Portland at Philadelphia, at Washington

I thought the Blazers would defeat Philadelphia handily. Portland has the better players, better coach, and is just all around better. Plus, they should come out energized and angry after laying down to Denver.

They did. They built a 25 point lead. They held Philadelphia scoreless...not without a field goal...scoreless. Philadelphia backed up a 17 point first quarter with those 8 minutes and Portland built a 25 point lead.

They gave a bunch of it back in the last 4 minutes but then rebuilt their lead. The third quarter was more of the same...the Sixers would make a run, Portland would bring the lead back up. After 3, they were ahead by 17.

Everything was in place. Portland would get a comfortable win, then follow it up with nice wins over Washington and Charlotte and come home with a 3 game winning streak and a 7-4 record to start a home stretch. Buoyed by their success, they would again have a strong home stand and be about 10-4, maybe a little better, not much worse.

Until they fell apart. They got crushed. Creamed. Demolished. Obliterated. They gave back all 17 points and another 4 and snatched a 4 point defeat out of the jaws of victory.

I did not hear the 4th quarter. I don't know what happened. What I do know is that was inexcusable. It firmly planted a 5000 gorilla on their back. Now, not only are they winless on the road, they lost to a team they should have beat handily, gave up a 25 point lead, and gave up a 17 point 4th quarter lead. Now they will struggle mightily on the road all year.

That loss made it a foregone conclusion they would lose to Washington.

Washington is not a very good team and without Agent Zero they are even worse. Agent Zero...I like to watch him play but don't want him on my team. Like a John Starks or an Allen Iverson, he can single-handedly win a game if he gets hot. And like Starks and Iverson, he can single-handedly lose a game with numerous bad shots and bricks when he is cold. And like Starks and Iverson, he does not stop shooting or find the hot guy.

Well, without him Washington looked like what they are. A bad team without their best player. They shot poorly, under 38%, and had pretty porous defense. Fortunately for Washington, Portland was busy laying down. They gave up so many offensive rebounds that they gave up 19 more shots than they took and were never really in the game. As bad as Washington played, Portland played worse. This was a game of "Who wants it less". Portland was dispirited, disinterested in playing, rebounding, etc.

To be sure, there were flashes. Przybilla blocked shots maniacally, Outlaw had a solid, solid game as did J-Jack, and Webster, still mired in his shooting slump, showed some flashes as, no longer satisfied with hanging out at the three point line, drove to the basket and showed some aggression. That bodes well for him to continue improving.

But it was never a team effort. Przybilla would block a shot, 2 Blazers would watch, and 3 Wizards would crash the board, pick up the loose ball, and throw it down.

Had Portland not disintegrated against the 6ers, this game was theirs for the taking. Instead, they laid down and lost to a vastly inferior Washington team.

And therein lies the problem. Can Portland regain the chemistry and confidence that makes them better than many of the teams they face? Yes...but not on this road trip.

Normally, I would predict a Blazer win in Charlotte. Now? No, I think they lose, and lose by quite a bit...6 points or more, and don't be surprised to see a blow-out.