Good morning Blazers fans, Antonio here. The Blazers pulled the most Blazers move ever on Saturday morning, losing to the New York Knicks by 11 after beating the Philadelphia 76ers the game earlier. The return of Damian Lillard and Derrick Jones Jr. was no match for Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle.
The loss to New York is a tale as old as time for Portland: an exciting win immediately followed by a disappointing loss. Let’s take a deeper look.
Damian Lillard returned to the lineup after a brief one-game absence due to abdominal pain, and it was clear that he was playing hurt. The Blazers point guard was frequently hobbling at times and slow in others.
Looking at the box score, one might think it was another Lillard performance: 29 points on 10/20 shooting. However, watching the full game, Dame did not quite look himself. He was a bit hesitant to drive, and instead settled for longer threes and midrange. Driving was severely limited, as Lillard only shot five free throws, missing two.
Dame still did Dame things for Portland, but it was clear that he was not 100%. Hopefully, two days off until Orlando can help him rest.
Frustrating Last Four Minutes
After and R.J. Barrett bucket with 4:02 to play, the Knick led by 14. The Blazers’ defense was playing poorly as usual, and the offense was sputtering. Then, something clicked. New York would not hit a field goal over the last four minutes of the game, and the Blazers tried to close the gap.
They never got closer than seven, missing three wide-open threes that would have cut the lead to four. The open threes were frustrating to watch. Robert Covington, Gary Trent, and Rodney Hood all put up unguarded attempts. More puzzling was the defense. How had the team gone from incompetent to defensive masters in two minutes?
The Blazers proved against the 76ers that they can be a good defensive team when they try. Keyword: try. If Portland can put together these defensive efforts earlier in the game, it will save them a lot of catching up.
Road Trip Ends at .500
After their six-game East Coast road trip, the Blazers headed back to Oregon with a 3–3 record. After camping in the Moda Center for most of January, Portland hits the road for 10 of its 14 games.
Historically, the Blazers have been a poor road team. So far through this season, they sit at 7–5. Home-court is what it was in years past, but it has been huge to pick up road wins.
This road trip was up-and-down, and the Blazers could have easily gone 1–5. Lillard’s heroics against Chicago and a collapse against Houston marked the high and low points of an interesting but average road swing.
Next Up: The Blazers take on the Magic at Moda on Tuesday.