Some notes from Monday night's 108-101 loss to the Pistons
in Detroit, the second game, and loss, of a seven-game road trip through the Eastern Conference.
On To The Next One
Damian Lillard has been so good in his first thirteen games as a rookie that having back-to-back performances in which he struggled to find his range, as was the case Sunday night against the Nets and Monday night against the Pistons, feels like more of a letdown than it should. Lillard shot just 22 percent from the field Monday night and didn't net his first field goal until late in the third quarter.
But Lillard, as unflappable as he's been on the court, is just as steadfast when critiquing his less than stellar performances. While some young players tend to dwell on tough nights (which is easy to do when you've got people like myself asking them to recount their failures) that every guy in the league invariably suffers through, Lillard seems to take it all in stride.
"I think (against the Nets) I just didn't make a lot of shots," said Lillard. "I thought I still played well. I didn't score a lot of points last night. Tonight I just didn't play a good overall game. Some shots that normally fall didn't fall, probably some missed coverages on defense, some mistakes but I say it all the time, it's a part of my process. So I'm just going to go watch film on the plane and try to keep learning and in the next game try to be better."
Which is much easier to do when you can put losses behind you quickly, as Dame seems capable of doing.
Thrill Barton vs. Chill Barton
While Lillard had arguably his worst game as a pro, fellow rookie Will Barton turned in easily his best performance in the losing effort Monday night, finishing with 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting, though he wasn't exactly celebrating post-game.
"It don't really mean too much because we lost. I'm a team player," said Barton. "I always want to get a victory. That's definitely the bad part of it, but probably had my best game so far, so just something to build on."
Figuring out the proper way to use Barton is a bit of a conundrum, in that his fearlessness is both his most positive and negative attribute. So it's incumbent upon both coach and player to strike the right balance.
"It's just about me being more comfortable, you know, finding my little niche on the team and not worrying about messing up when I get in because I want to play and get in the rotation," say Barton. "But now I just go out there, whenever I'm in there, all I think about is just producing and playing my game and helping my team out. So now I'm just going to let the game come to me and be real aggressive."
Head coach Terry Stotts felt comfortable enough with Barton's aggressiveness to give the Baltimore native 21 minutes Monday night, equalling his minutes total from the three previous games combined. Of course, being one of the few players who had his shot going smooths over some of the rough spots that might otherwise result in a quick hook on other nights.
Now Everybody On The Club Get Sick
It's the time of year when it seems like everyone is getting sick, is sick or just got over being sick. And the Trail Blazers, despite the best efforts of the team's doctors and trainers, are no different. Between Nicolas Batum fighting cold symptoms for going on a week, Wesley Matthews sounding like Droopy Dog minus the clinical depression and various players suffering through fits of coughing and phlegm-garbled attempts at breathing through their noses on the bus ride from Auburn Hills to the airport, catching some form of upper respiratory illness on this twelve day trip begins to feel like an eventuality.
But what it's also the time in the NBA season when the bumps and bruises associated with playing professional basketball start to manifest.
There's the issue of LaMarcus Aldridge's improved but not yet pain-free back, which kept him out of Sunday's loss to the Nets in Brooklyn but was sufficiently healed enough to play through Monday against the Pistons.
"My back was still tight but it wasn't as bad as usual," said Aldridge. "I can usually play with pain so it wasn't bad enough where I couldn't move. I could move out there."
Not exactly what you would call a clean bill of health.
Wesley Matthews has only half the regular flexibility his right thumb thanks to mildly strained ligaments, a condition that wasn't improved when someone's elbow (he doesn't know whose) smacked into the old eye-gouger during Monday night's loss.
And then there's Jared Jeffries, who had to leave Monday night's game after Jason Maxiell introduced his elbow to the bridge of Jeffries' nose in the third quarter. Early reports were that Jeffries would miss the remainder of the game, though he did return to the court in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Jeffries said the half inch cut that resulted from the blow wasn't enough to keep him sidelined, though that statement was made with a self-deprecating proviso.
"I'm tougher than that," said Jeffries of returning to the game. "I ain't that tough though. If it had been broke, they'd of had to bring a stretcher out for me. I'd just lay there in a pool of blood. When your nose is sitting over here (points to a spot on his cheek between his right ear and nose), that's a bad feeling."