ORLANDO — The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 45-27 on the season, 19-18 away from the Moda Center and 0-3 on their current five-game road trip with a 95-85 loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center Tuesday night.
“It’s difficult to win games when you don’t get the rebounds that you need, you don’t defend the way you should and you don’t make shots the way we’re capable of,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “This is a very, extremely disappointing loss and in fact it was a game we needed to have.”
The win ends Orlando’s nine-game losing streak. At 20-52 on the season, they own the third-worst record in the NBA ahead of only the 76ers and Bucks. The Trail Blazers, playing once again without their starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, had one of the best records in the Western Conference against Eastern Conference teams prior to the trip, though that is no longer the case after three-straight losses, two of which were by double-digits to teams with losing records.
Portland shot 37 percent from the field and 27 percent from three while turning the ball over 15 times. Portland, a team ranked second in the NBA in points per game at 107.3, have failed to score at least 100 points in their last three contests.
“They played with more energy,” said Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points, three assists and a rebound in 35 minutes. “They rebounded the ball. We scored 85 points. We are a team that scored in the hundreds, so regardless we have to win games. We need to keep playing basketball and play with an urgency.”
Urgency was nowhere to be found for the Trail Blazers in the second quarter, as the Magic used a 16-0 run to take control of the game against a team playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Orlando was able to extend their lead to 14 by the start of the fourth quarter with the Trail Blazers unable to mount any kind of sustained rally. The Magic would push the lead to 17 in the final quarter before coasting to a 10-point victory.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong, I just think we are out of rhythm,” said Damian Lillard. “Everything isn’t flowing as easy. Obviously we do not have (Aldridge), which takes away our biggest inside presence or that balance of being able to go to the block. The shots that we are used to making aren’t going in. Some of our coverages defensively are loose and we are a step slow getting into it. Teams are getting baskets that we shouldn’t be giving up. There are a number of things we need to do better to get a win.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Robin Lopez, who went 9 of 13 from the field and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes.
“Robin (Lopez) kept us in the game with all of his put-backs, his rebounds,” said Stotts. “He played almost the whole second half. We’d get the ball to him on rolls, and he gets his offensive rebounds and that’s how he helps us offensively. He played a terrific game. He played his ass off tonight.”
As if losing to one of the worst teams in the NBA wasn’t enough, the Trail Blazers fell to a half game ahead of the Warriors for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. But what’s much, much worse is the Trail Blazers, once considered a sure-fire playoff team, are now just 2.5 games ahead of the Phoenix Suns, a team on the outside looking in as the ninth team in the West.
“I think we are just in a new territory for some guys,” said Lopez. “It is late in the season, and the playoffs haven’t started but essentially the playoffs have started. We need to realize that.”
After losing seven of their last 10 games, the conversation regarding the playoffs in Portland has gone from whether they could secure home court advantage in the first round to whether they’ll simply be able to qualify for the postseason with 10 games to play in the regular season.
“We have to have an urgency,” said Stotts. “We have to defend. We have to do the little things to win games. We have to realize that’s not going to come easily. And that has to be our approach going into every game.”
A postseason birth seemed like a foregone conclusion just a week ago, but three-straight losses and recent wins by the likes of Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix have added another level of pressure to a team trying to stay afloat without their best player.
“It’s a sense of urgency to get wins, as it should be,” said Aldridge, who said after the game that he hopes to play in Portland’s next game versus the Hawks in Atlanta on Thursday. “We’ve definitely let ourselves slide too far and we all want to get wins right now and we understand the magnitude of trying to take care of business right now. So I think everybody knows the importance of winning right now.”
It’s one thing to know that winning is important. It’s entirely another to be able to go out and do it. Portland will try to do just that Thursday in Atlanta. Tipoff is schedule for 4:30 PM.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”