Welp, so much for that promising start. Welcome to the life of a lottery team, where one game you can look like world-beaters, the next...not so much.
It’s going to be an up and down season. Sometimes the ups outnumber the downs, but not in Blazerland. After taking care of business in the home opener against the Pelicans, the Blazers now find themselves with a losing record after dropping back-to-back games to the Suns by a combined total of 29 points. Looking on the brightside? The Rockets still haven’t won a game yet this year, so uh, take that.
What a fitting end to a wet and miserable Halloween. The only thing scarier than an apple full of razor blades is the current state of Meyers Leonard’s jumper.
In years past with LaMarcus Aldridge manning the middle, the Blazers could work inside out and use his post-up game as a way to create space for their outside shooters. Losing his inside presence has forced Portland to start working outside in, using the threat of the three to create rolling lanes off of the pick and roll. But that requires those outside shots to fall to keep the defense honest. If Dame and CJ can consistently hit from deep and open up the floor for everyone else? Great. If not, get ready for a lot more double digit losses.
If you’re going to lose, last night's 101-90 defeat is kind of the best way to do it. Stay competitive, keep it close, and fall behind in the last few minutes. The young guns get the experience, the chance of a high lottery pick next year stays high, and Chris Kaman can take a nap on the bench if he gets a little sleepy. Everybody wins. With the game in the balance and Blazers up by one with six minutes left, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe responded by ripping off eight straight points to all but seal it. The Blazers went cold from the field and that was that.
All credit is due to the Phoenix defense—they kept the ball out of Lillard’s hands, stayed at home on Portland’s three-point shooters, and forced Portland’s role players to try and beat them from mid-range. Portland will get better at making defenses pay as the season goes along, but there will be a lot of growing pains along the way. Terry Stotts has his work cut out for him. I hope he gets a nice Christmas ham for his trouble.
Thankfully there is only one more game against the Suns this season, because this is a terrible matchup for the Blazers. Portland’s perimeter defense is going to be a major problem all season long, and the Knight / Bledsoe combo is just too quick and explosive for a couple of dudes that have a tendency to die against hard screens. Want to beat the Blazers? Pick, roll, repeat.
The season is still young, and there’s no need to overreact to two losses. Hell, there isn’t even too much to glean from these last two games other than the Blazers probably aren’t winning a championship this year. Time to shake off that candy hangover and get things back on track tomorrow against Minnesota.