Blazers losing games, losing ground

PORTLAND — Rare is the occasion when Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan is at a loss for words.

McMillan may hesitate to praise individual play, emphasizing team over self. And he is careful to never get to high nor too low, instead preferring to walk even ground that allows him to keep everything from last-second losses to record-setting performances in perspective.

But after the Blazers watched a 25-point lead over the Northwest Division-rival Utah Jazz turn into a gutwrenching 93-89 overtime loss on Sunday, McMillan came close to being speechless.

“You hate to make comments and not see the film,” McMillan said.

Up 64-39 midway through the third quarter and leading by 13 heading into the fourth period, Portland ended the game by hitting just 4 of its final 27 shots.

Only three Blazers sank a field goal in the game’s final 17 minutes. And while Andre Miller finished the contest on a 1-of-8 run, Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, Juwan Howard and Rudy Fernandez combined to shoot 3 for 18 in the fourth quarter and overtime.

McMillan said the Blazers (32-26) lost focus, relaxed and became complacent. He stated that Portland began to gamble and play with its luck. Driving his point home, McMillan pointed out that the Blazers showed neither the heart nor fight required of a legitimate playoff contender.

“We’ve got to show that in what we do out on the floor, and the moves we’ve made and having guys back, if we’re serious about making a run down the stretch, that’s got to show in our play,” McMillan said.

It has not shown up in Portland’s last two games. The Blazers have shot a combined 34.6 percent (53 of 153) from the field during a 20-point blowout loss to Boston and the overtime defeat to the Jazz. In addition, starting small forward Martell Webster has recorded just six points on 2-of-8 shooting in the losses, while key players such as Miller, Aldridge and Fernandez have struggled with consistency.

“We’ve got to have guys step up,” McMillan said. “We’ve got veterans. We’ve got guys who’ve been on the team.”

The Blazers begin a crucial five-game road trip tonight, as they take on New Jersey. Contests against the Nets and Minnesota — who have combined for 18 victories and are lottery-bound — should be winnable games for Portland. But matchups versus Toronto, Chicago and Memphis will be much tougher.

With 24 games left in the regular season, Portland sits in fourth place in the Northwest Division, six games behind first-place Denver heading into Monday’s NBA action. And while the Blazers are still holding on to the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, Portland leads ninth-place New Orleans by just one game and Houston and Memphis by two and a half.

“Every game is tough now that we are losing,” Roy said.

He added: “If we want to get into the playoffs, we’ve got to do better than we did (against Utah).”

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Today’s Game
Blazers vs. Nets, 4:30 p.m. at Izod Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet (37)
Radio: 95.5 FM
Probable Starters
Blazers (32-26)
Position/player Ht. Pts.
G Andre Miller 6-2 13.6
G Brandon Roy 6-6 22.3
F Martell Webster 6-7 10.8
F LaMarcus Aldridge 6-11 17.2
C Marcus Camby 6-11 2.0
Nets (5-51)
G Devin Harris 6-3 16.3
G Courtney Lee 6-5 11.7
F Jarvis Hayes 6-8 7.4
F Yi Jianlian 7-0 12.7
C Brook Lopez 7-0 19.1

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