Recent Struggles Don’t Concern Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have been struggling. The team has lost four straight games, with losses to the Washington Wizards, Miami HEAT, Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies on their recent five-game road trip. The team has allowed over 105 points per game during the losing streak, and some fans and media members seem concerned about the Blazers’ struggles.
However, talk to the players in the locker room and they don’t seem nearly as worried. LaMarcus Aldridge spraining his left index finger in the loss to the Grizzlies was obviously concerning, but he’s currently day-to-day and hopefully won’t be out long. But as far as their play goes, the team believes this is just a rough stretch that they’ll bounce back from.
After the loss to the Magic on Saturday, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was asked if he sensed that the season is slipping away. Stotts looked shocked at the question and quickly shot it down as an overreaction.
“Season slipping away? No,” Stotts said. “Slipping away? I think that’s a little extreme.”
Damian Lillard had a similar response when asked about his level of concern.
“Concern? I think we’ll be fine,” Lillard said. “I don’t see why we should be concerned. We’re 21 games above .500 and we were on a tough trip. These teams that we’ve lost to have competed hard and we haven’t played well, but we’ve been in each game so I don’t think we should be concerned at all.
“We just have to understand that we’re a really good team. Every team goes through this. The Spurs had a really, really rough stretch this season. Dallas had a rough stretch; the Clippers [too]. Everybody has had this happen. I think right now, 21 games above .500 and ending a road trip, we’re not playing very well but I don’t think there’s a reason to be concerned. We should be excited that we’ve been in the last [few] games even though we haven’t played well. I’m excited, because when we do start making those shots and we do start getting more stops, we’re going to start looking like the team that we are.”
Aldridge said that there’s no reason to hit the panic button after a four-game skid.
“You can overreact, but overreacting isn’t going to do anything for us,” Aldridge said, referring to the media. “We just have to stay confident and understand the things that are making us lose. It’s all of those small things that we’re not doing.
“Of course you never want to lose or have a rough stretch again this late in the season. Every guy in here wants to win, every guy in here is competitive and I think we understand the things that we have to do better. I think we’ll do it, we just need to hone in on the things that have been killing us.”
The Blazers aren’t losing sleep over this losing streak because they’re a confident team that has been very successful throughout this season (and even throughout the last month). After all, just before this four-game losing streak, Portland had won eight of nine games, including a number of impressive wins. Over the last month, the Blazers have defeated teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets and Toronto Raptors.
Even after dropping four straight games, the Blazers are still the fourth seed in the Western Conference and sit at 44-24 on the season.
It also helps that the team has went through this before and then bounced back in a big way. In January, Portland lost eight of 10 games during a particularly hard part of their schedule and then responded by playing well in February and early March.
Last March, the Blazers had a similar tough stretch. They dropped three straight games (including losses to Miami and Orlando, just like this year) and people were ready to write Portland off. But then they followed that up by winning nine of 10 games to end the season, including victories over the Chicago Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers. Then, of course, they advanced past the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs.
Lillard brought that up after the recent loss to Orlando, looking around the visiting locker room in the Amway Center and mentioning the similarities between that stretch and this one.
“Last year, at the end of the season, in Orlando, we had a similar loss to this one and it was just like, ‘Man, what’s going on with them?’” Lillard said. “We were all in the locker room frustrated, kind of like how we were tonight about this loss, and then… boom. We turned it around, our minds were right and then we finished the season off great and had a good run in the playoffs.
“We don’t have any concern. We turned it around [then], and I think that’s what we’ll most likely do now. We’ll start to play better and turn it around.”
Lillard did hold himself accountable, saying that he needs to step up and play well. He believes that Aldridge has been doing well, but that he hasn’t been performing at a high level lately.
“He’s been great, I’ve got to be better,” Lillard said. “I haven’t made a lot of shots that I usually make and I just need to play better. I feel like if I play better, I give our team a better chance to win.”
The Blazers will face the Warriors on Tuesday night, which will be a tough game. But if Portland can get a win over the NBA’s best team, that could get them back on the right track and put an end to some of the panicking taking place outside of the locker room.
Wade, Paul Named Players of the Week
The Miami HEAT’s Dwyane Wade and the Los Angeles Clippers’ Chris Paul today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week, respectively, for games played Monday, March 16, through Sunday, March 22.
Wade led the HEAT to a 3-1 week, averaging 24.5 points (second in the East), 4.0 assists and 2.25 steals (fourth in the conference). He shot 53.2 percent from the field, including a 13-of-18 performance during a 32-point outing in a 106-92 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 16. The All-Star guard also scored 32 points and added six assists in a 108-104 win against the Portland Trail Blazers on March 18.
Paul powered the Clippers to one of the NBA’s two 4-0 weeks. He ranked fifth in the NBA in scoring (26.0 ppg) and second in the West in assists (11.3 apg). The All-Star guard had 30 points and 11 assists in a 116-105 victory against the Sacramento Kings on March 18, and two nights later he contributed 30 points and 15 assists in a 113-99 win over the Washington Wizards. Paul totaled 45 assists and seven turnovers in the four games.
Other nominees for the Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week were Cleveland’s LeBron James, Detroit’s Reggie Jackson, Houston’s James Harden, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook, Orlando’s Elfrid Payton, Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker, Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.
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