Some thought that going into the trade deadline on Thursday, the Portland Trail Blazers would be looking to make some moves. The team has been fairly inconsistent all season, and some thought it would attempt to make a blockbuster to get itself out of “NBA Purgatory.”
Some had Portland tied to Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan. There were reportedly some minor trade talks, but none managed to gain any traction. Ultimately, the Blazers made the safe move of dumping Noah Vonleh‘s salary onto the Chicago Bulls to get under the luxury-tax threshold. Portland is remaining committed to its current roster for at least the rest of the season. Whether that was the correct move remains to be seen.
Portland avoids blown lead to Charlotte
Only hours after the end of the trade deadline, Portland had to get over the departure of Vonleh and take on the Charlotte Hornets. After a close first half, the Blazers were on the verge of blowing the game wide open in the third quarter. The Blazers took as large as a 17-point lead with just over seven minutes to play. But as per quota of the Blazers this season, nothing would ever be easy.
Charlotte went on a 20-3 run over the next four minutes, and both teams were locked at 97 for the final 1:45 to send the game into overtime. Portland ultimately overcame Charlotte by six in the overtime period. This should have been a game that Portland could allow its starters to relax in the fourth quarter. With it being the first night of a back-to-back, Portland would have valued that extra rest.
Lillard makes history against Kings
The Blazers were forced to fly to Sacramento immediately following its narrow victory over the Hornets. Fortunately for the Blazers, Damian Lillard felt like ending the game early that Friday night. Lillard echoed what his teammate C.J. McCollum did just two weeks before and scored 50 points through three quarters. Lillard didn’t even have to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, as the Blazers won 118-100.
This was the fourth 50-point game of Lillard’s career, and arguably the most historic. Since the shot-clock era, the only players to score 50 or more while playing under 30 minutes were Klay Thompson in late 2016 and McCollum’s previously mentioned game on Jan. 31. Lillard showed the basketball world that he is capable of getting unbelievably hot at any given time. If either Lillard or McCollum can even somewhat replicate their 50-point games, the Blazers will be in good shape.
Blazers blown out at home
Portland returned home on Sunday to take on the hottest team in the league, the Utah Jazz. This game was a reflection of earlier in the season, when Portland could not score in the third quarter. After the Blazers held a narrow halftime lead, Utah exploded for a 38-point third quarter. Portland was only able to answer with 19 of its own.
Lillard followed up his 50-point performance with a 39-point scoring outburst. Unfortunately, his offense was just about all that was going for Portland.
Jusuf Nurkić was forced to leave the game in the third quarter with a minor injury. His current status is unknown, but he will have the looming All-Star break to recover from whatever injury he may have.
The Blazers have one game next week, hosting the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Portland will come out fighting, but there is no shame in taking a loss to Golden State. The Blazers will have to live with either the taste of victory or defeat for over a week, as it is the last game before the All-Star break. Portland will have 24 games remaining following the All-Star break to move up the playoff rankings.