Game 22 at LAL: The Smoky & Pokey Edition

The Blazers took on the Lakers in Los Angeles for the second game of a back-to-back, itself part of a six-out-of-seven stretch of road games. The rigors of travel and visitors' locker rooms combined with the Blazers' missing mojo to deliver a predictable result: a 109-128 loss.


Smoky: Jerami Grant

Previously in this series the effort's been made to praise Jerami Grant's steady play and good health. Lately three Blazers appear to tip off consistently locked in, and Grant leads that cohort. The box scores certainly agree.

Pokey: Anfernee Simons

Sure, he's been trading leading-scorer honors with Grant during Dame's absence. Sure, his bombardier routine from beyond the three-point line might be considered a product of the divine. But… oh no! What about the little things?!

At the risk of seeming unsympathetic, we should ask ourselves if Ant's uptake of the advice "work smarter, not harder" has been raised to the level of parody. Go find a player who racks up numbers like Simons does while actually moving—on both sides of the ball—as little as he does. We'll wait.

…And that, folks, is a symptom, not a problem. The problem is that he's settling into his strengths without displaying evidence that he's also working on his weaknesses.

Smoky: Shaedon Sharpe

Sharpe started this game looking a bit lost, but by the end of the first half he was finally locked in for the first time in several games.

[Ed. note: insert discussion about The Epic Poster Dunk here.]

There appears to be not much Sharpe can't do, and the immediate order of business is to support his efforts to take that Swiss Army Skillset to an elite level.

Pokey: availability

The roster is reading a little bit like the look of an urgent care clinic on Monday morning. Tonight against Utah the Blazers could be missing their most skilled offensive player, their most skilled defensive player, their best hustle guy, their most consistent center, their Three-&-D Guy of the Future, and their biggest chunk of upside.

Please make it staaahhhp.

Our best hope is that these pregame dismissals constitute an effort to save the roster for the later season, which could speak to a terrific heap of well-hidden confidence. At least some of that confidence is justified, if it exists.

…A lot of fans would rather have the early-season team back, though.

Smoky: AD and LeBron

The Lakers' staff hasn't lost their mojo, no matter the case with the rosters of both teams in this game. A few players are working their way into steady playing time with—arguably—the most celebrated ballclub in the game, even as Anthony Davis and LeBron James churn away.

AD brought pitiless rim protection while LeBron was hot all over the court, and it's somewhere between possible and likely that the Blazers took one look at that and got into a to-hell-with-it kind of mood. It happens.

Pokey: the Blazers' execution and style

The Blazers possess the perfect lineup to run their opponents ragged on offense and bother incessantly on defense, making long drives and passes a fool's errand. Instead they're deliberate on offense and uneven on defense, displaying the lack of focus that betrays their missing mojo.

We should hope that this is an effort by the coaching staff to teach the younger guys patience. Breaking rules you don't know to good effect is fun, but inevitably leads to catastrophe.

Too many guys are wandering the court lost too often, watching the ball rather than their defensive assignment too often, and rushing shots over lost patience too often.

It's almost enough to make one wonder if—in addition to Simons' shortcomings—the coaches' possible reluctance to just let guys ball in their best way is creating problems. No thanks, we've seen that movie already.

The guys should have plays to run, but these are mustangs, not warhorses. They should be given opportunities to play accordingly.


  • The Lakers got their customary bump from the officiating. Once again, even some of the whistles that blew for the Blazers, screwed them.
  • Not for the first time, readers here are encouraged to appreciate that Drew Eubanks is the beating heart of almost every reserve lineup the staff can construct. If you dread his game absences as much as Nurk's, you might be onto something.
  • There are virtues to putting off a story drop—whatever you read here, it's surely more edifying than "the Blazers lost, they sucked at least a little, the end"—which is the most likely drop within 90 minutes of the triple-zero after a game like this. That is not to say, however, that this writer is at all satisfied with his time management of late. This is just a really tough stretch, on levels that were alien before the season started. The regular BEdge staff have earned your appreciation for their close attention, whether you realize it or not.
  • Finally, yes: this story reads a bit like the last one, and the biggest difference is in the names. One really needs to pluck the good out of a situation like this, lest despair overtake all pretense of effort.

As these words are being written the Blazers are nine hours from tipoff in Salt Lake City, scheduled shortly after 6 p.m. PST.

Don't bother hoping for a win—let it be a pleasant surprise in the event that one does come. This team is in no shape to be winning basketball games right now.