There isn’t enough slack in the world to cut for the Trail Blazers Monday night.
I’d like to cut them slack because of all those injuries. I’d like to cut them slack because they are without enough functioning big players. I’d like to cut them slack because, well, because I can’t help but feel sorry for them.
But forget that. No slack will be cut in that 122-116 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
It was a game when the Trail Blazers led by 19 after one quarter and were outscored by 25 points over the final three periods. In a home game! It was a game in which Portland couldn’t find a way to play a lick of defense over the final three minutes of the game, when Phoenix scored on 5 of its last 6 possessions.
Between open three-pointers and baseline, off-the-ball cuts for layups, the Suns loaded up on easy shots after the first quarter.
The whole thing really started to unravel at the end of the first half when Portland had a 15-point lead and just 10 seconds left in the second quarter. With 52 seconds left in that period, Coach Terry Stotts tried to sneak G-Leaguer Moses Brown onto the court for a few seconds to protect Hassan Whiteside from further foul trouble. But Aron Baynes hit a three-point jumper from the top when Brown didn’t get out to cover him and then Brown’s inbounds pass was swiped by Kelly Oubre, who hit another three with 4.7 seconds left in the half.
Instead of a 15-point halftime lead, Portland led by only nine. Things went rapidly downhill after that.
All in all, it was the worst loss in a season featuring more than a few brutal defeats. Maybe the worst loss in several seasons – against a team that is battling Portland for a playoff spot and had lost its last eight in a row before a win over Sacramento Saturday. And it was the Trail Blazers’ fourth straight loss after a season-high four-game win streak.
It won’t get easier for Portland, as it heads out for a five-game road trip that begins Wednesday in New York against the Knicks. And with the way things are going for the Trail Blazers, it would make sense that even the 9-24 Knicks are a threat to win that game.
“My general feeling about the game,” Terry Stotts said, “was obviously we got off to a great lead, but Phoenix’s style of play is they just keep coming at you. Give them credit for how they played and how they came back. Obviously, disappointing to lose a game like this.”
Panic set in, to a degree, late in the game when Portland began hoisting threes instead of getting good shots inside the arc. In the final quarter, Portland was 11-17 from two-point range but just 1-6 from three. Meanwhile, handed open looks from distance, the Suns hit all four of their three-point shots in the final quarter.
“I thought we played well for most of it,” Cj McCollum said. “We had lapses offensively and defensively. We left guys open on threes. We can’t have those lapses.”
Damian Lillard, who opened the game with five straight hits from three-point range but ended 5-12 from three and missed four free throws, seemed to take this one hard.
“A tough loss for me,” he said. “A tough loss. I think when you have a hot start like we did, it’s important to retain your focus. We weren’t able to sustain that focus and that energy we had for the first part of the game.”
Obviously. And there just aren't enough excuses to cover it.