Monday night’s game was a gut-wrenching reminder of that old cliché, “what goes around comes around” as the Portland Trail Blazers lost in stunning fashion to a Pelicans team who has won three of their last four games. The Blazers have had their fair share of tough games where they came out on top, as they were 15-2 in games decided by 10 points or less before coming into this game. This is actually consecutive games where they lost to a last-second shot, as Chris Bosh nailed the dagger on Saturday night to beat the Blazers.
The Blazers were (along with the Spurs) one of two teams left in the NBA to not have lost in consecutive games — now its only those crafty, veteran Spurs left in the entire league! [Side note: When I think of the Spurs it reminds me of cheat codes on older video games; yeah you can win all the time, but man is it boring.]
This one stung a little more than the others, not only because this is a tough stretch of opponents for the Blazers, but because Damian Lillard had just nailed another cold-blooded 3-pointer from the parking lot (seriously it was DEEP) to tie the game at 105. Lillard has shown a flair for the dramatic late in games. In the last five minutes, when his team is ahead or behind by five points, Lillard is shooting a ridiculous 18-for-34 overall (52.9 percent) and 10-for-18 from 3-point land (55.6 percent). Tonight was Tyreke’s night and he did not disappoint — if you are a Pelicans’ fan that is.
They did everything they were supposed to do for coach Terry Stotts’ strategy to work in this game, and somehow still came out on the wrong end. The Pelicans (dubbed the Pellies by most) went 2-for-11 from 3-point range — by comparison the Blazers MADE one more 3-pointer than the Pellies even shot (12 if you struggle in math). Blazers also won the free throw battle sinking 18-of-24 while their opponent only went 12-for-15. Who won the turnover battle? Push — both teams were scary efficient and only had nine giveaways.
Look, the sky isn’t falling; the Blazers still sit at 24-7 — muuuuuch better than anyone thought they would be at this point. However, if not for three buzzer-beating losses they could be leading the league with 27 wins and be a dominant 27-4. Terry Stotts came out after the tough loss to the Heat and said he isn’t passing blame or calling any of his players out in the media, however the last two game winners were missed assignments by star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Monday night’s shot was simply a great one-on-one step back jumper in Mo Williams‘ face.
This reminded me of open gym hoops where one guy hits a tough shot, everyone thinks the game is over and the next possession the guy with the rock wants to stick it back at him as if to say, “Anything you can do, I can do better” — then I immediately thought of this …
Oh, how we miss you MJ, but I digress. The Blazers are going to be just fine. They are still 15-3 in games decided by 10 points or less and they are still hitting 3-point shots with great regularity (league leading 10.3 per game).
Their next matchup is Tuesday night, on the road, in Oklahoma City to face a Thunder team that has been lights out at home to the tune of a 14-1 record so far. They will be without star point guard Russell Westbrook, but Reggie Jackson has filled in nicely and will provide Damian Lillard all the quickness he can handle. The Thunder are 9-1 over their last 10 games and don’t look to be slowing as MVP candidate Kevin Durant has taken over the play-making duties with Westbrook sidelined. Facing them on the second night of a back-to-back AND coming off two tough losses will be interesting.
Will they succumb to the pressures of being “the hunted,” or will they rise up and put the league and everyone else on notice that they have indeed arrived? Tune in to NBATV at 8 p.m. Eastern to find out; it should be a good one!
**You can contact Chris regarding this article or anything basketball related on Twitter: @Chris_Reichert