Blazers Hunt Down the Raptors but fall Prey to the Wolves and Bucks

photo by Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Weekly recap (1/07/20-1/11/20)

For the Portland Trail Blazers, it has been an exhausting week.

Tuesday’s game against the reigning NBA champions, the Toronto Raptors turned out to be quite the upset as the Blazers fought hard and came out on top. Portland started the second half down by 14 points, and it seemed like they were facing another disappointing loss.

Kent Bazemore, who has been a key player for the Blazers this season, was ejected at the end of the 3rd quarter. That seemed to light a fire under the team. “We rally around Kent.” Carmelo Anthony stated after the game. “We rally around just that atmosphere, and situations like that. Sometimes it takes sacrifices… to spark something and today Kent was that. He was really into the game, he was locked in, and I think when you get locked in, a lot of emotion goes into it. It was unfortunate that he got ejected, but we rallied and we won the game for him.”

Anthony went on to hit a game clinching shot after Damian Lillard tied the game in the last seconds with a deep 3 pointer. With that crucial shot, Anthony has hit more game winning shots than any other player since his 2003 NBA debut.

Despite the odds, the Blazers managed to bring down the Raptors with a final score of 101-99.

They wouldn’t be so lucky in Thursday’s game against the Timberwolves.

The Blazers finished their 5 game road trip in Minnesota. They started off strong, ending the first quarter with a 34-28 lead, a glimmer of hope after the win against the Raptors. But they just couldn’t quite hold the lead and went into the second half trailing 47-59.

In a season that’s been plagued by injuries (Nurkic, Collins, Hood, and most recently Labissiere), Portland’s starting line up has essentially been their bench. Leaving the actual bench to brand new, young players that should be seeing very little playing time if any at all. Nassir Little, Jaylen Hoard, Gary Trent Jr, and Anfernee Simons all saw substantial playing time against the Timberwolves. While they didn’t pull off a win, they did show some real developing talent in their young, less experienced players.

Portland left Minnesota bruised and battered after a hard loss of 102-116. On top of the already prominent injuries this season, in this game alone we saw Mario Hezonja, Anthony Tolliver and Hassan Whiteside all go down hard. Lillard was also landed on while diving for a loose ball, and Anfernee Simons ended up with a cheek laceration that resulted in 4 stitches after being hit in the face on a dunk attempt. Even that serious of an injury wasn’t enough to draw a foul.

The Blazers are headed home from their 10 day road trip after another disappointing loss. “You know, that edge and that energy just wasn’t there,” Lillard said after the game. “It just felt like, overall, we were a little bit tired. We’ve been on the road for a long time and we just didn’t have the kind of energy that we needed tonight. Not a great effort by our team.”

On Saturday, the Blazers returned to the Moda Center to take on the Milwaukee Bucks in their first home game of 2020. It was truly a David versus Goliath scenario with Portland coming in injured and struggling. Nurkić, Collins, Hood, and Labissiere have been out due to injuries, so it was an even bigger blow that Whiteside would be sitting this one out as well. With the Trail Blazers having no big man, Milwaukee was quite literally the Goliath to Portland’s David. The Bucks are currently number one in the Eastern Conference, and with a 35-6 record, they’ve also overtaken the Lakers (32-7), who are currently ranked number one in the West.

The Blazers are so badly injured that forward Anthony Tolliver started at center. But even against insurmountable odds, this team does not give up or lose hope. “I thought we gave a really good effort tonight.” Head Coach Terry Stotts told the media after Saturday night’s game. “Obviously we are a little short handed.” Portland came out playing like they wanted it, and took the early lead. But by the second quarter, Milwaukee was outscoring Portland. The Blazers fought hard, and didn’t make it an easy win for the Bucks, but ultimately the difference in size between the two teams was just unavoidable. Unfortunately, Portland couldn’t take down the giant and Milkwakee won 122-101.

The Trail Blazers head into next week taking on the Charlotte Hornets at home. Then back on the road to face the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, Dallas Mavericks on Friday and finishing the week in Oklahoma City as they take on the Thunder.

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