Terry Stotts sat on what seemed like the deck of the Titanic Sunday afternoon and talked bravely about the suddenly sinking ship that is the Portland Trail Blazers.
“I think we're a little frustrated right now,” the Trail Blazer coach said after his team’s fifth straight loss and ninth in its last 11 games. “You look at some of these games, and the one-point losses. I don't think we were out of sorts against Boston or against San Antonio, or Denver or the Clippers.
“So I think recently we've been playing good basketball and came up short in some close games.
“I think in the last two weeks, we've played well. These two games against Memphis brought a different challenge. They’re a high-tempo young team, athletic, and we didn't meet that challenge.
“But those games that I just mentioned, I wouldn't say that that was the case. Just frustration with losing some close games.”
So, you don’t think there’s something wrong with the team?
“Like I said, I thought the last two weeks in those games that I just mentioned, we played good basketball and came up short. Memphis outplayed us... But I think what you're seeing is the frustration of losing some close games that can take the wind out of your sails.”
This was a brutal game for the Trail Blazers, who trailed most of the game and by as many as 16 points. They were down by 10 with 2:45 to go, but closed the gap to 114-111 and had the ball with 40 seconds to play.
The Blazers had the ball out under their own basket with 35.2 to go but their out of bounds play was blown up by the Grizzlies, who stole the up-for-grabs inbound pass and took over the game from there.
This was not a good performance by the home team. Portland was beaten by Memphis Friday night because of the Grizzlies’ transition game.
And then the Blazers came right out Sunday afternoon and allowed 25 fastbreak points in the first half.
"Disappointed," Stotts said. "Very disappointed. That was a point of emphasis."
And Damian Lillard’s rough April continued. What did Stotts see from Lillard?
"I think he's competing," the coach said. "He's missing some shots that he normally makes, but I think he's competing. I think he's still bothered by his ankles. They were a little sore today from the last game, but you know he's ... That's what I see."
The Trail Blazer all-star, going through the most challenging stretch of his career, was 8-27 from the field for 23 points. He always competes. That's a given. But seriously, what’s going on?
“I'm not really sure,” Lillard said. “Only thing I could do is look in the mirror, and myself, I’m just not playing well enough. I don't think it is worthy of going into what goes into it.”
The suspicion continues that Lillard is playing with nagging injuries that are affecting his play, but he does not acknowledge that.
“I'm on the floor, and I'm just not playing well and you know we're going to be better,” he said. “I know that our team successes, you know, are parallel to mine.
“I'm on the floor, that's the best way for me to put it. I'm on the floor because I feel like I need to be. That's what gives our team the best chance to win. I’ve just got to be better.”
They all do. The ship is sinking. Fast.