Hello Blazers fans, Antonio here. The Portland Trail Blazers have a problem. Throughout the first 50 games of the year, Portland has played the top three teams in the West five times. In those five meetings, they have lost by a total of 98 points, and are 0-5.
This trend of blowouts continued on Tuesday, as the Blazers fell to the Clippers by 17, 116-133. With no Jusuf Nurkic, Portland’s defense was cooked alive as per usual. Nurkic may not have helped much at all. With the brutal April stretch awaiting Portland, let’s take a closer look at the Tuesday massacre.
Dame Struggles Deeply
Damian Lillard had his worst game since the season opener against Utah, scroting only 11 points on 2/14 shooting. One of his shots was an offensive putback after an unpredictable rebound bounced off of three players, and the other was one of his signature threes.
Ty Lue made sure his Clippers blitzed every single high pick that Portland set. With no Jusuf Nurkic to pass to, Lillard delegated to CJ McCollum and Norman Powell. CJ had a nice first quarter, scoring 12 points on a perfect 5/5 shooting. Powell scored a Blazers-high 32 points, shooting 14/15 from the line. The two guards scored well, but Lillard’s silence made sure the Blazers did not play to their full potential.
Wow, This Defense is Tough to Watch
Lillard’s rough day might have been a surprise, but the Blazers defense was in prime form. The second worst defensive unit in NBA history let the Clipper make their first nine shots. It was not until a Reggie Jackson layup with 6:44 left in the first that LA finally missed.
It’s tough to win games when the opponent scores 133 points. It’s tough to win games with the defense that the Blazers have. Aside from beating up the Thunder’s G-League team by 48 points on Saturday, defenses have had no trouble. Stotts has again and again talked about fixing the Blazer D, but to no avail so far.
Stotts’ Questionable Rotations
The defense was not helped by Derrick Jones Jr.’s lack of minutes recently. The Blazers’ best defender played only 12 minutes in the game. This might have been due to Jones’ recent hand injury, but it still hurts to see a team wrecked on the defensive end while a capable forward sat on the bench.
Terry Stotts has gone all in on Carmelo Anthony. On most nights, it works wonders. Melo has single handedly saved games for Portland. However, he shot 2/10 on Tuesday and still clocked in 17 minutes. On his off nights, I’d like to see Melo’s minutes cut down as Jones and Nassir Little get more playing time.
The rotations for Portland have been in a constant state of flux since Norman Powell arrived. Dame, Nurkic, Jones, and Little have all missed one or two games since the trade. I’d like to believe that once Stotts and the crew get the rotations down, it will be smooth sailing for the team, leading to more quality wins. Despite what history tells, I still naively believe the same thing.
Next Up: The Blazers take on the NBA-leading Jazz.
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