Yes, you read that right.
We're going to skip the normal recap for this highly abnormal game. There are only three things you need to know.
1. LaMarcus Aldridge went down with an ankle injury two minutes into the game. [Latest updates here.] There are certain things, when you hear them, you just know are not going to end well. "I know it was you, Fredo" or "The iceberg didn't look that big" or "Oops! Uhhh...guys? What does this big, red button do exactly?" For the Blazers "LaMarcus Aldridge leaves the game with an injury" is one of those moments. It doesn't help that it happened in the first (and easiest) game of Portland's toughest stretch of the season. X-rays are negative. That's good news. But there's just no time. Portland plays tomorrow in Golden State, Thursday against the Clippers, 6 games in 8 days against a host of playoff-bound teams. Only two opponents on the list could be penciled in as possible easy wins: Washington tonight for sure, Golden State tomorrow maybe. Now the Blazers lose by 15 at home to the Wizards and Aldridge will be limping if he plays at all in Oakland.
2. Nicolas Batum started this game at shooting guard, going 12-24 for 33 points. High marks for the move and for Batum's aggressiveness. Both he and former starter Wesley Matthews looked more on-point than they have in recent weeks. The asterisk here is the Wizards' horrible defense. Washington is so bad, in fact, that no conclusions can be drawn from tonight's outing other than this move needed to be tried. Nevertheless, compared to the rest of the game this was a bright spot.
3. The Blazers lost because they played the most unholy, god-awful defense we've seen all season. The Portland commentators kept mentioning how the Wizards were experiencing a run of luck that they haven't seen all year. Statistically 124 points for them should have been a near-impossibility, let alone 60% from the floor and 53% from the three-point arc. They did get on a run. But they had help. Portland defenders were consistently three feet short of good position on jump-shooters. What's worse, laying back didn't help them stop points in the paint or good passes. It's like they defended nothing at all. Consider...even with the hot shooting the Wizards had three major scorers: Nick Young, John Wall, Jordan Crawford. All three were guards. Nobody else was capable of scoring on their own, at least not enough to hurt! And yet with three players to defend the entire game the Blazers could not manage it. Nor did they control the boards, leading to second-chance points for Washington and hampering Portland's fast break. I'd have to break out a thesaurus to describe how awful, putrid, disheartening this was. You could have a players-only meeting from now to the end of the world and still not be able to explain or excuse what happened out there.
The best possible construction you can put on this game is that the Blazers really, really need LaMarcus Aldridge. That's true. But the follow-up conclusion is that the rest of the Blazers put together are 15 points worse than the Washington Wizards...at home to boot. That's enough to make Blazers fans scramble frantically for their blue pills. If this was the result of taking the red one, we're all in trouble.
The real question here is how influential of an evening this is going to be. The Blazers are trying to play Evel Knieval, jumping the Snake River Canyon of this schedule stretch without plunging to their doom. They just dropped into a pothole in the first ten feet of their critical run-up to the ramp. Can they get back up to speed or did we just witness the momentum-robbing moment that will ultimately send them over the cliff? I don't mind telling you I'm nervous right now, not because of a single loss (no matter how bad) but because of the horrible timing. It's awfully easy to envision a wrap-up of the season describing this month in detail:
The Blazers got their hearts ripped out with a phantom goal-tending call against rival Oklahoma City, robbing them of their pinnacle defensive moment of the season and a spirit-lifting, team-solidifying victory. After a lackluster win against lowly New Orleans and another heart-rending loss in double-overtime to the World Champion Mavericks the Blazers headed into their toughest stretch of the year. They expected to get healthy against a pathetic Wizards team but instead lost Aldridge to an ankle injury and the game by 15...at home. Aldridge sat out the next night's loss in Golden State and returned with a mighty effort on the third night against Blake Griffin and the Clippers, but it was for naught. Los Angeles edged the fatigued Blazers into a four-game skid which continued against playoff team after playoff team for the rest of the cruelly-scheduled month. The season ended officially after the ouster from the playoffs, but it really ended that night against Washington...the surest indicator there could be that Portland's wounds, like its players, were mortal.
If you want to talk more about Batum, about Jamal Crawford's 1-5, 3 point night, about Gerald Wallace stepping up, about Raymond Felton falling down, be my guest. I've said all I can. Cross your fingers about tomorrow and Thursday. I could actually see Portland coming back with a thrilling win against the Clippers after a loss at Golden State. But if both end up losses, I don't see this team bouncing back during the tough run ahead.
Bullets Forever will celebrate their win of the season.
Wizards vs Trail Blazers boxscore (It's OK as long as you just read Portland's offensive numbers.)
I was tempted to not score this game for the Jersey Contest because I knew what I'd find. But I figured we had to in order to be fair. Sure enough, this was the lowest average score in the history of the Contest. Everybody who entered scored under 40. You can see the monthly results here but use caution while looking at the single-game numbers. Tomorrow's form is here.