BLAZERS GRADED: Milwaukee 95, Blazers 88
Saturday, January 31, 2015
Of those losses, Saturday's in Milwaukee was perhaps the ugliest, as the competition was, at best, middling, and the margin a blowout. (The final score doesn't show it, but the Blazers fell behind by as many as 20 points in the final period.)
Perhaps, Saturday, the Blazers were just exhausted. It was the last of a week-long road-trip that has included some heartbreaking defeats, as well as the added emotional turbulence of Damian Lillard's being left off the All-Star team.
Credit goes to the Bucks as well. They scouted the Blazers and applied an apt defensive scheme: every time LaMarcus Aldridge touched the ball he was immediately double-teamed. And, as has been the case in recent weeks, the Blazers perimeter players, particularly Lillard, were largely unable to knock down the outside shots they were afforded. Portland made only nine of their 31 three-point attempts.
The Blazers were also crushed by the Bucks in the battle of the second units. Milwaukee's bench outscored Portland's 34-20.
In a way, that discrepancy figures, as Portland are shorthanded, and their starters are stretched thin. But it's also a problem that snowballs, as when starters log heavy minutes--as they did Friday in a loss to Atlanta.
And while it's not quite time to hit the panic button in Portland, it's getting close. Saturday's loss dropped the Blazers from fourth to sixth place in the Western Conference, where they are just a game ahead of the streaking Spurs, who've won eight of their last 10.
Shorthanded, the Blazers have little choice in the short-term but to keep on scrapping until Robin Lopez and Joel Freeland return from injury. (Lopez could be back in the next two weeks.) Then maybe Portland would feel confident enough to get Nicolas Batum the time he needs to rest his nagging wrist.
But that's looking too far forward.
In the immediate, the Blazers just need to get back to Portland, sleep in their own beds, and hope a little home-cooking will lift their spirits.
LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE: A-
Considering the furious double-teams the Bucks sent at Portland's All-Star power forward, Aldridge performed admirably, making 7-of-18 from the field while grabbing 13 rebounds. He just couldn't get any help.
NICOLAS BATUM: C-
Another poor shooting performance from Batum, who made 1-of-4 from distance and 2-of-8 overall. He grabbed seven boards and dished four assists, which were erased by his four turnovers.
MEYERS LEONARD: C-
Against the smaller, non-traditional lineup of the Bucks, Coach Terry Stotts started Meyers Leonard in place of Chris Kaman. It didn't really pan out. Leonard played just eight minutes and scored four points.
DAMIAN LILLARD: D-
Lillard is really struggling. He took a whopping 10 three-point attempts on Saturday and made only one. He was 6-of-19 from the field overall. His sharing was better, giving out nine assists, but so much of that is erased by six turnovers. He had a monster jam in the second quarter that ignited a Blazers rally, but otherwise, Lillard looks straight up tired.
WESLEY MATTHEWS: B
Matthews had a fine night shooting, making 4-of-7 from downtown and 7-of-15 overall. But his 19 points weren't enough to cover for Lillard's many misses.
THOMAS ROBINSON: B
With a few memorable, athletic plays--including an alley-oop dunk and a ferocious block of Giannis Antetokunmpo--Robinson gave the Blazers a much-needed shot in the arm.