This is now the second time already that I have had to write about an 0-4 week. It’s Week 4 for crying out loud! Carmelo Anthony has not been the answer right out of the gate and injuries are starting to pile up. CJ McCollum seems to have found his game at the right time but now he’s struggling to get consistent help. This week fit smack dab in the middle of a 6-game road trip and included a back-to-back but it still seems generous to call that anything more than an excuse. Tough week—here’s how it breaks down:
Monday 11/18 - Road loss against the Houston Rockets 132-108 (5-9)
James Harden had 36, Russell Westbrook had a triple double, and Clint Capela went for 22 and 20. A solid night from CJ wasn’t enough to keep it close. Portland was up after the first quarter, so if you’re looking for a bright spot, that was it. Not much else here that hasn’t been said before.
Tuesday 11/19 - Road loss at the New Orleans Pelicans 115-104 (5-10)
Second night of a back-to-back with no Damian Lillard was not setting the Blazers up well. The return of Carmelo Anthony was the story of the game. He tallied 10 points on 14 shots in 24 minutes—not exactly a glowing first impression but about what Blazer fans should have expected. A double double for rookie Nassir Little (12 points and 11 rebounds) was a good sign.
Thursday 11/21 - Road loss against the Milwaukee Bucks 137-129 (5-11)
After two lackluster performances, Portland came out and competed against the 12-3 Milwaukee Bucks, even while playing another game without Lillard. As a fan, it was great to see. Ball movement became existent, and the Blazer offense was as good as it has been. Portland still lost, mostly because Giannis Antetokounmpo exists, but the lights were on today for the Blazers offensively.
Saturday 11/23 - Road loss against the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-104 (5-12)
Well, then the lights were not on. After a competitive battle the prior game, the Blazers followed that up by snapping a six-game losing streak of the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers, who were without arguably their best player, Kevin Love. It was a long road trip prior to this loss, which made it only feel longer.
Portland is still not a very good team, but let’s focus on Carmelo Anthony. The results so far? Not terrific. It’s still early for a guy that is yet to play a home game and didn't play in the NBA for over a year but his 0-3 record as a Blazer is certainly not a good sign. Carmelo has hit double figures in every game and looks every bit the part of an NBA regular in this league. That’s a low bar for a starting forward on the roster, but it is also an important one to clear. He has struggled hitting shots, as he is at just 34% in his 3 games and 31% from three. Not good, but I’m not ready to get my gavel out until I’ve seen more than 3 games.
Dame not playing like Dame.
This has been the biggest story of the week. Damian Lillard only played in two of the four games this week but shot 11 of 35 in the games he did participate in. Dame was a still very good, just not Damian Lillard good. It’s hard to think the back spasms don't play a role in (or possibly the reason for) the dip in efficiency but if that's the case, then his health becomes a huge talking point and possibly the most important storyline of team.
It’s hard to get excited about the well-played Bucks game when Portland did what they did against the Cavs. One of my friends, a Cavs fan, was more upset about the result than I was. Cleveland’s team is built to lose! It wasn’t as bad as the Warriors loss, but it’s in the conversation. The seat of Neil Olshey has to be heating up. Unless Portland can pull some wins out, we can expect that to be a storyline for next week. All in all, it’s been a terrible season for Portland, but we’ve seen them have ebbs and flows in the past. As long as Dame, CJ, and Terry Stotts are part of this roster, there is always a chance for the Blazers to redeem themselves. Only one game left on the road trip.
Next Week Preview
Two home games and three terrible teams: hopefully, it’s just what the doctor ordered. It should be an opportunity to right the ship, but if this is a bad week, talk of making significant changes are going to get very, very loud.