The Trail Blazers need to do a lot of things to fix this hemorrhaging homestand, but team captain Damian Lillard says that list does not include having a team meeting.
“The team meetings and all that stuff, I think is overrated,’’ Lillard said Tuesday after a 106-92 loss to Washington, the Blazers’ third straight no-show at home. “When you really have issues – that guy is mad at that guy – or somebody is not buying in, or you can’t get guys to compete, that’s when you have to bring everybody in and say “What’s the problem?’
“But right now we don’t have that. We just aren’t playing great offensively and we are putting pressure on the defense and when we don’t defend well, games get away from us.’’
After returning from a 4-1 trip, the Blazers have been flat and lifeless at home, falling behind by 24 to Milwaukee, 19 to Anthony-Davis-less New Orleans and 23 to a Washington team playing without John Wall.
There were a smattering of boos Tuesday when the team went to halftime down 51-37, and Moda Center fans left in droves with 4:45 left and the Wizards leading 97-76.
Lillard on Tuesday said the team’s issues are not chemistry related, and last month he came to the defense of coach Terry Stotts, saying the coaching staff doesn’t miss free throws or make turnovers – that the performances ultimately come back to the players.
The good news is the Blazers (13-11) have three days off before their next game. The bad news is the top two teams in the Western Conference await – Saturday at home against Houston (18-4) and Monday at Golden State (19-6).
Lillard said he believes one reason the team doesn’t need a team meeting is because this group – both coaches and players -- has been open and honest with each other during film sessions. Those critiques, Lillard said, have included singling out stars Lillard and CJ McCollum.
“I think this year in film sessions we’ve done a much better job of addressing each other, and addressing issues that we’ve had,’’ Lillard said.
The issues are beginning to mount.
The offensive rhythm has been paralyzed by sloppy passing and one-on-one play and now ranks 22nd out of 30 NBA teams. McCollum is in a four-game shooting slump, Lillard is shooting 33 percent from three-point range, and Jusuf Nurkic leads the team with 73 turnovers. Throw in woeful shooting from Evan Turner (38.6 percent from the field and 8-of-41 on three-pointers) and a ghost season from Maurice Harkless, and you have enough gunk to gum up any machine.
Meanwhile, the defense, once the beacon of light to distract from the struggling offense, has a 111.5 rating in this homestand, which ranks 22nd for that time frame. Some of the defensive woes have been a result of mindless open-court turnovers that result in easy fast break points, and some of it has been the inability to stop stars like Washington’s Bradley Beal (51 points), New Orleans’ DeMarcus Cousins (38 points) and Milwaukee’s Eric Bledsoe (25 points).
On top of it all, the Blazers are getting beat for 50/50 balls on an almost nightly basis, and are generally playing an uninspiring brand of basketball that is beginning to test the patience of a fan base that has watched Portland go 7-7 at home.
Lillard, for one, can feel the fan’s angst.
“I mean, they are waiting for something. The fans, they are waiting for that 15-3 run,’’ he said, reciting former Moda Center moments where the crowd is bursting with anticipation for a big shot or urging the defense for a stop. “We haven’t been able to get those moments rolling. And that’s what we need.’’