The Blazers must be Coca Cola guys. They certainly don’t care for the Pepsi Center. On Tuesday night they were handed one of their biggest postseason defeats in franchise history, as the Nuggets easily routed Portland 125-98 in game 5 in the Mile High City. They head back to Portland, their backs against the wall.
Of all the adversity Portland has faced this season with the death of owner Paul Allen, the devastating season ending injury to Nurkic (He has sat out with a broken leg two of the three postseasons he has been in Portland), the separated shoulder of Enes Kanter, the specter of elimination probably shouldn’t be nearly the hardest pill Portland has had to swallow this season.
The Trail Blazers have to win two games or make vacation plans. It is not an easy or enviable task. First, they will have to win at home, where the Nuggets beat them in game 4 and took them to the limits in 4OT’s in game 3. This part at least seems doable. Portland is 4-1 at home in the Postseason.
Damian Lillard hasn’t been himself at all this series. You can see it in his eyes. He is far from the aggressive Lillard we saw against the Thunder. Far to passive and hesitant to shoot. He is shooting terribly from three (11/44 25%) in the series and has missed 9 free throws. Maybe it’s fatigue. Maybe it’s pressure. Heck, give Denver credit. They are playing fantastic defense. I am not trying to slam Lillard or place the blame on him. I am saying the Blazers need him to wake up. They need Logo Lillard. They need him to go supernova. Will the real Damian Lillard please stand up.
If the Blazers from game 5 are the ones we see in game 6, the series is over. The Nuggets trounced them, and are more confident than ever in this series. They were laughing at the Blazers last night. Waving them off. As far as Denver is concerned this series is over.
The Blazers went into nuclear meltdown. They couldn’t buy a shot (they were 36\98 37% from the field and 10/37 27% from 3), they missed 14 free throws, they got outrebounded 62-43 (including 52-30 on defensive rebounds), and couldn’t get a footing. They never led, Denver had a strong start, and it just got worse for the Blazers from there as the game went.
The Blazers were exhausted. They had looked as though they had nothing left. Their effort had absconded with their energy. The Blazers waved the white flag in the third, benching their starters and playing their bench the rest of the game. Malone kept his starters in to pound the Blazers into submission. To prove a point.
Fans can only hope Portland gives it their all in game 6, reaches deep down into their depths and leaves it on the floor. They can’t lose like they did on Tuesday. They can’t go into the summer that way. No, Thursday needs to be epic. The Blazers need to fight back. They will have the home crowd to fight with them, and we will till our last breath. This is Rip City. We are supposed to bury other teams, not the other way around.
Last night was devastating. But, it’s not over. Not yet. The fire is near doused, but embers remain. They can be nursed back to flame by a win in game 6. They can burn again. Hope springs eternal.