Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers

OAKLAND -- Yes, the Golden State Warriors are a very good basketball team. Maybe even a great basketball team. They're certainly better than the Portland Trail Blazers, we all knew that going into Saturday night's Portland-Golden State game in Oracle Arena.

But come on... 45 (it was 135-90) points better? Really?

This is not the Trail Blazer team that anybody envisioned at the start of the season. THAT team returned most of a promising squad from last season and was predicted to be even better this year. Promised to be better on defense, too. Not just by media and fans, mind you, but by the team itself.

But as we all know by now, that hasn't happened. And everybody, of course, wants answers. The fans, the media and, I guess, the players and coaches.

But answers seemed elusive after this Saturday Night Massacre. In fact, it's almost as if there are no questions. It seems to me that whatever the problems are, nobody is in the mood to speak of them to the media. I get the feeling there is a lot of whistling in the dark going on. And the feeling that if you don't speak of a problem, it will just go away.

"I don't know if I can assess my level of concern," head coach Terry Stotts said, in response to a question about how concerned he is about his team. "I'm always concerned about my team. Obviously we didn't play very well, and they played very well. The two went hand-in-hand, so we lost by 45. You can't get too high or too low. We've had some good wins. This was a disappointing loss. We've played well. We didn't play well tonight. We've just got to be ready for the next game, but I'm always concerned about my team."

 

Stotts was asked about his team's defense over the last two games, when opponents have shot so well that the Blazers have simply had no chance to win. In fact, Portland has gone two games in a row when it has never, NEVER had a lead. I don't know about you, but I find that incredible.

"Looking at Denver's three-point shooting, almost all of them were contested other than (Emmanuel) Mudiay and (Nikola) Jokic, a couple of their 20 percent three-point shooters, and they were open. Tonight, I thought we contested early and they made their first four. I think it's difficult to compare Golden State to other teams. They're exceptional at what they do."

Stotts has always gone to great pains to protect his players and it's worked well for him. But at some point, I would wonder if it might serve him better to point out mistakes -- not necessarily by naming individual players but by speaking in a general manner about them all. Would that be so terrible? And might it motivate? I don't know.

Yes, Golden State is terrific. But until tonight they hadn't beaten anybody by 45 points. In fact, nobody in the NBA had beaten anybody by 45 points. The worst teams in the league haven't lost to anyone by 45. I would probably find those 45 points disturbing if I had a Trail Blazer logo on my paycheck.

Damian Lillard, who, as the team's leader, has the difficult job of having to explain these losses to the media, stays positive at all times. I admire that, but I wonder if it helps or hurts.

"I mean I'm a competitor so I mean, I feel like we're going to be fine," he said. "I truly believe that I think you, in the NBA season, have hard times and right now we're just having a hard time. As a team, we've been in worse positions. We got that fight in us."

All I know is that the Warriors shot 58.6 percent from the field for the game and that included 50 percent on 28 three-point attempts. They were above 60 percent from the field when they turned the game over to their bench for the final quarter.

That's just not acceptable and poor defense is becoming what this team is known for. It's becoming its hallmark and I'm not seeing a lot of improvement. What I'm seeing is continual problems with the pick-and-roll and transition defense. There is a struggle to protect the rim and that's magnified by the trouble on the perimeter with penetration and, what used to be a Portland staple, three-point defense. In summary, there's no facet of defense that this team is doing well right now.

 

So what can be done about it? Who is to blame? What has to change? What CAN be changed?

There are a whole lot of questions that nobody is answering. Or even acknowledging.