High and Low(s)
With the exception of one lopsided win against the Atlanta Hawks, it was not a pretty week for the Portland Trail Blazers.
In four games this week, the Blazers went just 1-3. The win against Atlanta was fun to watch for those who enjoy blowouts, but other than that, it was a week full of heart-wrenching leads lost, and tough finishes to start out a crucial late-season road trip.
The postseason is right around the corner, and while Portland once looked like a lock for home-court advantage, it is now fighting its way to earn a simple spot in the top five. Nothing is guaranteed in a fantastically tough Western Conference, and needless to say, every win — and every loss — could mean the difference between advancing in the playoffs and being ousted in the first round.
March 3 vs. Los Angeles Lakers
Portland entered this game with 21 wins more than the rivaled Los Angeles Lakers. Fans and local radio hosts were talking about the “D-League Lakers” as if it would be an easy win, and even Los Angeles-based media members were acknowledging the success Portland had experienced compared to the train wreck that has been the Lakers’ season.
Unfortunately, from the onset of the competition, L.A. looked like the team with something to fight for, while the Blazers looked like a team that was far too confident, or far too unprepared, in a game that went the exact opposite as virtually anyone predicted.
From the opening minutes, it was clear that the Lakers were the team with the energy. They jumped out to a big lead early, and they led 33-20 at the end of the first quarter.
In true Portland fashion, the team from Rip City fought back and made it a game late. The problem was that too much energy was expended early, and Los Angeles walked away with a 107-106 victory.
March 5 vs. Atlanta Hawks
On the night, Nicolas Batum scored 14 points to go along with his 18 rebounds, but it was his defense on Kyle Korver that received the most recognition. Entering the night, Korver had an NBA-record streak of 127 games with a three-pointer made. Portland did what it could to keep him from getting the ball, and Batum was a big part in putting a halt to the streak.
The nationally televised game showed Portland at its best, as it came away with a 102-78. Batum did his part, but Wesley Matthews also deserves credit for shutting down Korver, one of the game’s best long-distance shooters.
March 7 @ Dallas
The Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks have played a number of classic games throughout the years, and while this without a doubt ended up being one of them, it ended with Portland on the wrong side of a 103-98 finish.
Despite getting down big early, the Blazers crawled their way back in it. Portland was down 33-10 after the first quarter and 57-38 at the half, but in typical Rip City fashion (again), the Blazers stormed back with a 36-18 third quarter making it a game late.
LaMarcus Aldridge recorded 30 points and 17 rebounds on the night, but alas, it was much ado about nothing. Dallas ended up winning by five in a game that meant a lot to both when it came to playoff positions.
March 9 @ Houston Rockets
Portland was hoping for a bounce-back win in the second game of its road trip, and in the first quarter it looked as if the team would get it. The Blazers jumped out to a 10-0 lead, and by the end of the third quarter, they led by 12.
Unfortunately for Rip City, James Harden sent a shot to the Blazers hearts with a three-pointer in the final seconds of the game, sending it to an overtime that the visiting Trail Blazers couldn’t recover from.
On the night, LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 points and 12 rebounds, but the bigger story is his inefficient 10-of-27 shooting from the field. Damian Lillad also recorded 21 points, four rebounds and four assists, but he also had seven turnovers and fouled out in just 33 minutes.
Portland needs to bounce back from this with a strong latter half of the road trip, or else the home stretch is going to come without much momentum. The playoffs are right around the corner, and an inexperienced Trail Blazers squad needs as much momentum as it can get with the postseason right around the corner.