The first game of the season for the Portland Trail Blazers was very similar to their two previous exhibition games.
Just another blowout loss, this time to the Utah Jazz, 120-100 Wednesday night.
And the common denominators of these defeats have been obvious:
Not only has Portland played poor defense, it has struggled on offense. The defense? The Jazz shot 45.7 percent from the floor. They made 19 out of 50 three-point field goals.
And Utah outrebounded the Trail Blazers by 19.
On offense? Portland shot 40.2 percent overall and made only 12 of 33 threes. The Trail Blazers were outscored by 21 points from the three-point line. And when you’re outrebounded by 19, that makes it almost impossible to win.
And speaking about the difficulty of winning, Damian Lillard was 4-12 from the floor and scored nine points. The Blazers probably aren’t going to beat a lot of good teams with their leader not in double figures.
The numbers, you see, are pretty simple. But the cause of those numbers is puzzling.
“I told the team we have to get better,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “It's about us right now. Any NBA season, you worry about your opponent, and you prepare for your opponent, but right now we gotta get better.”
No question about that. A lot better. Especially at the start of games. The Trail Blazers have been dominated in their last three first halves and trailed in this game by 21 at halftime, which was the smallest deficit in those three games.
And don’t try to say those two exhibition games aren’t significant because they were bright red warning signs of what was ahead for the Trail Blazers.
This was not unexpected in light of the way the team played in its final three non-counting games.
Stotts’ take on the early deficits has been similar after each of the three blowouts -- that his team played OK after the slow starts.
“They're a good team,” he said of the Jazz. “They shot the ball really well in the first half. The second half, we played it even.”
Everyone who has ever coached a team has probably used that line after a blowout loss.
All an opponent with a 31-point lead in the second half, as Utah did, wants to do is trade baskets the rest of the game, usually with a heavy dose of bench players. In reality, it’s pretty hard to take any solace when the idea is to turn the game around.
The real point is, when you get down by a big margin in the NBA, you’re almost always expected to make some sort of serious run back into the game.
The Trail Blazers did not. And have not.
Stotts, when asked if he had concerns about his team’s effort or energy level, said, “To be honest I thought we had good juice tonight, you know. So, no, I don't.”