PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Portland Trail Blazers have found themselves in a win-or-go-home scenario with their season on the line after dropping Game 4 to the Los Angeles Lakers. The series is now 3-1 in the Lakers favor and without All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard in the rotation, things are not looking good for the Blazers.
Here are six things that must happen if the players hope to keep their season alive:
When the Blazers went on their run of must-win games in order to reach and control the last playoff spot, their bench played a massive role. Gary Trent, who has emerged as a serious playmaker on both sides of the floor, was the tip of the spear when it came to bench production, followed by Hassan Whiteside and Mario Hezoja. Now, with the injury to Zach Collins and Damian Lillard, the Blazers’ bench took a massive blow. Hassan had to move into the starting role, and now Coach Terry Stotts is trying to find someone to fill Lillard’s shoes. Regardless of whatever challenges the Blazers are facing, they have to find a way to get some production from their bench in this win or go home game.
Who will step up with no Dame?
All-Star NBA point guard Damian Lillard went down in Game 4 with a knee injury that was later diagnosed as a sprain and has been ruled out of Game 5. This is an absolute huge blow to the Blazers since Lillard has been so spectacular for them all season. Now the question is raised of who is going to step up and elevate their game in Lillard’s absence? CJ, Nurk, Gary Trent, Carmelo? Someone is going to have to carry some of the load for the Blazers in Game 5 to prevent a blowout.
More physicality in the paint
Jusuf Nurkic is a proven physical big man in the paint. When he wants to, Hassan Whiteside can also be a very intimidating presence in the paint. That being said, all series long the Blazers’ big men have been pushed around by Anthony Davis, Javael Magee and Dwight Howard. The Lakers’ big men have been dominating the Blazers on the inside both offensively and defensively. I think in order to make a true difference in Game 5 and get a win, the Blazers’ big men need to be much more physical, show more toughness and not allow the Lakers to dominate the paint.
Pick up Lebron early defensively
Lebron James has again put on an impressive postseason performance putting up 30 points in Game 4 and lead the Lakers to a blowout win over the Blazers. One thing I did notice throughout the series is that Lebron doesn’t like to be picked up early defensively. He likes having time to survey the floor, walk the ball up the court and get the Lakers offense running smoothly. What the Blazers could do, which would be extremely effective, is have Gary Trent pick up Lebron early on the defensive side. Trent is a pest on the defensive side of the floor and has the footwork, speed and reaction to pick up the ball handler full court. By doing this, Trent could disrupt the flow of the Lakers offense by forcing the ball out of Lebron’s hands and force the Lakers to run the offense through somebody else.
Show some fight
It was extremely disappointing watching game four and seeing the Blazers roll over so quickly in the first quarter. The Blazers all season long have been a team that has had to overcome adversity. This is another prime example of that adversity that they are facing with the best player injured, guys are tired, and they are down 3-1 in the series. I think Game 5 they have to show any type of fight that they have left. Whether that be different looks offensively and defensively, diving ion the floor for any lose ball, or throwing everything and the kitchen sink. Whatever they have to do, they must do it with some real fight in order to keep their season alive.
Control what they can control
It’s no secret that sometimes the officiating has been questionable in this series. That being said, the Blazers cannot look for excuses why they are losing, or why they are not getting the same calls as the Lakers. Those all form distractions and excuses why they cannot win. As cliché as it sounds, the Blazers just have to play as hard as possible, pour their heart and soul into Game 5 and grind out another tough win regardless of the calls.