TUALATIN, Ore. — If things were going swimmingly for the Trail Blazers, the hot topic would be LeBron James and Kevin Love coming to town with the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight, underscored with what’s become a fun rivalry with point guards Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving.
But after a season where success was faster than anyone had expected, the Blazers have stumbled out of the gates this season.
While questions of whether it’s ball movement or missed shots, it’s in the details where the Blazers are seeing more shortcomings than what shots they are missing.
“I’m surprised we’re not as good offensively as we had hoped,” said head coach Terry Stotts on Monday. “Again, you can’t take things for granted. Thirteen guys coming back you can’t take it for granted. We have to do the things that create good offense.”
On blue paper written in cursive, Stotts had a “laundry list” of 10 things he wanted to look at offensively on a day when they worked mostly on end of game situations and getting better with their offensive sets.
“The laundry list for offensive execution of things we can do better with screening and cutting and execution is all part of it,” he said.
LaMarcus Aldridge suggested the Blazers were spoiled with last year’s start and the rest of the Blazers seem to agree.
And while their defense has performed well, ranking ninth in points allowed per 100 possessions according to NBA.com, there is an disconcerting trend developing at the beginning of games.
Through three games, the Blazers first quarter defense ranks 26th in the league.
Wesley Matthews is placing the blame squarely on him and the rest of the starting five.
“Our defense has to trigger our offense. Our first quarters have been terrible. That’s on us. That’s on the starters,” he said. “In the first quarter we are digging ourselves a hole and it’s hard to get out of a hole when your offense isn’t going. I think it’s vice versa. Our offense is stemming from a lack of defense. We’re pressing and doing things that we normally shouldn’t have to.”
Stotts confirmed: “Our first quarters have been very poor.”
And although the Blazers had a tough task defensively against Golden State it was just the start of a difficult week of match-ups. Love always presents match-up issues with his shooting, often forcing the Blazers to switch more in pick and roll situations.
On Thursday they face a more problematic Dirk Nowitzki.
“You definitely make subtle adjustments particularly when it comes to three point shooters and three-point shooting big men, that’s another element you have to adjust for,” Stotts said.
And on the injury front, it’s uncertain whether the Blazers will have back big man Joel Freeland as he did not fully participate in practice Monday.
He said he’s feeling less pain but he’s still feeling some pain when he pushes off the foot.
“It’s a game-time decision, I think,” Freeland said.