The Portland Trail Blazers were without Damian Lillard in Friday night’s 129-96 loss in Denver.
Nothing to fear. Lillard just took the night, according to coach Terry Stotts. So winning Denver in the last preseason game for the two was a long shot at best.
But for the Blazers, playing as poorly in defense as they did in Wednesday’s 126-95 loss to the Nuggets after spending Thursday’s practice and movie session working to improve in this area certainly creates reasons for be alarmed.
Yes, it was just a pre-season game. Yes, this team with several new additions is a work in progress. But the Blazers’ defense has shrunk significantly despite the additions of Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr., and the results have been ugly.
Stotts said he saw subtle improvements in being more aggressive and turning better, but not enough.
“My general conclusion is that we are trying to implement new things defensively, which involve more pressure, more rotations,” Stotts said. “And the fact that we were playing a great offensive team going well, I think that was a bad combination. So, I’m definitely not happy with the two results we’ve played here.
WHAT THIS MEANS
Hard to say. Portland has worked to improve the defense, and the evidence is lacking. After giving up 41 points in the first quarter of Wednesday’s loss, the Blazers again surrendered 41 in the first quarter on Friday.
Lillard’s absence cannot be to blame for such a poor performance in defense unless the team simply didn’t care because they knew they had no chance of winning without him. But that wouldn’t make sense because winning wasn’t exactly the goal. The improvement in defense was.
Denver shot 47.4 percent from the field and had 44 three-pointers, or 18 for 40.9 percent.
IT WAS OVER WHEN …
Portland led 41-23 at the end of the first quarter and then allowed Denver to start the second quarter with a 14-2 run to push their lead to 55-25. No Lillard. No defense. No way Portland will come back 30 seconds in a second.
MONTRE AND MONTRE
CJ McCollum did his thing, scoring 26 points in 30 minutes. Enes Kanter came off the bench for 10 points and nine rebounds in 19 minutes. Gary Trent Jr. scored 18 points in 33 minutes off the bench.
For Denver, Paul Millsap led the way with 24 points on 9 of 13 shots.
MONTRE AND FIZZLED
Carmelo Anthony missed all seven of his field goal attempts to finish with three points in 11 minutes.
Rodney Hood started in place of Lillard but scored just seven points in 17 minutes.
Offensively, Portland shot just 37.1 percent from the field and 10 of 33 on three-point attempts. Portland had 17 assists with 15 turnovers. Denver had 30 assists with 12 turnovers.
TENSE MOMENT WITH NURKIC
A clearly frustrated Stotts at one point in the game collided with center Jusuf Nurkic as he was coming off the pitch. When asked about that moment after the game, Stotts replied that he was “talking to her”.
This whole trip has been frustrating for the Blazers.
The regular season kicks off Wednesday at home against Utah, followed by another home game against Houston on December 26.
– Aaron Fentress | [email protected] | @AaronJFentress (Twitter), @AaronJFentress (Instagram), @AaronFentress (Facebook).
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