The Portland Trail Blazers were not able to overcome hot shooting from the Golden State Warriors on Saturday evening. A trio of guards for Golden State, including All Stars Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, propelled Portland to a 126-106 loss.
The Blazers put together a complete first quarter, leading 30-23 after one, but it was all downhill after that. They got outscored 76 to 103 the rest of the way.
Malcom Brogdon started in the place of the injured Shaedon Sharpe and played well. But as we have seen all season with injuries, promoting a bench player to the starting lineup forces the rest of the team into rotations they aren’t prepared for. It also tests the depth of the Blazers.
Anfernee Simons did his best to keep his team in the game, but Portland’s lack of rebounding and timely shot-making by the Warriors was too much to handle.
The Blazers head into Christmas with a loss, but they don’t deserve coal in their stalking. The team is still hustling and fighting on the defensive end of the ball. The Warriors have just had their number all season.
If you missed the game, you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. Once you’ve got that down, here’s a Christmas-themed analysis of key factors that contributed tonight.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Much like how Rudolph guided Santa’s sleigh through the storm, Malcolm Brogdon guided the Blazers tonight against the Warriors. And not just tonight. Brogdon has been the steady hand for the Blazers all year.
His first quarter tonight was a microcosm of his season: three point shooting, defense, steals, and assists. Brogdon was the reason the Blazers put together one of their best first quarters of the season. Sadly they weren’t able to sustain it.
I bet every Blazers fan would have assumed Scoot Henderson would be starting and playing heavy minutes at this point in the season. Chauncey Billups probably assumed the same thing. But with the way Brogdon has been performing, it’s hard to imagine him coming off the bench. Even though Portland is focused on development of their young players this year, there is something to be said for the young guys learning from a veteran like Brogdon.
All I Want for Christmas is You
Mariah Carey’s hit Christmas song is a holiday staple, and so is the ability for the Blazers to force turnovers. There were not many bright spots tonight, but the Blazers did force 17 turnovers, with 12 of them coming from steals.
Matisse Thybulle only accounted for one of those steals, but his presence forced the Warriors to think twice before throwing a pass.
The full court pressure was also effective tonight, forcing Chris Paul into two eight-second backcourt violations. Toumani Camara and Henderson continue to lead the league in the pressure applied category.
Portland’s offense has been a roller coaster ride all season, but the defense has been steady in the areas the Blazers focus on. The Warriors shot 30% from three point range tonight, which is a testament to the Blazers three-point defense. Camara is on pace to be in the conversation for an All NBA Defensive team spot for years to come.
As long as the Blazers continue to put an emphasis on the defensive end of the ball, this season will go down a pivotal one for this young Portland squad. All I want for Christmas is you and a sustainable Trail Blazers defense.
Milk and Cookies
Every family is supposed to leave milk and cookies for Santa as he delivers presents. This treat keeps the big guy going throughout a long night.
Anfernee Simons is the Blazers equivalent. He’s the treat that keeps the Blazers in games on the offensive end of the court. Simons shot over 50% tonight from the three-point arc, leading the Blazers with 25 points.
Since his return from injury, Simons has been spectacular. His range is endless and his release is lightning quick. It’s fun to see him matched up against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson because you get direct comparisons from a shooting perspective. Ant is on pace to becoming one of the league’s best shooters and perennial All-Stars.
Christmas would not be complete without an ugly sweater. The Blazers brought it tonight in the form of rebounding, or lack thereof. Portland was outworked on the glass 49-30. The first line defense was not terrible, 13 offensive rebounds led to multiple wide-open three-point makes for the Warriors.
Offensive rebounds are deflating for a defense. Hard work goes to waste. It’s tough enough to force any team into misses, much less the Warriors with Steph and Klay on the court. Having to do it twice or more is a tall task.
Deandre Ayton needs rebounding help on the back side. Every Portland player needs to be contributing on the glass. Ugly sweaters are fun and all, but you have to limit them to one Christmas party a year. I want to see the Blazers clean this up moving forward so we don’t have to wear them again.
New Family Traditions
Christmas traditions can get stale over time, so it’s good to mix it up with new ones, especially when young kids become of age to enjoy the holidays.
Tonight a pair of rookies on each team that saw meaningful minutes and made major contributions: Brandin Podziemski and Trayce Jackson-Davis for the Warriors and Scoot Henderson and Toumani Camara for the Blazers.
Podziemski was brilliant tonight, almost recording a triple-double. He was the engine that got the Warriors going after their slow start. The Blazers had no answer for him. Podziemski’s playmaking ability was the reason Thompson found his rhythm from three-point range.
Jackson-Davis is always around the basket to gather a rebound. He plays bigger than he is and has a soft lefty touch around the rim. Almost in the blink of an eye he had 13 points and 5 rebounds.
Golden State should be very happy with their rookie guard and forward combo. Not to be outdone, the Blazers have a rookie guard and forward combo to be proud of as well.
Henderson’s up-and-down season went up again tonight with a positive performance. His defense was solid. He put together an efficient shooting night, going 4-9 from the field and 2-4 from three point range. He just needs to string together 4 or 5 of these types of games.
Camara’s stat sheet isn’t impressive, but he continues to pass the eye test. His defense on Steph Curry made an impact. His actions around the rim disrupted the Warriors on their initial shot attempts. The Blazers have been short on dependable wings for years. It’ll be good to see Camara develop.
The Blazers will get Christmas off. They’ll welcome the Sacramento Kings to the Moda Center on Tuesday, December 26th with a 7:00, Pacific start.