The travel-weary Portland Trail Blazers came up short on the last game of their 6 game road trip against the New York Knicks.
The battered and bruised Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t get over the line against an improved New York Knicks team, going down 110-99. Despite the scoreline, the Blazers were in the game until the end, missing three wide-open 3-point shots to tighten the scoreline. Here are some takeaways and the answer to my key question from the road trip preview.
Who will stand up and take attention off Lillard?
This was the question I posed in the road trip preview, knowing the Knicks would lock in on Damian Lillard after giving them 39 earlier in the year. The answer never really came in a disappointing overall shooting night for the Blazers.
As mentioned, they missed some fantastic looks late in the game, which was a theme throughout the night. Lillard drew heavy attention, and when you take out his 3-point shooting numbers, the rest of the team shot a poor 11-35 from beyond the line.
Keys to the Game:
Pick and roll defense:
Defense in general has been the Blazers Achilles heal over the course of the season, but the pick and roll defense was inconsistent and poor in this game. Early, they came out aggressive double-teaming and trapping R.J Barrett, who had only scored 2 points, leading to easy looks out of the 4 on 3 offense.
The Blazers then played some drop coverage off the pick and roll, allowing Elfrid Payton and Immanuel Quickley to use their strengths to score, including floaters and contact lay-ups.
It was either all-out aggression or soft drop defense, and neither of those extremes worked for the Blazers.
The term “make or miss league” was so accurate for this game. The 3-point shooting has been a highlight of the Blazers’ offense so far this season, even going back 2 games, making 21 in a win against the Washington Wizards, but the shooting touch abandoned the Blazers today.
Usual sharpshooters Gary Trent Jr and Rodney Hood combined for a rough 4-17 from beyond, including 2 wide-open looks to bring Portland within 4 at the end of the game. While the Knicks didn’t shoot the lights out, they made the ones that counted in an uncharacteristic night for the Blazers.
Battered and Bruised Blazers:
It has been a brutal road trip for the Blazers. They came in already missing C.J McCollum, Zach Collins, and Jusuf Nurkic, while Derrick Jones Jr, Robert Covington, Nassir Little, Hood and Lillard all missed games throughout the trip.
To come away with a record of 3-3 has to be a pass mark considering the injury toll on the organization. Take into account Dame, and Covington were both playing through injuries, and it’s tough reading.
But the Blazers head home now for a much needed 4-day break, before a mini 3 game homestand against the Magic, 76ers, and Cavaliers. The Blazers have to go at least 2-1 in this time to keep pace, patiently waiting for some healthy bodies to return.