There was a lot to point at and put the blame on following the Blazers 107-99 loss to the Kings on Tuesday, but I can tell you exactly when the wheels came off: The 5:38 mark in the first quarter.
It was then that Hassan Whiteside was called for this third foul of the game. He subbed out and in came Skal Labissiere. With Whiteside relegated to watching from the bench, Coach Stotts really had to tinker with his lineups.
Labissiere played big minutes at center, the team went small and Anthony Tolliver saw time at center. Even Moses Brown saw time at the five. That’s right, Moses Brown. A guy that was on a G-League roster just a few days ago made his NBA debut because the Blazer had no one else.
No disrespect to any of those guys, but the Blazers never envisioned a season where Skal and Tolliver would play 18 minutes, and a late training camp invitee would see the floor. Injuries have Portland behind the eight-ball, and Coach Stotts can’t get the cue ball through.
Coach Stotts will tell you otherwise, but of course he will. It’s coach speak. Always saying the right things at the right time. Asked about the foul trouble, Stotts said:
In the first half, we managed it alright. Skal gave us good minutes and Moses Brown came in and did well… So foul trouble didn’t really hurt us too much in the first half.
But it did. It forced players on the court that weren’t used to being in those positions and in rotations they weren't familiar with. It forced Stotts to play mad scientist and find the perfect formula for success. He failed, but what were you expecting?
Injuries have piled up and the Blazers have key guys in suits on a nightly basis. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all out and they were all key contributors to last season’s success. Pau Gasol is injured and has yet to make his Trail Blazers debut. When this team is fully healthy, players like Labissiere, Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Gary Trent, Jr. will likely struggle to see the floor. Right now, those very same players are playing big minutes to try to get Portland over the hump.
You do the math.
That is why when Whiteside picked up that third foul, the Blazers were fighting an uphill battle. It was almost like another injury, and the Blazers had to find another guy to fill the “next man up” role.
Unfortunately, they’re about out of bodies.