Portland Trail Blazers: Future in doubt after series loss vs Denver Nuggets

Terry Stotts, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Terry Stotts, CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers drop Game 6, 126-115, to the Denver Nuggets and will stay home and start prepping for the offseason now that their short playoff run is over. The same problems that arose in each of their first three losses reared their ugly heads again in Game 6.

Jusuf Nurkic again struggled to stay out of foul trouble. It seemed that Coach Terry Stotts and the Blazer staff informed him to not even help on defense to avoid the whistle and it worked for the first half. But after entering halftime with zero personals, Nurkic picked up four quick ones in the third quarter and the Blazers lead exited the game with him.

CJ McCollum struggled all series, having averaged 20.6 points while shooting 44 percent from the floor, 33 percent from deep, with only 2.2 free throw attempts per game. All of those numbers are well below his season average.

It appears that this Trail Blazers core has run its course

The Denver Nuggets entered this series hot, but were without their second best player in Jamal Murray. On top of their star point guard, Denver also had electric sixth man Will Barton and perimeter lockdown artist PJ Dozier shelved all series. Due to their crowded injury report, Denver came into the series as the underdogs, at least in the eyes of Vegas.

The Blazers were the betting favorites for the first round. Without knowing the odds though, it definitely seemed like Portland was punching up all series. The Blazers always seemed like they were playing catch-up, relying on the celestial play of Damian Lillard to keep them in games, tallying only one comfortable win in Game 4.

This marks the fifth time that Damian Lillard has been knocked out in the first-round which seems about five times too many. The bright side for Blazers fans is that this seems like the type of series that sparks much needed change.

This could be the last we see of the Trail Blazers star backcourt

When an NBA-era ends, the coach or one of the key players is usually the scapegoat. In this case, it could be both. While McCollum has held Portland’s heart with his underdog story and his natural scoring ability, his fit next to Dame has always been questionable at best.

All of CJ’s strengths are mirrored, and emphasized, in Lillard and he does not cover for any of Dame’s few weaknesses. He’s undersized at the two, is not an advanced playmaker, and is terrible on defense.

While it would be heartbreaking to see him go, it certainly feels like this star pairing has reached its ceiling.

Was this the nail in Terry Stotts’s coffin?

As the saying goes: “It’s not the X’s and O’s but the Jimmies and Joes.” As cute as that motto is, it’s not always true. The Blazers had the upper-hand in this series in terms of talent. While Denver had better depth than Portland, the Blazers top-end talent was much stronger than the Nuggets and in a playoff series, that should always be the trump card.

Mike Malone thoroughly out-coached Terry Stotts in this matchup. A lot of the Blazers problems came down to execution, the main responsibility of a head coach.

The Blazers came out slow many of the games. They failed to find any answer for Nikola Jokic, or Monte Morris for that matter. Jusuf Nurkic never found a way to stay out of foul trouble. Denver’s bench eviscerated Portland’s nearly every game. The Blazers had numerous stretches of cold offense with terrible shot selection.

All of this can and should be attributed to Coach Stotts.

There’s no doubt that this core needs a shake-up; the question is who’s on their way out?

Will it be McCollum? Or Stotts? Or both?

Next. Why Norman Powell is here to stay. dark