Blazers letting season slip away

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: LeBron, Bosh come up big against the Blazers

So it’s come to this for the Trail Blazers.

“It was a fine line,” said Terry Stotts.

When coaches and players start talking about fine lines, we usually know what side they’re standing on.

This time it was Chris Bosh getting a piece of Damian Lillard’s layup that resulted in a 93-91 loss at Miami on Monday night. It was the second straight defeat to open another critical five-game road trip for the Blazers. It was their eighth loss in the last 10 games. It was one more black mark on an awful road record — 6-13 — since Jan. 1.

Yes, the Blazers are playing without injured All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who will miss his seventh straight game with a back contusion Tuesday night in Orlando ( 7 ET, League Pass) with no word yet on a return. Just as important, the Blazers have been playing without a sense of urgency or purpose, especially at the defensive end for more than a month, collectively shrugging their shoulders and figuring they’ll be able to shoot themselves out of their funk with the next barrage of 3-balls. Whenever that happens.

Wesley Matthews (D. Clarke Evans/NBAE)

Wesley Matthews (D. Clarke Evans/NBAE)

“There’s no reason to panic or start to worry about the season getting away from us,” Wesley Matthews said a couple of weeks ago after the Blazers lost in Houston. “We all know what we’re capable of doing. We all know how to play. It’s just a matter of us playing our game.”

That would seem to be the biggest part of the problem. While the Blazers have the No. 1 rated offense, they rely far too much on outscoring their opponents rather than trying to stop them. They’re careless with the basketball, slinging around difficult or careless passes and telling themselves that somebody will make a shot when they need it.

The Blazers were the surprise of the first month of the season. Nobody, even the Blazers, expected that to hold up in the face of the consistent play of the Spurs, Thunder and Clippers. Yet on March 1, after beating the Nuggets at home, Portland was 41-18 and firmly in the battle for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Now the Blazers, as the fifth seed, are only a game up on Golden State at No. 6 and only three games from dropping all the way behind Dallas and out of the playoffs completely.

Portland’s last extended road trip was a 1-4 disaster, bottoming out when Aldridge crashed to the floor in San Antonio, landing hard on his back. Then the Blazers flew to Charlotte to open another five-game set — and it looked like the entire roster had simply missed the flight. They lost in to the Bobcats 124-94 on Saturday before Monday’s loss to Miami.

With a schedule that is fast getting late — 11 games left — and a season of goodwill that is slipping rapidly through their hands, there is a combination of denial about what’s happening and a refusal to change. Nic Batum continues to ride the roller coaster offensively, even in the absence of Aldridge and the need for him to step up. Matthews and Dorell Wright are careless handling the ball. And when the bombs-away approach isn’t working, they’re in deep, deep trouble.

“I don’t think it’s a larger issue,” Matthews told Joe Freeman of The Oregonian after the disaster in Charlotte. “We played bad. They played well.

“If you kill us, you’re gonna look dumb come next game. Because we’re going to be a whole new team, we’re going to be the team we’re supposed to be. So go ahead and kill us. And you’re going to have to come back and see us in the locker room and be like, ‘Aw shoot.’ So I’m just going to save you. Write that. Write it all.”

Yes, write it down. Portland went into Miami on Monday night and took the Heat to the edge. But LeBron James made the bucket to win the game, Lillard didn’t and the Blazers came out living in that gray area of relativism.

In and out. Make or miss. A fine line where teams in trouble seem to spend too much time tip-toeing on the wrong side.

“We’re tired of losing close games,” Stotts said. “But you can’t help but be proud of the way we competed.”

It’s come to this for the Blazers. Moral victories instead of real ones.

15 Comments

  1. Brian says:

    Bench, defense and too many jump shots. The thing is, all of these things are on coaching and team leadership.

    Guarantee, there are coaches in this league who could have made something of this bench. Stotts decided to ignore it for over half a season. His choice.

    Lack of defense is simply due to lack of preparation and motivation. There are coaches who get the most out of their teams defensively. Stotts decided to ignore this for over half the season. His choice.

    The three….It’s fun when it works. Stotts seems to be in love with it.

  2. quantum says:

    The real problem is a lack of bench. Two seasons in a row with the most minutes used by starters.
    Two seasons in a row of least minutes used of bench. Regardless of schedule the result of this is hurt and over use starters.
    Why has nobody made mention of Terry Stotts. What other coach ends a game with two time outs and does not stop the clock with the ball in the final few seconds(Miami game) ? This is coaching and again failure to pick up free agents. Why repeat this two seasons in a row ? Where is the defense intensity that was every game at the start of the season. Oh yeah , they are tired :(

  3. Bobby says:

    They actually played very good defense last night against Miami, I’m not sure how this article makes sense. They came out focused and energetic on the defensive end and aside from the 3rd quarter they played well on the defensive end contesting shots and such. The only reason that Miami won was because the Blazers couldn’t hit an open shot (36% shooting or whatever, missed 18 UNCONTESTED jump shots, go back and watch for yourself). They’ll step up against the Magic, Hawks and get two wins. The Bulls will probably win but then again they might not. The rest of the season they’ll probably go 7-4 or 8-3 looking at the remaining schedule. Not to mention they should get Aldridge rested here soon and Freeland potentially.

  4. Brandon says:

    If they played D they would be fine, missing threes or not.
    That simple

  5. MT says:

    Last nights game was meaningless. The Blazers have no real chance at a top 4 seed, but they aren’t going to slip out of the playoffs. Did you bother to even look at their remaining schedule? It’s a cake walk compared to what they’ve had the last two months. The Blazers are actually in a very good spot to make a run in the playoffs. They can rest their starters from now until the playoffs, while the Rockets, Clips, Sonics, and Spurs duke it out for the top seed.

  6. maxout34 says:

    Blazers are certainly in trouble. The Bobcat loss, totally unacceptable can’t get blown out like that this late in the year.

  7. thespectator says:

    they almost won that game last night against miami…but like they say…”live by the jump shot, or die by the jump shot”

  8. Brick says:

    1) yeah, they are just missing that LaMarcus Aldridge guy. No problem, right?

    2) people weren’t paying attention to the fact that Portland played the easiest schedule in the entire Western Conference the first half of the year as they sprinted out to that record. Even if healthy you had to figure they might come back down to earth once things began to balance out with the tough second half schedule.

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  10. Bob M says:

    That’s a little rough, Fran. They are playing without LA, Batum is tired or something, and Damian is not shooting a high percentage this year. They are not being consistent, but neither are the Heat or Pacers.
    What makes the Spurs so remarkable is that they run the same system, the same way, all the time. It’s execution of the offense and defense and making teams adapt to your schemes or the old “imposing your will” cliche.
    I wouldn’t give up on the Blazers, yet. However, all their players have to produce and not leave all the close games to Lillard to a one on one play in the last second.

  11. Blazer-Maniac says:

    This is some cold-blooded truth. Blazers have become a live-by-the-3 die-by-the-3 team and I’m not sure that sort of firepower can be sustained against good perimeter d and rebounding teams.

    It’s fun to watch when they’re going full throttle, though, and we still believe in them!

  12. Cmon t-blaze you can do it! im rooting for you!

  13. Richard says:

    “It’s come to this for the Blazers. Moral victories instead of real ones.” Sad to say it’s been that way for over 10 years, this isn’t something new.

  14. Someone says:

    they are like last year’s Knicks… nothing special

    • theCHI2014 says:

      I agree. Both teams lived and died by the three every single night. Good regular season team but won’t get it done once it matters in the playoffs