The Portland Trail Blazers were the NBA’s feel-good story last year and shattered all expectations on the back of Damian Lillard.
It’s much different this year, and the Blazers are viewed as a legitimate threat out West. Lillard has been playing out of his mind and is averaging close to 29 points a night on 46.6 percent shoot. Regardless, Portland has struggled over their last few games.
They’ve been blown out by the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets in consecutive contests and have dropped to 7-6 on the season. Lillard is not happy about their recent dropoff.
“We kind of suck right now,” said Lillard to Blazers’ beat reporter Casey Holdahl. Part of Portland’s struggle is rooted in Dame’s poor back-to-back performances. Against the Bulls, he scored just 19 points on 7-of-22 shooting. He wasn’t much better against Houston, tallying just 18 on 7-of-17.
Fortunately, the two-time All-Star is optimistic. “I’ve been more frustrated. I know we’re going to be fine,” added Lillard.
For Portland to turn the ship around, defense needs to be their primary concern. No matter how you look at it, they’re the second-worst team in the league. They have the offensive firepower to go bucket-for-bucket with any other team in the NBA, but that won’t cut it.
Almost every team in the league can go out and break 100 points. The best are lockdown defensively.
Also, Evan Turner needs to step up. The Blazers inked him to a $70 million deal, and he hasn’t held up his end of the bargain. His scoring and assist numbers are down despite his usage staying the same, and Portland brought him on to be a secondary playmaker to Lillard.
Terry Stots has done better with worse, so their bad play shouldn’t cause much anxiety. It’s early, and no one should start to get concerned until after Christmas at the earliest.