Tonight we’ve apparently entered the time to start a rookie to see if we can get some energy going period of the season. I thought it might be a little later in the season that we would see this, but with all the injuries and inconsistent play so far this season it is about time that Terry Stotts tried something a little different.
The move is definitely warranted. Stotts has been getting a whole lot of nothing from Hezonja, Tolliver, and Kent Bazemore when they graced the starting lineup this season. Anything was needed from that group. Damian Lillard is so far the only member of the team who is consistent. Yes, CJ McCollum is averaging 20 points a game so far this year, but he disappears for so many minutes at a time that when he does start scoring it doesn’t matter.
Tonight the Raptors are without Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Patrick McCaw, and OG Anunoby. The Blazers needed to show some killer instinct and not let the Raptors hang around. Pascal Siakam is a monster and an early darkhorse MVP candidate. Even without Kawhi Leonard and two other starters, half the world champs outclassed the Blazers, 116-104.
As predicted there is some energy early on from the Blazers. A lot of great effort from both Dame and Hassan Whiteside to start the game. Whiteside challenged on every board and showed some range, hitting a 16 and 19 footer in the first six minutes of the game. He also had four rebounds and changed a few shots. Loved the energy from him to start the game.
And Logo Lillard made an early appearance.
Portland Trailblazers come out strong but fail to maintain.
Blazers jumped out to an early 14-2 run. Then the bench came in and Toronto started making shots. And once again the Blazers refused to guard the three point line. Fred VanVleet, Siakam, and Terence Davis (who?) started knocking down shots threes.
I like how Nick Nurse has given Davis the green light, that kid has a smooth stroke. If he keeps shooting like that let it go, kid!
This game is not pretty and we should probably get used to that. Once the game slows down the Blazers get stagnant. It’s even worse when they go to the bench and CJ becomes the leading scorer on the floor. The best CJ led lineup without Damian Lillard is their 13th best lineup they’ve trotted out this year. With CJ and no Dame on the floor, the Blazers average 12.7 points a game.
That’s spare parts, bud.
That lineup also involved Zach Collins. You want the next best CJ lineup without Dame on the floor? It averages only 4.3 points per game.
And as the Blazers went to a lineup of CJ, Anfernee Simons, Skal Labissiere, Kent Bazemore, and Mario Hezonja (this lineup averages 2.7 points per game) the Raptors fought back and took the lead. Whiteside was hot to start the game and led the Blazers in scoring at the half. For some reason, he was on the bench for 13 game minutes in the half without an injury. Lillard also got a long rest.
Yes, this is the second night of a back-to-back, but we’re not 70 games into the season here, we’re 11. The guys should have their legs under them and they have don’t have another game until Saturday night. Terry Stotts is a head coach in the NBA and I’m not, but I’m totally second-guessing this.
It’s not as if Dame was effective in the first half either. He only had four points in 17 minutes of action. Whiteside was the only Blazer in double digits and he had ten points.
Rodney Hood scored quick eight points to start the third quarter and the Blazers got the lead back. The Raptors are now collapsing four and five guys around Whiteside on all rebounds. He was killed Marc Gasol and Siakam on box outs. it would have been nice to see other Blazers crash the boards too. They would have gotten a few easy rebounds.
Little now has seven and knocked down his first three of the game. I really think he’s going to get this starting gig until Collins has his legs back underneath him. I’d say maybe give Anfernee Simons some looks as a starter, but then they would not have any bench scoring at all.
Also, who called Hood and VanVleet having a shootout in the third quarter? No one else?
As Hood gets his 16th point of the third quarter Stotts pulls him out and the Raptors close out the quarter on a 16-3 run to take an 87-79 lead into the fourth quarter. Hood was doing a good job on Siakam defensively and then Hezonja comes in and gives up a quick seven points.
Hezonja has his moments where you think he might turn it around and then he does things to make you realize that he is in fact Mario Hezonja.
For example; Hezonja knocks down a three to start the fourth quarter, then next possession shoots a heat check three through a double team.
CJ actually showed up in the fourth quarter on the offensive end, but in the middle of the fourth, he let VanVleet get by him for an easy basket and then threw the ball six rows deep as he tried to find Hood at the three point line.
Hood was also ice-cold coming back into the game after sitting for about 11 minutes of game time. Again, what is Stotts doing with his rotations? Hood was the only one scoring, he gets pulled during a tied game and a few minutes later the Blazers are down nine points. He comes back in the game with eight minutes left and is ice cold. When Hood is hot you leave him in. It’s like a law or something.
The Blazers tied the game at 94 and Toronto promptly goes on a 12-0 run and once again the Blazers are getting out hustled on loose balls, getting boxed out on crucial rebounds (not that Toronto missed many shots in the fourth). This team is going to break Damian Lillard‘s will.
Fred VanVleet was the best guard on the floor tonight, he had 30 points and 7 assists. Siakam scored 36 tonight.
Hood had 25 for the Blazers, CJ had 19, Simons with 17, Whiteside with 12, and Hezonja with 10. Dame only had 9 points tonight.
A lot of empty seats tonight in Moda. There are also quite a few Toronto fans. The building feels dead tonight. Even when Portland went up 14-2 the energy was lacking. Even into the second quarter, there was nothing happening.
You could tell Little was nervous. He didn’t handle the ball well early and forced some shots. He had some great effort on defense though! The track down block he had on Stanley Johnson toward the end of the second quarter was magic. Too bad Rodney Hood traveled on the fastbreak. The kid has a ton of energy. Maybe he sticks in the lineup, but knowing Stotts we’ll see Tolliver on Saturday in San Antonio.
Since the game is on League Pass, it’s good to hear Kevin Calabro on the call again. Was getting tired of those other announcers on the NBATV games.
I can’t get over how dead the building was tonight. I think the basket mic picked up someone sneezing in the bathroom.
Yes, the Blazers have some injuries are really light on the front line, but the inconsistent rotations are really hurting the Blazers this year.
Blazers head back on the road for six more first up is the San Antonio Spurs Saturday night at 5:30 pm.