750 THE GAME STAFF
The Trail Blazers have been betting underdogs in every game this season. With a 3-4 start, Portland aims to pull out another surprise or two on a three-game road trip that begins Wednesday night in Sacramento before moving to Los Angeles for a clash with the Lakers (Nov. 12th) and a visit to the Utah Jazz (Nov. 14th).
“I think we’re in a good spot,” veteran point guard Malcolm Brogdon said this week at practice. “I think a lot of these games that we’ve won we’ve been underdogs according to the analytics and all the people that put out wins-losses and who’s supposed to win what game. I think we’re in a good spot, I think we’re learning, I think we’re improving, I think more important than our record, I think we’re improving.”
Brogdon, who is third on the team in scoring (19.0 ppg) and leads in assists (6.1), pointed to the defensive end of the floor as an area where he’s seen the team improve early in the season.
“One of the big things we talked about was ball pressure,” he said. “We came out maybe the first game or two, weren’t pressuring the ball, but the last couple, we’ve been pressuring the ball, keeping the ball in front of us, not having as many silly breakdowns on the defensive end.”
Defensively, the Blazers are currently tenth in the league in points allowed per game at 109.7, and are about to play the 18th, 17th, and 16th best scoring offenses so far in the league in consecutive games, starting with Sacramento on Wednesday night. But the Blazers themselves are last in the league averaging 104.3 points a game offensively.
“We play hard. We don’t lay down for nobody,” DeAndre Ayton said this week. “We’re going to fall down punching.”
Sunday’s home loss to Memphis was tough to swallow; the Grizzlies outscored Portland 30-14 in the fourth quarter to earn their first win of the season, 112-100. But head coach Chauncey Billups says he appreciates the effort he’s seen from the team.
“Some nights we’re going to go out there and we’re going to play against these juggernauts, and stuff, and we’re going to be in the game, and we’re going to press them as hard as we can,” Billups said this week. “And some nights we’re going to lose those games. Just run out of talent sometimes, it is what it is, you are where you are. But what we’re asking them to do — I love it, they’re doing it every time.”
Memphis is hardly the juggernaut Billups is referencing, but the playoff teams coming up on the Blazers schedule in the Kings and Lakers undoubtedly have a talent advantage of Portland.
“We’re really close but we haven’t played everybody in the league yet,” center DeAndre Ayton said. “Sometimes teams are going to be throwing things at us that we’ve never seen.”
Ayton says an ability to refine the details will help the team going forward.
“We’re accelerating fast to where sometimes we have to slow ourselves down and look at the smaller things and smaller details and just make sure we abide by those and make sure we establish what type of team we want to be in this league.”
The Blazers are 8.5-pt underdogs at the Kings on Wednesday night, a 7:00 p.m. tip off on Root Sports Plus.