What an odd night.
Huge tarps draped over a good majority of the 100 level seats with Trail Blazers fan cardboard cutouts filling some of the endzone seating to give the Moda Center more of a homecourt vibe.
But that wasn’t the most unusual or different aspect of the Blazers losing 120-100 to the Jazz on opening night.
Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard went scoreless in the first half.
He hasn’t gone scoreless in a half in six years.
Portland’s offense as a whole looked out of sorts.
So what gives?
Are the Blazers focusing on changing their defense too much?
Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum agree:
Their defensive struggles along with not having success on the defensive glass have led to challenges on the offensive end.
“You’ve got to play against a set defense and guys know they’re guarding their man, they’re in position to do whatever their defensive gameplan is, it makes it a lot harder to be successful offensively against that and they’ve been making shots so they’re going to defend with more energy, more confidence,” Lillard added.
Portland shot 40.2 percent from the floor as a team and 36.4 percent from three for the game.
McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic were the only two starters in double figures.
Now that is an uncharacteristic night for the Blazers, that’s for sure.
Portland’s high-scoring offense is what everyone has come to expect.
The Blazers did, however, get off to a good start, hitting half of their first handful of attempts with McCollum and Nurkic working a nice two-man game early on.
McCollum echoed those same sentiments that Lillard pointed out postgame, adding that having to go up “against a set defense” is always more challenging and since the Jazz were hitting shots that's what the Blazers faced.
Lillard also mentioned that the lack of practice time and getting team chemistry figured out has also played a factor.
Lillard admitted that he thinks he should’ve been “more aggressive” on that end.
Zero first-half points from Lillard meant he was finding his teammates and letting the game come to him with the Jazz trapping and defending him as soon as he stepped across halfcourt. But that also meant the Jazz took it to the Blazers, taking a commanding 65-44 lead at halftime.
Now the Blazers will have two days before Saturday’s scheduled game against the Houston Rockets.
Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts knows his team needs to focus on their own issues before looking at any other team right now.
"We’ll watch the film tomorrow and see where we can get better… I told the team we have to get better -- it’s about us right now. In an NBA season, you worry about your opponent and you prepare for your opponent, but right now, we’ve got to get better.”
They have two days to focus on themselves on both ends.