Yes, it’s only the preseason and we shouldn’t get too worked up over wins and losses — however, how a team looks in those wins or losses is definitely something to focus on. To that point, the Portland Trail Blazers haven’t looked all that great. Their new-look defense hasn’t been amazing by any means and the new pieces are taking some time to mesh and find their roles. Having said that here is a breakdown of last week’s games.
Oct. 7: Los Angeles Clippers 89, Trail Blazers 81 — (0-1)
Ugly basketball for both sides in this one, which is really to be expected in the first preseason game for both as well. Blazers were missing four key players as LaMarcus Aldridge sat out with a quad injury, Mo Williams sat with a sprained ankle, Dorell Wright had the night off and C.J. McCollum sat with a broken bone in his foot — he is out for eight to 10 weeks.
Surprise, Surprise: Second-year big man Meyers Leonard posted 10 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes of play; and was plus-15 on the +/-. Leonard stands to get 20 to 25 minutes a night behind Robin Lopez and Terry Stotts is hoping outings like this become the norm.
Shooting Woes: Wes Matthews struggled to find his shot, going 2-for-10 from the floor and finishing with six points in a non-impact showing from the starting shooting guard on this roster.
Defense Improved Early: Terry Stotts’ new defensive scheme did look pretty good for the first game holding the Clips to a lowly 37 percent shooting — the problem was not enough firepower and efficiency on offense as the Blazers shot even worse at 35.9 percent.
Oct. 9: Phoenix Suns 104, Trail Blazers 98 — (0-2)
Though it was another loss, there was a feel-good atmosphere at the Moda Center on this night because Channing Frye (who played for the Blazers from 2007-09) returned from missing all of last season with a serious heart condition. The Blazers were yet again missing some key parts as Nicolas Batum and Dorell Wright were out, however LaMarcus Aldridge and Mo Williams were able to return for this outing.
Draft Steal: Rookie Allen Crabbe showed where his value might be felt, shooting 6-for-11 from the floor (2-for-4 from deep) and finishing with 14 points and two rebounds in 24 minutes. He, along with Will Barton and Damian Lillard, was also key in the comeback during the fourth quarter that ultimately came up short.
He Did What?!: Robin Lopez had a dismal outing with two points and only two rebounds in his 20 minutes on the court. Conversely Thomas Robinson started great with seven points and six rebounds in only 13 minutes, but his night was cut short after he was given his second technical of the night for arguing calls.
Lean On Me: Will Barton, Allen Crabbe and Mo Williams are going to be relied upon heavily with the early injury to McCollum. Aldridge, Lillard, Batum and Matthews will do their thing, but this added depth has got to produce for the Blazers to make the playoffs.
Oct. 11: Trail Blazers 96, Utah Jazz 86 — (1-2)
Yippee! The Blazers finally took home a WIN! Wait…they were playing the Jazz?! Okay so it’s like half a win. I joke at the Jazz’ expense, but seriously–they are going to lose a TON of games this year. The good news here was the Blazers defense did it’s job once again, holding the Jazz to a putrid 37.7 percent from the floor.
Dang You’re Good!!: LaMarcus Aldridge was head and shoulders above the competition on this night. He only posted 18 minutes but he was masterful shooting 8-for-9 from the floor and finished with 20 points, eight rebounds and two blocks! That’s impressive for 35 minutes played in a game.
Back to the Drawing Board: Allen Crabbe showed us why it’s so hard for rookies to get regular minutes; a game after showing so well, he stunk it up in his 24 minutes, shooting 1-for-6 from the floor (0-for-1 from deep). The silver lining — Crabbe has shown early growth on the defensive end of the ball, where he was much maligned coming out of college.
What We Learned: After seeing three preseason games, the glaring issue to me is not defense, it’s not chemistry and it’s not offense — the issue has been turnovers. This bunch is averaging a terrible 20.3 turnovers per game right now — league average last season was 14.5 — so they are giving their opponents an extra six possessions each game which adds up to close losses. Close losses were their forte last season and if that’s going to change it might be turnovers and not so much their defense they need to shore up.
**All stats from www.basketball-reference.com unless otherwise noted.