Without LaMarcus Aldridge due to an ankle injury early in the game, Nicolas Batum tied a career high with 33 points for the Blazers, but it was not enough to beat the hot-shooting Wizards at home. Aldridge was hurt less than two minutes into the game after he landed on Trevor Booker’s foot and he did not return to the game. Gerald Wallace added 25 points and 8 assists in the loss. Normally the Blazers would win shooting 47 percent from the field and scoring over 106 points, but it was the Wizards coming out with the victory by shooting 60 percent from the field and 53 percent from the three-point line.
Full Game Recap and the State of the Team
There was little to celebrate in the latest outing for the Trail Blazers. In fact after LaMarcus Aldridge went down with a turned ankle it would have been quite easy to overlook some of the aggressive plays made by Nicolas Batum. Everyone had to pay attention though when Nic threw down a reaching, full-extension dunk over JaVale McGee. At some point it doesn’t matter how poor the defense is from the Wizards when the Blazers defense is even worse.
Now, I will say that I believe this game would have been a close one even if L.A. had not been injured. For those initial two minutes the Blazers were aggressive, particularly in the passing lanes, forcing turnovers and getting out on the break. Despite that, the score remained close. After L.A. went down it seemed like the team gave up on defense. They scored a lot themselves, a tribute to the awful defense from the Wiz, but then let a trio of guards torch them for 44 minutes of game time.
Up until last week, the Blazers story was akin to a Jekyll and Hyde tale of epic proportions. The Blazers dominated at home and were every bit the horror story on the road. Slowly the Hyde persona began to take over. Like an addict or a schizophrenic personality all it would take was one further trauma, one supreme moment of stress to tip the balance of the story. That tipping point came with “the call”, which eventually lead to a Portland loss versus OKC. It should be noted that the situation was tenuous long before a Scott Foster whistle caused the team’s metaphorical psychotic breakdown. They played poor, disorganized basketball, lacking in fundamentals as simple as boxing out on rebounds and played from behind the majority of the game. To be on the verge of stealing the game back, only to hand it away with the help of a bad call only compounds the reaction. The slide began.
The negative continued apart from a few outbursts from Nicolas Batum. Batum may be the best representation of this Jerkyll and Hyde mentality (though starting looks like it may lessen his inconsistency). He scores 33 on a bad wheel and then disappears for a few games, only to return tonight, forcefully after “earning” a start. So, even after that, and the return of some decent shooting from Matthews and Wallace the Blazers managed to lose to one of the worst teams in the league.
Look at the offensive stats for the Trail Blazers. Twenty-two makes from the free-throw line, over 47% from the field, 26 assists on 40 makes and an acceptable 30% from deep. Those are the kind of stats that can give the Blazers wins this year, and quality ones at that. But they balanced that out by getting out-rebounded (again) by 13 and giving up 44 in the paint. That still wasn’t enough to bring on a loss though. No, it was clearly the defense, or lack there of, that allowed the Washington Wizards, with a 6-22 record to shoot 60% from the field and better than 50% from the 3 that produced a loss.
The worst thing, was that outside of Batum, no one looked hungry or angry. They looked sullen, despondent. There’s no fire here, call it heart, call it pride as Batum, Wallace and coach McMillan did after the game; however you term it, there is something severely lacking. Now, stepping back to the OKC game, maybe a win there rights the ship and starts a streak the other direction. Instead, all confidence is lost and so is LaMarcus for at least 2-3 games at the worst possible time. The Blazers upcoming schedule has Golden State tonight, somewhere we virtually never win, followed by the Clippers. Then you have Atlanta, San Antonio and the Lakers. The last looking for payback. Taking the mental state and the injury into account, this team faces the likelihood of being several games below .500 heading into the All-Star break. A drastic contrast to the fast-start which had almost all of the Blazers talents on display.
The fear will be that this could be the point on which the entire season hinges. As the article on Blazers Edge inferred, it would not be hard to see this being the point that ends the Blazers season, not an eventual 1st round exit. I’m not one for slamming on a panic button, or rooting for losses as some disgusting “fans” have suggested on local forums and radio. Still it is clear that that something must be done. I think at this point all options, including trades should be fully explored. The worry is that there is no Dr. Jekyll left in this team, only Mr. Hyde. People will remember “the call” but the beginning of bottoming out came with the Valentine’s Day Massacre (thanks to Mike Barrett).