-for-one post on Monday.
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