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PORTLAND, Ore. — The up-and-down nature of this Blazers' season was on full display this week. Following an encouraging 4-1 road trip, the team came back home and dropped three in a row at the Moda Center. It's time to check in on the Blazers with another edition of 3-on-3, a weekly KGW feature.
Every Thursday, three members of the KGW sports team will answer three questions about the Blazers. You can join the conversation on Facebook during a live chat with our panel every Thursday afternoon at 3. Can't join us on Thursday? Not a problem. You can listen later on the 3-on-3 Blazers podcast.
This week's questions focus on the Blazers' three-game losing streak, CJ McCollum's slump and predictions for the next three games.
If you'd like to submit a question for today's Facebook Live and podcast, email us here.
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MEET OUR PANELISTS
- Orlando Sanchez is the sports anchor and reporter for KGW News, Sports Sunday and Friday Night Flights. Orlando has covered multiple NBA Finals, NCAA Basketball Tournaments and World Series.
- Jared Cowley is a digital media producer who writes about the Blazers for KGW.com. Before he came to KGW, Jared wrote about the Utah Jazz and Golden State Warriors as a sports editor at two daily newspapers.
- Nate Hanson is a digital producer who contributes to KGW.com’s coverage of the Blazers, Ducks, Beavers and high school sports.
1. The Blazers followed up their impressive 4-1 road trip with three consecutive losses at home. What would you pinpoint as the biggest reason for Portland's poor performance over the past three games?
Orlando: This is a loaded question. One problem is leading to another and this is turning into a slump. One night it’s the defense (see Bradley Beal’s 51 points), another night it’s the team’s lack of “focus” (see blown 14-point first half lead vs. Pelicans), or the Blazers offense that has struggled to score points (91 vs. Bucks, 92 vs. Wizards). Portland’s turnover game is becoming an issue too because teams are punishing the Blazers by turning those mistakes into points. The team has tried to put an emphasis on the offensive transition game, but that hasn’t changed much. Pinpointing one problem is a mighty task when you have so many to choose from. They’re searching for consistency, they don’t want to be a .500 team, but lately that’s what it’s been. Win three straight, then lose three in a row. With a rough schedule this week, there should be a sense of urgency to end this losing streak before this turns into something serious.
Nate: I think their poor performance extends back to the road trip. Lillard said it himself after the loss to the Wizards: the team didn’t play that well on the trip but managed to win games, mostly because the offense was the best its been all season. But they came back home and the offense returned to the sputtering state we saw before the road trip, and closer to what I think this offense will be most of the season barring a personnel change. But the defense the Blazers relied on so much before the trip was gone. The team’s defensive rating was 99, second in the league, before the road trip. Since then it’s been 107.1, near the league average. That means the Blazers are giving up nearly 10 more points per game. When the offense began to falter again, the Blazers didn’t pick up where they were defensively before the road trip, thus leading to the double-digit losses were seeing at home.
Jared: Blame the red jerseys, right? Just kidding. You could point to any number of weak spots right now, but I think the defense has been the biggest reason for the team's slump. The offense has continued to slog along as it has all season. The team has averaged 98.2 points per 100 possessions during the losing streak. Don't get me wrong, that's a really bad stat. But it's not so much worse than their season average (102.5) that it can account for how poorly they've competed over the past three games. The defense, on the other hand, has fallen off a cliff. During the losing streak, the Blazers are allowing 111.5 points per 100 possessions, almost 11 points worse than their season average. And this isn't just isolated to this losing streak. Over the last six games, the Blazers are allowing 108.9 points per 100 possessions. Through their first 17 games, Portland allowed 100 points or more six times. In the past seven games, the Blazers' opponent has reached the century mark six times. They're still ranked fourth in the NBA in defense, but lately, Portland's defense looks more like the Blazers of last season. And that's not a good thing.
2. It's not just his poor performance the past four games (14.5 points per game, 34 percent shooting, 5 for 20 on 3-pointers). For the entire season, CJ McCollum is also down in scoring, field-goal percentage, free-throw shooting and assists from last season. Should Blazers fans be worried about McCollum?
Nate: I wouldn’t be worried about McCollum. He started off the season so hot that while he has really struggled the past four games, his numbers are close to where they were at this point in the season last year. His overall field goal percentage has dipped slightly but he’s shooting slightly better from 3-point range. He’s one of the league’s best shooters and he’ll work his way out of this slump sooner rather than later. Lillard struggled during the early part of the season but has come on as of late. If he and McCollum can get in sync, that will help spur the Blazers offense. To me, the bigger concern remains the lack of consistency of anyone outside Lillard and McCollum. Nurkic continues to show flashes but then has games when he’s a non-factor. Harkless has been disengaged and Turner, similarly to last season, is up and down as well.
Jared: I don't think Blazers fans should be worried about McCollum. He isn't shooting well, and that has contributed to Portland's recent slump. But great NBA players go through slumps, too. I'm sure McCollum will start making shots again, probably soon. One good sign for McCollum is he's contributing in other ways, even though his shot isn't falling. Over the past four games, he's averaged 5.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game, both higher than his season averages of 4.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. His defense has slipped a bit as the team defense around him has plummeted, but if you look at advanced individual statistics over the past four games, they indicate that McCollum has been one of the few reliable defenders for the Blazers. That seems unlikely after watching Bradley Beal torch the Blazers for 51 points, but Beal did his damage against a host of defenders, not just McCollum. In the three games prior to Beal's outburst, opposing shooting guards averaged just 11.6 points per game against the Blazers. McCollum will be fine.
Orlando: CJ McCollum is in a shooting slump. It happens to shooters. Portland needs him to play well and he might be pressing to get back on track. His numbers are down and he’s aware of it, but it doesn’t look like his confidence is shaken. At this point, I wouldn’t be worried if I’m a Blazers fan, he’s too talented as a shooter. He’s due for a big game. Don’t be surprised if it happens this week.
3. Prediction time! The Blazers play three games between now and the next time we meet, one at home on Saturday against the Houston Rockets (18-4) and two on the road, Monday at the Golden State Warriors (19-6) and Wednesday at the Miami Heat (11-12). Which games do the Blazers win and which do they lose?
- Nate: 15-9
- Orlando: 14-10
- Jared: 14-10
Jared: Last week, I got swept up in the hype surrounding the Blazers' successful road trip and picked the Blazers to beat the Bucks, Pelicans and Wizards. Oops. It's pretty hard to get a handle on a team as up and down as this one. Which means, even though they've lost three in a row and haven't been very competitive in any of the games, I could still see the Blazers getting up for a game against the Rockets or Warriors and stealing a win. However, thinking it could happen and predicting it to happen are two different things. I don't think I can pick the Blazers to beat either of those two teams right now. The Rockets and Warriors are two of the best teams in the NBA. The Blazers aren't. So I'm picking the Blazers to lose both of those games and run their losing streak to five. But I think they'll stop the slide with a win against the Heat. Even on the road, the Blazers should be able to beat a team like Miami, whose point differential is worse than all but four teams in the league. Blazers go 1-2 over the next three games.
Orlando: This losing streak has to stop soon right? This is a brutal schedule this week, facing the top two teams in the Western Conference. The Rockets are riding a seven-game win streak, taking 13 out of their last 14 games. James Harden will be cooking in the Moda Center. Then it’s on the road to Golden State, who are without Stephen Curry. So you’re saying there’s a chance? Nah, that's two more L’s. A trip to South Beach should do the trick. They have a day to recover from Golden State before going across the country to Miami for game two of five on the road. Portland will be desperate for a win. The Heat has lost 3 out of 4 and sport a losing record right now. This is a winnable game for Rip City.
Nate: I’m going to make the predictable picks and say the Blazers go 1-2. The Rockets may be playing the best basketball in the NBA. They haven’t lost a game when Chris Paul plays and have won six straight road games by at least 15 points. I don’t see the Blazers keeping up with Houston’s offense. Same with Golden State. The Warriors have had some struggles in recent games, but seem to always pull out a win. Even without Steph Curry, I don’t see the Warriors dropping one against the Blazers. The Heat are one of the worst offensive teams in the league and the Blazers have been a good road team this year. I think they stop a 5-game skid with a win over Miami.
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In this week's 3-on-3, the KGW sports team discusses the reasons for the Blazers' losing streak, CJ McCollum's shooting slump and predict the next week of games. More: on.kgw.com/2k0jYLcPosted by KGW-TV on Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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