Hello Blazer fans, Antonio here. We all knew the April schedule for the Blazers would be tough. I wrote about it several times and prepared for a month full of losses. And yet, I have been disappointed by the many losses that Portland has accumulated.
Portland currently sits at a 31-23 record, good for 6th in the West. After a wondrous 11-4 March, the Blazers have started out April 2-5 after a one point loss to the Celtics on Tuesday. So what’s up? The competition has gotten tougher, yes, but there’s more to it than that. Let’s take a closer look.
MVP Dame Takes a Hit
Right after Damian Lillard entered the national MVP conversation, he fell back out of it. The Blazers star has been dealing with his fair share of struggles. Lillard leads the NBA in 30 point games on the year, but has not scored over 30 since his April 3rd performance against Milwaukee. That game against Milwaukee was the last time Dame shot over 45% as well.
The wear and tear of a constant season has been tough on everyone, Dame included. Lillard has been hampered by a sore leg ever since the March 25th game against Miami. He looks tired, both physically and mentally. HIs turnovers are up, assists down. If I’m Terry Stotts, I give him a rest against both San Antonio and Charlotte. In order for the Blazers to be contenders, Dame has to be 100%.
Nurk’s Minute Restrictions
Outside of Andre Roberson, there might not be a person more injury-prone over the last two years than Jusuf Nurkić. The Bosnian Big Man just can’t seem to stay healthy. Since coming to Portland, he has broken his leg twice, wrist one, and suffered numerous calf strains. He sat out games against Detroit and Los Angeles nursing injuries.
When he’s been back, he’s shown flashes during his 20 minutes a game. Against the Celtics, he scored eight points, pulled down nine rebounds, and dished out seven assists. The 2019 Nurk that was the second best player in the Blazers is still there. We just have to hope we see him more.
This Schedule is TOUGH
It’s the obvious answer, but it’s true. Portland has the second-toughest schedule remaining in the NBA. The rest of the games in April are against playoff-contending teams. Portland still has to play the Celtics again, as well as the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, and Nets. And as we know, Portland struggles against teams that can win. They’re currently 8-16 against teams with winning records.
This number looks worse than it is, and the Blazers simply haven’t played a lot of teams with winning records, but Portland loses to the cream of the crop. The games against Milwaukee and the Clippers showed that. However, the game against Boston on Tuesday brought more hope, which leads to…
The Good of April
Despite the 2-5 record, there’s still a lot the Blazers can use to their advantage. Norman Powell has fit into the system perfectly, and his ability to drive to the hoop may be unmatched by all except Lillard. CJ McCollum is getting into form, and the offense is still clicking. Enes Kanter, well…
Enes Kanter might be the second most valuable player on the Blazers. In the absence of Nurkić, he has stepped up with an offensive rebound in one hand and a defensive rebound in the other. Kanter and the Blazers also get a nice stretch of home games, and will not have to travel too much. For all of the negative things Portland can focus on in the past, there’s a lot of hope that they can look forward to in the future. You cannot dwell in the past too much, something Blazers fans do all too much.
Next Up: Portland heads to San Antonio after two days off.
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