For the second game in a row, the Portland Trail Blazers came out flat and forgot what made them an elite team, falling unceremoniously to the Memphis Grizzles 98-81.
I’m going to eschew the normal recap to say a few things.
First, this doesn’t look like the same team that was taking the league by storm. Blame the schedule, blame the nagging injuries, blame the fact that teams are giving Portland their best shot every night… it’s just night and day to see today compared to a few weeks ago.
The ball movement, the ease with which shots were created, has been replaced by a hesitant, frustrating offense that, at its best, looks average. Aldridge dominated for stretches, but seems bothered by even the threat of a double team… and when it does come, the ball doesn’t rotate to the open corner like it used to.
The defense, which heretofore had been adequate for such a powerful offense, now looks woefully inadequate. Playing armchair coach, it’s baffling that the Blazers can’t seem to keep people in front of them, or navigate a simple screen. Over and over again, the Blazers are broken down off the drive and leave a man (or two) more than wide open. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
The energy and grit, which was at one point unquestioned even during the worst stretches of games, is now sputtering and reluctant.
None of it is enough.
And while all teams go through bad stretches, this is starting to look really, really bad.
The Blazers shot an unthinkably bad 34% from the field, and 4-24 (16%) from deep. The Blazers tied their season-low (set LAST GAME) with just 12 points in the 3rd. They also set a season-low for points through 3 quarters with an anemic 58. To top it all off, they shattered their season-low in total points with 81. That’s 7 points below their previous low of 88… also set LAST GAME, the ONLY two games this season the Blazers have failed to score 90. As an added kick in the face, that 81 points is a point lower than the lowest point total the Blazers have held an opponent to all season.
All of this is to say, to steal one of my own tweets, that this game was yuckier than unbuttered cauliflower, and probably best forgotten.
The good news for individual Blazers really begins and end with LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 27 and 16 with 2 blocks. He also had the team’s first 13 points when they started by letting Memphis score the game’s first 10. It was a good bounce-back game from him after a few scary ones. Too bad the rest of the team didn’t follow suit.
There’s not much more to say.
The Blazers get some merciful rest before facing the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7:00 p.m. in Portland.