Justise Winslow making his Portland Trail Blazers debut was the only piece of good news that came out of Portland’s 137-108 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. Giannis Antetokounmpo pounded Portland to the tune of 29 points. Bobby Portis, Jr. had one of his best games in recent memory for the Bucks, adding 30. Winslow, acquired in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers yesterday, played 20 minutes, shot 3-5 and scored 6 with a big 7 rebounds besides.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are other notes from the evening,
Size played a huge role in this game. Milwaukee was big. REALLY big. They shot over the Blazers with impunity, blocked shots with relative ease, and rebounded without being threatened. It was like watching high-schoolers play against seventh graders. Portland’s lack of size is a chronic issue, but boy did it show up tonight.
Once Jusuf Nurkic sits, the Blazers have NO bigs. Zero. They’re playing small forwards at center.
Giannis Antetokounmpo was everything advertised, a one-man wrecking crew. He is unique. Watching Giannis be himself is a completely different experience than watching Steph Curry destroy a team with threes or LeBron James bull through smart, set plays like some coach-constructed deity. They haven’t invented the plays (or descriptions) that can contain Antetokounmpo yet. He’ll be surrounded by three defenders, then emerge with a finger roll through space nobody knew existed. Watching the Blazers defend him was like watching people luge through rubber cement.
The Blazers have struggled through offensive sets for the last couple of games. Tonight they kept it more basic: one pick, one pass or one cut, one shot. They did a pretty good job reading the ball-handler’s moves and getting to an open spot. When they didn’t, the dribbler just went iso. They had no hope of beating Milwaukee’s defense that way, but at least they got decent shots up most of the time.
Justise Winslow got his first minutes on the floor as a Trail Blazer. He’s built like a brick for sure. He was active, cutting towards the hoop and grabbing rebounds. He’s going to get a chance to play as Portland lurches towards the season’s finish line. Let’s see what he makes of it. A little bit of bruising opportunism would do the Blazers good.
Unfortunately, neither Winslow nor any of the Blazers could take the “Best Forward Besides Giannis” trophy tonight. That honor belonged to Portis, Jr. Of all the holes in Portland’s defense, inability to guard the baseline and corners is the most mystifying and damaging. Portis took full advantage tonight. He hit 11 of 13 shots, including a half-dozen three-pointers.
Greg Brown III...
...can jump. That is all.
Same League, Different Worlds
The Blazers actually played pretty well tonight. They certainly looked better, and played more efficiently, than in either of their games against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the last week. Portland was good, but the Bucks were great. They made the right play nearly every trip down the floor. And when the play wasn’t right, half the time they made it right. That’s the difference between a championship team and a lottery team. It showed in every step. Kudos to Portland for making strides. This just wasn’t a night to consider winning.
The Blazers draw the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night with a 7:00, Pacific start time.