We’ve all seen the Portland Trail Blazers’ much-maligned defense surrendering astounding numbers of points over the past few weeks. Monday, coach Terry Stotts held a grueling practice aimed at fixing the defensive problems. The practice was heavily focused on breaking down Sunday’s game film, in particular the defensive lapses, and correcting them on the court afterwords. The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman caught up with Damian Lillard after the intensive practice:
"At some point, it's got to come from here," All-Star point guard Damian Lillard said, tapping his heart. "You've got to have some pride. It has to be something you want to do, a problem you want to solve and you've got to go out there and show that. This is the first time we've had a real, real practice in what seems like forever. I think it was good for us to try to sharpen up, (to have the) coaches challenge us. It's to the point now, our pride's got to kick in. We've got to show how much we actually care about each other, how much we actually care about being better defensively."
A standard film session tends to feature both good and bad clips, with a heavy lean toward the good, as Stotts likes to use positive reinforcement to facilitate growth and improvement. But Monday was different.
"It was basically all the things we did wrong," Lillard said.
Portland has lost six of their last eight games, allowing 130 points in two of the last three. Freeman notes that the Blazers have their first back-to-back off-days between games since October 30th, the first week of the season. They also have four days off in the same week for the first time all season. Perhaps the early-season drag is simply the result of tired legs, and a brief break is just what this team needs. It seems unlikely that rest is the sole antidote needed to cure the defensive woes, but it certainly can’t hurt.
Jason Quick at CSN NW also took a deep look into the day’s practice session (Warning: Autoplay video). Many players talked about their struggles, but Lillard talked about revisiting Sunday’s Houston loss.
“I didn’t even watch it because I knew we were going to see everything when I got here,’’ Lillard said.
One clip that was shown included poor transition defense, which resulted in a Houston three-pointer in the fourth quarter that extended an eight-point lead to 11. During the clip, Lillard noticed he didn’t run back as hard as he could. He was tired at the time, and had fallen out of bounds after taking a shot.
“I remember I kind of jogged back,’’ Lillard said. “If I could have just made myself sprint harder and take away that corner three …’’
A frustrated sounding Stotts spoke with the media following the practice:
The team will have another practice today, and the fruits of their labor will be put on display tomorrow night against the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers are a playoff-caliber team, but will be without star player Paul George, who is dealing with a back injury. They are currently averaging 103.5 points a game, ranked 16th in the NBA in that category. Game time is set for 7:00 pm PST.