The Trail Blazers have played some very good offense during their eight seeding games in Orlando.
Portland has shot 47.8 percent from the field over an eight-game stretch and that includes a terrific 41.4 percent from three-point range.
But to survive, the Blazers have had to shoot that well because the only thing more spectacular than their offense has been the offense of their opponents.
In the last eight games, the teams playing Portland have made 49.4 percent of their shots, including 43.3 percent of their threes.
Their defense has been worse than their offense has been good.
And how would the Trail Blazers realistically expect to advance in the playoffs while playing defense that is that ineffective?
It would be impossible.
Portland should be able to get past Memphis in the play-in series -- which is heavily weighted toward the Trail Blazers, who need to win one game before the Grizzlies beat them twice. But with that defense, nothing can be taken for granted. This has to somehow improve.
Portland has played two respectable defensive games in the bubble and one of them was against Memphis in the opener, a game the Trail Blazers spent several days preparing for.
The other good defensive effort was vs. Houston, which Portland has had good success defending in three straight games this season.
The common thread in those games is preparation -- and being able to gear a defensive game plan around stopping one player, Ja Morant for Memphis and James Harden for the Rockets,
I liked the Trail Blazer approach vs. Harden all season. Portland mixed up the defenders on him and mixed the nature of the defense, too, The Trail Blazers tried to deny Harden the ball, were aggressive on the ball when he had it, got him to give it up with double-teams and traps and played some zone defense.
I believe that sort of defensive approach gives Portland its best chance of winning, because it puts the Blazer defenders into an aggressive, attacking mode. Change the pick-and-roll coverages during games, double-team hot shooters or overplay them once in a while, mix in an aggressive zone -- anything that makes an offense hesitate or deliberate before it attacks.
Yes, they will give up some open threes playing that way. But they give up open threes in bunches all the time with their usual defense.
Things must change at the defensive end, like it or not. What's going on now isn't working. As much as anything, they have been lucky down this stretch of games that opponents have missed open shots and Damian Lillard, a basketball Superman in the bubble, has made difficult, often contested, shots.
In the Brooklyn game Thursday night, the Nets could have ended Portland’s season with a clear jumper from 22 feet, which missed.
But praying teams will miss open shots is no way to play defense. And no way to win playoff games.