Saturday night, and Portland Trail Blazers Record a defensive effort against Boston Celtics It is so bad that it is considered a crime in 46 states and many US territories. Boston beat the relatively lifeless Portland side 145-117, dropping the Blazers’ record to 11-13 on the season.
If you missed the game, count yourself lucky. But you can find our Quarter by quarter summary here. If you’re wondering how all of this happened, or how the team looks without franchise star Damian Lillard, here are some points you can get from the evening.
“D” – colonel
It’s hard to describe how the Blazers started this game defensively. Their effort was less than zero. Celtics missed more shots in percentage terms in pre-match penalties than they did in the first 9 minutes of the match. That’s right…there was actually no better defense than Portland had. At one point, Boston was shooting 93.3% from the field. It takes a college math major to see how many attempts they made to get to 93.3% versus 50 or 75.
You can’t even call what Blazer was doing “defense”. More like standing up to see if the other guy is going to miss it. When they didn’t like it…, at all… Portland fell by 20 at first.
Incredibly, blazers Repeat fiasco In the third, after a fight in the whole second period to reach a reasonable distance. It was better hidden because Portland scored more goals and Boston wasn’t too hot, but it was there. Even if you let first-period performance be a problem to get into the game, Portland’s third quarter was a strong, attractive punch.
second unit energy
One thing that marked this game positively was the efforts of Portland’s second-series players in the second quarter. With Damian Lillard and Nasser Little injured, some of those are third-series players. They were also the only Blazers ever in this game.
Cody Zeller put together great screens. His guards used it. (Unlike Portland starting guards with several picks by Yosef Nurkic.) Zeller and Larry Nance Jr. were able to cover the pass and bounce the ball back. Ben McLemore didn’t look great, but at least he is he moved. The seat forced swings and the tempo increased. They surrounded C.J. McCollum, absorbed his flaws, and allowed his points to matter.
When the starters scored their arrival on the halftime shift, the match turned upside down. They picked up energy and finished the second period much stronger than they had in the first.
As detailed in the defense section above, the momentum didn’t last. But this should not obscure that the bench players at least tried. That’s more than you can say for most of the first unit now.
Portland’s starting guards looked pretty good tonight in the absence of Damian Lillard if you just look at the points total. CJ McCollum had 24, Dennis Smith, 21. But McCollum only hit 8-21, 3-9 from distance. While Marcus Smart went 6-10 for 17 points in 23 minutes. Dennis Schroeder had his second-highest game of the season with 31 points in 32 minutes, shooting 10-16 from the field. Payton Pritchard scored 19 goals in 18 minutes, shot 6-12, but was 6-9 until he missed three times in the last minute of the match.
At the end of the year, Portland’s numbers will be blending into season-long mulch and looking productive. At the moment they are great, really they are not.
Portland can’t figure out a single way to affect the game defensively. The Celtics hit the obnoxious 31-37, 56.8% of the arc. 50 scored per plating. They had 29 free throw attempts to Blazer’s 32. Aside from two forced turnarounds in the second quarter, nothing really mattered to the Blazers.
The opponent’s 145 points—a record for a regular season in Portland—tells the story on its own, but even that needs context. It was not an aberration. It wasn’t a surprise or a product of hot fire by the Celtics. The Blazers defended in a 145-point manner.
CJ . time recording
Without Damian Lillard, antagonists enter on CJ McCollum in big time. They know he’ll hit the jump but they’ve been fierce in blocking his breakout attempts, often by hitting his passes in the 200 division. They were effective. McCollum eats a lot of his possessions – and takes a lot of quirks – to get his points, the rest of the offense is having trouble thriving around him.
The lack of leadership and dish opportunities is particularly detrimental. Portland doesn’t get good three-point looks from CJ engines. Either score or swallow. Ultimately in both cases it ends up stopping the flow of crime.
Robert Covington’s inability to act as a defensive stopper for the team is one thing. We knew last season that he was an assistant defender, not an individual defender. Shooting 1-6 on mostly open three throws is another matter entirely. On the few occasions the Blazers did the right acting, hitting the Celtics on slow laps, and Covington couldn’t make them pay the price. It’s a serious issue. If the defense doesn’t help enough and the attack isn’t great (4-11, 9 points, 2 turns in 22 minutes), that makes it more difficult for him to continue to start.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the Blazers can be split into two camps, likely unintentional: those who buy into the system and play hard for Coach Chauncey Billups and those who go through the motions or do whatever they want. The bench players – lower signings, youngsters getting their first real chances, and recent acquisitions from other teams – often fall into the former camp. They struggle and at least try to run the plays. Beginners may be drifting towards the latter. Yusef Nurkic is a somewhat quintessential exception, but he needs cooperation to run his game, and he even has his moments. Norman Powell looks good and usually plays hard. There’s a sense of frustration after McCollum, Covington and sometimes other players the team just can’t seem to shake off.
This is more than just cliched cruise problems. If it’s injuries, players who step up to fill in the gaps have a funny way of showing it. It’s hard to avoid the impression that the team has already been pushed off the cliff and doesn’t know it yet. Better get some gravity-defying mojo out soon.
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