The Portland Trail Blazers encountered another tough stretch in Week 20, but this time it felt like a much bigger blow than it has in weeks past.
Entering Tuesday’s matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, the Blazers have lost six of their last eight. They went 1-3 in Week 20, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors while taking down the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Blazers need to get back on track quickly if they want to earn home-court advantage in the playoffs. Luckily for fans, even in the midst of the losses there are still highlights to be seen.
March 11 @ Memphis Grizzlies
If you weren’t sure about it before, you know it now: The Memphis Grizzlies are not a good matchup for the Trail Blazers.
Not only did Memphis take down Portland 98-81 back on Jan. 28, but it did the same thing on March 11, this time 109-99. The Blazers’ high-octane offense hasn’t been shut down by many teams this year, but the Grizzlies are a much different story with their gritty defensive mindset.
Damian Lillard did lead the way with 32 points, but the team allowed Memphis to score nearly 15 points above its average, which is a recipe for disaster against any squad across the Association.
March 12 @ San Antonio Spurs
The Blazers have had a decent amount of success against the San Antonio Spurs this season — that is, until March 12.
When Portland faced off against San Antonio in Week 20, it was the fourth game of a brutal road trip. The hope was that the Blazers would get their first win of the stretch, but as it turned out, 13 points and 14 rebounds from Nicolas Batum was only enough to get the team within 13 at the final buzzer, as the game ended 103-90 in the Spurs’ favor.
The bigger story in this one was the fall that LaMarcus Aldridge took. He was helped off the court, and while x-rays revealed that his tailbone wasn’t broken (as he admittedly thought it was), it ended up being an injury that would keep him out for significant games with the playoffs in sight.
March 14 @ New Orleans
The Blazers may not have beaten any playoff contenders in Week 20, but they did exactly what contenders are supposed to do: They beat an inferior opponent.
With LaMarcus Aldridge out, Anthony Davis had a field day, recording 36 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Damian Lillard also stepped up in L.A.’s absence with 27 points, and Nicolas Batum had his second big game in a row with 22 points, 18 rebounds and five assists.
The Blazers only got one win on the road trip, but while the other losses are all concerning, losing to the Pelicans would have been completely devistating.
March 16 vs. Golden State
It’s been said that the first game back from a long road trip is the toughest game of the trip itself. Against the Golden State Warriors, Portland looked to be in control most of the way — until it mattered most.
Despite being known early in the year for their ability to close, the Blazers have been atrocious over the last month in that particular category. They haven’t been able to finish competitive contests, and that theme held true against the Warriors.
Portland needs to regain momentum before the postseason, and it will look to do just that with a string of easier competition ahead. The time is now to prepare for the playoffs, and the hope is that the Blazers can regain the confidence they had at the beginning of the year.