The Portland Trail Blazers started a four-game road trip off with a 100-90 loss to the Washington Wizards Monday night at the Verizon Center.
Portland has now lost their last four road games.
“We played great on the road early in the season,” said Damian Lillard. “We played great at home also, but now teams have done their scouting, they’re playing us a little bit harder because of our success so far. We’ve just got to stick with it. We’ve got confidence in ourselves and we know what makes us successful. We’ve just got to stay with it and understand that rough patches are a part of this league.”
Things started out well enough for the road team. Even though they finished the first quarter trailing 32-29, they shot 62 percent from the field, had nine assists on 13 made baskets, scored 16 points in the paint and turned the ball over just three times.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, with both teams answering opponent runs with runs of their own. Portland went on a 12-0 run to take a 48-43 lead with 4:24 to play in the first half, the Wizards countered with a 9-0 run to end the half and take a 56-55 lead into the halftime intermission. Portland shot 60 percent in the quarter and outrebounded the Wizards 13-6.
But the third quarter would once again be Portland’s undoing, as was the case in recent losses to the Grizzlies and Wizards.
“It was two different halves,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Both teams had the offensive going in the first half. Second half, defenses tightened up. Our turnovers in the third quarter obviously hurt us, gave them momentum.”
The Trail Blazers shot just 35 percent and turned the ball over seven times in the third after doing a nice job in both categories in the first half.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots in the second half and they did a great job offensively getting to things they wanted to get to,” said Lillard. “But I think it came down to us not making shots. When you aren’t having a great night defensively you’ve got to find a way to at least make shots. When you are making shots, you’ve got to find a way to get it done defensively, especially on the road.”
Missing shots alone might not have been enough to sink the Trail Blazers, but the Wizards turning the ball over just once in the third while grabbing four offensive rebounds, all of which were converted to points, was too much to overcome. The Trail Blazers would shoot 35 percent in the third quarter and trailed 82-69, all but sealing their fate on the road.
“We’re getting good looks, we just haven’t been shooting the ball as well as we were early in the season,” said Lillard. “We’re confident that we’ll get back to it but in those third quarters before we were coming out hot and making shots. Now we’re missing some shots and the other teams are making shots, so that makes it tougher, especially when, like tonight, we had all those turnovers and they turned it over six times. That makes everything that much harder.”
Portland would eventually cut the lead to six with 1:12 to play, but never really threatened the Wizards, who turned 16 turnovers into 17 points.
“We aren’t a team that forces a lot of turnovers to begin with, but if they’re going to have six turnovers when we can’t turn it over as many times as we did,” said Lillard. “That really allowed them to get out and get some fastbreak points, kind of get themselves energized and get the crowd into it. When they have six turnovers we can’t have however many we had.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who shot eight of 19 from the field to finish with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge handed out a season-high six assists to go along with 20 points and ten rebounds.
Nicolas Batum had 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in the losing effort, but turned the ball over a game-high five times. Robin Lopez finished one rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes.
The Wizards were led by John Wall with 22 points, five assists and five rebounds. Trevor Ariza went four of seven from the three-point line and finished with 20 points in 39 minutes.
Washington got a boost off the bench from Kevin Seraphin, who scored 19 points on 10 shots in just 23 minutes.
“The x-factor was Seraphin,” said Stotts. “Seraphin had a terrific game. He did a little bit of everything; he made jump shots, he made postups, he drew fouls. That kind of put us in a bind for a while.”
Seraphin’s scoring outburst was particularly tough to overcome with Portland’s bench scoring just six points combined on three of 14 shooting.
“The bench, they need to take advantage of the opportunities that are there, but it’s a team thing,” said Stotts. When their shots are there, hopefully they’ll contribute. We don’t have go-to guys coming off the bench, they’ve got to just take advantage of the opportunities while they’re there. ”
The Blazers are now 5-5 in their last ten games, though they still sit in third place in the Western Conference standing.
“It’s been up and down,” said Aldridge. “We’ve definitely got to be more consistent offensively and defensively. I thought tonight we had moments where we were good on both sides of the ball, and then we had moments where we just played bad.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers have a day off before facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM.
Neither Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard nor Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love were selected to participate in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game taking place Sunday night in Toronto. But instead of spending their time sulking, the point guard who plays in Portland and the power forward who grew up just down the road in Lake Oswego, aka The Brothers Hooper, hit the studio to collaborate on the new “Droppin’ Dimes” track for State Farm…
It’s not nearly as serious as Lillard’s “Bigger Than Us” video, but every discography needs some good party tracks.
Howdy kind listeners. Before we all take some much needed respite before the start of a brutal March schedule, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studios at the Moda Center to record an All-Star break edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this week’s episode we marvel at the Trail Blazers being 27-27, good for seventh in the Western Conference, and how that’s going to cost Freeman some money/beer at some point, the emergence of Maurice Harkless since joining the starting lineup, Portland rising while other teams in their general range struggle, discuss how we’ll be spending our respective All-Star breaks and answer a host of questions pertaining to the upcoming trade deadline, Gerald Henderson’s tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard passing Brandon Roy and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve already since forgotten. As I noted during the show, my brain is already on vacation.
You can find the Rip City Report on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And consider using a small portion of the time you would usually spend watching the Blazers to give us a review on iTunes! You can be as mean as you want!
Though they were never teammates, Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy manage to talk from time to time. Their relationship started not long after Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft and they’ve stayed in contact ever since over the years. During those somewhat regular chats, the current and former faces of the Trail Blazers’ franchise sometimes discuss the responsibility that comes with that title, especially at a relatively young age, and what could have been if the 6-3 guard out of Weber State and the now-retired 6-6 guard out of Washington ever had the opportunity to play alongside each other in Rip City.
And the next time they talk, they’ll have something new to discuss. With his 31-point performance in Tuesday night’s victory versus the Rockets, Lillard passed Roy for 15th in franchise history in points. Lillard now has 6,119 in less than four seasons in Portland, surpassing the the 6,107 points that Roy scored in five seasons before knee injuries ended his career far too prematurely.
“I mean, that’s an honor,” said Lillard of passing Roy. “Just to be moving up on that list period, but I mean, if Brandon Roy got to play as long as he should have played and people would have liked to have seen him play, I probably would never pass him, so it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor you know, but the more important thing is just continuing to be myself and continuing to win games.”
Which Lillard has done an excellent job of his season. He’s the only player to rank in the top-6 in both scoring (24.3 points per game) and assists (7.3 assist per game) this season and has led the Trail Blazers to a 27-27 record this season, vastly outperforming preseason expectations, despite being the only holdover from last season’s starting five.
Though he’s had plenty of help this season from the likes of CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, Lillard’s performance through 54 games is the the primary reason that the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference. Roy, a three-time All-Star, was a fantastic player in his own right, a player whose peak performances are still the stuff of legend in Portland, but even he never carried the load that Lillard has this season. And of course, Lillard has already helped the Trail Blazer win a playoff series in his first four season in Portland, something Roy never accomplished.
“He’s been pretty good in a short amount of time,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of Lillard. “I mean, Brandon Roy, I wasn’t here for that, but I know what an imprint he made on the city and the franchise and how important he was to the Blazers. The fact that Damian has passed him this early in his career really says something because I know how good Brandon was. I know his career was cut short but everybody here holds him in high regard.”
Assuming Lillard experiences relatively good health — the seven games he missed this season due to plantar fascitiis are the only games he’s missed in his profession career thus far — there’s no reason to think that he won’t replace Roy as the best guard to play in Portland since Clyde Drexler, if he hasn’t taken that mantel already. But Roy can take some satisfaction in knowing that at least some of the success Lillard has had as a Trail Blazer was accomplished in part due to emulating the example he set on and off the court.
“When (Roy) got to Portland, a lot of the stuff he did, it brought excitement,” said Lillard. “I think the city really embraced him, they liked who he was as a person along with what he did as a player, obviously. I think because I kind of came and did the same thing, did some of the same things he did, I think he respects that… He was well respected, people appreciated the kind of person he was and he got it done on the floor. I think I can say the same for myself.”