Two Tough Losses
In contests against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, Portland fell 98-95 and 122-117, respectively. Both games came down to the wire, but both showed that Portland has work to do if it’s going to be considered elite during the postseason.
Going 0-2 is far from a good thing, but the nature of the losses show that the Blazers are right there when it comes to competing with the league’s best. With the trade deadline approaching, it will be interesting to see how general manager Neil Olshey conducts business, but for now, it’s clear that Rip City is on the cusp of challenging for a Western Conference title.
Feb. 11 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
The Trail Blazers entered this contest with the hopes of winning the season series. They had beaten OKC twice during their first three matchups, and getting a third win would be a huge step toward winning the Northwest division and earning home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, Kevin Durant had other thoughts in mind, as he continued his MVP-caliber season wth 36 points and 10 rebounds in the three-point win.
Although Durant will go down as the star of this one, Robin Lopez deserves serious credit for his effort. He postd 17 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks, making up for the struggles of Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The bad news is that Joel Freeland went down with a sprained MCL, and after being the only consistently productive reserve big man on the year, he’s set to miss four to eight weeks.
Feb. 12 @ Los Angeles Clippers
The narrative surrounding the Blazers all season has been whether their high-octane offense can compensate for their subpar defense.
Against the Clippers, that answer was an unfortunate no.
Portland scored 117 points on the night, but gave up 122 in the process. Chris Paul showed that he’s healthy, scoring 20 points and collecting 12 assists, but the star of the show was Blake Griffin, as he posted 36 points and 10 rebounds in 39 minutes.
Bonus Highlight: Damian Lillard’s All-Star Saturday
Lillard made NBA history this week by participating in three All-Star Saturday events. He and Trey Burke won the Skills Contest early in the evening, and then up next was the Three-Point Shootout and the Slam Dunk Contest.
In the shootout, Lillard scored 18 first-round points, just barely missing the cut for the finals. In the dunk competition, he showed he was a worthy selection, but again, missed the cut by a slim margin.
The format of the dunk-off will be heavily debated, but the skill sets of the competitors was undeniable. The league got the dunkers right; it’s just too bad the format didn’t translate.