Good morning Blazer fans, Antonio here.
After a string of close, one-possession games for Portland, the Blazers were on the wrong end of a blowout at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.
Damian Lillard played only 27 minutes and Terry Stotts called in the bench with nine minutes left to play in a game that was not close after the opening minutes.
Wide Open Threes
If there’s one thing that the Blazers have struggled with all season, no matter who has been playing for them: three-point defense. It was no different Monday, with the Bucks making 50% (21/42) from beyond the ark.
It’s ridiculous for any team to be shooting that well from deep, but the Blazers are giving up wide open looks on almost every occasion. The defense is sagging in to help, leaving good shooters like Khris Middleton and DJ Augustin to let loose from three. If Portland wants any chance of staying afloat as a contending team, they need to crackdown on their perimeter defense.
Big Game for Little
If there’s any bright spot that can be picked out from yesterday’s setback, it has to be Nassir Little. Coming into the game, Little had scored 15 points for the season. In one night, he tripled that total. Nassir put up 30 points, exploding onto the scene for his best game as a Blazer.
Stepping up for the injured Derrick Jones Jr., Little showed his aggression and hustle in almost every possession he played. He pulled down five offensive rebounds and fought for many more, often the last Blazer hurrying to his man on defense.
Most impressive of all was his shooting. Little is a career 30% three-point shooter but knocked down five of his seven treys against Milwaukee. His confident shooting caught the eye of teammate C.J. McCollum, who tweeted out his support for the young player.
What’s With Melo?
With Little’s career game came another disappointing performance from Carmelo Anthony. In his last three games, Anthony has averaged 5.3 points per game on a dismal 20% shooting, while also failing to hit a three.
Melo is a bit of a wild card. He still has the offensive skill to chip in a nice 15 point games, but on his off days, he is little more than a liability. The reason Melo excelled last year was Portland’s desperate need for a scoring option at the four slot. If Nassir Little can prove that his performance was not a flash in the pan, it could signal the Melo Era in Portland is drawing to a close.
This is not to say that Carmelo is washed up and should not be getting minutes. When he’s at his best, so are the Blazers. But during shooting slumps like this one, expect to see a little more Nassir, and a lot less Melo.
Portland has a quick turnaround, with a game against Washington that was added to the schedule last week. Another chapter in the Dame vs. Russ series should certainly lead to an interesting game. Hopefully, one that’s fun to write about.