Blazers grinding to an end

Losing streak at end of this season almost mirrors end of 2011-12 season

By Candace Buckner, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 
photoPortland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard shows the frustration on his face as the Blazers go down to the Nuggets in Denver on Sunday for their 11th straight defeat.

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End of 2012-13

The Blazers are on an 11-game losing streak with two games to play. Their last victory came against the Hawks in Atlanta on March 22. Here is the current streak:

March 24 — at Thunder, 103-83 loss

March 27 — vs. Nets, 111-93 loss

March 29 — vs. Jazz, 105-95 loss

March 30 — at Warriors, 125-98 loss

April 1 — at Jazz, 112-102 loss

April 3 — vs. Grizzlies, 94-76 loss

April 5 — vs. Rockets, 116-98 loss

April 7 — vs. Mavericks, 96-91 loss

April 10 — vs. Lakers, 113-106 loss

April 12 — vs. Thunder, 106-90 loss

April 14 — at Nuggets, 118-109 loss

Average margin of defeat: 14.4 points

End of 2011-12

The Blazers ended the 2011-12 season on a seven-game losing streak, and dropping nine of their last 10 games:

April 7 — at Bucks, 116-94 loss

April 9 — vs. Rockets, 94-89 loss

April 11 — vs. Warriors, 118-110 win

April 13 — vs. Mavericks, 97-94 loss

April 15 — at Kings, 104-103 loss

April 16 — at Suns, 125-107 loss

April 18 — vs. Jazz, 112-91 loss

April 21 — at Grizzlies, 93-89 loss

April 23 — at Spurs, 124-89 loss

April 26 — at Jazz, 96-94 loss

Average margin of defeat: 12.3 points

On the night inside the Rose Garden when the Portland Trail Blazers dropped their 10th straight game, Damian Lillard repeated one desire during his post-game interviews.

"Get a win," Lillard said, dryly. "Gotta get a win."

Through this losing streak — that now has stretched to 11 straight after the Blazers' 118-109 loss on Sunday to the Denver Nuggets — many of the players have repeated this simple chorus.

However, as the Blazers have tried to balance development with staying competitive — a "nebulous" focus, as coach Terry Stotts would call it — getting a win seems easier said than done.

Although the season began with the marketing of the Blazers as "New Team, New Dream," the year has looked a lot like the nightmare of the 2011-2012 season.

"Both suck," Wesley Matthews said recently while comparing the end of last season to the current one. "We're not in the playoffs. Both suck. Both tough."

If the circumstances surrounding the end of this season seem familiar, that's because they mirror the clumsy conclusion of the 2011-2012 team.

Last year, the bottom fell out on April 13 when the Blazers spiraled into a seven-game losing streak to end the year.

During the final seven games, Portland interim head coach Kaleb Canales penciled in six different lineups. Luke Babbitt and even rookie Nolan Smith found their ways into the starting five. And just like last season, the rookies have now taken over the floor.

On Sunday in Denver, the Blazers played a four-rookie starting lineup for the second time in three games. Before the Nuggets game, the team announced that LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle sprain) would not play. By April 13, 2012, the Blazers also missed their leading scorer since Aldridge had already wrapped his season a few days earlier due to a hip injury. Without him, the team remained competitive in games against Dallas, Sacramento and Memphis — all decided by five points or less.

However, during this current losing streak, the Blazers have dropped games by an average of 14.2 points. Also, unlike last year, this Blazer team has found a knack for futility. On Friday, Portland scored seven points in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder and set a new franchise low mark for points scored in a third period.

With only two games remaining on the schedule, these Blazers will try not to match the longest losing streak in team history at 13 games, which was set in 1971-1972 in only the franchise's second year of existence.

Lillard completed his media obligations after that Friday night loss, strapped on his designer backpack and still seemed to carry the burden of the streak on his shoulders.

A trio of young boys waited inside the Blazers' locker room, seeking Lillard's autograph. While the rookie took the time to sign their gear, the boys tried to make small talk and asked Lillard how he was doing. Still bummed about the streak, Lillard responded with the only thing on his mind.

"Trying to get a win, man."