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Chauncey Billups Says Playing Shorthanded Presents ‘Tough Situation’ for Blazers

The coach discussed the loss versus New Orleans, playing an inexperienced lineup and new Blazer Dalano Banton.

New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

In a season defined by development and struggles, the Portland Trail Blazers are having a hard time staying healthy. Saturday night’s 93-84 home loss against the New Orleans Pelicans was no exception.

Jerami Grant and Deandre Ayton returned to the lineup, but Portland still had to make do without Anfernee Simons, Scoot Henderson, Malcolm Brogdon, Shaedon Sharpe and Duop Reath (and of course Robert Williams III). This forced Portland coach Chauncey Billups to rely on extended minutes from 10-day contract signee Ashton Hagans, the newly acquired Dalano Banton, rookie Kris Murray and two-way contract center Ibou Badji.

After the game, Billups discussed the loss and the “tough situation” of dealing with so many injuries and coaching an inexperienced group.

You’re kinda doing it on the fly. We had shoot-around this morning and put a couple things in, just secondary stuff. You gotta be careful, you don’t want to give ‘em too much. You already know off tops it’s gonna be nerves involved with just the opportunity alone, so you don’t wanna do too much, but you gotta put enough in.

Billups also explained how it’s difficult to properly judge players’ performances in these shorthanded games.

What happens is you’re missing so much that now these guys start doing things and trying to do things that it’s not their role. It’s not what they’re set out to do for us, so I don’t judge how they play based on that because that’s really not what their role is, but obviously they get an opportunity to have a little bit of an extended role, but that’s just not who they are right now. That’s not playing to their strengths right now. ... So, to put ‘em in that position it’s almost unfair to them.

Despite the youth and inexperience in the lineup, Billups was impressed by the team’s defensive performance against the Pelicans. The Blazers held New Orleans to just 93 points, and Trey Murphy III was the only Pelicans player to break the 20-point threshold (former Blazer CJ McCollum shot 2-14 from the field for only eight points). Portland played best in the third quarter, holding New Orleans to 17 points and battling back from 12 down to head into the fourth trailing by just one point.

The thing I was most proud of was I thought our defense was incredible the whole game. Our defense was lights out. That’s one of the better offensive teams in the league, and obviously they didn’t have Zion [Williamson], but I thought we did a really good job there. ... We just couldn’t manufacture points.

Billups also gave praise to Dalano Banton, who made his Blazers debut against New Orleans after Portland acquired the third-year guard from the Boston Celtics at the NBA Trade Deadline. Banton finished 5-14 from the field, but impacted the game by attacking the basket, posting 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 28 minutes off the bench.

I thought he was really good. Like I said, he’s a basketball player, he’s got a lot of feel. He can feel the game, he can play multiple positions. Him handling the ball, he’s really good at it. Again, he doesn’t even know anything that we’re trying to do, to be honest with you, so I thought Dalano was really good in his minutes today.

Along with discussing Banton, Billups went on to talk about how Hagans and Badji played against the Pelicans. Hagans finished with five points on 2-4 shooting, four assists, two rebounds, one steal and one turnover in 23 minutes. Badji posted four points on 2-2 shooting, one rebound and one assist in 11 minutes.