Despite a 39-point effort from star point guard Damian Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers fell to the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, 101-126. With the loss, Portland slides to 28-30 (.483) and 11th place in the Western Conference standings. The team remains on the outside looking into the 2023 NBA Playoffs picture heading into the All-Star break, but not by much.
Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups stressed to reporters after the game that team health is his biggest concern. Portland has been without center Jusuf Nurkic (strained calf) for its last seven contests. Forward Jerami Grant remains in the NBA’s concussion protocol and now Anfernee Simons has sprained his right ankle.
Because of injuries, Billups struggles to evaluate his team’s potential, but acknowledges that the Blazers are where he believes they should be right now, given the circumstances.
I’m just most concerned with trying to get healthy, man. It’s tough to even gauge what we could be or where we can go without being healthy. I thought, up to this point at least, Nurk’s absence really hurt us. We’ve been able to, like, get a game here or there, outshoot people sometimes to get one or two, but it really hurt us. It really hurt us. And Drew (Eubanks) is doing an incredible job. T-Wat (Trendon Watford) has filled in and been incredible, so it’s no knock on those two guys, but his absence really hurt us. So, it’s tough to really even judge and then, you know, we got our new guys who we go to try to play them to judge and see how they fit in, especially when our big guy gets back. So, it’s tough to gauge it, to be honest with you, but we are where we are and it’s kind of where we are. It’s not like we’ve outplayed or underplayed our record, you know. We are where we are so we’ll just have to see.
Even though that you feel not horrible about being close to .500? I mean, especially in the west where you’re still only three games out of sixth.
I don’t feel bad about it at all, Aaron, I really don’t, man. There’s so many games that I’ve lost a lot of sleep on that I felt like we should have won before this break and then I feel like we stole a couple, but no I don’t feel bad at all with what we have and where we’ve been trying to go. So, I’m okay with where we are there. I just want to get healthy and see if we can make a push.
As it stands, the Blazers are indeed 2.5 games behind the Dallas Mavericks for the sixth seed in the Western Conference. They are also just 2.0 games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for 13th. A push will be needed for the Trail Blazers to be post-season relevant this year.