Hello, Blazer fans, Antonio here. Two days ago, the Portland Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Denver Nuggets, losing Game 6 126-115. A wild, disappointing season has come to an end. It’s over.
As The Nuggets prepare for the Phoenix Suns, the Blazers are left looking for answers. With one big change already in the works. Let’s take a closer look at not only the game but preparing for next year.
Out with a Whimper
Portland started Game 6 strong, jumping to an early first-quarter lead thanks to stellar play from Damian Lillard and Norman Powell. Jusuf Nurkic stayed out of foul trouble, and Anfernee Simons and Robert Covington hit outside shots. With four minutes left in the third quarter, Portland led by 13.
The team sputtered into the fourth and never threatened for the win. Lillard looked tired from his 52 minutes and 55 points in Game 5. Powell wasn’t able to find his Game 3 Magic. Nurkic picked up his fifth foul. CJ McCollum never got it going. Carmelo Anthony provided the Blazers with their only spark of the quarter with an and-one. With 31 seconds remaining and down 11, Terry Stotts subbed in Keljin Blevins, Nassir Little, and TJ Leaf.
In true Blazers form, Portland made sure to give fans everywhere hope before sputtering down the stretch, only scoring 14 points in the fourth. While the loss to the Nuggets was frustrating, you have to give Denver credit. Nikola Jokic is the MVP. Michael Porter Jr. has potential like no other. And Austin Rivers hit shots. Good luck to them against Phoenix.
Change Already Here
Not even 24 hours after the Denver loss, The Blazers were already making changes.
Coach Stotts has coached the Blazers for eight years, making the playoffs in seven of those years. He has made the Blazers a model of consistency over his tenure, racking up 402 wins for the organization, the second-most in franchise history.
Stotts’ time in Portland may have been overshadowed by his first-round exits in four of the past five years, but he should be commended for his ability to keep the Blazers on course. After LaMarcus Aldridge left, nobody believed that Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum could lead a team to the playoffs. In 2019, they led them to the conference finals.
Stotts is already picking up interest from Orlando and Indiana. He’ll find a home soon enough. It was time for a change in Portland, but Terry Stotts has so much to be proud of for his time here.
What Else is In Store?
This series loss felt like a turning point in the Blazers’ timeline. No longer will the team coast off of a playoff appearances streak and potential. Damian Lillard is 31. His prime will not be much longer.
With Stotts gone, Lillard was consulted for possible coaches. As of this writing, Jason Kidd and Chauncy Billups are the lead candidates. Kidd has had disappointing forays into head coaching, last leading Giannis Antetokounmpo to a 7th seed. Meanwhile, Billups is on the Clippers’ assistant staff, serving as a defensive-minded coach.
Player-wise, expect a big trade to be made. ESPN media may be pushing Damian Lillard, but it could be CJ McCollum on the move. McCollum had a disappointing series against Denver, and also took up a lot of cap space. I’m not sure what the Blazers will do with their personnel, but one thing is for sure: Damian Lillard is the only untradeable player. Build whatever you can around him.
Next Up: Well, that’s it. We’ll see what else happens in the Blazers world, especially when free agency hits. See you in October, and Go Blazers!
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