Turn the lights out and say “goodnight” to the Portland Trail Blazers’ 2021-2022 season. Their campaign mercifully concluded in the most muted of fashions: a 111-80 beatdown at the hands of the Utah Jazz.
Blazers legend Bill Schonely’s retirement ceremony at halfitme was the brightest spectacle in an otherwise mundane 31-point loss.
During a year which began with Portland showcasing a rotation of NBA mainstays, the Blazers fielded a starting lineup of Brandon Williams, Keon Johnson, CJ Elleby, Didi Louzada, and Reggie Perry in the season finale.
The Jazz shot poorly, especially in the first half, but Portland’s cast of hopeful upstarts couldn’t capitalize in a game that was over by the end of the third quarter.
If you missed any of the action, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After that, here are three observations from the 82nd game of the season.
The Schonz Gets His Flowers
As stated above, the basketball played at the Moda Center Sunday night was really just a sideshow. The game was upstaged by a moving send-off ceremony for Portland icon Bill Schonely. The Blazers Broadcasting great who served as the franchise’s radio announcer for 28 years and created the moniker, “Rip City,” retired from his role as an ambassador for the organization. The halftime ceremony included a speech from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a touching tribute video highlighting some of Schonely’s best calls through the years, and a speech from the Schonz himself. After Schonely thanked a long list of names who helped him throughout his career, he reminded everyone in attendance that in life, “You’ve got to make your free throws” and led the crowd in one last call of the legendary line, “Rip City!” The ceremony also came with the announcement the state of Oregon has officially declared April 10 “Rip City Day” in honor of Schonely.
The man, the myth, the legend. He created Rip City.— Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 11, 2022
There's nobody else like The Schonz pic.twitter.com/v1VTA3DlcY
Keon Johnson’s Difficult Night
You can see the tools are there with Blazers rookie guard Keon Johnson. He’s shifty, able to drive deep into the paint with great speed and dribble moves. Then when he’s near the rim he’s athletic and crafty enough to finish with soaring layups and teardrops high off the glass. Against the Jazz, there were several examples of this ability, including a gorgeous reverse in the first quarter Johnson used to evade two shot-blockers. While he showed flashes of spectacular skill, they went hand-in-hand with several reminders that Johnson is still a raw 20-year-old finding his NBA footing. He lost the ball multiple times in traffic, dribbling off his foot on one play, and saw a floater attempt get devoured by Hassan Whiteside. He was able to create space off the dribble for open jumpers, but couldn’t find his shooting touch. Johnson finished the night with 8 points on 3-13 shooting with 3 turnovers.
Guarding the Paint
Size has been a constant disadvantage for the Blazers since after the All-Star break. Tonight, that weakness got a little weaker with center Drew Eubanks out of the lineup due to injury. Countless times, the Blazers were stuck with small guys like Louzada, Elleby, Keljin Blevins, Ben McLemore trying to stop paint behemoths Rudy Gobert and Whiteside. The undersized Blazers fought valiantly, jumping, swiping, swiping, and swatting at the ball to make things tough on the Jazz. The uphill battle proved too much for the Blazers as the night wore on, as Portland had to resort to fouling to prevent the game from turning into a dunkfest. Utah outscored Portland 52-36 in the paint, committed 16 fouls to Portland’s 27, and shot 28-38 from the foul line, compared to Portland’s 9-12 outing from the stripe. Points in the paint and the wide disparity in free throw attempts helped the Jazz overcome a slow shooting start with ease.
The loss finishes Portland’s season with a record of 27-55, giving the Blazers the sixth-worst record in the league.
The organization will be keeping a close eye on how the New Orleans Pelicans finish their season, due to a first-round draft pick possibly owed should the Pelicans miss the playoffs.
The Pelicans play the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday at 6:30 P.M. Pacific Time in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament.