It has been many moons since I've posted here on Blazers Edge. I don't comment much, but I do browse often.
So to my point/question(s) then. Terry Stotts reaction to the loss to the Heat the other night told a story. He threw his clipboard down and was understandably upset by the loss. Who can blame him really? The team stood alone with the best record in the League this late in the season, coming off a season that had most of the country looking at them as an after-thought, if they looked at all. Here was a chance to prove to the rest of the country that they could be talked about in the same breath as the Champs, and the Heat beat them in their own building, without their brightest star.
The offense wasn't at fault. Stotts is a master at creating an offense that his players can excel in, that is obvious, but can he bring the fire out of these guys to play lock down defense on a nightly basis... and if that's too much to ask, how is it that they can't get up to play defense consistently against teams like Miami?
This is what is perplexing to me. If you watched the game against Indiana, you saw a team that locked down for an entire game, was forced to go away from their offensive strength outside the three-point line and yet still found a way to beat one of the best teams in the league. Yet for the last couple of weeks we've seen the defense slip. Even at it's height so far this season, the defense was a middling effort by league standards, but now it is safely in the bottom third and yet at the same time all the players, to a man are holding themselves accountable for not giving the effort on the defensive end, having mental lapses on coverage and not communicating like they should.
My observation is this then: They know it is broken and are trying to fix it, however two possibilities are hampering them in that effort, either they aren't equipped to do so, or they haven't gotten to the point where they believe offense isn't enough to win games against elite teams.
The question then becomes, was the 15th ranked defense a couple weeks ago a fluke or is this a situation where they've grown complacent with success, or are they simply incapable of playing lock down defense for long stretches? Usually they can get the stops when they need them, but apparently there is a lack of desire to do so when the game isn't in the balance, which leads to situations where they are taking risks at the end of games because they haven't put teams away earlier when they had the chance.
If the team is capable of playing good defense or at least average defense consistently, what is it going to take to get them there? Is it just a matter of communication?
If the team isn't capable of playing at least average defense consistently, then how can that be fixed? Meyers Leonard was inserted into the rotation on the second unit for that very purpose, but from what I'm seeing it hasn't been a difference maker as of yet. Does a personnel change need to be made at the trade deadline to bring in someone who is capable of anchoring a defense or pressuring an opposing guard on the second unit?
I'm just a fan so I don't know the answer, but I do know that everyone's expectation for this team has changed significantly from the beginning of the season. 46 wins now seems pedestrian and the 8th seed in the playoffs a consolation prize. However, unless the team starts to show they truly desire to play like they have verbalized they have to, then I think the second half of the season is going to be a frustrating one. Teams aren't taking the night off when they play the Blazers, teams are fighting with all they've got. It is one thing to claim the number one record in the league, it is another to take the challenge of keeping it.
What do you all think?