Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers

OK, let’s get this straight right now -- I don’t think the Trail Blazers should start sitting out key players and tanking. No way. The Portland fans have suffered enough this season without paying good money to watch an under-talented bench try to play in the NBA.

I say that with the conviction I have that the Trail Blazers have finally played their way out of a shot at making the playoffs this season. And yes, I know Portland is still mathematically in contention for that No. 8 playoff berth.

But they aren’t going to get it by playing the way they’ve been playing. It’s just not good enough. And Saturday night’s loss at Atlanta was an example of what’s going on with this team.

Injuries have killed them this season. I’ll give them that. But that’s not an excuse for the players still on the court struggling the way they are -- making poor teams look great and themselves look inept.

The Hawks came into the game as the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, but the Trail Blazers turned that around.

Atlanta, playing on the second night of back-to-back games, made 18 three pointers and shot 42.9 percent from distance. Portland was 8-28 from three-point range, so was outscored by 30 points from distance.

They’re either going to have to defend those threes better (try rotating to open shooters and get a hand in their face) or make a few more themselves (move the ball better and maybe end up with more than 14 assists) to overcome that deficit.

And more than that, they just can’t seem to tighten their game up. They had 17 turnovers and a lot of them were unforced errors.

It’s not as if this team makes a lot of turnovers, it just makes them at the wrong time or as a result of shockingly bad decisions.

I know people are going to say they aren’t playing hard, but I don’t really believe that. I just don’t think they are playing well -- or playing smart.

And I look at their starting lineup compared to Atlanta’s  and think they have an edge with their starters, even with Damian Lillard sidelined. But their starters had 13 of those turnovers and some of them were crazy bad.

And yes, if they had lost because their bench would have trouble winning a G-League game, I could understand it.

And while that certainly played into it -- this one was on the whole team. And games like this simply have to be wins in order to chase a playoff spot. My goodness, these guys gave up 84 combined points in the second and third quarters to a 19-win team.

The only Portland highlight of the game was a flagrant foul -- the one Trevor Ariza got for giving Trae Young a pretty stiff forearm to the chest after he tried to dribble the ball between Ariza's legs. You don't do that to a 15-year vet and Ariza showed him why,

But the way things are going now, Portland has no chance to catch up to that No. 8 slot. Memphis may not hold onto it, either, with New Orleans bearing down on it.

But the way they are playing now, the Trail Blazers certainly aren’t going to get there.