Watching Wednesday night’s season opener against the Phoenix Suns was like watching a prize fight where everyone knows who is supposed to win, yet somehow the underdog lands some great punches and before you know it we’ve landed in Upset City. Thankfully the Portland Trail Blazers forgot about that horrendous showing and like Jay-Z says, “On to the Next One” with the trip to Denver. It really was a tale of two cities and as the Blazers struggled mightily in the land of the sun, but were able to prevail in often-snowy Denver.
Traveshamockery! Trail Blazers 94 (0-1) at Suns 106 (1-0)
Travesty. Sham. Mockery. Three words that best describe the season opener vs the Phoenix Suns. This was a first-round knockout if I have ever seen one. From the jump the Suns were all over the Blazers and it never really got too close at any point. Miles Plumlee looked like Kevin Love out there, dropping 16 points and 10 rebounds by halftime; both easily career highs. Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe looked masterful together and they were penetrating the lane whenever they wanted to and had no fear of resistance at the rim as many times Robin Lopez was left in no man’s land.
Same old, same old with the Blazers in this one — Damian Lillard had 32 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 28 — no other Blazer scored in double figures. To make matters worse Nicolas Batum, the second highest paid player on the roster, took a whopping nine shots. Nine! In the words of Keyshawn Johnson, “C’mon man!!” Tally it up — Lillard and LA had 60 points and the other seven guys who got minutes combined for 34 points?! Unacceptable. Neil Olshey did not go out and add relevant bench players for the same type of production the Blazers had last season for the supporting cast. Luckily this is one of 82 games. Phew.
Redemption! Blazers 113 (1-1) at Nuggets 98 (0-2)
Twenty-three game home winning streak dating back to last season in Denver — GONE! Blazers still had trouble containing guards as Ty Lawson (21 points) and Nate Robinson (24 points) had their way during this game. This is a troubling issue as we all know we are in the Age of the Guard right now and if you cannot contain guards and keep them out of the paint you run the risk of giving up easy buckets or getting your bigs into foul trouble — neither of which the Blazers have the luxury of doing.
There was a bit of a personal aspect to this one as J.J. Hickson was playing against his old team for the first time since they let him walk via free agency in the offseason. Hickson was largely ineffective, going 2-for-13 from the floor with five points and nine rebounds in only 22 minutes of court time. Balanced scoring was the key for the Blazers with LA leading the way with 25 points, Batum and Wesley Matthews both had 21 points, Lillard had 18 points and Mo Williams had 11 points off the bench. THIS was the expectation when Olshey made the moves he did in the offseason — a balanced scoring attack on a nightly basis.
Matthews and Batum were huge in this game. Batum had all 21 of his points in the first half, where he went 5-for-6 from deep as well. Wes hit a timely 3 late when the Nuggets had cut the lead to seven and he chipped in a career-high 12 rebounds as well. Five Blazers took at least 10 shots, which again shows the balance that is necessary for this team to succeed. A lackluster start by Robin Lopez is a bit troublesome, but it’s early and I’ll give Lopez the benefit of the doubt .. .for now.
On the Horizon…
Home Opener: Saturday vs. the San Antonio Spurs
Tuesday: vs the Houston Rockets
Both teams are currently 2-0 and will be a difficult victory for the Blazers. I chalked these both up as losses in my prediction of how the first 10 games of the season would play out, so it would be an added bonus if Portland could split these two games.
Let me know what you think on twitter: @Chris_Reichert
Tags: Blazers Damian Lillard Denver Nuggets Eric Bledsoe Goran Dragic Jj Hickson Lamarcus Aldridge Miles Plumlee Mo Williams Nate Robinson NBA Nicolas Batum Phoenix Suns Portland Trail Blazers Rip City Robin Lopez Ty Lawson Wes Matthews