It’s time again for this week’s Roses and Rain! This is where I’ll write about three things going well for the Blazers (Roses) and three things that aren’t going so well or need improvement (Rain).
Rose #1: A 4-2 Road Trip!
Last week’s Roses and Rain was two games into the six game trip. With four games remaining I thought the Blazers would be in good shape just winning one or two out of the four. They ended up going 3-1 in those final four road games. Considering how many key players missed games on this trip, it was quite the accomplishment to come home having won four of the six games. Already with six road wins on the season, the Blazers are well on their way to surpassing their entire win total on the road last year of ten games. They didn’t win their sixth road game until January 23rd, 2022. After a three game homestand, the Blazers embark on another difficult four game road trip. The opponents on that one are Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, and Brooklyn.
Rain #1: The Clutch Magic Runs Out.
This season has already provided what seems like a whole year’s worth of insanely clutch finishes and they’re only 13 games in. This Blazers team just has a knack of making all the right plays down the stretch of close games. For one game, it was the opposition that did it to them. Damian Lillard hit a three pointer to put the Blazers up 106-103 with 2:50 left against the Mavericks and it seemed like Portland was going to come up big late in yet another game. However, Dallas made four consecutives three pointers and went on a 14-3 run over the next handful of possessions to win the game. Still a great road trip, but the Blazers defense can’t lose focus on defense that many times in a row and expect to get bailed out by hitting crazy shots on offense. It’s not a concern unless it becomes a pattern though.
Rose #2: Jerami Grant Is Looking Like An All-Star!
Grant has been sensational for the Blazers so far and is looking like one of the best pickups of the off-season. He’s done an amazing job of stepping into the number one scoring spot when Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons either miss games or need help due to all the defensive attention they receive. When he isn’t needed to take over on offense, he’s still an effective spot-up shooter and plays his role well. After being a volume scorer in Detroit the last couple years, there was concern about whether Grant could handle going back to having a lesser role at times on a good team. Those concerns have easily been erased and Grant is thriving in a situation where he is getting great scoring opportunities because other teams can’t focus on him as much with those two guards also in the mix. It has resulted in Grant averaging 20.7 points per game, while shooting 49.7% from the field and 46.0% from three. While those numbers will likely go down a little bit throughout the course of the season, it’s clear that Grant is getting very high quality looks in this offense. The Blazers might have success leaning on him even more when they’re struggling against pressure.
Rain #2: Is Everyone Dealing With An Injury?
Fortunately for the Blazers, none of their injured players seem to be dealing with a serious long term injury, but the amount of players showing up on every injury report lately is discouraging. 13 games into the season and only Josh Hart, Drew Eubanks, and Nassir Little have played in every game. Jusuf Nurkic has missed the last 3 games with an adductor injury and while Eubanks is doing okay filling in, Portland is really thin at the center position and needs Nurkic back. Justise Winslow missed the Dallas game and Portland really could have used his defensive presence in that game, especially considering the success of their small ball lineups so far this season. Lillard was held out of the second night of a back-to-back for what was called injury management. Word was that he was very upset he wasn’t allowed to play so it will be interesting to see if that’s something the organization will be monitoring more throughout the season or if it was just a precaution this one time.
Rose #3: Despite The Injury Report A Full Roster Might Be Available Soon!
Gary Payton II might be making his season debut as early as Tuesday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Nurkic and Winslow should hopefully be back soon as well. Lillard and Anfernee Simons look healthy on the court. This team looks to be incredibly deep once they have everyone available. Coach Chauncey Billups will have some tough minute crunches trying to figure out rotations once that happens. The best approach might be to try and keep some of the starters fresher by slightly reducing their minutes so they aren’t worn out and letting some of the younger players like Little, Shaedon Sharpe, Trendon Watford, and Jabari Walker sink or swim out there. Having a roster with lots of competent options is definitely a good problem to have.
Rain #3: Greg Brown III Sent To The G-League.
When the Blazers tanked last season, a rookie Greg Brown III got a lot more time on the court than he probably was expecting to. When that happens to a young player, sometimes they can get frustrated in a situation like this when they go back to not playing the following season. Then to see numerous players miss games and still not really get a chance to show what you can do can add to that frustration. Brown has had a very positive attitude throughout his time here but he also wants to play like he did last year. Since the Blazers don’t have their own G-League affiliate, they don’t often send players down because they have to rely on another organization to help develop a player that it doesn’t really benefit them to spend time with. So often in the past the Blazers have opted to keep everyone with the main team so they can continue working with them in practice. With a full available roster, Brown was probably the odd man out and would be inactive since teams can only dress 13 players each game. This gives him an opportunity to simply get on the court and play a little bit.