CJ McCollum missed 20 shots. Damian Lillard missed 14.
The Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t buy a basket in Monday night’s 125-124 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.
But before the Blazers made their way out of the Moda Center, they weren’t talking about their pile of bricks. Instead they were lamenting late-game execution, the crunch time miscues that let the Wizards steal a win.
“Just how many times we shot ourselves in the foot,” Lillard said when asked what stuck with him after the loss. “Offensive rebounds, giving up open threes, turning the ball over – even our opportunities, we had two chances to win it at the buzzer.
“For me obviously, I looked right back at those two plays. I think the kind of effort that we had, we put ourselves in position to win the game, just didn’t execute on the defensive end or the offensive end as good as we needed to to win it, so I mean, that’s frustrating.”
Lillard had a potential game-winning layup blocked at the end of regulation and another swatted in the closing seconds of overtime. But just to get to the point where Lillard was driving headfirst into the teeth of a waiting defense, the Blazers had to botch a few things.
After Nik Stauskas buried a three-pointer to put the Blazers up three 111-108 with 12.4 seconds left, Portland conceded a game-tying three-point to Bradley Beal, allowing a wide open jumper on a possession in which they intended to commit an intentional foul.
“We were going to foul, they passed it quickly and we weren’t in a position to foul,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They threw it in bounds quickly to Beal. We overreacted to that, we overreacted to the next pass … so yeah, we wanted to foul in that situation.”
In overtime, the Blazers had an impossible time figuring out the John Wall-Markieff Morris two-man game, which resulted in wide open three-pointers for Morris. When Portland finally decided to switch the screen and send Jusuf Nurkic onto Wall, the Wizards point guard banked in an ugly 17-footer. Bad defense followed by bad luck is a tough combination to overcome.
“It was a tough action to deal with but I think we should’ve just switched it from the jump,” Lillard said.
Morris was equally surprised by the Blazers’ defensive choice: “...After the second [three-pointer], I was like ‘Do you really want to keep letting me shoot the ball?’ but I guess, I mean, I work on them every day.”
Outside of the defensive issues, the Blazers also had a crucial turnover with under 90 seconds left in the overtime when McCollum bowled over Beal and was called for a charge with the game tied at 117.
The Wizards had their own share of shooting woes, but they did just enough to survive, propped up by Morris’ career-best long range shooting night and playing the entire fourth quarter and overtime without committing a turnover.
The big things were the missed shots, and Portland had plenty of those to lament on a night where the offense failed to cash in with any consistency. But it was the smaller details, slow and overreactions on defense and a crucial turnover, that finally decided the game.
“It was an ugly game,” McCollum said. “They didn’t shoot well from the field tonight but (we) just gotta execute a little bit better; take care of the ball, offensive rebounds, turnovers. Those little things are what you can control to ultimately change the outcome of the game.”