In a game where the Portland Trail Blazers built an 18-point lead, the Golden State Warriors slowly and methodically chipped away to pull even, then hit a pair of big threes to go up two and watch as Nicolas Batum missed the game-tying free throw. Despite miraculously corralling the offensive rebound, the Blazers came up with nothing but air as they fell 113-112.
Among the heart-breaking, soul-sucking games the Blazers have dropped to good teams lately, this game falls somewhere in the middle of the emotional spectrum between “frustrating” and “debilitating.” It’s happened so much lately that it’s becoming comfortable.
While passive in the first half, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry looked fully engaged in the second, and when they’re trying their hardest, they’re unstoppable. From a bobbling, from-the-hip shot from an expressionless Thompson, to huge three after huge three from Curry in the 4th quarter, there wasn’t anyone in Portland who could keep the Splash Brothers from soaking the frustrated Blazers.
Instead of a recap, we’ll offer some thoughts:
- Nicolas Batum has GOT to get control of his bad passes. It’s one thing when they come in the middle of the game, in the flow of the offense, when there’s plenty of time left to make you forget about a turnover. It’s quite another when the game is on the line and the opponent is making a push. Entry passes that should be forgotten because the defense is fronting are instead forced. It makes you want to pull your hair out. The guy is supremely talented, and lord knows he wants to be a playmaker, but Stotts needs to grab him by the scruff and point out that his passes will continue being picked off unless he’s more mindful.
- Damian Lillard is a star, but boy was he pushed around tonight. First it was by Draymond Green (who fouled out very early in the fourth quarter), then it was by Klay Thompson, who was draped on Lillard like clear plastic on grandma’s sofa. Two steps behind the three, Lillard was suffocated, and instead of sending teammates to cut into the middle, or using picks to scrape a defender off and step through to find the open man, Stotts allowed Lillard to dribble out of it most of the time. To be fair, Lillard has the skills to do that. It comes at the detriment of the offense, however, when your point guard is using every ounce of energy just trying to find two feet of daylight to shoot or pass. Stotts should have figured out how to crack the heavy pressure and put the players in a better position to deal with it, but as far as I could tell, he didn’t.
- Robin Lopez, as we’ve mentioned plenty of times before, is a hero. He absorbed Andrew Bogut’s dirty pushes in the back and moving screens again and again, mostly without complaint, and worked his way to yet another double double with 14 and 10 (with 4 assists and a block to boot). Lopez does exactly what he needs to do for the Blazers, and he does it damn well. He’s not the Blazers’ best player, but he’s their most consistent along with LaMarcus Aldridge.
- The Blazers built an 18-point lead with good defense and amazing offense. They lost it, slowly and painfully, with not-so-great defense and okay offense. It was like having your security blanket pulled from you inch by agonizing inch, as the Blazers’ three point opportunities dried up and you could see, plainly, that the confidence of Curry and Thompson was rising. Yes, the Warriors are at full strength, and yes, the Blazers are missing their best player and their best backup big, but you know what? Every team has injuries, and every team needs to deal with them (like by, say, building an 18-point lead) or else they’ll fail (by pissing away said 18-point lead).
- Damian Lillard had an AMAZING dunk (see below) that cut the Warriors’ lead to 1 point late in the game. It’s a shame that the Blazers couldn’t pull this one out, in part because this dunk would have been an example of how not to give up, of how to stay confidence and keep your head up even after blowing a big lead. Instead, it’s just a very nice dunk in a very tough loss.
The 43-24 Blazers have two more home games (against the 13-54 Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday at 7pm, and the 35-31 Washington Wizards Thursday at 7pm) before heading out on the road for yet another 5-game swing. The competition won’t be as tough, but it does include the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls. If the Blazers want to stop the bleeding and get their confidence back to near-normal levels, they need these next two games, no questions asked.