Trail Blazers

Kanter shoulders blame as Wizards expose Blazers rim protection, vows improvement

Trail Blazers
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It goes without saying the Trail Blazers greatly miss Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum.

And while Portland has been able to find success, it's been driven by Damian Lillard and his MVP-caliber performances.

However, Portland’s inconsistent offense Saturday night against the Wizards highlighted the Blazers deficiencies. 

Washington defeated Portland 118-111 as the Wizards took over in the final three minutes.

They controlled the paint for most of the night.

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“That’s their strength,” Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts said postgame of the Wizards scoring at the rim. “They’re not a three-point shooting team per se, but Russell Westbrook gets into the lane, some of it was in transition, Bradley Beal gets into the lane."

The Wizards outscored the Blazers in the paint, 56-36 as Beal and Westbrook took advantage of the Blazers lack of depth at center.


But for Enes Kanter, who has stepped in and has given the Blazers valuable veteran minutes, has been one of the most consistent players on the glass: 

That presence was missing for the Blazers Saturday and Kanter takes ownership.

They like to attack the rim. We should do a better job on protecting the paint and obviously it starts with me. I should’ve done a better job protecting the rim and the paint.

Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter

“I think, obviously, we can’t just blame anyone,” Kanter added.

But the Blazers big man also felt like the Wizards won the energy battle, too. 

Lillard agreed.

“It’s hard to sustain a certain level of focus and energy,” Lillard said. “Tonight we were present, but we just didn’t play at a high enough level for long enough stretches to be able to win the game.” 

Beal led the charge for the Wizards, showing off his crafty moves as he finished strong at the rim all night long. He finished with 37 points and seven rebounds. 

Not to mention, Robin Lopez made his presence felt on both ends especially when Portland went with its small-ball lineup with Robert Covington at the five. Portland didn't really have an answer for Beal or Lopez. RoLo finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds off the bench.

“I thought we competed well," Stotts said of his team playing undersized. "RoCo took the challenge of guarding Lopez and we are who we are right now and so you make due and try and compete.”

Yes, the reality is that the Blazers have one true healthy center for the foreseeable future with no timetable on Harry Giles (left calf strain) or Nurkic.   

But when the Blazers only scored 12 points in the second quarter and just 19 in the fourth that put even more pressure on their already inconsistent and undersized defense. 

Now, Portland will use Sunday to watch game film and learn from their miscues on the defensive end with the Wizards masterfully scoring at will in the paint. And as the Blazers get set to finish out their six-games remaining in the first half of the season, they’ll look to “stay in the moment and keep being locked in.”