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Why The Blazers Shouldn’t Be Counted Out

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


It was just one game.

It was a game in which the Blazers were embarrased, to be sure. But still: it was just one game.

As such, it's no time to wallow. And, strange as it may sound, I still like the Portland's chances. 

We'll get to why in a moment. But first let's cleanse the palate. 

Consider the Spurs. The defending champions, too, were torpedoed on Sunday. But no one's panicking. Now, San Antonio are a different animal--one with championship pedigree. But the fact remains: bad losses happen, even to the best of 'em.

And so the Spurs will put Sunday behind them and approach game two as another opportunity to steal home court advantage. They do that and everything changes. Drastically.

Same goes for the Blazers in Memphis, Wednesday, where a polemic repeat is highly unlikely. Say what you will about this Portland team, but time after time this season they've rallied with their backs against the wall.

And while they were awful almost to a man, Sunday, Damian Lillard had, by far, the worst playoff game of his career. It was, however, the one-and-only egg he's laid in the postseason. It had to happen eventually.

In game one Lillard couldn't buy a bucket. It got so bad that, in consecutive possessions, he missed two straight free throws then air-balled a three. 

Lillard's 14 points on Sunday were the lowest output of his postseason career, while his 21 attempts tied for most. He missed all six three-point tries, managed just 4-of-7 from the free throw line, and ended the day shooting just 24% from the field.

In last year's playoffs, game five against Houston, Lillard shot a lower percentage, but in contributed in other ways. He finished with 18 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, just two shy of a triple-double.

On Sunday against the Grizzlies, Lillard managed just three assists--again, well below the 6.5 he averaged in last year's post season.

Furthermore, any notion that Lillard's atrocity was due to Memphis' defense--and not simply his own bad day--should be disavowed.

During the regular season Lillard averaged 22 points and seven assists against the Grizzlies while shooting 41% from the field.

Indeed, I expect him to bounce back with a vengence. Despite what some are saying, Lillard is the most fearless, motivated player the Blazers have. 

And should he get cooking the tables could so easily turn, as Lillard's awful performance masked the fact that Mike Conley remains far from healthy, still in serious pain due to plantar fasciitis. 

I can tell you from experience: plantar fasciitis a BIG DEAL. It severely limits movement and it doesn't go away after a few days--or even weeks--of rest. Activities like basketball--or simply standing up--only make it worse. As one sideline reporter noted before Sunday's game, Conley could hardly shoot warmup jump shots without wincing in pain each time he landed. Should Lillard turn on the jets, Conley could be in serious trouble, and that could change this series.

Truly, this thing isn't over. 

It's only getting started.


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