Here’s the latest Portland Trail Blazers news on Nov. 10 after a (good?) overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings that saw Rip City lose another key guard to injury but a new one emerge.
Malcolm Brogdon goes down, Skylar Mays steps up
Already playing without their starting backcourt as Scoot Henderson deals with a lingering ankle injury and Anfernee Simons underwent thumb surgery, Portland lost another guard when Malcolm Brogdon exited the game with a hamstring injury.
Enter Skylar Mays.
The 26-year-old played seven games for the tanking Blazers at the end of last season and re-joined the team this year as a depth piece. With the injuries piling up, Mays was forced into a much bigger role against the Kings, and he thrived.
In 37 minutes, the undrafted LSU product scored 18 points on 8-of-15 shooting and added 11 assists compared to only 3 turnovers. He did his best Brogdon impression, finding his teammates to keep the offense humming while playing at his own old-man pace to get himself buckets.
The Trail Blazers don’t play again until Sunday night against the Lakers, so Scoot has a few more days to get healthy and Brogdon has some time to rest his hamstring. But if head coach Chauncey Billups is in a pinch again, Mays proved he’s capable of doing more than just soaking up minutes.
The Blazers’ injury report is getting longer
Portland headed into the game against the Kings missing Simons until at least mid-December and Robert Williams III for what could be the entire season.
Henderson’s ankle injury doesn’t seem serious, but the rookie point guard has now missed three consecutive contests. The Blazers signed Ish Wainright off waivers from the Phoenix Suns just before the season started, but he has yet to play because of a calf injury.
Add Brogdon to that list and Billups is missing three of his four rotation guards, which forced Mays to play 37 minutes, and his backup five, which forced Moses Brown off the bench and onto the floor. Starting center Deandre Ayton played 41 minutes against the Kings and the Blazers were forced to play some small-ball lineups with Jabari Walker at center.
The team will be extra cautious with any injuries, especially ones to Henderson and Simons, as this season’s goal is development, not winning. Still, a young, inexperienced rotation is getting even younger, thinner and more inexperienced.
Is there such a thing as a good loss?
The answer to that question depends on who you ask, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the loss in Sacramento that, if it weren’t for an overturned charge call against Sharpe with 8.1 seconds left, the Blazers could have won.
- Jerami Grant shot 12-of-25 from the floor, 5-of-8 from three and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line to finish with a game-high 38 points, showing he can still carry a team offensively when he has it going. He added 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks.
- Ayton showed another gear offensively, scoring 8 points and hitting all four of his shots in the fourth quarter. Considering he had to battle against Kings’ center Domantas Sabonis all night, it was a promising final period. The Blazers will need all they can get from Ayton this season without Williams.
- Sacramento was the No. 3 seed in the West last year, and though the Kings were missing star point guard De’Aaron Fox, Portland gave them all they could handle – without their starting or backup point guards in Henderson and Brogdon, their best scorer in Simons and their only other center in Williams.
“This happens in a season,” Billups said per Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian/Oregon Live. “There’s some games that you win that you probably shouldn’t have won. And there’s some games that you lose that you probably should have won. And this is one of those games that we felt like we should have won the game. But we just didn’t have enough.”
The Blazers would love to lose these types of games against teams like the Kings this season. It shows grit and growth.
It’s also one loss closer to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft.