Wesley: I Felt a Pop, Thought It Was My Knee
NEW ORLEANS – “Well, we got our butts kicked,” is how Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts opened up his postgame interview after his team took a 99-63 thumping by the New Orleans Hornets, losing their fifth consecutive game. “We didn't play well. They were prepared for us and obviously we didn't play a very good game tonight.”
Just last night, the Trail Blazers (25-28) nearly defeated the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena until the Heat went on a 16-3 run down the stretch to gain some separation for the victory.
It was a loss for the Trail Blazers, but they looked as if they were on the right track to finish off a Hornets team that is one of the worst teams in the Western Conference to enter the break on a positive note.
That clearly wouldn't be the case tonight as they had so many season-low statistics this evening.
The Trail Blazers scored a season-low 14 first-quarter points then went on to top that with a season-low 12 second-quarter points and a season-low 26 first-half points.
And it didn't stop there.
Through three quarters, the Trail Blazers scored a season-low 44 points and their 63 points to end the game was a season-low as well.
“I thought we fought against Miami and I thought that emotional loss carried over today and I was out of it,” LaMarcus Aldridge said after a six-point performance. “I was tired and I think it showed.”
At the end of four quarters, the Trail Blazers shot 32 percent from the field. An yes, you guessed it, that was a season-low. Not one quarter did the Trail Blazers score over 19 points.
“It's just exhaustion,” Jared Jeffries said. “It's hard. We got guys logging a lot of minutes. We're trying to incorporate our younger players, trying to get them consistent minutes. So, it's a difficult dynamic that we had tonight.”
For the second night in a row, Nicolas Batum went scoreless in the first half before finishing with three points on one-for-10 shooting. He hasn't been right, but he's not trying to make any excuses.
“I'm okay like everybody,” Batum said. “It's almost 50 games now so your body is going to be tired...I'm good, that was just a tough stretch for us. Losing five games in a row and my wrist still bothering me a lot. I can't really be productive like I want to. I'll just try to get away from everything and get ready to help the team win some games.”
The absence of Wesley Matthews might have contributed to the Trail Blazers' poor play.
Matthews landed awkwardly on his left ankle after coming down from making a pass in the air a little over a minute into the game. He fell to the floor in pain and remained there while play resumed.
During a timeout, teammates helped him to the locker room where he received an X-ray that came back negative. He would not return to the game.
Following the game, Matthews spoke with members of the media saying he sustained a high ankle sprain and the good news was that he was upbeat. In fact he said he expects to be available for the Trail Blazers first game after the break on Tuesday against Phoenix.
A 1-5 record was not the way the Trail Blazers envisioned this six-game trip going. They were a game above .500 entering this trip and now they are three games under .500. Losses to Orlando, who was on a 12-game skid, and New Orleans were considered to be givens.
Quite frankly, the trip was a failure.
“[It's] very disappointing,” Stotts said. “I mean there's no way of sugar coating it. We had better expectations coming into the trip. We're not far from the eighth spot and we felt like we could win a few more on the road. Obviously you don't want a five-game losing streak going into the All-Star break, that's not what you want. It's tough to win on the road, but we had hoped for better.”
Which Trail Blazer team is this? Are they the team that shocked everyone by beating the Lakers, the Knicks, the Spurs, the Heat?
Or are they the team that gave the Wizards their first win of the season when they were 0-12, or the team that allowed the Magic to break a 12-game streak of their own?
Maybe they're the team we saw tonight.
Who are they?
“We are who we are,” Damian Lillard said. “I think we're capable of winning those kind of games that we've won, but we also have to make sure we do the same things that gave us a chance in those big games against every team. When we get to the point where we bring it at that high level like we did against Miami, that's when we'll be a really good team, when we can play at that level consistently.”
The break has come and probably couldn't have come at a better time. If there was a game a couple of days from now and this inconsistent play continued, tempers might have exploded. After the game tonight, the message amongst the team was to just get away and clear your minds.
“There's really not much to say right now and it wouldn't be a good time to say something,” Jeffries said. “We just need to go and clear our minds and come back ready to play ball. It's as simple as that.”
Lillard led the team with 12 points and four assists. Victor Claver chipped in 11 points and six rebounds off the bench. JJ Hickson contributed 10 points and five rebounds.