On a night when the Trail Blazers were faced with the absolute closest thing to a must-win game without it being a must-win game, they were embarrassed from the opening tip by the Los Angeles Lakers Monday 135-115.
And the game was nowhere nearly as close as that final score indicates.
Portland, down in the series 2-1 with a chance to either even it or drop to within one game of being sent home, fell behind Los Angeles 15-0 and 30-10 in the blink of an eye.
It was over almost before it started. The Trail Blazers gave up 80 points in the first half and never got close to making a run back into contention.
“Got our ass whipped tonight,” CJ McCollum said. “Now we’re down 3-1. They got whatever they wanted in transition. Anthony Davis got whatever he wanted… They’ve been able to do whatever they wanted.”
Davis played 17:36 and finished with an incredible plus-37 and 18 points.
The Trail Blazers were certainly underdogs in the series, playing without Zach Collins. Trevor Ariza and Rodney Hood but when they beat the Lakers in Game 1, Trail Blazer fans thought they had some hope.
But the first few minutes of this one dashed those hopes.
Certainly there were other teams in the bubble who would be overmatched against the Lakers. Most of them would be, in fact.
But not many of them would come out in a game this important and lay an egg this big.
Coach Terry Stotts tried to explain it.
“The Lakers were clicking on all cylinders,” Stotts said. “And our offense couldn’t get anything going early. They played really well and we got off to a poor start. Obviously it put us in a hole -- a big hole -- early.
“We were fighting uphill all night."
But what happened?
“I think our preparation was the same," he said. "I don’t think it was a lack of preparation. I don’t think it was a lack of desire. It was just, sometimes that happens. I don’t think we came out with a poor focus. I don’t think we came out with poor energy.
“It was just one of those things. Like I said, the Lakers got it going and we had trouble scoring early and after that, we got down 30-10 and we were going back and forth.”
So, basically, “it was just one of those things.” And “sometimes that happens.”
And that’s true. Those things do happen and it was just one of them.
But I’m not sure it happens to good teams. And that woeful start was not even the worst thing to happen to the Trail Blazers.
Damian Lillard suffered a knee injury in the third quarter with his team trailing by 38 points, the second time in the series he was hurt in the second half of a game with his team way behind on the scoreboard.
But that’s another story, of course.
The Trail Blazers will try to get off to a better start Wednesday night in Game 5 against the Lakers. And, of course, attempt to achieve a better result.
If not, their bubble adventure will come to an end Thursday morning.