Hello Blazers fans, Antonio here. After a beautiful four game win streak against playoff foes, the Blazers dropped their first game of the East Coast road trip with a 114-123 loss to Atlanta. The Hawks alternated between Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari threes and stampeded their way past Portland.
The loss may sting, but the bigger picture is what matters. A 4-1 road trip for Portland has been beautiful, no matter what happened in Georgia. Despite the loss, the bigger picture looks promising. Let’s take a closer look.
Dame is Ready
After an off month where Damian Lilard didn’t quite look like himself, he rebounded with an excellent game against Brooklyn, and followed that up with another great performance vs. Atlanta. Dame poured in 33 points on 19 shots and six threes.
The one negative is a turned ankle. Dame was hobbled at the end of the first half, but returned to play. He is listed as probable against Cleveland. If Portland thinks that they can win without him against the Cavs, they should take that chance. Dame needs to be in Atlanta form come playoff time.
Throughout the roadtrip, Blazers coach Terry Stotts has been whittling down his rotation to playoff form. These tighter rotations have seen 8-man lineups; the five starters, Carmelo Anthony, Enes Kanter, and Anfernee Simons are the players getting consistent minutes.
Against Atlanta, the team looked weary and a bit out of sorts. Defensively, the team was trudging. In moments like that, a bit of help is needed. Stotts turned to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the second half, but it was a bit too late. Hopefully, the rotation stays as is, with options for RHJ, Derrick Jones, and Nassir Little to get minutes.
Playoff Picture Looms Large.
The Blazers playoff Twitter account couldn’t be more right. This is crunch time, and the Blazers need to perform. With the Pelicans’ loss to the Warriors Monday night, the Blazers will at least be in the play-in games. What comes next is what’s tough.
LeBron James will miss two additional games for the Lakers with lingering ankle problems, including the Friday game against Portland. Los Angeles is reeling, losing six of eight. Meanwhile, the Mavericks have won six of their eight and look to be at the peak of their game.
Portland doesn’t need to watch the other teams too much though. If they beat the Lakers and keep winning, the play-in doesn’t matter.
It’s go time.
Next up: The final game of the road trip against Cleveland on Wednesday.
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