Trail Blazers' Worst Loss of the Season and a Learning Experience for Anfernee Simons
Plus, What We Saw in the Blazers' collapse against the Clippers and the Jersey of the Night.
PORTLAND, Ore. — The Trail Blazers haven't had a lot of bad losses this season. Most of them, even the ones on this current skid, are games they were in late or mounted a spirited comeback effort that fell just short.
Tuesday night was a bad loss.
At home, in their only TNT game of the year, against a Clippers team missing both of their franchise players, wasting a 37-point night from Anfernee Simons and blowing an 18-point second-half lead—that's a bad loss. Their worst of the year, even.
And Simons, the hero for much of the night, took the blame for not demanding the ball late as the Clippers' defense bottled him up.
"In those situations, you kind of read it," Simons said after the game. "Getting the ball and demanding that attention, I think that's what I should have been doing. They were denying me the ball, and there were moments where I didn't realize I needed to go get it. It's a learning experience. I'll be ready next time I'm in that situation."
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It's been an up-and-down season for Simons in his first year in this role. He can get very hot, very quickly, but he's often struggled shooting early in games before settling into a rhythm in the second half. He's had to make two adjustments at once—both playing with Damian Lillard in, for lack of a better term, the CJ McCollum role, and when Lillard is out, running the show with much better players than the tanking group he had in the second half of last season.
The slow start wasn't an issue for Simons against the Clippers. He barely missed through three quarters. But when the Clippers' defense started forcing him into tougher looks in the fourth quarter, and he missed a few in a row, he began deferring. In his fifth year, he hasn't fully realized yet that the Blazers gave him a $100 million contract this summer exactly for games like this.
"That's something that me and Ant will talk about," head coach Chauncey Billups said after the game. "It's a part of his development. Ant is 22 years old. He's a phenomenal talent already, but he's still got growing to do. We can't act like he's 32, like Dame. He's still got some developing to do."
This was the first game of the season where the Blazers let go of the rope. The first time they lost to a team with clearly less talent on the floor. Even with their own injuries and Lillard's absence, the Paul George- and Kawhi Leonard-less version of the Clippers is a team Portland should be able to put away. And they were, until they weren't.
"Those are the most dangerous teams in the league," Billups said. "Look at us, how shorthanded we were and went to Phoenix and got a win. There's a natural letdown that happens. No matter what we say, as players, as coaches, there's a natural thing that happens. But I thought we were in good shape, until the fourth quarter."
What We Saw
For paid subscribers, notes, thoughts and observations from the game, plus the Jersey of the Night: