It’s over. The third-seed Portland Trail Blazers put up a fight, literally, but fell to the New Orleans Pelicans, 131-123 in Game 4 of their NBA Playoffs series. With the sweep complete, the Blazers now being the process of picking up the pieces after a disastrous ending to a once-promising season.
Here are a few essentials from game 86 of the season.
- No more excuses. Every recent season ended with a combination of hope and reasons and/or excuses. “The Blazers had to play the Warriors!” “They just need a full season of Nurkic!” “They are never healthy enough!”. Now the truth is evident: This Portland team is not good enough, as constructed, to be a serious contender. And thanks to multiple errors managing their cap space, the Blazers have few paths for improvement. Hard decisions are coming this summer, or else this team will be mostly intact in the fall. With the sweep complete, it’s possible that coach Terry Stotts and GM Neil Olshey will be eyed by fans and maybe the organization.
- The offense came alive! Now, the bad news. Portland finally got on the board offensively, with 90 points after three quarters on 47.9% shooting. Unfortunately their defense was non-existent. Smelling blood in the water, the Pelicans went for the kill (sorry about the mixed metaphor). Energized, New Orleans shot 58.6%, including dunks and layups against Portland’s lackluster-would-be-kind defense. They just slowly pulled away in the second half.
- If you can’t win, muddy up the water. As promised by Lillard at shootaround, the Blazers played more physical, leading to a chippy game. The teams were involved in two first-half pullaparts, and most of the half was a parade to the free-throw line. It didn’t matter. New Orleans was, once again, clearly the better team.
A very hard summer. In the next few days, the Blazers will have exit interviews and press conferences. Then, the draft in June, and free agency in July.