Sunday night was a rough night for Portland Trail Blazers. While they were always going to be underdogs for their visit to the all-conquering Golden State Warriors in Oakland, it’s difficult to conceive that many tipsters had guessed the spread was going to be a massive 45 points. What can be learnt from this huge defeat?
Trail Blazers results seen as “ridiculous”
Point guard Damian Lillard didn’t mince his words in the aftermath of the 135-90 defeat, labelling the defeat as “ridiculous” to reporters after the game. Lillard was quick to affirm that the score was a result of player deficiencies rather than coaching issues, saying that his team-mates “have to play with some damn heart out there”.
Lillard had a point. The margin of victory was the largest in the NBA this season and was the largest ever by the Warriors over the Blazers. Too often backdoor cuts went uncovered, lob dunks were uncontested and mental blunders led to wide open three-pointers for the Warriors.
There would have been little doubt that the Warriors would have been favourites before the game. Portland were 1-6 in their last seven games and are dead last in the NBA for defensive efficiency (109.6). The Blazers were 5-11 on the road facing a side with a 10-2 home record and a 23-4 record overall. To offer so little defence against the Warriors was pure negligence.
Trail Blazers roster at fault rather than coaching
There is no denying that the Blazers aren’t built solidly. The roster contains too many one-dimensional players. Their alternatives are either raw or just not good enough. It’s not as easy as just bringing in other players to fill gaps because these players have to work together – something that isn’t happening in Portland.
Portland finished above expectation with a record of 44-38 last year and even squeaked through to the second round of the playoffs. It wasn’t .500 ball, but it was close. This year the Blazers have been poor but they’re 13-16, which isn’t quite .500 ball – but it’s close. It’s not a case of coaches failing the team – if anything it’s a rebound to normality after some incredibly consistent performances despite roster flaws.
Besides, it’s not like a coach is actively telling players to stare at rebounds or to blow rotations. It’s a coach’s job to motivate players to perform better but they have every right to expect a player to be able to do the basics without fail.