The Blazers got handled in the first two games of their five-game road trip. Wednesday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder was a much more excusable performance than the game the team put together against a feisty Orlando team on Friday.
The Magic turned the Blazers into turnover machines, but unlike the Thunder, the Magic don’t have any unstoppable superstars. The Blazers allowed Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic to put up All-Star type numbers and the Blazers allowed the Magic to get whatever they wanted close to the paint.
The Blazers have too much youth to be outplayed by other teams, even on the road.
The Blazers also have a problem with turnovers, racking up four straight games of 15 turnovers including back-to-back 19 turnover outings against Orlando and Miami.
Sometimes Damian Lillard’s play is taken as a given on this team. But after 29 games and All-Star voting well under way, it’s worth noting that Lillard’s play has been All-Star worthy.
Lillard is carrying a huge responsibility and while the Blazers don’t have a winning record, that they’ve been respectable and in the playoff hunt in the conference is mostly due to Lillard.
He has taken his game as a play maker up several notches while also being asked to handle the ball more than ever before. Among other guards in the league, Lillard has played his way into All-Star consideration as a reserve.
After Sunday, Lillard has seven games of 30 points or more. This side of Stephen Curry, no guard makes opposing defenses bend to his long-range shooting threat like Lillard. The Blazers have had their failures, Lillard’s play has been worth of an invite to Toronto.
By The Numbers
2 — Damian Lillard is one of two players in the NBA who is averaging over 22 points per game, six assists and shooting 35 percent from 3 according to Basketball-Reference.com. The other is Golden State’s Stephen Curry.
4 — Of Portland’s next six games, four of them are on the road wrapping up a month in which the Blazers played 11 of 17 games away from home.
35 — ESPN’s BPI playoff odds project the Blazers to finish with 35 wins and 10th in the West.
The Week Ahead
Monday at Atlanta Hawks (5 p.m., CSN): With the East improving, the Hawks have fallen off after last year’s 60 win season. At 16-12, the Hawks would miss the playoffs in the East if they ended today.
Wednesday at New Orleans Pelicans (5 p.m., CSN): The Pelicans have struggled to get back on track, but point guard Jrue Holiday is getting closer to being able to play without a minutes restriction.
Saturday vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (7 p.m., KGW): LeBron James, Kevin Love and a recently healed Kyrie Irving make their lone trip to Portland one night after taking on the now 26-1 Golden State Warriors on Christmas. LeBron resting would not be unexpected as he’s recently rested in the 2nd of back-to-backs.
Sunday at Sacramento Kings (6 p.m., CSN): DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 25 points and 10 rebounds per game and has stretched his range to the 3-point line where he’s shooting 30 percent.