Blazers fizz against Griz in wire-to-wire defeat
Panic mode hasn't seeped in yet, but the Trail Blazers aren't playing beautiful music as they have done through most of the season.
There was very little to like on the Portland end of a 98-81 pounding by Memphis Tuesday night at the Moda Center.
The Blazers (33-13) fell behind 10-0 in the first 2 1/2 minutes and trailed the entire way. The Grizzlies (23-20) increased the margin to 77-53 late in the third quarter and never eased up on the throttle on the way to their eighth win in the last nine games.
If there was a sage in the Portland locker room afterward, it was center Robin Lopez, who observed:
"I don't want to discredit the Grizzlies. They played unbelievably tonight. But they saw blood and they lunged at our jugular, and we slashed our own throat in a way. That let them just run away with it. That's a good squad right there. You can't give any ground. We gave ground right away."
"The first few minutes were rough, and that set the tone for the rest of the game. Maybe I shouldn't pick Bruce Springsteen for the warmup song anymore."
But "The Boss" isn't to blame. Coach Terry Stotts, who always tries to take an even-keel approach, even confessed as he met with the media, "I don't know if we were ready. That's on me."
Portland shot .345 from the field. That after firing at a .337 clip in a 103-88 loss at Golden State on Sunday. Those are the Blazers' two poorest-shooting performances and lowest scoring totals of the season.
"We're not making shots," said guard Wesley Matthews, who started 0 for 6 and didn't make a field goal until the fourth quarter. "That's what it is. We're getting good looks and not making them."
"Guys are missing shots," said a tight-lipped LaMarcus Aldridge, the best thing going for the Blazers on this night by a long shot with 27 points and 16 rebounds. "Not in a good rhythm right now. It happens."
It hadn't happened to the Blazers through a glorious first half of the regular season. Suddenly, what seemed to be a melodious endeavor is not working so well.
"We're in a rough patch right now," said point guard Damian Lillard, who had 16 points but was 7 for 16 from the field, including 2 for 9 from 3-point range. "We aren't shooting the ball really well. When you don't shoot well, you have to defend better. We aren't doing a great job of that, either. We have to find that mojo, get back to what we were doing."
All season, the Blazers -- who entered Tuesday's game second in the NBA in 3-point percentage (.388) -- have knocked down treys. Lately, that's not been the case.
Over the last seven games, Portland is 42 for 149 (.282) on 3-point attempts. That included a 4-for-24 performance against the Grizzlies. The Blazers missed 12 in a row before making one. It didn't get much better.
Memphis, meanwhile, defended well. Shot well, too. The Grizzlies, in a nice groove under first-year coach David Joerger, shot .591 in the first half while mounting a 61-46 advantage. They finished at .518, including .462 (6 for 13) from 3-point range.
"We caught a team that's starting to put it together," Stotts said. "They're on a roll. They showed that the first half. Defensively in the second half, we did an excellent job, but the offense couldn't quite catch up with it. The hole was too big."
Since starting the season 24-5, Portland is 9-8 in its last 17 games. The schedule has been tougher -- Tuesday was the Blazers' eighth game in 12 days -- and the Blazers may be suffering from weariness.
"The NBA is a long season," Stotts said. "We've played a lot of games lately. No one likes to use fatigue as an excuse, but it is reality."
Aldridge, coming off a 2-for-14 shooting display at Golden State, was on early Tuesday, scoring Portland's first nine points and sinking 6 of his first 7 shots.
"LaMarcus was the only thing we had going early," Stotts said. "He kept us afloat."
But Aldridge cooled, making 5 of his last 16 attempts to finish 11 for 23.
The Blazers didn't seem to be getting open as often Tuesday night. Part of it was Memphis' defense. Part of it was ball movement. But Matthews contends it all starts on the Blazers' defensive end.
"We're at our best when that ball is flying around the perimeter," said Matthews, who finished 2 for 9 from the field. "With L.A. kicking it out, going around the horn and someone making a shot. But in order to do that, we have to get stops.
"Teams can play defense. Teams are loading up on us. Teams know what we can do. So we have to get stops in order to push our offense."
Added Stotts: "We need to trust each other, to help each other, particularly at the offensive end. It's a hallmark of what's gotten us to this point. Everybody has confidence in themselves. When things are going poorly, they want to help the team. That's when you have to trust each other even more."
Lopez hopes it's only a jag in the road for the Blazers, who still have the third-best record in the Western Conference, a half-game back of San Antonio (33-12).
"We can turn this into a positive," he said. "We didn't want our first stretch of adversity to come during the playoffs. We'll learn a lot about ourselves, how we respond to this little stretch here."
"This doesn't change anything," Lillard seconded. "We've played so well all season, we were due for a little bit of adversity. We just have to stay with it and stay together."
Stotts is of the same mind.
"I'd like to be making shots, but we have too many good shooters for this to continue," the second-year Portland coach said. "We'll get back on a hot streak. Percentages work themselves out.
"We need to catch our breath and get our minds and bodies right. Through the course of an NBA season, you can't get too high, can't get too low. We've done a great job with that throughout the year. We have to continue."
Portland has three days off before playing host to Toronto Saturday night at the Moda Center.
The Blazers' 81 points were their lowest scoring total, and the 17-point losing margin their biggest of the season.
Aldridge notched his 29th double-double and his 22nd game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, the latter second-most in the NBA behind Minnesota's Kevin Love.
Aldridge passed Cliff Robinson for third place on Portland's career scoring list (10,414).
Former Blazer Zach Randolph battled Aldridge all night at power forward, finishing with team highs in points (23) and rebounds (10) for Memphis. Randolph had his 27th double-double of the season.
In a duel between two of the four top rebounding teams in the NBA -- Memphis No. 2, Portland No. 4 -- the Grizzlies ruled the boards 46-40.
Portland's home record dropped to 18-5, while Memphis improved its road mark to 11-7.
In his last eight games, Lillard is shooting .374 from the field and .229 (11 for 48) from 3-point range.
"He's not making shots, but he's competing, he's playing hard, he's trying to do whatever he can to make us win," Stotts said. "I don't think you define how a guy is playing by whether or not he makes shots."
Lillard, on whether the confidence in his shot has been shaken: "Confidence will never be a problem for me. The rhythm hasn't been there for the last few games. I'm just trying to stay aggressive, keep my mind in the game, find a way to help the team."
Memphis, which entered the game ranked third in the NBA in scoring defense (96.0), has allowed only one of its last nine opponents to score 100 points.
Portland is 14-1 in games in which it holds the opponent under 100 points.