The Trail Blazers’ Lost Weekend
Monday, November 03, 2014
Up 90-89 with :25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter with the ball in their hands, Portland would not attempt another meaningful shot.
Three possessions came and went, each ending in a turnover. Some were forced and some were fumbled. And while the first was perhaps the least egregious, it was surely the most consequential.
Up one and expecting Golden State to foul, Portland inbounded to Wesley Matthews who was trapped by two Warriors defenders. As the seconds ticked away, Golden State remained steadfast, pressing for the steal instead of taking the foul. Matthews pulled away, fell and passed the ball to no one in particular. A scrum ensued, and replays showed the last one to touch the ball before it careened out of bounds: Steve Blake.
Or, to be more specific, the ball bounced off Steve Blake's left butt-cheek.
On the other end Klay Thompson drove from the wing into the key and elevated, fading, over Matthews, for the go-ahead basket.
Still, the Trail Blazers would get another chance.
They called timeout and advanced the ball, but a crummy inbounds pass from Nicolas Batum was tapped away from LaMarcus Aldridge. The Warriors corralled, got fouled, and calmly made their free throws.
Then it happened again, as Aldridge heaved a pass to mid-court--Stephen Curry stole it easily. Once more, Golden State sunk their freebies.
Again: it's not so much that the Blazers lost--Golden State are contenders, capable of beating just about anyone when they're hot and healthy. It's that the Blazers had the game all but gift-wrapped before choking on the ribbon.
That loss stinks all the more after what happened in Sacramento, Friday, where Portland were embarrassed by a pitiful Kings team.
As I mentioned last week, the Blazers have got to punish the pushovers--particularly between now and the end of the year, as the schedule's difficulty is front-loaded.
Much of blame for this last weekend will fall on Damian Lillard, and perhaps rightfully so. He was ineffective on both ends of the court.
Now, as the sample-size is so small it's hard to say whether his pressing of just missing the difficult shots he normally makes. Either way, though, Lillard has yet to display either the sharpshooting eye or steely resolve that made him an All-Star last year.
But, considering the way things unraveled Sunday night, there's plenty of blame to go around. Deserving are Batum and Aldridge, who tossed those ill-advised passes down the stretch; to Wesley Matthews, who got trapped; and to Steve Blake, whose butt got in the way of that ball.
Now, let's be clear: the sky isn't falling. Lillard might be getting in his own head. He might also be one shot from catching fire.
And though the Blazers as a whole did indeed allow Sunday's game to slip through their fingers, after the Warriors' blistering start, Portland were lucky to be in contention at all.
So no--there's no reason to panic.
Not yet, anyway.
Those bells might start ringing, however, towards the end of the week, as the new-look Cavaliers and new-old-look Dallas Mavericks visit the Moda Center.
Without reinforcing both their execution and resolution--not to mention Damian Lillard getting his groove back--it's not hard to imagine the Blazers entering next weekend with a record of 1-and-4.