Portland Struggling at Wrong Time
Following a 103-90 loss at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night, the Blazers have now fallen to 0-4 on their current 5-game road trip. This latest loss led to a players-only meeting after the game. It’s never a good sign for a team when the players need to discuss things without the coaches present. Panic hasn’t set in apparently, but the players are certainly aware of their recent struggles.
They’ve lost 5 of 6 overall and have gone winless in their last 11 meetings against Western Conference playoff teams. Their current four-game losing streak is also a first this season. To say they’ve played their worst stretch of the season would be an understatement.
And it’s the way they’ve lost that has been even more maddening. In the Texas-Two Step, Portland blew late fourth quarter leads in spectacular fashion. In Dallas, after overcoming a 30-point deficit, the team regrouped in the second half and led 89-82 with under five minutes left. They would go scoreless the rest of the way and allowed Dallas to get back in the game with free throw shooting.
The Houston game was even more of a head-scratcher. Leading virtually the entire way, the Blazers held a 13-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. Then suddenly, they couldn’t hit a shot or make a free-throw before eventually losing in overtime.
The last two, against Memphis and the Spurs, weren’t even that close. Poor shooting continued to plague the team resulting in poor shot selection. Gone was the crisp ball movement, slashing & cutting and confidence. With one game remaining before returning home, the Blazers need to rediscover what worked for them earlier in the season.
Remember, this team has two wins each over San Antonio and Oklahoma City and victories against Indiana, Houston, Golden State and the Clippers. They know how to beat good teams and yet lately, they’re reacting rather than dictating the tone of these games resulting in losses as well as making unforced mistakes like turnovers and missed free throws.
Negative results leads to negative press as well. The “Damian Lillard can’t play defense” talk is back, LaMarcus Aldridge’s shooting percentage and shot selection are in question and the interior defense continues to haunt the team and fan’s dreams.
Since beginning the season 24-5, the team has gone just 18-18 and after being near the top of the Western Conference standings, they find themselves just a game-and-a-half ahead of the Warriors for sixth in the west.
Oh, and I forgot, Aldridge and Mo Williams are now both out with injuries so Portland now has to rely even more on bench players who have been inconsistent to say the least.
They’ve played with house money for the entire year and with a month to go in the regular season, beginners luck has been replaced with a slow losing trend.
Joel Freeland Mostly LIkely Out for Remainder of Regular Season
When Trail Blazers’ backup center Joel Freeland crumpled to the floor; clutching his leg and writhing pain, most people, including me, thought he had torn a ligament in his knee. The injury, which occurred on Feb. 11 against Oklahoma City, ended up being a sprain of the right MCL. The timetable for his return following the injury was four to eight weeks.
According to Joe Freeman of The Oregonian, Freeland said on Tuesday that he could miss another five weeks, which translates to the remainder of the regular season.
It’s been four weeks and Freeland hasn’t even participated in any basketball-related activities. He’s been reduced to riding an exercise bike and shooting jumpers in practice. The regular season officially ends on April 16 and Freeland intends to be on the court when the postseason start.
“I look at it like I’ve got a month to get ready for the playoffs,” said Freeland.
You wouldn’t think the team would miss 3 points and 4 rebounds a game, but it’s Freeland’s defense and basketball intelligence that the team’s second unit is missing. Yes, Thomas Robinson and Meyers Leonard have been effective lately, but they still produce head-scratching plays every now and then because they’re still out to prove that they can be high-level players in the league.
Freeland knows what he is and he’s accepted it. He knows that the team needs strong defense, aggressiveness in the paint, quality screens and a hard foul every now and then. When Robin Lopez goes out of the game, the team lacks that dynamic and Freeland was the closest replacement the team had.
Freeland is one of the players that you don’t really appreciate or value until he’s out. His teammates and fans certainly miss his presence and Freeland is in a situation he’s never faced before.
“It’s frustrating,” said Freeland. “I’ve never had an injury in my life.”
Welcome to Portland, Freeland.