The All-Star break is over! Hooray!
I don’t care if this makes me a misanthrope: I absolutely hate the All-Star break. It’s a popularity contest and unless a Blazer is in one of the events, I’m not gonna watch it. If something cool happens, I’ll see it later on Twitter. It also always falls on my birthday weekend, so I always have other stuff going on.
Thank you for attending my TED talk.
The Blazers are BACK, baby! This is the time of year where Terry Stotts turns up the heat. We’re without Dame for a bit, and we still won’t have Nurk for a while, and Rodney’s still done for the year, and Zach is out, and we’re six games under .500 but…….Basketball!
Entering tonight, the Blazers are 25-31, good for 9th in the Western Conference and 3.5 games back from the Memphis Grizzlies, who beat the Blazers before the break but lost a close one to Sacramento last night. The Spurs are a game back of us and the Pelicans half a game back of them, so this one’s really important.
The Blazers have a much easier schedule the rest of the way, though, especially when compared to Memphis. The Pelicans are the ones we have to really worry about, though, as Kevin pointed out in his prescient article earlier this week. FiveThirtyEight.com agrees, giving the Pels a 63% chance to make the playoffs, with the Blazers at 22%, Grizz at 9%, and Spurs at 4%.
- Portland: Damian Lillard, Rodney Hood, Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Mario Hezonja are all out.
- New Orleans: Darius Miller and Kenrich Williams are out.
- Portland: CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr., Trevor Ariza, Carmelo Anthony, Hassan Whiteside
- New Orleans: Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Derrick Favors
Well, the Jazz just lost at home to the Spurs, so the importance of this one has just been amplified.
ESPN’s broadcast began with one shot of Portland and about 25 mentions of some dude named Zion. He’s had a great 10-game start, and you can tell the national media is begging for another big game.
Off the tip, Holiday controlled and gave the ball to Zion, who gave it right back for an easy open three. Yuck. Zion will be guarded by Whiteside, and Williamson bodied him for a hefty lay-up on the third possession. Both teams combined to start 7-for-9 from the field.
With a whole lot of Duke production on the court, Gary Trent was the one who hit a smooth three and followed it with a high-arcing floater. Neat.
Melo started checking Zion, and that started working. Then Whiteside was back on him out of the timeout. Go figure. Zion still finished the quarter 4/4 with 10 points.
I hate playing the Pelicans. They play so fast (T-3rd in pace). Zion got his dunk and Ariza committed an inbounds violation by flicking the ball to CJ with his foot. Still only a single-digit deficit, though.
Portland ended the quarter with Trent, Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan on the court. They didn’t play exceptionally well or poorly, I just felt like that was a noteworthy moment in time. Pels 40, Blazers 35.
Less than a minute into the quarter, referee Mitchell Irvin orchestrated what Mike Breen called “One of the worst drink spills in NBA history.” Once it was cleaned up, Whiteside rattled the rim between two defenders.
I love Ant’s energy and I want him to succeed but the accuracy just isn’t there yet.
Portland stayed within around 10 for a while, but it was clear that even that wasn’t sustainable. New Orleans were attacking clinically and relentlessly. After the Pelicans’ second rebound in a row off one of their own missed free throws, Zion put them up 15.
This game feels an awful lot like the last one. The scoreboard says Portland’s still in it, but Whiteside’s 4 fouls and Dame’s strained groin say otherwise.
If I have to hear this Cricket commercial one more time I think I’m gonna lose it. This quarter has gone on way too long. Pels 73, Zers 63. How it’s that close is beyond me.
Here’s a much clearer explanation for my displeasure with this game:
The Lonzo-to-Zion connection is one we might be seeing in countless highlight posts and nightmares down the stretch this season.
There’s that run I was hoping for…nice little 7-0 burst led by Melo brings us within 5!
You know what? Josh Hart is a good shooter. So is Redick. Holiday and Ball are good facilitators. Why isn’t this team better? Yeah, they were missing Zion for a while, but they should still be winning a little more than this.
Stotts angrily called timeout at the 2:47 mark—the Blazers were on the verge of a run, but the Pelicans turned it on from deep. As I type this, they are 55.4% from the field and 65% (13/20) from behind the arc. That actually gives me a strange sense of hope, because I don’t feel like they can keep that up for the rest of the game…right?
Welp, the Blazers just fumbled the ball out of bounds for absolutely no reason and let Nicolo Melli score 4 points in the paint. The deficit is 16. Aaaaaaaaaand Hart just hit a buzzer-beater to end the quarter. Make it 19 points. 102-83.
Stotts calling a timeout less than 2 minutes into the quarter tells you everything you need to know. Whiteside lost a jump ball to Holiday but the Blazers still got the crowd back into it with a couple hustle plays. Then Whiteside had two blocks in two seconds, but Holiday still scored.
The Blazers have resorted to leaving guys wide open on the perimeter. The deficit was 12 with just under 6 minutes left when CJ hit a wild shot from the corner…and, of course, Holiday hit an equally absurd one of his own from the wing.
The rest of the game slowly churned itself out, relying on tidbits from Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson for entertainment. The final score was Blazers 115, Pelicans 128.
This was a soul-suckingly bad defensive showing. One hundred twenty-eight is a large number.
I don’t even want to look at the box score. It’s gonna make me sick. The Blazers had a lot of excuses to lose this one. That doesn’t mean they needed to lose it, though. If they miss the playoffs, point to these All-Star bookends to see why.
I told you I hated the All-Star jazz.