It is no secret – the Portland Trail Blazers play better at home than they do the road, but after this latest road trip when they visited Chicago, Milwaukie, Memphis, Indiana and Los Angeles (Clippers), they are redefining Trail Blazer away-game futility.
They went 1-4 on this five-game trip with the lone win coming in Chicago.
They finally played at home on Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and proceeded to destroy them with a 114-95 victory. To put their road futilities into perspective, on November 30, the Blazers slapped the Indiana Pacers around at home and won by 22 points. Eleven days later (if I can read calendars correctly) they lost by seven points in Indiana.
I am not saying every opponent and every game they play this year will yield a point margin of plus-29 at home, but to play the same team in that short of a span and to have that much of a variance in overall team performance has to be quite alarming.
I know Al-Farouq Aminu has been in and out of the lineup with minor injuries, which factors into some of the inconsistencies, but he shouldn’t make that much of a difference. His numbers on the year are 5.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG and 1.8 APG, but really it his value in some of the intangibles that statistics can’t capture.
DAMIAN CAN’T DO EVERYTHING
I feel the unspoken topic among Blazer fans is when Damian Lillard struggles, it doesn’t ever get talked about. If C.J McCollum bails him out and drops 30 and Portland wins, then it is all about how C.J. stepped up to lead them to a Victory. If Lillard shoots 0-for-9 from 3-point land, finishes with a modest 22 points and Portland loses, there was probably one play in the third quarter when Meyers Leonard dribbled the ball off his foot and people blame him for the loss. I am exaggerating a bit and I doubt that was a real, actual game this year, but you get the idea.
Sometimes Damian struggles – not necessarily in this recent road slide though, which makes it even more troublesome for the Blazers.
In the losses on their road trip, Lillard’s stat line against Milwaukie read 8-18 FG/30 points/ 7 REB/ 6 AST (This loss is not his fault. Those numbers are strong.) In Memphis, he scored 19 – 2-of-7 from 3-point land with only two assists in 36 minutes. In Indiana, he and McCollum dropped 33 and 34 respectively and still lost. Damian added nine assists. In L.A. Lillard had a solid 24 and didn’t shoot poorly – 7-of-17 from the field to go with eight assists.
I’m a huge Damian fan. In fact, the last two pairs of shoes I wear I received from him and his Adidas partners for my work with his youth basketball camps in Beaverton the past two summers. He’s a perfect role model for kids, and heck – adults! He earned his silver Porsche and has built a great marketing campaign with Adidas.
Unfortunately, he has to play a near perfect game every time out for the Blazers and that is a lot to ask from anyone.
REASONS TEAMS MAY STRUGGLE ON THE ROAD
I don’t know about any of you, but when I travel for work or personal reasons I am usually out of whack or a little bit off. Maybe I’m a bit more particular and neurotic and I’m certainly not trained and conditioned like professional athletes, but it just isn’t the same doing whatever it is I’m doing. I brush my teeth differently. I sleep differently. My cell phone yells at me for not walking my usual number of steps every day, ect.
Point being, it is different for them too.
The Moda Center is a great place to play. Loyal, hometown fans every night who are enthusiastic and crazy (maybe not like Timbers fans, but some of them might be one in the same) come out and watch them play. The energy is different and the players have a way more comfortable daily schedule to help them prepare.
To be blunt, the Blazers need to play better on the road. They just lost in Denver, 132-120 like two minutes ago based on when I am writing this. How do they give up 132 points? I haven’t dropped a Maurice Harkless reference yet but he has been all over the place lately with his numbers. Nine points tonight in 36 minutes – how could you be so Harkless? (I really was struggling to find a way to sneak that in)
Sitting at 13-15 they miraculously still control the No. 8 seed, but there is plenty of work to do.
Go Blazers, Go Seahawks, Go Duck and Beaver Basketball! Stay safe this holiday season and kids, enjoy your winter breaks! (Sorry parents…good luck with no school for two weeks)