When you build a team without too much depth and base your scoring on outside shooting which is always risky and the defense on one guy like Nicolas Batum being the “glue guy” slumps and sudden drops in ability are bound to happen. The Blazers have lost two games in a row this season before, but four in the last six games? Something might be a little off.
The Blazers have Nicolas Batum playing with an injury just like at the end of last season and it is affecting him and the entire team. They’ve given up more than 100 points in their last 8 games, and shot an awful 34.5% from the field (mostly thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge) and a horrendous 16.7% from beyond the arc. Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews were both way off in the losses to the Warriors and now the Grizzlies (18 points at home).
There’s also the rest issue; the Blazers have played 8 games in 12 days, which isn’t easy even on young teams. When your starters don’t have the luxury of getting any kind of rest (Mo Williams and C.J. McCollum are the only players who actually spent more than 10 minutes on the court from the subs), it’s going to get to them at some point, affecting their ability to hang on defensively or keep on shooting at the level we’ve seen from them before.
One can’t ignore the opponents and the current stretch they’ve been on: Spurs, Mavs, Rockets, Thunder, Nuggets, Warriors and Grizzlies; pretty much the best in the West apart from them, which goes to show that the Blazers might be the best team in the league on certain days but not that far ahead (if at all) in general against the teams they’re battling for the playoffs with. They’ve been mostly consistent throughout this season in shooting the ball and going to the right man at the right time, but tired legs and minds will make those decisions a bit harder to make.
Memphis saw blood and they lunged at our jugular. I really think we kind of slashed our own throat in a way, which kind of let them run away with it. It was a disappointing game, needless to say. We got off to a slow start. We caught a team that’s trying to put it together. They’re on a roll and they’re playing very well. They showed that in the first half.
Are things easier later on? A three day rest, home game in Toronto and an Eastern tour against the Wizards, Knicks, Pacers and then Timberwolves. That’s followed by the Thunder and the Clippers back-to-back before entering the All-Star break. If the Blazers can win five out of the seven games, they’ll be extremely happy. They’ve now fallen three games behind the Thunder at the top of the West and are 0.5 games behind the Spurs for second place; The Clippers (1.5 games behind Portland) and the Rockets (3.5 games behind the Blazers) aren’t that far behind.
On a more positive note, LaMarcus Aldridge became the 3rd all-time leading scorer in franchise history with 10,406 points, and 924 more will get him to second place, tied with Terry Porter. Drexler (18,040) is a bit more difficult to reach.