After sitting through the Trail Blazers' 100-77 debacle of a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night, I noticed how tired I had gotten. Watching that mess just exhausted me.
It was a bewildering performance by Portland, a team that had suddenly appeared to have found itself in a five-wins-in-six-games streak. But the Blazers ran head-on into a wall against the Pelicans -- a wall of inconsistency borne out of a seeming lack of attention to detail.
You can't do big things without doing the little things and so many times this season the Blazers have failed to do all the little things that make their team work. This is a team with a very delicate balance between pretty good and pretty mediocre and the latter is winning the battle a good deal of the time.
When you don't play consistent defense, your offense better be pretty solid night after night. When you don't have a frontcourt that provides any measure of consistent scoring, you end up relying too much on your backcourt to carry the load. When you don't have a reliable No. 3 scorer it's difficult to get the No. 1 and No. 2 scorers to give the ball up to people they don't trust.
And the real problem with that long chain of things that have to go right is that everything is reliant on little things like ball movement and player movement. Screen setting. Not only seeing teammates when they are open but finding them with sharp passes, not looping, lackadaisical ones. Focus is needed. Attention to detail. Focus.
Seriously, when you turn the ball over two or three times in a row, the next possession should bring more careful passes and smarter decisions -- not yet another careless turnover.
And some nights -- too many nights -- focus just hasn't been there. I don't understand that because last season this team was sharp and attentive. This year there are way too many lapses in judgment and focus. And I think the disappointment has led to some sort of deep mass frustration and disappointment. There are good people on this team -- they care a lot about their team -- and they are dealing with a lot of frustration. And it's mounting up.
Tuesday night's loss was a joke, not necessarily because of the outcome but because of the process. Portland was never in this game, right from the start. For a team fighting for a playoff berth it seems to desperately want, this was a trainwreck. And we've seen this so many other times this season -- just when it appeared the team had found an answer for its problems.
It wasn't so much that New Orleans hit Portland with a great game, it was that the Trail Blazers were so off kilter they never had a chance. Yes, the Pels shot 47.5 percent from the field -- but at this point of the season we're accustomed to opponents shooting near 50 percent. The Blazers make up for that by shooting well themselves, making more threes than their opponent, rebounding well and holding turnovers down.
Lately, though, the turnovers are coming in large bunches and, Tuesday, the shooting was way, way off. Portland made just 30.3 percent of its shots and hit only 11 of its 32 threes. When you shoot that poorly, there's usually a reason and it's that you aren't getting good shots.
The Blazers didn't move the ball well, didn't move their bodies enough, didn't set enough effective screens and didn't find open teammates often enough to shoot well. At times they made the Pelican defense look like the best defense in the league. Which it isn't.
By the third quarter, the Trail Blazers were standing around trying to figure out what to do next, seemingly befuddled about how to score. I can't remember the last time I've seen this group so baffled on offense. If Damian Lillard hadn't just taken things into his own hands in this game, Portland might not have reached 60 points.
But let's face it, this is the way the season has gone. This is what it's all been about and it's probably too late to salvage anything from it. The 2016-17 season is going to be a write-off, I'm afraid. We are just going to have to consider it a lost season and move on.
And hope that the malaise that periodically engulfs this team can be left behind, too.