The Portland Trail Blazers have their backs firmly against the wall.
They are losing games at an alarming rate and with head coach Chauncey Billups and seven players missing due to the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, things could get worse before they get better for the Blazers.
Portland lost its 11th game in 14 outings Monday night, 132-117 to Dallas at home. The Blazers (13-20) entered 11th place in the Western Conference on Tuesday night and appear to be much closer to capturing a top-five pick in the 2022 NBA Draft than they are seeded. among the top six in the NBA playoffs.
But interim head coach Scott Brooks said after the loss to Dallas the Blazers would stay positive going forward.
“We know what we’re going through and we know it won’t be easy, but you just have to keep fighting and Chauncey has done a great job of instilling that there are no excuses here,” said Brooks. “It’s part of the development. It’s part of growing up in this league.
One thing the Blazers can’t develop at the moment is size. Three of the seven players in the Protocols are 6-foot-11 center Jusuf Nurkic, 6-11 Cody Zeller and 6-7 forward Robert Covington. Their absences have left the Blazers with just two players in the regular roster who sit at 6-7 or better. 6-7 Larry Nance Jr. started center against Dallas while 6-9 rookie Greg Brown III came off the bench to play forward.
The results were as Dallas 7-3 center Kristaps Porzingis scored 34 points, a season-high, including 24 in the first half. If the game had been close he could have gone for 45 because no one on the Blazers could have stopped him.
“We can make some adjustments here and there just from the rotation,” Brooks said of the sizing issues. “See who’s playing the best with some of our new guys or some of the guys who play extended minutes. We have to figure it all out on the fly. We’re not going to have a lot of practice time.
Next is Utah Wednesday. The Jazz are 7-1 over center Rudy Gobert, who averages 15.4 points per game, but could double that result against the Blazers if they can’t figure out how to better defend the paint. Dallas scored 68 points in the paint on Monday.
The Blazers have added a fourth G League player to the roster on a 10-day contract to make up for players lost to protocols. Reggie Perry (Raptors 905) is a 6-8 center / forward who, in 11 games, has averaged 19.7 points on 47.8% shots from the field. The Mississippi State product also shot 37.7 percent on three and averaged 10.1 rebounds per game.
Perry could help with the Blazers’ height issues. But coming from the G League with no training time could be tough obstacles to overcome in such a short time and against such a good side with a dominant center.
Blazers goaltender CJ McCollum is sidelined with a collapsed lung he suffered Dec. 4 against Boston.
The Jazz, winners of four consecutive games, should do without all-star goaltender Donovan Mitchell (backache).
BLAZERS FROM PORTLAND TRAIL VS. UTAH JAZZ
What: Trail Blazers (13-20) vs Jazz (24-9), 7 p.m. Wednesday
Or: Moda center.
Radio: Rip City Radio (KPOJ 620 AM).
TV channel: Root Sports Plus (in Portland: Comcast 1253, DirecTV 687-1).
Watch the match live online: You can watch this game live for FREE with fuboTV (free trial). You can also get this game on DirecTV Stream’s “CHOICE” package (promotional offers), if you run out of trials on fuboTV or simply prefer this platform and its pricing plans. If you already have a cable or satellite provider that offers Root Sports and you want to watch it online, you can watch this game live on Root Sports Live.
Moneyline: N / A
Propagated: UTA -6 | Above / Below: 230
Jackets: g CJ McCollum (right lung pneumothorax), C Jusuf Nurkic (hygiene and safety protocols), C Cody zeller (hygiene and safety protocols), G Dennis smith (hygiene and safety protocols), F Robert covington (hygiene and safety protocols), G Ben mclemore (hygiene and safety protocols), F Keljin Blevins (hygiene and safety protocols), F Trendon Watford (health and safety protocols) are out for Wednesday’s game against Utah.
Jazz: g Donovan mitchell (back tension) outside.
The Blazers play New Years Eve at the Los Angeles Lakers (17-18) before returning home for four games starting Monday against Atlanta (15-18).
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