LA: Would you be in a good mood if you just lost 3 in a row?
MEMPHIS – Usually Terry Stotts starts out with an opening statement to kick off his postgame pressers. But Tuesday night, after the Portland Trail Blazers lost 109-99 to the Memphis Grizzlies, he deferred to members of the media by asking are there “any questions?”
It was apparent that Stotts was beyond frustrated. For a coach who is more than generous when it comes to how much he’s available for media, he surprisingly only spent a minute and fifty seconds addressing tonight’s loss.
His tone mixed with a few short answers gave you the feeling he wanted out of Memphis as soon as possible. And how could you blame him.
Memphis shot 56 percent compared to Portland’s 40 percent. No other Trail Blazer aside from Damian Lillard, who was 12-of-13 from the line, shot more than four free throws.
“We fought our asses off. We did everything but put the ball in the basket,” Wesley Matthews said after going one-for-seven from the field.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled yet again, posting 19 points on eight-of-23 shooting in addition to 10 rebounds in 37 minutes of play. The three-time All-Star was five-of-seven from eight feet in, which is extremely good, but he was a miserable three-of-16 from outside eight feet.
When his shot is on, he’s money. When he’s off, well, he’s what we’ve been witnessing the last two games as he has gone 18-for-50, equating to 36 percent from the field. The turnaround jumper he possesses has ventured to another level this season, but lately it has abandoned him. In order for him to find his groove, he’ll have to mix it up and get some easy baskets via in the paint and free throw opportunities.
However, suggesting to Aldridge that going to the basket more shall open things up for him and his teammates is asking for trouble. Questioning his shot selection is a thorn on his side. But the question had to be asked, so I did.
“We do have plays to get me easy shots,” Aldridge swiftly responded out of defense to CSNNW.com. “I had easy shots tonight. I just missed them. That’s it. I think we run good plays and I get good shots.”
An easy shot to Aldridge, is an open jump-shot or an uncontested fadeaway. He believes he can, and often does, knock those shots down with regularity without a problem. But the easy shots I’m referring to are dunks, layups and sweeping hooks in the paint. Point blank at-the-rim field goal attempts.
“Like I said, I get good shots,” he said.
Stotts’ message to the team was sticking together, having now dropped their first three games of this five-game road trip with a daunting task of taking down the San Antonio Spurs waiting tomorrow night. The way in which they’ve lost these past three games have been of different variety.
Portland overcame a 40-point deficit in Dallas before losing, they had control of the Houston Rockets for most of the game prior to falling in overtime, and tonight they couldn’t even throw a rock inside the Pacific Ocean. Sensing this is a pivotal point in the season, Stotts made sure to remind his club that they’ll get through if they continue to play as a team.
“He had to say that right now because that’s three tough losses in different ways,” Nicolas Batum said after a 15-point, eight-rebound night. “We got to stay together. We’ve done it before. We know we’re a good team. We got the same 15 players from Day 1. We were the best team in the league the first 40 games. We got to stay together and start having fun again.”
The only player who looked like they were having fun tonight was Damian Lillard as he registered a game-high 32 points, grabbed four rebounds and distributed seven assists in 38 minutes.
He did his best to singlehandedly keep his team in the ball game. Memphis, though, had too many players making positive contributions.
“You got to give them credit,” Lillard said. “They played a great game. We didn’t hit some shots and it was that way for much of the game. It was one of those nights.”
These nights cannot keep occurring. Yes, Portland is in the midst of a brutal schedule with some tough opponents but aren’t the Trail Blazers supposed to be one of those tough opponents, too? We’re past the days of chopping it up to the schedule. This team has proven that they can beat anybody, anywhere.
It’s time to prove it. And it’s time for Aldridge to prove it, too. He says his rhythm is fine. He says he’s not suffering from that nagging groin injury anymore. Well, there are no excuses then. He has to play well. This team needs both of their All-Stars playing at a high level in order to be successful in meaningful games.
I think we all share Stotts’ frustration. Which Trail Blazer team is the real Trail Blazers and will they stand up? Is it the team that mesmerized the national media earlier in the year or the one that’s currently coughing up games?
If it’s the first one, Aldridge needs to have a hand in it, and preferably his hand needs to be slamming a basketball down the net.
“We [need to] just pick our urgency up and get back to how we were in the start of the season when everybody wrote us off,” Matthews said. “We’re almost at the same exact point right now, people writing us off again. That’s when it’s time to get that hunger and that dog back. Not that we lost it, it’s just a rough three games right now.”