All was well for the first few weeks of the season. The Portland Trail Blazers never quite dominated, but with a casual ease they dispensed lower-grade teams, compiled a winning road record, and credited it all to their nifty three-guard lineup (all together now: Steve Blake, Brandon Roy, Andre Miller). But the Blazers' quick start was a paper tiger, and while the team is nestled snugly in the second-place cubby of the Northwest Division, there are more than a few unanswered questions still lingering.
First question: Why all the crying? Roy's sad he's been forced to sacrifice on the court and isn't scoring like he did this time last season. Miller's sad he has to back up Blake (which, admittedly, would make anyone depressed). LaMarcus Aldridge is sad he's losing touches to Greg Oden. Rudy Fernández is sad he doesn't get more minutes. Oden's sad he leads the NBA in fouls. Coach Nate McMillan is sad he can't get his players to like each other. Blaze the Trail Cat is sad his t-shirt cannon jammed. This is less a team and more a teenager's LiveJournal entry.
The Blazers' 48 minutes of seasonal affective disorder became evident as the lowly Memphis Grizzlies walloped the team at the Rose Garden last Friday—and then, the following night, the Blazers relived the experience with a sound 108-92 defeat courtesy of the Utah Jazz. These two losses opened up the ducts for more than a few Blazers who grumbled about (lack of) chemistry, (lack of) playing time, and (lack of) quality wins.
Portland's schedule, while incredibly favorable, has also left the team a bit winded: As of Tuesday's tipoff against Miami, the Blazers had played the most games of any NBA team, the majority of which were against the bottom-dwellers of the league. Of Portland's 12 wins, the combined record of the teams they've toppled is a frightening 65-136. The combined record of the eight teams that have defeated Portland this year? Prepare to open up a vein: 77-59. If it wasn't for a trio of victories against a two-win Minnesota Timberwolves squad—a team so bad the league grants them a sympathy power play of six players on the court at any given time—that number would be much worse.
Tuesday's 107-100 defeat at the hands of the Miami Heat only hammered this point home. Portland's third consecutive loss—all to inferior teams—overshadowed yet another dominating Oden performance of 20 rebounds and 13 points. But in the end, it wasn't enough to net a victory or to right the upsidedown smile of a sad-eyed Coach McMillan. "We have to go with what we have," he explained, before delivering a bit more of the obvious. "We just don't have enough guys playing well at the same time." Or at all.
This brings us to the final question: What happens when the Blazers meet teams that aren't wearing Minnesota Timberwolves jerseys? Well, they'll lose. Roy, Aldridge, Blake, Miller, Fernández, and even clunky big man Joel Przybilla are all scoring at a lower clip than they were last season. With a rudderless vessel of an offense and a bipolar defense that can just as easily hold San Antonio to 84 points as it can give up 111 to a superstar-free Houston squad, there's little rhyme or reason to this Blazers team. And while it's bad now, it'll only get worse: The December calendar is littered with road games against the NBA's elite (Cleveland, Orlando, Dallas), with no more games against either Minnesota or a winless New Jersey Nets team. I'm no Miss Cleo, but there's a very good chance the Blazers will end the calendar year with a losing record.