Quite obviously, it’s going to take longer than a few days to change the face of the Trail Blazers’ defense. And Wednesday night’s 126-95 mile-high blowout in Denver showed just how long it might take.
For a team that has a stated goal of playing better defense this season, the game was an obvious major step backward. You can say it was just an exhibition game -- which it was -- but it was also a measuring stick for improvement against a team that will be competing with Portland all season for playoff seeding.
The Trail Blazers were ambushed by 17 points in the first quarter and settled into a 20-point deficit that finally grew even larger in the final quarter.
They were outplayed, outhustled and well, just out to lunch when it came to the new defensive principles the team is trying to install.
Coach Terry Stotts wouldn’t question his team’s effort -- he never does. His style is to take the heat for for his players.
“I think it was more just positioning and, you know, reading and communicating. I wouldn't I wouldn't necessarily call it effort,” he said.
But Enes Kanter put the blame for the performance someplace else.
“We just need to go out there and just play hard. Play harder than what we did tonight, you know.” Kanter said. “We just didn't play hard enough at both ends.”
This game looked so much like a lot of games last season, when the Trail Blazers allowed wide-open shots from three-point range and still got whipped in the paint, too. The Nuggets made 52.3 percent of their overall shots and 19 of 46 from three-point range.
In the first quarter, Denver picked Portland’s overplaying defense apart with backcuts to the baskets for layups and dunks. The Nuggets made 70 percent of their shots in the first quarter.
“Defensively, in the first quarter, we looked a little disorganized.” Stotts said. “It’s very disappointing. I do think, Denver took advantage with some good passing, and some good shot making, but I was very disappointed with our defense.
“At this point I don't know if it was a wake-up call, but you know we’ve got a regular season game in a week. So, I think we understand there's some things that we've got to get better at.”
At both ends of the floor.
Portland’s offense was sub-par, too. The Trail Blazers shot only 26.5 percent from distance and 37.8 overall. They were also pounded 66-46 on the boards.
The teams have a rematch in the same venue Friday and things will certainly be better for the Trail Blazers. Primarily because they couldn’t get much worse.
And yes, it was just an exhibition game. But it sure looked a lot like one of last season's regular-season games.