AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – As the old saying goes, “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a Merry Christmas.”
And for the Portland Trail Blazers, it would be a very happy new year, too. And maybe even a playoff berth.
But there have been too many ifs. And too many buts.
And too many losses like the one Tuesday night in overtime to the Detroit Pistons. The Blazers outshot the Pistons 52.4 percent to 43.3 percent. They outrebounded Detroit and led after all of the first three quarters. They got big games from Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nerkic, who went a combined 30 for 54 from the field.
BUT … They committed 24 turnovers, many of them just out of sheer carelessness. And they could not stop Detroit’s Marcus Morris, who went for 37 points. And they were outscored 11-4 in the five-minute overtime period, when they also committed four turnovers.
And IF Lillard had been able to make a foul shot after a technical foul with a little more than 10 seconds left – his only miss of the night in six attempts – Portland likely would have won in regulation.
It ended up as just another rough loss for the Trail Blazers, who lost two out of three on a three-game road swing that took them from Florida to Canada before Michigan.
“We’ve lost a lot of close games,” said McCollum, who made 10 of 17 shots en route to 25 points.
“It’s frustrating,” admitted Lillard, who missed his first career triple-double by one assist. “But those other teams are losing so we are still in it for the last playoff spot. We have to move on and think about the next game.”
Lillard would have had his triple-double had some of his teammates made a few easy shots or even chose to take them, But the assist piece of that thing is often the toughest because you need help with it. People have to make shots after you get them the ball.
Portland had pretty good control of this game until the fourth quarter, with its lead usually swinging from 8 to 12 points.
“We had our chances,” said Terry Stotts. “Obviously the turnovers were a big part of the game.”
Nurkic got Portland a 19-19 draw in points with Detroit’s Andre Drummond and occupied him enough to keep him without a blocked shot – a rare happening, especially against the Trail Blazers.
Morris was a real handful on his way to a career-high 37 points. He knocked down 13 of 23 points and hit some big ones in overtime.
But in the end, it was just one more case of ifs and buts – in a season full of them – for the Trail Blazers.
NOTES -- Allen Crabbe came into the game having played 56 minutes in the first two games of this road trip and taken only nine shots. He was having his worst month of the season, averaging 6.9 points. He hadn’t been in double figures since Feb. 9 and had been over 10 points only twice this month. But he got 13 points, hitting five of seven from the floor in this one. … Evan Turner, sidelined with a broken hand, indicated his cast is close to being removed and he expects to be back on the court in a week. Players, however, often have a quicker timetable than their doctors. … The Blazers return to action Thursday night in the Moda Center against Oklahoma City.