OAKLAND -- Was it Game 1 jitters or did fatigue play a role in the Portland Trail Blazers’ 22-point loss Tuesday evening at Oracle Arena?
After battling the Denver Nuggets and coming away with a Game 7 victory on Sunday, the Blazers flew directly to Oakland to prepare for the Warriors. They looked gassed and for good reason.
“Having played a tough emotional game two nights ago, that could play into it but I don’t think anybody will use that as an excuse,” coach Terry Stotts said following the 116-94 loss.
The postseason has been an emotional rollercoaster for the Trail Blazers. Dramatic come from behind victories, buzzer beater shots and an extremely emotional finally on the road in Denver looked like it took its toll.
“I mean, obviously it’s a difficult physically, you know, and a little bit emotional just because you’re excited about being in the Western Conference Finals,” Lillard told a packed media room following the loss. “You win seven games, got one on the road and you’re excited about that and you have to come straight here right from Denver and start prep and get ready for the best team in the league right now.”
With hardly any recovery time and not even a day to gameplan, Portland looked disorganized and sluggish at times.
They’re starting backcourt shot a combined 11-for-31 from the floor. Their bigs didn’t even show on high screens while Steph Curry and Klay Thompson launch without challenge.
“Yeah, that was very poor execution, you know, defensively on our part,” Lillard added. “Just having our bigs back that far; understanding the team we are playing against, they are not going to shoot mid-range jumpers and try to attack the rim.”
Coming off a series against a Nuggets team that runs their entire offense through center Nikola Jokic takes a completely different strategy than defending two of the greatest perimeter shooters to ever play the game. With a month to prepare, Portland would still be in trouble.
“You can prepare, in terms of going over certain things and tendencies they like to do, but a lot of it is just basketball,” C.J. McCollum said. “They make good basketball plays. Moving without the ball, their role players are constantly setting screens, their bigs are constantly looking and guys that can’t shoot, don’t shoot. That’s why they are so successful.”
Golden State has raised the Championship banner two straight years and three of the last four. Not only are they extremely talented, they have a massive advantage in experience that will be difficult for any team to overcome.
Portland hasn’t been in this situation before and it showed in game one. They shot just 36.1 percent from the floor. They turned the ball over 21 times. They allowed the Warriors to shoot 50 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from long range. You can’t beat the champs with these types of stats.
With just a day of recovery and still no trip home, the Blazers have to find a way to mentally and physically overcome some tremendous obstacles if they hope to make a series out of this.
“We did this to ourselves,” McCollum added. “We went to a seven game series and that’s what happens. You got to travel, your back is against the wall a little bit and they were able to take care of business in six games, so they were able to get a little bit more rest. No excuses, we got to be ready to play on Thursday.”
As the old adage goes, a playoff series never truly begins until the road team wins a game. With just a day to make adjustments and recover, Portland is in a tough spot. The Trail Blazers might need a huge boost from their home crowd over the weekend if they hope to avoid a quick out.