Despite heroics from CJ McCollum, Trail Blazers drop double-overtime thriller to Detroit

Despite heroics from CJ McCollum, Trail Blazers drop double-overtime thriller to Detroit

Despite a career night from Allen Crabbe and some heroic shots by CJ McCollum to force overtime and double overtime, the Trail Blazers dropped a 125-124 decision to Detroit on Sunday when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a three-pointer with 9.4 seconds left in double overtime.

Crabbe scored a career-high 30 points and McCollum finished with 35, including three-pointers in the final seconds that forced overtime and double overtime.

“A heckuva game,’’ Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Both teams made big plays … but it’s certainly disappointing.’’

The game was played after the NBA postponned the contest one day because of icy conditions on Saturday. 

The Blazers (16-23) led 87-80 heading into the fourth quarter, but Detroit fought back and led 104-100 with under a minute left. But a three-pointer by Crabbe brought the Blazers within 104-103, and after Detroit went up 106-103, McCollum made a deep three with 8 seconds left to tie the game.

Reggie Jackson, who finished with 31 points, missed a driving layin at the regulation buzzer, and Andre Drummond’s tip in was ruled to have come after the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.

The Pistons (18-21) again took a three-point lead in overtime, but McCollum again tied it, this time with a three-pointer off an inbounds pass with 22 seconds left. Jackson missed a chance to win when he missed a 20-footer against the contested defense of Evan Turner.

In double overtime, the Blazers had a 124-119 lead with 1:40 left, but they would never score again, with McCollum once again having the final shot, a running mid-range jumper that bounced off the rim in the final second.

“That was one of the best looks CJ had all night,’’ Stotts said.

Drummond finished with 28 points and 14 rebounds for Detroit and Pope had 26. Mason Plumlee nearly recorded his first triple-double for the Blazers, finishing with 8 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists.

Next up: Blazers at Lakers, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (CSN) 

Gerald Henderson remembers 'hungry' group of Blazers from last season

Gerald Henderson remembers 'hungry' group of Blazers from last season

PHILADELPHIA – Former Trail Blazers wing Gerald Henderson said he hasn’t watched Portland play much this season, but from what little he has seen, he can’t put his finger on why the Blazers are struggling so much.

“Just watching them, they run the same plays,’’ said Henderson, who is averaging 24.6 minutes a game in Philadelphia. “They have some different faces there, and they have some talented guys … it just hasn’t clicked for them yet chemistry wise, or whatever it might be, on either end.’’

Henderson last season was a key cog in what made the Blazers click, as his mid-season resurgence coincided with Portland’s January surge that eventually resulted in 44 wins and a playoff berth.

What made the Blazers work last season?

“We had a hungry group, a hungry group,’’ Henderson said. “A lot of guys up for contracts, a lot of guys trying to prove themselves in the league. At a certain point, that all came together for us and it ended up being a good year.’’

Henderson was one of those players up for a contract and he parlayed his 8.7 points and 2.9 rebounds into a two-year, $18 million deal with Philadelphia. With the Sixers, he is averaging 9.5 points and 2.6 rebounds while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 40.8 percent from three-point range.

Knowing much of the Blazers’ personnel and coaching staff, Henderson said he doesn’t expect Portland to continue its struggles.

“They have a good staff over there, they do things the right way,’’ Henderson said. “And they have some really good players, so I would bet they would start doing better at some point.’’

Next up: Blazers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. Friday (CSN).

Trail Blazers face an emerging 76ers team in Philly at 4:00pm on CSN

Trail Blazers face an emerging 76ers team in Philly at 4:00pm on CSN

Trail Blazers vs. 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers (14-26) are 6-2 in the month of January and this red-hot and rolling 76ers team is the next opponent for the Portland Trial Blazers (18-26).

Philadelphia and Portland will tip-off at 4:00pm on Friday from the Wells Fargo Center.

The Blazers dropped to 7-17 on the road after Wednesday’s, 107-85, blowout loss to the Charlotte Hornets.  It is Portland’s third straight loss as the Blazers fell to 0-2 on their current four-game East Coast trip.  In the loss on Wednesday, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were the only Trail Blazers to score in double digits.  Lillard scored 21 points on 7-of-18 shooting. McCollum added 18 points after going 7-fo-18 from the floor as well.    

It was a different result on Wednesday night for Philadelphia.  The 76ers pulled a big upset over the Toronto Raptors, with a 94-89 win.   As a team, Philadelphia shot 44.3% for the game.

Sixers center Joel Embiid has missed 11 games this season to rest, but at least he is playing.  Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career with foot trouble.  The 22 year-old is averaging 19.9 points and 7.8 rebounds on the season.

Philadelphia has won seven of its last eight games in which Embiid has seen the court.  In that span he is averaging 23 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 27.3 minutes of action.

Philadelphia is 9-14 at home this season.

We have you covered for the Trail Blazers and 76ers contest and we have covered leading up to the game with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 3:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone. 

Plus, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live on CSN starting at 3:00pm.




Quick Links:

Trail Blazers’ spiral continues as Charlotte breezes to easy win

Inside the Trail Blazers: A look at what is ailing the team

 

Video:   Does Coach Stotts still have the locker room’s ear?

Video:   Plumlee: Uncomfortable being on losing team, have to want it

Video:   Jason Quick: Blazers at a critical part of their season

Video:   Talkin’ Ball: Road trip may now serve as a crossroads
 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia PA

Television: CSN, 4:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Inside the Trail Blazers: A look at what is ailing the team

Inside the Trail Blazers: A look at what is ailing the team

CHARLOTTE – Something is wrong with the Trail Blazers and everybody knows it, but no one has a simple explanation, let alone a plausible theory.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising Wednesday that star point guard Damian Lillard flipped the roles after another loss Wednesday, this time by 22 points in Charlotte, and asked the questions.

After he finished answering questions for nearly seven minutes – which included questions about the team’s sometimes morose energy levels and whether coach Terry Stotts is still reaching the players, Lillard turned his Iphone to two local reporters as if he was a media member asking a question.  

“What you all think the problem is?’’ Lillard asked.

Much like his teammates during this confusing 18-26 start, we shrugged.

From one locker stall over, Lillard’s close friend and offensive cohort CJ McCollum chimed in.

“If we knew, don’t you think we’d fix it by now,’’ McCollum said.

As much as fans would like there to be an unearthing of sexy storylines like locker room discontent, or dislike for the coach, or players unhappy with roles, it doesn’t appear those disruptive forces are in play with these Blazers.

But with each passing practice, and each postgame letdown, more and more is being revealed about this Portland team, with Wednesday’s postgame in Charlotte offering perhaps our greatest window into the inner struggle of this young group.

Mason Plumlee was the most pointed, calling out not the team’s effort, but its energy level, which is an important distinction. Never has it appeared this team is dogging it on the court this season, but it has become almost palatable how lifeless and dull the game has become for the team.

They are playing, but not with energy. They are trying, but they are not having fun.

“I don’t think our energy is good, man, honestly,’’ Plumlee said. “It is in spurts. We will rally sometimes but it’s not sustained. That has to change.’’

How does that change?

“I couldn’t tell you,’’ Plumlee said. “You just have to want it. You have to want it.’’

Lillard, the unquestioned leader of the team, was not more than three feet away when Plumlee made the pointed remarks and later he echoed the same sentiment.

“I think our energy has to be much better, more consistently,’’ Lillard said. “When things go well, you get energy … (and) I don’t think we are giving ourselves enough situations to feel good about what we are doing, often enough. Our energy drops because of that, and teams take advantage.’’

Lillard pointed to Wednesday’s game, during which the Blazers closed a 14-point deficit to 79-72 at the end of the third quarter. The push was punctuated by a Noah Vonleh rebound basket in the final seconds of the quarter. Vonleh is one of the most well-liked players on the team, a guy everyone is pulling for, a guy whose success almost always elicits some of the more animated reactions across the team.

But when the Blazers gathered at the end of the quarter, there was little if any reaction.

“We cut that lead to seven. You know, we’ve got a ballgame. We should feel good about, excited about, the way the game is going,’’ Lillard said. “Our energy – we should be excited about that – and when we come to the bench, it should be loud, we should be ready to come go out there and get after it in the fourth quarter.’’

Instead, the Blazers trudged out for the fourth with the enthusiasm of a TSA agent checking IDs. The result: Charlotte scored the first nine points of the fourth and within two minutes, it was a 16-point deficit.

“It wasn’t there, the way it should be,’’ LIllard said of the energy. “That’s because we didn’t have enough plays to feel good about to pick ourselves up as far as our energy. That’s not going to get it done. That’s not good enough.’’

Sometimes when a team looks like the Blazers – lifeless and clearly not having fun -- it signals a disconnect between the players and coaching staff. That doesn’t appear to be the case here, as Lillard staunchly defended coach Terry Stotts and his staff.

And to Stotts’ credit, he has searched for ways to engage and involve this team, from taking suggestions from the bigs to employ more traps and blitzes, to implementing a dodge-ball game during a practice, to encouraging the players to speak up in Tuesday’s film session in Charlotte.

Is Stotts still able to reach the team?

“That’s a given,’’ Lillard said. “We all respect the hell out of Coach Stotts, the entire coaching staff. That’s another thing that is frustrating for us as players: the amount of joy we get out of playing for our coaching staff, and how much time we know they spend in preparing us and how sharp they are … and us not executing it to the best of our ability.

“We want to go out  there and bring W’s for the effort they put out,’’ Lillard said. “They have our attention, we respect them. It’s more so us than everybody else. Coaches aren’t the ones out there shooting. They are not the ones out there turning it over. They are not out there having to play defense. I … I … don’t think that is even close to the issue.’’

So what are the issues?

Clearly, defense is at the top of the concerns. Out of 30 NBA teams, the Blazers rank 28th in defensive efficiency. As was painfully obvious in the blowout loss to Washington, elite guards such as John Wall and Bradley Beal have no problem penetrating and getting to the rim. It has been a season-long problem and one that has unfairly put the Blazers interior defenders in the spotlight as being unable to protect the rim.

Also, the expected strength of the Blazers’ second unit has been a decided weakness. Depth figured to be an asset for this team, but there have been drop-offs from last season in the play of Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis, while Allen Crabbe mixes a superb game between four or five non-descript games. Meanwhile, Evan Turner has recovered nicely from his slow start but still seems like an awkward fit to the flow and rhythm of the team.

But more than anything, the vibe of the team seems off. As Lillard noted after his brief role as reporter Wednesday, the Blazers last year just had more “fight” to them during games. They would “ugly” the game up with fouls, and would do a better job at dictating the pace and feel of the game.

Where that fight went, where the fun of playing the game went, is hard to pinpoint. This still seems like a close team, and the players still remark that they like each other and enjoy hanging around each other.

But as one key player noted, that type of chemistry – liking each other and being a bunch of nice guys – is overrated and doesn’t always translate to winning games. There is no one willing to rock the boat, no one who speaks out, no one who calls it like it is – all things which veteran Chris Kaman was so masterful at the last two seasons.

Also, much of this team’s vibe last season, and through the opening weeks of this season, were fueled by the powerful force that is Lillard and his exceptional play.

He was a player who would take over games, or establish a tone early, and the team seemed to feed off that and take on an air of invincibility.

Over the past couple months, that swagger this team felt in having one of the game’s takeover players has not been present, in part because Lillard hasn’t been that type of player lately.

That’s not to say Lillard isn’t trying. He is, in reality, probably trying harder than he ever has in his career. He has at times this season bristled that outsiders doubt him – especially following the team’s improved play while he was injured -- and he has vowed that he will carry the team, remarking that people shouldn’t underestimate the burden he can shoulder.

“We are trying, we try hard,’’ Lillard said. “Guys try hard, guys want to do the right things, want to help the team, and it’s a little bit tough when you try so hard and it goes the wrong way.’’

But for every blank face in the Blazers locker room after these losses, there is still a surprising and overriding feeling that this can turn around. And slowly but surely, it seems the issues plaguing this team are bubbling to the surface – be it through communication in the Charlotte film session to questions about the team’s energy the next night.

“When you have hard times, which is what we are having so far this season, you have to be a man,’’ Lillard said. “You have to be man enough to say we haven’t been good enough, but you also have to be strong enough mentally to keep pushing forward. That’s what we have to keep doing – pushing forward – but also understand we haven’t been good enough.’’

Next up: Blazers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. Friday (CSN).

Trail Blazers' spiral continues as Charlotte breezes to easy win

Trail Blazers' spiral continues as Charlotte breezes to easy win

CHARLOTTE -- A team video session the day before that turned into somewhat of a team meeting had little effect in turning around the Trail Blazers on Wednesday, as the Charlotte Hornets ended their five-game losing streak by coasting past the Blazers 107-85 at the Spectrum Center. 

Eventually, the Trail Blazers will have to become a team that does its talking on the court, but as of Wednesday they remain a team that gets along, talks among themselves and say the right things publicly, only to go on the court and play like a disjointed and unmotivated group. 

The Blazers (18-26) fell a season-low eight games below .500 and if the season ended today they would be out of the Western Conference playoffs after beginning the seaosn with a goal of making it to the conference finals. 

Charlotte (21-21) didn't play particularly well, but they started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 88-72 and they never looked back. 

Damian Lillard led the Blazers with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists and CJ McCollum had 18 points, but both shot 7-of-18 from the field, which set the tone for a night when Portland would shoot 35.1 percent from the field. 

Longtime Blazers wing Nicolas Batum, who was traded to Charlotte for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh in 2015, finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Kemba Walker added 23 points and center Roy Hibbert came off the bench and added 16 points and six rebounds.  

Unlike their previous two games, the Blazers weren't buried early. They had fallen behind 18-1 to Orlando and 10-0 to Washington, and were behind 7-2 in Charlotte before McCollum ignited an 11-0 run with a three-pointer and a driving layin. The Blazers eventually settled for a 26-23 lead after the first quarter, thanks to some shaky play from the Hornets, who had four turnovers and made just 8-of-22 shots (36.4 percent).

Charlotte took a 54-46 hafltime lead and quickly pushed it to 10 and played the majority of the half ahead by double figures. 

Next up: Blazers at Philadelphia, 4 p.m. Friday (CSN).

 

Blazers and Hornets battling, Charlotte up 54-46 at the break

Blazers and Hornets battling, Charlotte up 54-46 at the break

The Portland Trail Blazers looking to bounce back on Wednesday after its blowout loss to the Wizards.  The Blazers and Hornets tipped off at 4:00pm from the Spectrum Center.

Ed Davis (ankle sprain) is out for this game vs. Charlotte.

Midway through the first quarter, the Blazers held a 13-7 lead after Portland went on a 11-0 run.

Portland was up 26-23 to end the first quarter after shooting 40% as a team, while the Blazer held the Hornets to 36.4% shooting.

Mason Plumlee and the Blazers were very active on the boards in the first half. Plumlee finished the half with six rebounds.  As a team, Portland outrebounded Charlotte, 30-26.

To end the first half, the Blazers shot 36.7%, but the Hornets ended up shooting 45.8% as a team.

At halftime, Charlotte is up 54-46.

 

 


Top performers of the first half:

Trail Blazers

Points:
  CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, 12

Rebounds:  Damian Lillard, 7

Assist:   Damian Lillard, 4

 


Hornets

Points:  Kemba Walker, 16

Rebounds:  Marvin Williams, 8

Assist:  Kemba Walker, 5


Following tonight’s game, you can check out an all-new Talkin’ Ball live on CSN.  And if you can’t get to a TV, you can catch The Scoop Postgame show presented by Toyota of Portland on Broadway streaming live at Facebook.com/CSNNW on your phone, tablet, or computer.

Portland at Charlotte on CSN at 4:00pm: Hornets riding a five-game losing streak

Portland at Charlotte on CSN at 4:00pm: Hornets riding a five-game losing streak

Trail Blazers vs. Hornets

The Portland Trail Blazers (18-25) are looking to rebound after Monday’s, 120-101, loss to the Washington Wizards.   Next up for Portland, the Blazers are in Charlotte.  

The Charlotte Hornets (20-21) host the Blazers on Wednesday at 4:00pm on CSN.

Away from the Moda Center this season, Portland is 7-16.

The Hornets have struggled in their most recent contets; losing five games in a row after Charlotte’s 108-98 loss on the road to the Boston Celtics.  The Hornets allowed the Cs to shoot 50% from the field for the game.

Point guard Kemba Walker leads Charlotte in points per game with 23, but it is former Trail Blazer, Nicolas Batum, who leads the Hornets in rebounds (7.4) and assists (5.8) this season.

Portland and Charlotte will face each other later this month to finish their two-game series.  The Blazers will welcome in the Hornets on January 31st.

Trail Blazers PR staff announced on Tuesday that Ed Davis (left ankle sprain) is out for Wednesday’s game.

CSN will get you ready for the Trail Blazers and Hornets contest with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live at 3:00pm on Facebook.com/CSNNW on your computer, tablet, or phone.  Plus, you can check out an all-new Rip City Live on CSN starting at 3:00pm.

 



Quick Links:

Washington uses fast start to blow out Trail Blazers

Some NBA opinions about what’s wrong with the enigmatic Trail Blazers

Tuesday’s talk: Trail Blazers meet for animated film session

 

Video:   Tuesday’s shootaround: Blazers holding themselves accountable

Video:   Tuesday’s shootaround: Blazers slow starts- What’s happened? How to fix them

Video:   Jason Quick: Blazers still don’t have that “Blazers basketball”

Video:   Highlight: Sluggish start dooms Portland

 

 

Game Details:

Where:  Spectrum Center, Charlotte NC

Television: CSN, 4:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Tuesday's talk: Trail Blazers meet for animated film session

Tuesday's talk: Trail Blazers meet for animated film session

CHARLOTTE – A Trail Blazers team trying to find itself turned to a familiar tactic Tuesday in an attempt to remedy its season-long malaise: communication.

The Blazers had what more-or-less amounted to a team meeting during a film session before their practice inside Charlotte’s Spectrum Center, during which a handful of players spoke up about specific plays in the team’s humiliating 120-101 loss Monday in Washington.

The meeting included several players pausing the film and speaking about assignments and reads , and included input from six or seven guys, one of which was not captain Damian Lillard.

“As a leader, sometimes you have to just shut up,’’ Lillard said.

A similar meeting was held earlier this season, before a Dec. 19 practice in Sacramento, but players said that meeting was more centered around the mental approach of the team compared to Tuesday’s meeting, which was more centered on tactical issues specific to Monday’s loss in Washington.

“Sacramento wasn’t about film,’’ Mason Plumlee said. “That was just about … I don’t want to say effort, but I think Coach called it ‘mental effort.’ Physically we are exerting ourselves and trying to do the right thing, but we just weren’t playing smart, whether it would be dumb fouls, or not knowing game plan, or not being where supposed to be in offensive set. That meeting was ‘We are not a dumb group, let’s not play like we are dumb.’’’

The Blazers (18-25) players expected to be an upper-echelon team in the Western Conference this season, but they have never won more than three in a row and are fighting with Denver, Sacramento and New Orleans for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Through all of their struggles, the players say that their chemistry – which so greatly defined their surprising rise to a second-round playoff team last season – remains as strong as ever. But that chemistry hasn’t translated to the court, where they have the third worst defensive rating in the league and have had little offensive consistency outside of Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Perhaps trying to capitalize on that chemistry, players said that Coach Terry Stotts encouraged an “open” film session on Tuesday.

The first to talk was Plumlee.

“I encouraged guys to speak, because at first it was slow and kind of quiet,’’ Plumlee said. “I just said, ‘We have to speak up because we got ourselves the record we have right now – so we have to figure out how to get a better one.’’’

From there, players say that Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis, Meyers Leonard, and McCollum all contributed. 

“There were so many things that came up from different guys,’’ Lillard said.

Soon, they were talking about the poor defensive positioning that allowed John Wall and Bradley Beal to drive unimpeded to the rim. They were talking about how the bigs could help guards by peeling off a screen and rolling to the rim.

“Basically the same things we’ve been talking about all year,’’ Allen Crabbe said. “We’ve been trying to figure out what the issue is, how we can get better, you know, and this was just us identifying what we need to do.’’

There was more than a hint of frustration in Crabbe’s words.  He said he feels like the team has talked enough about improving, and now with 39 games remaining, it’s time to start backing up the talk.

“At this point of the season, man, it’s about us just really just doing it,’’ Crabbe said. “You know, what are we to say, what, a month from now? We going have the same conversation? Then what, then we are going to keep saying the same thing?’’

Plumlee, however, said any time a team communicates it is a good thing and a sign that they are still together. Plus, he said it carries more weight when a player has to verbalize his accountability to the group, rather than watching film and making a mental note of his mistake.

“Honestly, I think it’s good in a group setting to say, ‘I know I messed that up, but I’m not going to do it next time.’ If you just say it in your mind, who did you promise you wouldn’t do that to, just yourself?’’ Plumlee said. “So I believe in team meetings. I believe in talking to each other and trying to figure it out together.’’

To Crabbe’s point, it’s time the Blazers put their talk to action. The first chance will be Wednesday against the Hornets (20-21), who have lost five in a row.  In the last two games, losses against Orlando and Washington, the Blazers have trailed 18-1 and 10-0.

“How we respond is big,’’ Plumlee said. “If we come out tomorrow and play well, then this is more meaningful. It’s a better meeting if we win.’’

Notes: The Blazers said center Ed Davis will not play against Charlotte because of his sprained left ankle. Davis played on the injured ankle against Washington, but played just five minutes. “I just wasn’t 100 percent,’’ Davis said. “I was hurting the team and myself by trying to play.’’ Davis said he “for sure” intends to play Thursday in Philadelphia.

Next up: Blazers at Charlotte, 4 p.m. Wednesday (CSN).

Some NBA opinions about what's wrong with the enigmatic Trail Blazers

Some NBA opinions about what's wrong with the enigmatic Trail Blazers

A very convincing win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. A shocking loss to the Orlando Magic. A disapppointing rout by the Washington Wizards.

That's the Trail Blazers this season. Up and down, good and bad, encouraging and disappointing. Through it all, woeful on defense and continuing to stay positive in the locker room -- to the point that it's driving people to think they aren't upset enough by their own play to do something about it.

Why is this happening? What's causing this team that was so promising last season to nosedive this year? I've spent the last month asking people I know in the NBA -- scouts, assistant coaches, front-office people -- what they think of what's happening with the Trail Blazers this season. They were promised anonymity, of course -- it was the only way they'd comment. And so here you are; feel free to pick and choose what you agree with and what you don't agree with:

  • "They all got paid. Too many of their players either got new deals for this season or guaranteed extensions that kick in next season. I've seen it before -- when you get that big contract, you can't help but relax a little. You don't think you're doing it, but you are. And you get a whole team full of guys like that you can lose your edge."
  • "They may have overestimated how good they were in the first place. Last season was a crazy one in the West. The games they won (44) got them a lot better seed in the playoffs than it usually would. And then they got past the Clippers because of those injuries (to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin). That wasn't a second-round team but that's where they ended up. It probably gave their front office, their players, their fans and the media a false impression of how good they really were."
  • "The way they play may lend itself to unpredictable outcomes. They are 'equal-opportunity shooters.' They encourage anyone who is open to shoot the ball. It works out well sometimes. But on our team, we have people who shoot and others who don't. They are giving a lot of three-point shots to players who have not proved themselves as three-point shooters. That could lead to inconsistencies, especially with the number of threes they take. And honestly, I don't understand that philosophy. Yes, some guys get better as shooters when given an opportunity. Most don't, though."
  • "Trying to play defense with starting guards who can't keep people in front of them is very difficult. It puts too much pressure on their interior defenders -- and let's face it, (Mason) Plumlee isn't exactly a premier shot blocker. Their defense is horrible."
  • "Teams have caught on to what they're doing. We just try to take their guards away from them and they have nobody left to score. And then we attack their guards at the other end. By the end of the game, they're worn out."
  • "Their roster doesn't make a lot of sense. They've spent a lot of money on their backcourt but up front they are starting players who have never before been starters -- and may never again. They do a great job of milking all they can from those guys up front, but I'm not sure there's much more upside there."

I think that's actually a pretty good cross-section of possible explanations for what we've seen. What do I think? Well, this team is 18-25 and showing no signs of turning things around. You are what your record says you are. The players on this team are having a lot of trouble coming to grips with that record (and how poorly they've played) but at some point they're going to have to own it.

And do something about it.

Washington uses fast start to blow out Trail Blazers

Washington uses fast start to blow out Trail Blazers

WASHINGTON -- The Trail Blazers keep thinking they are turning the corner on their disappointing season, but each time they think they are headed for a straightaway, they find more curves ahead. 

The latest zig-zag in the Blazers season arrived Monday during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee when the Washington Wizards embarrassed the Blazers 120-101 in a game that got out of hand in the first quarter. 

One game after falling behind Orlando 18-1, the Blazers were in a 10-0 hole Monday against the Wizards. By the end of the quarter, the Blazers had allowed another 10-0 run and Washington had a 37-21 lead that would never been threatened as the Blazers were sloppy with the ball and off with their shots. 

Washington (21-19) won its 12th in a row at home as its young backcourt of John Wall (24 points, seven assists) and Bradley Beal (25 points, five assists) outplayed Portland's dynamic duo of Damian Lillard (22 points, 7 rebounds) and CJ McCollum (12 points). McCollum's streak of scoring 25 or more points ended at eight, three short of the franchise mark held by Geoff Petrie in 1971. 

The Blazers thought they were starting to turn their season around with a stretch of improved defense and some impressive offensive stretches from CJ McCollum and Allen Crabbe, which had helped them win four of seven games since the calendar turned. But their old habits returned Monday -- poor transition defense, porous perimeter defens, sloppy ball handling and overall bad play on the road -- pushing them back to their season-low of seven games under .500.

Things were so out of hand in the third quarter that with the score 95-65, Portland coach Terry Stotts took out his entire starting lineup with 4:05 left and replaced them with Shabazz Napier, Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard. The reserves made some headway, cutting the 30-point deficit to 24 entering the fourth and trimming the lead to as little as 107-90 with 6:49 left. 

Maurice Harkless returned to the starting lineup after missing the Orlando game with a strained left calf, but he was ineffective in 19 minutes, missing all five of his shots and finishing with zero points, one rebound and one assist. Turner was effective off the bench with 14 points and Aminu had 12 points and five rebounds. 

Next up: Blazers at Charlotte, 4 p.m. Wednesday (CSN).