The Trail Blazers wiped away a lot of the goodness of that Thursday night upset of the Philadelphia 76ers with a disappointing 110-99 loss to the Knicks Saturday afternoon in New York,
Portland was on the final stop of a six-game trip through the East in a day game against a team with the NBA’s slowest pace. Obviously, energy was going to be a challenge. Or a necessity.
The Trail Blazers Thursday defeated the best team in the Eastern Conference and one that had won 10 of its 11 home games. They did it with energy on offense and defense.
A lot of that energy came from CJ Elleby, who had 15 points, seven rebounds, a steal and two blocked shots in 31:11. His contributions to the team’s activity level could not be missed.
He didn’t play a second against the Knicks, though, even though the situation seemed perfect for what he brings to the court.
Now I understand that one game doesn’t make a season. But I have always believed that when a young player shows a significant spark that contributes to a win, he should be allowed to build on that performance. He should be given a chance to do it again. Or not.
“Well, not to take anything away from what (Elleby) did, but you know Dame came back, that's 38 minutes,” Stotts said. “Derrick Jones came back and he played 20, so there's only 240 minutes to play, so we went with our main guys.
“I love the way that CJ played against Philly, but you know we have our stars, we have our rotation guys, and that's the way it rolls.”
There have been times in the past that young players here have shown flashes of brilliance, but then have been buried on the bench immediately for several games before getting other opportunities.
That doesn’t work -- although it does make it easier for a coach who might have to justify to a veteran losing a few minutes on the court in favor of a rookie.
And Stotts has always said that playing time is a meritocracy -- that it should be earned, not expected.
“Yeah, and I think those guys that played tonight, like Anfernee Simons, Derrick Jones, Rodney Hood, Gary Trent Jr. and Damian Lillard -- I think those guys, in a meritocracy -- I think there was some merit there,” Stotts said.
Of course. Nobody is advocating any of those players be benched. But that doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a few minutes carved out for someone else. And Stotts left one name off that list -- Carmelo Anthony, who went 1-8 from the field in 16:39 and scored two points.
There is talent on this team and if the players who are getting time on the floor aren’t getting the job done, it would be interesting to see what would happen if others were given the chance. Nassir Little scored 30 points in a rare opportunity earlier in the trip before being injured and Elleby contributed to a big win, just as Trent and Simons have done.
The young guys should be pushing the vets for playing time. But at times, you have to wonder if anyone is being pushed, About anything.
It was difficult to tell if the Trail Blazers were worse on offense or defense vs. the Knicks.
New York came in as No, 27 in the NBA on offense and 26th in three-point shooting percentage. But the Knicks shot 50 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.
Portland, meanwhile, shot 41.8 percent overall, 36.2 from the three-point line and just 8-16 from the foul line.
It finished as a 3-3 road trip, which is OK.
But there was just something missing Saturday afternoon in New York.