After being buried under a barrage of three-point field goals by the Phoenix Suns Saturday night, CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard – as they usually do – summed up the Trail Blazer situation very aptly,
“We’ve got 11 days, so it’s a good thing we don’t play tomorrow,” McCollum said. “We’ve got a lot we need to improve on and work on but that’s what the preseason is for -- Tighten up, figure out how you can better for the regular season. I don’t think there are any finished products out there right now so championships aren’t won right now, but we’ve got to tighten up and get ready for the regular season."
Is he more worried about his team’s offense or its defense?
“Neither,” he said firmly. “We’ll be OK.”
And after watching the Suns hit 24 of their 45 three-point field goals on the way to a 134-118 win with stars Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Ricky Rubio sitting the game out, Lillard had a similar handle on the situation.
“Room for growth,” he said. “The easy thing to say is ‘It’s the preseason,’ which it is. They made a lot of shots but we had a lot of areas we need to clean up. We had a lot of miscommunications. To start the game we allowed them to get their confidence early. Sometimes that happens but I think it was a little too comfortable for them. Once they got it going, it stayed that way for the rest of the game.
“That’s why you have the preseason – get the rust off and work through it. We’ve got two more. There are a lot of things we should have done better. When a team makes that many threes you’ve got to start running them off the line.”
The prevailing opinion out of the locker room was that the game was a good thing – a wakeup call of sorts.
“It’s good that it happened and it doesn’t count against us,” Lillard said. “We can see what happens when we don’t come out and do what we’ve been doing the entire time (in camp). We don’t have the luxury of going out there and just trying to outscore teams. It’s good to see how it went down tonight. Take what we can from it and move forward.”
And as Lillard walked away from his interview, he couldn’t resist an additional comment.
“But ... it is only preseason,” he said with a smile.
The Suns are going to be another one of those teams buying into shooting threes by the dozens. They took them every chance they got and nailed more than half of them. Portland shot 53.2 percent from the field but couldn’t get on top in this game because of 22 turnovers and being outscored by 39 points from the three-point line.
It was not a good night at either end of the court for Portland. Was it an indication of where this team is at this point of the preseason?
“Maybe,” said Coach Terry Stotts. “I don’t know. Look, Dame and CJ played a lot of minutes for the first three quarters and we didn’t have enough to get over the hump, so certainly, it shows that we’re not a finished product by any means.”
But, lucky for Portland, there is still time to finish the product.