After defeating the Chicago Bulls 124-108 last Wednesday, it appeared the Portland Trail Blazers had turned a corner. The team had won seven of its last eight games. Damian Lillard was on a tear after being named an All-Star for the third time in his career. C.J. McCollum had just dropped a career high 50 points in only 29 minutes. Things were looking up for Portland. That is until a tough road trip.
A winless road trip
Despite being on a hot streak, Portland was not delusional about the three-game East Coast road trip ahead. The team knew that there would be a lot of resistance from its opponents. Even escaping with one victory would have given Portland some positives to look at.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, the positives were almost completely absent over the weekend. Portland began the road trip against one of the best teams in the East in the Toronto Raptors. It didn’t even take half a quarter for Toronto to take full control of the game.
The Raptors ended the first quarter on a 27-7 run, and the lead was never in doubt afterwards. The Blazers actually shot a higher percentage than Toronto in the 130-105 loss. 19 made 3-pointers compared to Portland’s seven was too much to overcome.
Sunday’s pre-Super Bowl match-up against the depleted Boston Celtics was the most disappointing one of the road trip. Boston was obviously missing its star in Kyrie Irving when Portland built a 16-point lead going into halftime.
An all-around performance by Boston’s starters led the comeback, which turned into a tight fourth quarter. After rallying back, the Celtics had a five point lead with just over a minute remaining. Lillard then went on an 8-2 run of his own to give the Blazers the lead with 7 seconds remaining. The Blazers then had their hearts broken when Al Horford hit a fadeaway jumper as time expired to give the Celtics a 97-96 win.
Portland then traveled to the Motor City the next day to take on the new-look Detroit Pistons. The final game of the road trip went very much like the first.
While the Blazers kept it close for the first half, Detroit built a double-digit lead in the third quarter it never relinquished. The Pistons led by as many as 26 in a game that ended 111-91, sending Portland home 0-3 on the road trip.
A change is needed
It seemed as though Portland was starting to even make a run at a top four seed in the Western Conference before last weekend brought it down to Earth. It proved that Portland has been a mediocre squad all season, and it needs a change to get out of NBA purgatory.
The final chance of the season to make a drastic change ends with the trade deadline on Thursday. The Blazers have been a team circulating in rumors to target Los Angeles Clippers‘ center DeAndre Jordan, but it is unknown what Portland would give up in order to land him.
Word is that the two teams would have difficulty making a trade work, as the Clippers would likely have to take on one of Portland’s players on a bad contract. This is the biggest rumor of the deadline for Portland, but expect the team to do something more pedestrian such as shedding a bad contract to get under the luxury tax.
This won’t do much to help the team for the rest of the year, but it could give the team room to sign restricted free agents to make room for trades next season. A change is needed in Portland, but it is unlikely that it will happen anytime soon. Unless the team can play more consistently, Portland’s season will likely end slightly above .500 like the last couple years.