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Blazers Talk Liability, Frustration, Unity After Collapse In Cleveland

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The Blazers are now 1-7 in games decided by five points or fewer. What does that mean for a team that struggles to execute down the stretch?

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers built a commanding lead in the first half on Tuesday night, but the Cleveland Cavaliers stormed back to win the game 105-100. Jason Quick of CSNNW catches up with several Blazers to discuss what went right, what went wrong, and how the team's string of close losses can be considered positive. Videos via CSNNW:

Damian Lillard

You guys have a 1-7 record in games decided by five points or less. In a way, that’s a hard thing to do, because a lot of teams would crack. You know what I’m saying?

It is hard. It’s tough because people can say what they want about it—about the fact that we’re 1-7 in games decide by five or less points, but we’re the ones that are playing. We’re not happy with it and, as competitors, we want to get it done. That’s the great thing about our group; we want to get it done. We not going to shy away from it, make up excuses, you know, we’re going to try to work through it. We’ve had games that have gotten close and we’ve pulled away—it hasn’t been decided by five points because we’ve pulled away—but we’ve had situations where we’ve answered the bell and we got it done. It’s a matter of being able to be consistent with it.

One last thing; what gives you the most hope about this team?

Just what I see in my teammates. I know a lot of guys haven’t had a lot of experience on the floor, but you can see what they can become, the type of ability that they have, and what they could add. There are a lot of things they could add to their game and, like I said, with time on the floor, you get more comfortable and that helps a lot. Just being comfortable out there and understanding different terms can make you a better defender, the more you’re out there you understand our sets and how you can be effective in our sets. I see a lot of things that guys on our team specifically can be really good at.

Can you give me more of an example? Wouldn’t you say that AC [Allen Crabbe] comes to mind?

I mean, with AC, I think a lot of his game—he shoots a lot of one-dribble pull-ups, he has a high release, he’s a really good athlete, and he’s a really good defender, so I see a guy like AC, you know, this is his first year really playing, but over time as he gets even more comfortable, that shot is even more automatic, and he’s a little more crafty coming off flares, and he’s more crafty coming off pin-downs. Maybe he might start getting to the rim, just getting more comfortable in his finishing at the rim because he’s really athletic. He might become a lockdown defender because he’s capable of doing that. Same thing with Moe [Harkless]. Getting more comfortable with the ball on the block and being a playmaker and a scorer. CJ [McCollum] being a playmaker and a scorer. We just got a lot of guys that can do a lot of things, but, like I said, it’s going to take experience and time out there to get comfortable in doing those things and being better at it.

Meyers Leonard

I kind of want to write on how you guys are in a lot of close games, but you’re not winning them. What’s your guys’ take on that? Your view of that situation?

You know, I think it’s a bunch of different things throughout individual games and throughout the losses that we’ve taken in the fourth quarter, overtime, or just down the stretch in general. Last night, O.J. Mayo makes a big three, they ended up getting a jump ball, things happen, we lose. Then tonight we had a pretty good lead there, they started chipping away, chipping away, but we were fine going into the fourth quarter—and the second half for that matter—but they really turned up their defensive pressure. This is a proven team. Obviously LeBron [James] is their guy. He’s leading. He’s vocal. But, again, they turned up their pressure from top to bottom and made it tough for us to get in our sets. We were still scoring the ball at a pretty high rate, and then down the stretch LeBron finding guys and then scoring out of the post… but, just a mix of things. I don’t really think it’s that we’re youthful or that we haven’t been there, we just have to come up with the plays that’ll win us games. So reviewing film and continuing to move forward and try to win them.

What does that do to your guys’ psyche though? To your mind?

Well obviously you want to win these games. It’s frustrating. You know, look at our record—I think 9-13, 9-14 now—whatever it is, very easily could be 14-9. You know, that’s just small talk, but that’s the way it is. So that part of it’s frustrating. Ever since the summer, starting in San Diego, we’re working, working, working, and learning about each other on the court, off the court, and really beginning to gel and come together and put together—a lot of times—three, three and a half great quarters of basketball, and then just not really finishing it off. Whether it be a slow start in the last few games, or tonight we get off to a strong start and then can’t close it, or a game in overtime, or Detroit at home—they go 41-11—a 30-point swing in the fourth quarter. There’s just things here and there where we’re not weathering the storm and kind of figuring out ways to come up with big plays. I mean, even last night I was put in position to make a play and I didn’t do it. So that’s frustrating.

Allen Crabbe

Allen, how would you describe how the season’s gone for you guys so far?

I think we’re making strides in the right direction. You see we’re in a lot of games with a lot of teams who most likely will be in the playoffs. It just basically comes down to us executing in—it’s about five, six games you can look back on and, you know, games that we should have had, but I feel like we’re in the right direction and we still have a lot of season left to play and turn things around. So it’s no need to hang our heads or be down about anything. We’re in most of our games. Not like we’re out here getting blown out or anything, but I feel like we’re on the right path.

The third quarter, you guys got a little loose with the ball, what was going on during that time?

They turned up the defense. That’s all. We came out, got a comfortable lead, and they just came out in the third quarter just more aggressive. They obviously got back in the game and it was a back-and-forth game and they just made more plays down the stretch.

How did that small lineup that they used change the complexion of the game?

I don’t think it changed too much. I mean, we’ve been able to go, you know, small lineup this year as well and we’ve had success with it, so I just feel like, defensively, they turned it up, and it’s obvious that we had turned the ball over a little bit too much, which led them to scoring on the offensive end and let them get back in the game.

So can you explain more, like, how this is good? I mean, I get that you guys are in every game, but where are you drawing your positives from?

I know we keep talking about the process and all that stuff and, you know, at some time you just have to draw the line and figure it out, but, I mean, I feel like as a team we’re all still confident. Nobody’s hangin their head, nobody’s upset or frustrated. I mean, it is irritating and it’s frustrating, but, as a group collectively, we’re all staying together. Nobody is fading away. Everybody is staying on the same page. So , like I said, it’s still early. So, I mean, we still have a lot of season left to play and we can turn things around soon.

CJ McCollum

[You’re] 1-7 in games decided by five points or less. How do you view that? Is it positive?

I don’t know. That’s the first time I’ve heard it.

But, when you hear that, what goes through your mind? Is that a good thing? A bad thing?

It just means that we’re losing close games. Got to execute better. Playing some good teams on the road, and that’s what good teams do. Good teams keep the game interesting and then they take it at the end.

You guys played so well in the first half, then in the third quarter you got a little loose. What happened during that time?

We turned the ball over, allowed them to get easy transition baskets, and I think that hurt us.

But what was going on with the turnovers? Was it them or you guys or…?

I had a couple. Kind of got contagious and everybody was getting turnovers, led to some run outs, and changed the game.

Why were you guys playing so well at the start?

Um, we passed the ball, we made shots, defensively we got stops, made it difficult on Bron early on, forced him to facilitate, maybe he was just in facilitation mode, so to speak. Then in the second half he had to switch and began to get more aggressive.

I thought your guys’ spacing was great during that—and the ball movement. Did they do something differently to take that away?

When you turn the ball over, it doesn’t matter what kind of spacing you have if you give the ball to the other team. It doesn’t do you any good, then it starts just transition, then it makes you play in the halfcourt right after they score.

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