Through eight games, the Trail Blazers have surrendered at least 120 points on four occasions. Regardless of their offensive successes, Portland’s record sits at a pedestrian 4-4 due to laundry list of defensive deficiencies. In his weekly feature, ESPN’s Zach Lowe touched on the struggles that the Blazers and Nuggets are working through to start the year.
The second unit took center stage in Lowe’s assessment of the Blazers’ defense.
Both are shooting themselves in the foot to some degree. Portland has zero chance defending with both Carmelo Anthony and Enes Kanter on the floor — even against opposing reserves. (Both have been helpful on offense, to be fair.) Portland doesn’t have a ton of options with Zach Collins out, but there has to be a way to juggle stints for Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. to minimize Anthony-Kanter minutes. (Also: The Damian Lillard-CJ McCollum-Gary Trent Jr.-Covington-Jusuf Nurkic lineup has logged only five minutes. More, please!) Terry Stotts has yanked Kanter for Harry Giles III in recent games.
Despite those issues, Lowe explained that the season is still young and the Blazers have time to sort out their defensive scheme.
But it’s too early to panic. Portland is adapting to a newish scheme that calls for more aggressive help rotations and (sometimes) its big men to venture farther out against the pick-and-roll. Nurkic did not look anything like himself until this week. Peak Nurkic is the keystone of Portland’s defense. Stotts has carved average defenses from worse rosters. Portland with an average defense is an interesting team.
The Blazers will look to notch consecutive wins when they face the Kings on Saturday.
You can read the full story from Lowe at ESPN+ (subscription required).