Why Trail Blazers Fans Shouldn’t Panic

Following the Portland Trail Blazers’ loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday evening, the group is embroiled in its first reliable shedding streak of the season. The 119-111 defeat comes on the heels of house losses to the Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets, dropping Portland’s report to 10-7, good for eighth within the NBA’s Western Conference. That’s a far cry from the heady first-place place the group occupied simply final week.

The quick jag is inflicting sections of Trail Blazers nation to… fear? I need to say, “Lose their minds,” however that may be exaggeration. Slightly. This morning the Blazer’s Edge Mailbag was stuffed with concepts, options, critiques, and some complaints. Normally I’d reprint a number of, but it surely’s simpler to summarize. According to submissions, any of the next may be accountable for the plunge: Chauncey Billups’ teaching, Anfernee Simons’ streaky offense, lack of depth, turnovers, an unbalanced roster, or Jusuf Nurkic simply present,

There have been extra, however you get the thought.

Rather than handle these one after the other, let’s step again and take a look at the state of affairs a bit of. And chill. We want numerous chill.

Yes, the Blazers are shedding proper now. They’re giving again their sizzling begin sport by sport. In the final episode of the Dave and Marlow present, co-host Marlow Ferguson predicted that Portland’s upcoming sport towards the Cleveland Cavaliers could be the toughest one to win all week. Since Marlow is near-inerrant, let’s go even farther and presume Portland drops their fourth straight sport tomorrow.

okay So what?

Realistically, this was coming… not as a result of the Blazers are dangerous, however as a result of the Blazers are a basketball group. In all of franchise historical past, solely two squads have averted shedding streaks: the 1977-78 Blazers earlier than Bill Walton received injured and the 1990-91 roster with Clyde Drexler on the peak of his energy, a star-studded group of starters round him, and Danny Ainge and Cliff Robinson coming off the bench.

Those have been once-in-a-lifetime dream lineups. The present Blazers are good. They’ve been taking part in nicely. This remains to be not a once-in-a-lifetime roster, or no less than not but. These guys have spent a grand complete of 17 video games collectively. We do not know precisely what they’re but, not to mention what they will change into. We do know they’ve received 10 of these 17, many towards good opponents. That’s praiseworthy, interval.

Compare the Blazers to the 9-6 Sacramento Kings. Hometown followers and NBA glitterati are nodding Sacramento’s manner proper now, heaping reward on them for taking part in exhausting and pulling themselves out of the NBA cellar, no less than briefly. You know who else was within the NBA cellar final yr, all however dead-ending for a few seasons earlier than that? The Blazers. Portland is deadlocked with the Kings proper now, but the descriptions of the 2 franchises couldn’t be extra totally different.

We can go even additional. Compare the Blazers to the conference-leading Jazz. Portland misplaced to them on Saturday, making a slide down the standings near-inevitable. Utah is driving excessive in first place with a 12-7 report. The Blazers, with their lowly 10-7 mark, sit one sport behind. One sport. That’s all that separates the Top 8 within the Western Conference proper now.

Had a few pictures bounced in another way final weekend, the Blazers could be #1 within the convention and Utah languishing in a low playoff place. And it could imply simply as little because it did when Portland was flying excessive within the standings final week.

Momentum is a nasty associate: enjoyable to flirt with, however poisonous in a long-term relationship. It’s going towards Portland proper now with this streak. But let’s invert the state of affairs. Had the Blazers began the season 0-5 however now held a 10-7 report, everybody could be over the moon about this group. The schedule would have allowed both; it wasn’t simpler to begin with, it isn’t way more tough now. The information coming in a unique order doesn’t make the ultimate end result that a lot totally different.

There’s extra to it, after all. There are a number of concrete causes the Blazers do not look pretty much as good proper now as they did earlier.

First comes the one no person mentions: Damian Lillard is both ailing or absent. Portland did win video games with out him a few weeks in the past, however that must be seen as a bonus, not a sample. Take the sneakers off a UPS supply driver. If they full their rounds barefoot in a given week, you rejoice them appropriately and marvel on the dedication. You do not then count on them to have the ability to do the identical frequently.

Lillard appeared horrible towards Utah earlier than he went out. He did not play towards Milwaukee and will not once more for a few weeks. Until he fits up wholesome, the Blazers must be praised for each victory they obtain, not lambasted for those they miss out on. This is true even with overlapping guards to interchange him. Simons is stepping up as a primary choice and Josh Hart isn’t dangerous as your vitality/effort man, however Shaedon Sharpe goes to rookie and Portland’s frontcourt wasn’t constructed to hold video games by themselves.

Without Lillard, the Blazers are dancing on a ground which may collapse beneath them at any second. The strikes look the identical, however finally you are by no means certain if they are going to matter or if it is only a fairly solution to crash to the basement. If they need extra certainty, Lillard has to prop them up.

The Blazers have additionally proven vulnerability to opposing superstars. This is nothing new. Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, and Luka Doncic racked them up earlier this season. In this streak, the emphasis switched to forwards, with Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo doing the honors.

Portland has a pleasant, interlinking protection this yr, sort of like a type of well-woven doilies that mother decorates the Thanksgiving desk with. It’s loads prettier than the cat hairballs they have been dropping within the eating room the previous few years. But when the opponent brings a carving knife, that doily nonetheless is not holding up very nicely. It can maintain a good quantity of weight, but it surely’s nonetheless simple to slice by way of.

In this streak, the Blazers have additionally had hassle stopping opponents within the paint. Technically, paint scoring is meant to be Portland’s gig this yr. When the opposite guys do it higher, the hole is larger than meets the attention.

Complicating issues, the Blazers have not earned the perimeters they want in additional factors to make up for the paint downside. They have not shot nicely sufficient from the three-point arc. They’ve lacked the bloated benefits in free throw makes an attempt which have buoyed their early-season performances. Their bucket has been leaking slowly, however steadily, and so they have not made sufficiently big splashes to refill it.

Still, the group is combating exhausting. These video games have not been bald runaways. Margins are nonetheless single-digit. The warning, after all, is that Portland’s wins have come the identical manner. That reveals how precarious these items might be. Last-second heroics are like vitality drinks: nothing incorrect with pepping up with one each infrequently, but when that is your regular eating regimen, you are going to break down ultimately. Portland’s caffeine headache is displaying proper now.

No worries, although. This will flip round. The season goes to be fickle. Nobody else within the West is doing appreciably higher than the Blazers to this point. They’ll be within the combine.

If we have been anticipating them to contend for a title, that rationalization would appear pale. You’re not imagined to go together with the gang; you are imagined to be higher. But these desires fizzled rapidly after Portland’s 2019 Western Conference Finals run proved a mirage. For who they’re and the place they’re, the Blazers are nonetheless doing remarkably nicely. They’ve left room forward of them to develop and get higher, maybe changing into the group we will count on extra of. If you look again on the arc of the final decade, even uttering that sentence is progress.

Don’t panic, Portland devoted. We know the highway goes to be bumpy. We nonetheless do not know the place it’ll lead but. Give them half a season to determine if they should make any trades, a full season to evaluate what they’re doing as they go ahead. Riding any three video games, up or down, is simply going to make you carsick throughout this twisty yr. Enjoy the surroundings as an alternative. At least it is totally different, and that is one thing.

Leave a Comment