Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard can't do it all by himself, Blazers lose to Nuggets

Trail Blazers

This would probably be a good time to remind Trail Blazer fans that Monday night’s 128-109 loss at Denver was just one game and that the first-round series with the Nuggets is tied 1-1 heading into Portland.

Because that loss Monday looked bad enough to count double, but it was still only one game in what promises to be a hotly contested series. Just about everything the Blazers did well in their Game 1 win flipped the other way.

The Trail Blazers got an incredible second-quarter performance by Damian Lillard, who ended the night with a 42-point, 10-assist game. But he didn't get much help -- not in the second quarter... or any other quarter, for that matter. Dame against the world isn't going to work very often in the playoffs.

In that second quarter, Lillard made 6-8 from three-point range, all four of his free throws, had two assists and scored 22 points. But the Blazers’ shoddy defense led them to being outscored 42-36.

“I had a great run,” Lillard said. "But they outscored us that quarter. You know, we didn't get stops.

“I think it's just a perfect example of, you can fill it up, but when you trade baskets with a good team like them, especially on the road with their backs against the wall, you're probably not going to go win that.

 

“So even though we had it going on offense, we didn't get enough stops, so they were scoring the ball, too.

“And then we cut it to four, 61-65 and then they closed the half on an 8-0 run.

“And we come out in the third quarter down 12. You know, that's tough when you just fought yourself back into the game and now you got to come out and battle back again.”

The Blazers, who set an NBA record for fewest turnovers per game in the regular season, had 21 of them, for 22 points. And they were outscored 54-32 in the paint, were outscored 21-4 on second-chance points and 16-4 on fast-break points.

And after a 29-assist game Saturday, then had just 15 Monday.

The ball didn’t move much, except when Lillard shot it into the basket.

Obviously, not a lot of things went well.

“I thought we competed,” Lillard said. “We played hard. We just didn't play well enough for long enough periods of time. Each time we got back into it, we weren't defending sharp enough on that end of the floor, so they kept pulling away and we just kept digging a hole on the defensive end.”

Terry Stotts thought his team lost the aggressiveness battle.

“Look, the reality is, they were the more aggressive team,” Stotts said. “Their starters were more aggressive, their bench was more aggressive. They played much better than they did in game one and they deserved to win the game.

“I would point to a lot of different things, but they outplayed us out the box. Other than Dame's 40.”

The Nuggets shot 53.5 percent from the floor, led by Nikola Jokic’s 38 points on 15-20 shooting.

It was a typical playoff game – on the edge of being too aggressive at times and marked by four technical fouls and two flagrant fouls. The trio of officials were on the verge of losing control of it several times.

The stage is set for another rough one, Game 3 Thursday night in Moda Center, with at least 8,000 fans in the seats.

I would imagine both coaches will speak a word or two more to their teams about aggression by then. Which should make for an interesting night.