Discover more from The Rose Garden Report
Trail Blazers Outclassed by Bucks, See What a Title Contender Looks Like
The Blazers didn't have an answer for Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks on Monday.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Over the coming months and years, the Trail Blazers are hoping to build a true title contender. On Monday, they saw what that kind of team actually looks like, and how far away they are.
On the second possession of Monday's blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo got out on a fastbreak and attempted a floater that careened off the backboard, accidentally giving him a putback. A couple of possessions later, he began another fastbreak, but slipped and fell near the basket, and still managed to salvage a kickout to the corner which eventually resulted in a wide-open Brook Lopez three-pointer.
It was that kind of night for the Blazers.
They've had a lot of bad losses this season that have been well-documented here. I wouldn't call this one of those. The Bucks are a title contender with arguably the best player in the NBA. The Blazers are currently outside the play-in race, down their starting center with nothing close to the size and physicality needed to hang with a deep, talented team like Milwaukee.
What happened on Monday is exactly what was supposed to happen. It's what anyone going in would have expected.
The Rose Garden Report is a fully independent, reader-supported publication. Purchasing a premium subscription unlocks exclusive content and helps make the coverage of the Portland Trail Blazers the best it can be.
"It was over pretty early," Damian Lillard said afterwards. "We were down 24 at the end of the third. So obviously, you can make a comeback in that type of game, but we weren't playing a way where you can get back in the game. There wasn't a lot of energy in the building. And they're not a team that you can get on a roll and score a lot of points in a hurry against. We just came up against a better team."
Lillard had a pretty pedestrian night by his own recent standards, scoring "only" 28 points on 7-of-18 shooting. Beyond 21 points from Anfernee Simons, he didn't get much help from anyone else.
60 hours from now, his supporting cast could look very different. I wrote last week about the stress and tension that comes with the week leading up to the trade deadline, and when I asked Lillard about it, he acknowledged it could also be playing a part in their past two losses.
"There's a lot of players looking around wondering, 'Am I gonna be thrown in a deal? Will I be on a different team?'" Lillard said. "I'm sure it's hard to be fully invested and fully focused and have your energy on trying to win a game at every moment. That makes it tough. And also, knowing that the [All-Star] break is coming up. We've got a pretty long break this year, and then we've got a stretch of games that we can win every one of them, but we can also lose every one of them. So it's a good opportunity for us, but it's so many different forces that you're up against at this specific time."
That part of the calendar will be over soon. Then, the work of figuring out what the rest of the season will look like begins.