Imagine you’re browsing your favorite streaming service or, if you’re a Luddite, browsing through your local video rental store. Suddenly you get the urge to take a chance on a lesser-known flick. “After all,” you say to yourself, “this could be amazing! Then I can recommend it to all my friends and look really smart!”
If you can identify with that scene, you know what following the Portland Trail Blazers is like this season. They’re not a big-budget superhero blockbuster like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. They’re not a direct-to-video release like the Brooklyn Nets either. They chart their own course. The overall record isn’t great but they’re not out of the playoff running. They just traded for Jusuf Nurkić, creating some buzz. Critical reviews are improving. They’re interesting! Maybe, just maybe, they could be the feel-good story of the year. The cover of their Blu-ray has little laurels on it and the director is quoted on the back saying, “We really, really promise we’re trying to do something significant with this story.”
Sold...on the movie, on the promise, on Portland making a good run at the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.
And then you take it home only to discover that you just rented “The Hottie and the Nottie”.
For those of you who missed Paris Hilton’s one serious foray into mainstream motion picture stardom, let me quote from its single IMDb.com reader review:
this movie is to say the least, one of the worst things done to mankind in the past 100 years right behind the a-bomb. I had the misfortune of seeing this piece of garbage with my sister for her birthday. I would not recommend seeing this movie even it it is for comic value of how bad it is. There are 3 scales of bad: 1. the kind that makes you laugh it is so bad... 2. the kind that is soo bad it pisses you off... 3. Gary busey bad
That’s pretty much the game review too. This outing was indeed “Gary busey bad”. It featured all the hallmarks of a horrible film: the limp plotting of Snakes on a Plane, the passionless performances of the Star Wars prequels, and enough people getting knocked off by Cousins to fill a mob movie. When the final credits rolled the Blazers had lost 77-100. Exactly two of their players got into double figures. One of those was Shabazz Napier with 10 points. Yeah.
You do not want me to recap the first two quarters of this game. The Blazers floated around the floor like the boat in the second of Titanic. Their defense played as naturally as the Rocky Horror Picture Show being acted out by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They all looked in the secret briefcase from Pulp Fiction and discovered it was full of unforced turnovers. Portland trailed 14 at intermission.
Then we saw them on the horizon...DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis as twin meteors streaking towards earth in Deep Impact, ready to propagate an Extinction Level Event. The Blazers managed to fragment one of them: Davis scored only 15 on 5-15 shooting, albeit with 15 rebounds alongside. But Cousins hit the planet full-force, ripping apart the topography in a tidal wave of running, passing, and scoring. In the end, only Damian Lillard remained functional for the Blazers, holding a hand-cam Blair Witch style, breathing hard and saying, “I think I can get there. I see the rim! I think I can sco...AAAAIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” :::camera knocked to the ground, tilts sideways, screen goes black:::
Lillard’s 29 points propelled the Blazers to a grand total of 77 points for the game. New Orleans already had 77 at the end of the third period. It wasn’t much of a cliffhanger.
You want to know what went wrong here? Too many bigs on the New Orleans side, too little effort on Portland’s. The mismatches were obvious, but the Blazers succumbed to the situation early and barely fought back.
New Orleans focused on defending Portland’s guards. Even with Nurkić playing well lately they didn’t have to worry about losing the center matchup and—Inception-like twist—he didn’t actually play that well. The whole rest of the team shooting like they were aiming at John Wayne put the nail in the coffin.
As you might guess, the specifics of the evening hardly matter. If you believe that a higher lottery pick means more to the Blazers right now than a playoff berth, this was a dream night for you. But if you believe the quotes coming from Portland’s locker room that the season is still salvageable and that the post-season is in sight, nights like this show you why that’s only half true and probably doesn’t matter ultimately anyway. The Blazers know how to talk. They don’t know how to play consistently or leave their hearts on the court. One look at Pelicans players diving for balls on the floor while Blazers watched politely made that clearer than an M. Night Shyamalan joint on rewind.
If you doubted it before, doubt no more. This year Portland’s #THEY resides on the court and they all wear red and black uniforms. They’d like to be good. They just can’t get out of their own way.
Damian Lillard shot 8-18 for 29 because somebody had to but those points didn’t lead to sustained or coordinated attacks. Portland tallied only 13 assists tonight, largely because they shot 30% from the field.
For those keeping tabs, Jusuf Nurkić shot 1-8 for 2 points. His 4 offensive boards were balanced by 4 turnovers, part of 16 overall by the team.
Did we mention that the non-Lillard starters scored 17 points combined?
How about that the non-Napier reserves scored 21 total?
You can look at the Boxscore if you want more details but be warned: it’d get a green slime icon on RottenTomatoes.com anywhere outside of New Orleans.
Links and Such
The Bird Writes should have a ton of good things to say about Cousins tonight.
The Blazers face the San Antonio Spurs in Texas tomorrow. As bad as that matchup looks on paper, the game has to be better than this one.
Happier news! We just got a bunch of Thank You emails from Blazer’s Edge Night. We’ll accumulate and post them soon.
—Dave firstname.lastname@example.org / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard