Smith struggled in loss, Aldridge reminds him who he is

Smith struggled in loss, Aldridge reminds him who he is
January 19, 2013, 11:15 pm
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He only played three minutes tonight, but it was a three-minute span everyone would like to forget about as the Portland Trail Blazers lost their fifth consecutive game at home by the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks 110-104.

Nolan Smith was brought in midway in the first quarter to spell Damian Lillard. His first turnover came 19 seconds into his stint and it saw Brandon Jennings take it in for the layup on the break. Fast-forward 1:30, Monta Ellis picks off his pass and converts the lay-in after Jennings missed the easy two in transition.

Then Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts called a timeout with his team down 25-12. Play resumed and it happened again 18 seconds later – a Smith turnover that led to a layup by Jennings.

Three seconds shortly, Smith was pulled for Lillard and he did not return for the rest of the evening. His stat-sheet read zero points, zero rebounds, zero assist, three turnovers and a -17 in three minutes.

Smith admitted after the game that he played his worst game ever.

I can't remember having a moment like that,” he said. “It's frustrating coming out there turning the ball over like that. Another loss for us is frustrating, too. I just have to put it behind me and I just gotta continue to get better.”

It looked as if Bucks Head Coach Jim Boylan knew something about Smith's ball handling skills or his decision making process because he took full advantage of it.

Our mindset coming in was getting after everybody in the backcourt,” Boylan told “ I just wanted to get up and pressure these guy and make it difficult on them. Nolan is a good player, when you're a point guard, they're going to come after you so you have to be ready to handle that pressure.”

LaMarcus Aldridge has been a big brother to Smith and has taken him under his wing. According to the All-Star forward, ball pressure, turning guys over, and making good reads is Smith's strong points and he made sure he gave Smith a talk stating he expects more.

I wasn't happy for him tonight, but I was talking to him and I told him he has to come out with more energy next time to shake this funk,” Aldridge said. “He looked like he was in a funk. I don't know if he is or not, but I told him he can't play like that anymore.

He just needs to be ready for it (pressure). I thought he thought it was going to be a little bit easier tonight playing backup [point guard]. Teams are going to go after him because they want to pressure him. He has to be ready for everything. He's better than that.”

The Trail Blazers don't have the luxury of backup point guards ready for prime time action. Ronnie Price has been battling a right ankle sprain all year and Smith just can't seem to put it all together.

Lillard played 41 minutes tonight and judging from the way the game went, he probably should have played more than that. He sprained his right ankle in the third quarter and hobbled to the bench during a timeout. Lillard would sit for a couple of minutes while Price took his shift. He said his ankle is fine after the game.

But what if Lillard wasn't able to come back in the game? Where would the Trail Blazers have been without his 26 points and 10 assist?

Sorry for putting that vision in your head.

Smith had a rough game and he owned up to it and answered every question the media threw his way. You have to give him props for that. However, this team is in desperate need of help at the point guard spot and most likely it's going to have to come from within.

That means Smith or Price is going to have to step up and despite what others may say, their teammate thinks the world of them.

I got confidence in Nolan and R.P. [Ronnie Price],” Lillard said. “I play against them everyday in practice so I know that they are capable of going out on the court and producing. I expect them to play well and they will.”