PORTLAND — First, the All-Star rolled his ankle. Then, his teammates rolled over.
The Rose Garden stood silent in the opening minutes when LaMarcus Aldridge stepped on the foot of Washington forward Trevor Booker and fell to the ground wincing in pain. It was equally still in the closing minute when the Trail Blazers found themselves beaten by the lowly Wizards 124-109.
Aldridge, who was selected to his first All-Star game last Thursday, did not return to the floor after being diagnosed with a sprained left ankle. The rest of the team looked equally crippled.
“Right now, the pride has to show up here somewhere and somewhere soon,” said Portland coach Nate McMillan, whose team lost its third straight game at home for the first time since April of 2008. “This team outworked us tonight. We kind of look like, or the feeling is we’re looking for someone to rescue us and we’ve got to do that ourselves.”
Pride was the primary theme in the post-game press conference with McMillan, who has grown noticeably testier as Portland’s free fall continues. But the Blazers’ lack of defense was also a major point of discussion.
The Wizards (7-22) shot 60 percent from the field and 52.9 percent from 3-point range, seemingly stifling every Portland run with a backbreaking jump shot.
Shooting guard Nick Young was the premier perpetrator for the Wizards, as he scored season-high 35 points while going 12 for 17 from the field and 7 for 8 from deep. But John Wall was almost as peeving, scoring 29 points while going 10 for 14.
Aldridge will not travel with the team to Oakland for Wednesday’s game with the Golden State Warriors. And by its players’ own admission, Portland will have to learn to play without its star.
The power forward’s absence did not seem to dramatically affect the Blazers’ offense, as the team still managed 109 points while shooting a respectable 47.1 percent.
However, his not being on the court did appear to disrupt the club’s mentality.
“We were thinking about it too much,” said Blazers wing Nicolas Batum. “He was our go-to guy. He carried this team through the beginning of the year. Every time we were in trouble, we would give it to (Aldridge.) But sometimes he won’t be there. And we gotta know how to play without him.”
That said, Batum seemed to do just fine sans his team’s leading scorer.
Starting for the second time this season — the first being due to a finger injury to Gerald Wallace — the Frenchman tied his career-high scoring total by dropping 33 points on 12-of-24 shooting.
Batum’s playing time had been a point of contention with McMillan over the past few days, as reporters questioned the limited amount of minutes he’d been receiving despite consistent production.
Offensively, he proved his worth Tuesday, although he felt his defensive shortcomings rendered his performance sub-par.
Batum’s promotion meant Wesley Matthews was to come off the bench for the first time all season. Matthews has been struggling to find his stroke throughout the year — shooting just 41.2 percent from the field coming into the game — but was yet to be relegated to reserve status until Tuesday.
Asked of his reaction to McMillan’s decision, Matthews responded, “You can ask him that as far as what he was trying to accomplish, but I’m just going to be ready if and when my name is called.”
The other playing-time debate pervading Blazer-land is whether backup guard Jamal Crawford should supplant starter Raymond Felton at the point. Felton logged 27 minutes to Crawford’s 23 Tuesday night, but Raymond did not step on the court during the fourth quarter.
Felton said he wants to be on the floor at the end of the game, but did not express any concrete discontent. He did, however, describe the loss as “embarrassing.”
Gerald Wallace added 25 points for the Blazers (15-14) who have lost 12 of their past 13 games in Oakland. Wednesday will be Portland’s second of three games in as many days, with the back-to-back-to-back concluding at the Rose Garden vs. the Los Angeles Clippers Thursday.
Matt Calkins can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or firstname.lastname@example.org