The Blazers brought some momentum into the week after winning 3 in a row for the first time this year. The Blazers were faced with the challenge of two of the best teams in the NBA in the two Los Angeles teams, plus a scrappy Kings team that had been playing well as of late. Two games at home and the other on the West Coast added optimism but that was short lived. Portland went 1-2 on the week dropping their record to 9-14 on the year.
Tuesday 12/3 Road loss at Los Angeles Clippers 117-97 (8-13)
This was an opportunity to show that Portland had turned things around and can now be taken seriously as a playoff contender. Instead, it showed just how far apart the Blazers are from the NBA’s best. Montrezl Harrell and Paul George combined for 51 points on just seven missed shots as the game was never close. CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 20.
Wednesday 12/4 Home win against the Sacramento Kings 127-116 (9-13)
The Blazers bounced back at home to take down the Kings in convincing fashion. McCollum once again led the Blazers with 33, but three other starters each chipped in 20 or more. The Kings are still without two of their best players, De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley, but they have been playing better without them lately.
Friday 12/6 Home loss against the Los Angeles Lakers 136-113 (9-14)
Getting blown out at home against the Lakers always leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Blazer fans, but this loss was the worst against the Lakers since Game 7 of the Western Confer...nevermind, I don’t even want to bring that up. It was the worst game against the Lakers in over a decade. Not only did Portland get punched in the mouth, but starting small forward, Rodney Hood, went down with an Achilles tear. He will miss all of this year and possibly some of next season. Tragic to see him go.
As an ex-professional basketball player, whose career ended after an unsuccessful recovery from an Achilles tear, I am one of the few people that can truly relate to what he is going through. It’s not fun. An Achilles injury hits home with me more than any injury does and I would never wish it upon anyone, but watching Hood go down hit me in my core. He had been having a sensational year, shooting almost 50 percent from three on 3.4 attempts per game. His ability to space the floor was vital to this team, not to mention how thin Portland is at the small forward position. This injury is devastating—not just for Hood and his family, but it puts this Blazer season in peril. Portland has no one in house to replace his production.
Defending the Forwards
There is certainly a theme forming. Opposing forwards have destroyed the Blazers this year. This week was another example. In the two losses, the top three scorers for both the Lakers and Clippers were players that occupied the forward spots (Clippers: Harrell, George, Pat Patterson. Lakers: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma). Of course, James, Davis, and George are three of the best players in the league but that doesn’t mean they need to dominate so easily. LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for the most points (70) that they have for any game this year.
This has been a trend for a while and its easy to see why. The Blazers were thin at any type of defensive forward depth before the injuries to Zach Collins and Rodney Hood. With Hood out permanently and Collins still missing more time, this hole in the roster could be fatal. Stotts will do what he can to adjust his scheme but he can only do so much. Unless Portland can find a solution elsewhere, they could bleed points from those positions even more than we’ve seen. It has not been announced who Hood’s replacement in the starting lineup might be, but as of now, the best defensive option may be rookie Nassir Little.
A bad season got worse this week. Now is the interesting thing: where do the Blazers go from here? Portland is too good to tank and not good enough to compete. That is the biggest question moving forward. While that is what in the minds of Blazer fans, Rodney Hood remains the man in our hearts. Cheers to him.
Next Week Preview
Two more very winnable games at home to start the week are very welcomed as Portland limps into next week. Finishing the week 2-1 would be very nice, but I hold some optimism that Denver may be more winnable than their record would suggest. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s hope at the end of the week that Portland at least took care of the Knicks and at the same time, learned to adapt to life without Hood.