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Trail Blazers Just Don't Have It Right Now
A loss to the Lakers continues the recent rough patch.
Two successive nights, two different kinds of bad losses for the Trail Blazers.
On Tuesday, a blown 18-point lead against a shorthanded Clippers team. 24 hours later, a double-digit road loss to an improved but still bad Lakers team. That's three losses in a row, eight of their last nine, and falling to .500 for the first time this season.
The Blazers just don't have it right now.
"It" can be a lot of things.
Health is one. Besides the longstanding Damian Lillard and Gary Payton II injuries, the Blazers are currently without Josh Hart and Nassir Little, and other guys are playing through smaller nagging issues. Greg Brown III, fresh off an extended stint in the G League, played meaningful first-half minutes Wednesday out of necessity. Trendon Watford started. It's not a great place to be.
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Defense is another. After their top-10 start to the season, Portland has fallen to 21st in defensive rating, while their offense is hovering around league average.
The confidence and poise that defined the hot start is another thing missing right now. The Blazers lost their composure when the Clippers' defense started taking shots away from Anfernee Simons on Tuesday, and shooters are beginning to second-guess shots they should take. Shaedon Sharpe has been mired in the first extended slump of his rookie season, although his excellent 16-point performance against the Lakers could break him out of it. Simons admitted after the Clippers loss that he needs to be more assertive in those situations.
Most of the losses this season the Blazers have been in. On Wednesday, once the second half started, they weren't. Two Russell Westbrook buzzer-beating threes in consecutive quarters about sums up the kind of night it was for Portland.
There's good news. Since the back-to-back debacles in Milwaukee and Cleveland, the Blazers have been much better about taking care of the ball. Lillard will allegedly be back this weekend, with Gary Payton II not far behind. And after they play the Jazz in Salt Lake City on Saturday, they have four straight at home with days off in between. They'll feel better about things if they stack up a couple of wins, but the Clippers game should have been one of those.
The Western Conference is also still very much up for grabs. Outside of Phoenix and Denver, nobody has separated themselves. Portland is currently 10th in the west, but they're a game and a half out of fourth. A good week will have them right back in the mix.
That good week will come at some point. Right now, they just don't have it.