Good morning Blazer fans, Antonio here. We have a special two-for-one day today, lumping in observations from the Blazers’ losses to the Wizards and Suns on Saturday and Monday.
Portland’s six-game winning streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday against the Wizards and was followed up by a 32-point loss to the Phoenix Suns on Monday. The Blazers looked tired, worn out, and lackadaisical on both sides of the ball. Let’s take a deeper look.
Cracks Begin to Show
Throughout February, Blazers fans have remained blissfully unaware of how affected the team is by injuries. An 8-2 record to open the month will do that. However, the last two games have reminded us of the unfortunate news: Portland is still hurt.
For as well as Gary Trent has been playing, he is not CJ McCollum. Enes Kanter does not have the same skill sets as Jusuf Nurkic, and the team misses Zach Collins. Aided by an easier schedule and some great play, the Blazers have been overperforming. These last two have sent them down to Earth.
This is not to say that the Blazers will immediately fall into a huge losing streak. I am just expressing how this team is not the same without two of its best three players.
The Blazers are the best team in the league when it comes to ball security. In the first quarter against Phoenix, they coughed up the ball eight times. Against Washington, the normally high-scoring Blazer offense scored 12 points in the second and 19 in the fourth. And the usually solid Portland rebounding gave up 13 offensive boards against the Suns.
These cracks in the Blazers’ armor have given way to some uncharacteristic play. Damian Lillard can only do so much. When he is out of the game, Portland becomes iso-heavy and relies on shotmaking rather than play-making. When Melo, Anfernee Simons, and Gary Trent are off of their game, the second unit struggles mightily.
That’s not to say that Lillard will not single-handedly right the ship. He’s more than capable of dragging teams to victory. It just would be nice for the BLazers to show consistency.
So, What Now?
As negative as the write-up has seemed, there are a lot of positives to be taken away. The Blazers have only lost two games in a row and are sitting at 18-12 right now. This team is still firmly in the playoff picture. When CJ McCollum returns (Hopefully in about two weeks), there will be nowhere to look but up.
Also, the Blazers have won games as they are structured now. They had a six-game winning streak less than a week ago. Two bad games are bound to happen. While it may be tough to pull great nights together against the cream of the crop, Portland has shown they can beat the bad teams even while injured, something they failed to do last year.
For all the negatives that one can take away from these last two days, there are a lot of bright things that can be looked at.
Next Up: Portland travels to Denver to take on Nikola Jokic on National TV.