Trail Mix: Blazers projected for 5th seed in West
The Blazers went 1-3 over the past week and it saw them drop across the internet’s Power Rankings.
And in Kevin Pelton’s most recent article in ESPN.com’s insider section, he reveals that his projection system sees the Blazers finishing with the fifth seed with the most common match-up being against the same Rockets they lost to last night.
Meanwhile, Portland’s 1-3 week has likely doomed the Blazers to the fifth seed. In more than 40 percent of simulations, Portland faces Houston in the first round, and last night’s Rockets victory will make it difficult for the Blazers to hold home court in that scenario. The single most likely first-round matchup is Brooklyn-Toronto in the East (51 percent of simulations).
The Blazers bad week did hurt them in terms of seeding, but they aren’t the only ones struggling as Pelton notes in his article that you can finish right here.
Pelton’s article also projects that the San Antonio Spurs, not the Oklahoma City Thunder, will finish with the number one seed in the West. If both projections come to fruition, Portland would be on San Antonio’s side of the playoff bracket.
Portland guard Damian Lillard wasn’t too pleased with what he called the “antics” of Houston’s Patrick Beverley or being fouled out in overtime of their loss on Sunday according to Chris Haynes at CSNNW.com.
Lillard was hit with his sixth personal, fouling out with 3:39 remaining in overtime, leaving Portland without its floor general down the stretch. As far as how he collected his sixth foul, Lillard said he’s not with all the antics of Beverley.
“It’s irritating,” Lillard told CSNNW.com. “But I was locked into the game to be one hundred percent honest with you. It’s irritating that he’s doing all that little stuff like flopping, tying you up and all that for the whole game. But I don’t really get caught up in that. It’s whatever.”
Beverley, who takes exceptional pride in his defense, said all he’s concerned with is the win before he addressed what Lillard considers to be “antics.”
Be sure to check the rest of the post and the video at the top where you can see Lillard’s frustration. I said that Beverley has to be one of the least fun guys to play with in the league and by the look on Lillard’s face, he definitely lived up to that reputation, even though Lillard has had two solid games against him.
CSNNW.com’s Peter Socotch took a look at the Rockets final play in regulation to see whether officials failed to call a five-second violation on Houston’s Jeremy Lin before he hit James Harden for the shot that sent the game to overtime.
It appears that Lin took six seconds but even though that happened, Portland can’t be giving up high value looks to Harden when Houston absolutely needed a three.
Joe Freeman of The Oregonian spoke with Earl Watson, the Blazers’ ranking veteran, who thinks the team’s psyche is just fine.
Aldridge is the Blazers’ captain. Wesley Matthews is a dependable leader. But Watson is the locker room sage, the player who has his pulse on the team, the person whom GM Neil Olshey calls “one of the best natural leaders that I’ve been around.” I wondered if, in light of how horrible the last two games have gone for the Blazers, Watson might say something or do something to offer reassurance at a time the team’s confidence seems so fragile.“It’s not my job to handle the psyche of this team,” the 13-year NBA veteran said. “I’m not a coach. I’m a player and a lot of people get caught up in the way I see the game and just label me a coach. I help my team every way I can. I pick my moments.”It turns out this is not one of those moments. It turns out Watson isn’t concerned about the Blazers’ mindset. Every loss “should hurt the same,” he says, and the last two have hurt just as much as every other loss this season.With 19 games left and the playoffs on the horizon, painful setbacks to the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets will test the Blazers (42-21). But it will not define them, Watson says.
I understand where Stotts and the Blazers players were trying to go after this stunning loss. Nobody wants to be the one to nitpick, or heaven forbid anyone call a teammate or coach out. It’s just not good form. Or professionalism.
But I’m not on the team. And not particularly liked. So, let’s be straight here.
If the Blazers are going win a playoff series, this is what has to happen.
LaMarcus Aldridge has to start making more big shots. Point blank, period.
Damian Lillard has to start playing better defense. And start taking better care of the ball.
Nicolas Batum has to score more, and do it more often. It should come at the expense of his play-making abilities, which shouldn’t make anyone pause for thought considering his mind-boggling turnovers on passes of late.
With apologies to Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, who are so important to the team’s success, Aldridge, Lillard and Batum are the Blazers’ big three, the pillars who support the weight of expectations of this team. And those pillars need to become stronger.