Trail Blazers

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts: 'First-half defense was pathetic. No excuse for it'

Trail Blazers

There have been times this season when it appears the Trail Blazers are running an offensive basketball rehabilitation clinic.

There are nights when this seems to be the place for teams struggling at the offensive end to visit for tweaks and tuneups.

And Monday was one of those nights in Moda Center.

The Oklahoma City Thunder brought the NBA's 30th-ranked three-point shooting team to town and the Blazers got them well with a massive overhaul.

The Thunder, who won 125-122, were shooting 32.3 percent from long range heading into the game but knocked down a whopping 18 for 40 (45 percent) against the Trail Blazers.

OKC led most of the game, by as many as 17, and got off to a big start. The Thunder hit 12 of their 21 threes in the first quarter and seemed to have more energy than Portland.

The Trail Blazers made several runs at OKC in the second half, but either couldn’t get the necessary stops or make the required shots to take over the game.

Portland had all kinds of trouble stopping the Thunder’s penetration, which led to layups, dunks or kick-outs to open three-point shooters.

 

Coach Terry Stotts was not pleased afterward. As you might expect.

“Primarily, they moved the ball really well,” he said. “We didn't contain their penetration, our attention to detail was very poor.

“Our first-half defense was pathetic and there's no excuse for it. But I thought, Oklahoma City played really well. They penetrated the ball, they passed the ball, they shot the ball.”

Damian Lillard hit two threes in the final 5.5 seconds to fuel a last-second comeback, but to that point, Lillard was 1-10 from long range.

The Trail Blazers got a big game from Anfernee Simons, who came off the bench to hit 6 of his 10 three-point shots and score 26, the same total as Lillard.

But it really all came down to a team that has not made threes well, making them in bunches.

Mike Muscala came off the OKC bench and made 6 of 10 from distance and scored 23 points, just the second time in his eight-year career he has scored more than 20 points.

“I mean, we know his best NBA skill is shooting, so it's not a surprise,” Stotts said of Muscala’s performance. “I thought Oklahoma City did a good job of finding him when he was open and he had a great night shooting the ball.”

Most of them did.

By the end, the Trail Blazers -- playing the second of back-to-back games and with a short-handed roster -- looked spent. But the Thunder was also playing the second of back-to-back games and had to travel from Los Angeles.

But they got open shots and made them. That usually means victory. Even in a battle between one of the league's worst defensive teams and the worst three-point shooting team.

“No excuses,” Stotts said.

Agreed.