LA: I can't run, but I wanted to play, eying Atlanta return
ORLANDO – The Portland Trail Blazers sunk to a new low when they got outplayed and outworked by the Orlando Magic, resulting in an embarrassing 95-85 loss Tuesday night in the Amway Center.
“It’s probably the lowest point as far as being inconsistent, but it’s also the toughest,” Damian Lillard said postgame. “It’s getting down to that point where it’s time to make that push and get in the playoffs…We just got to tightened up and get it done.”
Orlando had dropped nine straight coming into tonight’s game and Portland is a puzzling 4-9 in its last 13 games with the inclusion of losing its first three games on this crucial five-game road trip.
"This is a very, extremely disappointing loss and in fact, it was a game we needed to have," Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. "And we've got 10 games left. There's got to be a sense of urgency for every game."
The Trail Blazers have shot 40 percent or lower in their last three games. Their lack of focus and energy level is clearly noticeable. On the defensive end, well, that continues to be a concern.
They need a savior, badly. And one may be on its way.
Slouched in his locker room stall after the game was a defeated-looking LaMarcus Aldridge who has sat out the team’s last seven games as he deals with a nagging back contusion. He looked helpless, wishing he could help his team.
The power forward spoke to members of the media for a few minutes and provided a ray of hope for the organization and the fan base.
“I say I’m trying to go no matter what [against Atlanta on Thursday] but if I look good enough to play [in Wednesday’s workout], then I’m going to play,” he said. “It’s up to the medical staff.”
Center Robin Lopez didn’t hold back about how he feels about Aldridge’s contribution to the team.
“We need L.A.,” Lopez said. “In order for us to be at our best, he has to be on the court with us. He’s our leader.”
Aldridge says he’s been getting better each passing day. The Trail Blazers are 3-4 since he took that hard fall in San Antonio on Mar. 12. He admitted that he didn’t think it would take this long. He wanted to play tonight, but the pain was too severe when he tried to run.
The eight-year vet was asked if a return on Thursday has anything to do with the team losing, and he replied saying it factors into it, though he reiterated that it’s ultimately the call of the team’s medical staff.
“It (losing) makes me want to play even worse, yes it does,” Aldridge answered in frustration. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move, you can’t play.”
Wednesday’s practice will be the first time since the injury that he’ll experience some body contact and try to go all out.
When Aldridge came back from a groin injury this year, it took a few games for him to find his timing and rhythm. The offense became stagnant and the ball stopped moving in order to get him the necessary touches so that he may regain his form.
There’s only 10 games remaining in the regular season and the Trail Blazers aren’t in a position to force-feed Aldridge at the expense of losing games. However, this time around, Aldridge says thing will be different because he has been doing some light basketball work consisting of stationary shooting and conditioning over the past three-four days.
“Last time I went from sitting on my couch and couldn’t move, to playing,” Aldridge explained. “This time, it’s been more of a transition period. So I think I’ll be fine.”
With these recent struggles, two and a half games are what currently separate the Trail Blazers from being out of the playoff picture. Golden State, Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix are on their heels and don’t appear to be letting up.
Lillard doesn’t see a major collapse out of the playoff equation in their near future.
“We don’t feel like that’s going to happen,” Lillard said confidently. “We’re going to get it right. As long as we stay focused on the fact that we can control our own destiny because we can, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting and find a way to get out of this hole we’re in.”
The hope is that Aldridge will dig them out of this hole. He’s the key to salvaging what has been a highly successful season. They’re going to need him to be as close to form as possible once he returns because the way they’re playing as of late, another role player wouldn’t add much.
“Guys are competing and playing hard, playing the right way,” Aldridge said. “Its just guys are just tired and hopefully I can try to come back next game and try to help out with that.”
I’m sure they would like that.