The Blazers have now lost 10 times on the year. A trend that has manifested itself in these losses is the Blazers’ allowance of at least one exceptional quarter to their opponents, eventually dooming them. This includes such monstrosities as allowing the Suns to score 40 points in a single quarter, the Kings 43, and the Timberwolves 38.
As I started to pull up the box scores from all of the Blazers’ losses this season and flip through them, I realized something even more interesting (and specific): in every single one of the Blazers’ losses this year, they have allowed at least 30 points in the first or second quarter. Every single loss fits this criterion.
Just to prove I’m not cherry-picking stats, in the recent five-game win streak (which is now sadly ended), this only happened once. While you can never say for certain that these first half defensive-lapses directly lead to losses, it is pretty apparent that they are having a detrimental effect on the team.
Forget allowing 40 points in a quarter, even allowing 30 in a quarter is pretty poor. A 30-point quarter prorated out would be equivalent to allowing a team to score a staggering 120 points a game. Not coincidentally, the Blazers have allowed their opponents to reach the 120-point mark four times this season, and have lost all four of those games.
It’s no secret that Portland has been a far better second half team, but I did not realize that so many of the losses were tied directly to early holes. No matter how good a team’s offense is, it can only save the team from an early deficit so often. Some nights it just won’t happen.
A common topic of discussion this year among Blazers fans has been what exactly Head Coach Terry Stotts tells the team at halftime, since the Blazers have been blistering in the third quarter. While I have no doubt that there are some rousing pep-talks going on, part of the second-half improvement is certainly the adjustments that Stotts has the team make for the rest of the game.
With a current record of 31-10, for the most part the Blazers are doing great. No drastic changes need to be made. But, one still has to wonder – perhaps the team’s thrilling second half performances would not have to be so commonplace if the Blazers buckled down more at the start of games, especially since Stotts has proven himself a competent strategist with his second-half improvements.
I wish there were an easy solution for picking up the defense in the first halves, but at this point the team is mostly what it will be. The first step is to acknowledge the problem, and if the team does that, they may be able to raise their overall focus at the beginning of games to prevent this from happening. Just trying harder is not always an applicable solution for a professional team, but if the team knows what usually happens, it might help the Blazers here.