Trail Blazers-Hornets Preview
In the span of one week, the Portland Trail Blazers have seen elation turn into frustration.
They'll look to avoid a fifth consecutive loss Sunday when they visit ex-Blazer Nicolas Batum and the Charlotte Hornets.
Portland (4-6) entered last Sunday's matchup with Detroit riding a three-game winning streak and feeling confident for a club that's in the rebuilding process. However, a 17-point loss that night began the Trail Blazers' current slide and Friday's 101-100 defeat at Memphis on Zach Randolph's put-back basket with less than a second left only added to the misery.
''It's tough, man,'' said All-Star guard Damian Lillard, the only starter remaining from Portland's teams that reached the playoffs the last two seasons.
"It's probably getting old already, but we talk about growing with our team. Whatever we get done is going to take everybody."
Coach Terry Stotts remains pleased with his team's effort, especially after overcoming a 14-point deficit and shooting 47.8 percent Friday. Lillard (25.3 points per game) scored 11 after recording at least 20 in every game prior, but C.J. McCollum (21.4 ppg) had 26 and Al-Farouq Aminu added 16, eight boards and three blocks.
However, McCollum committed eight of Portland's 22 turnovers that the Grizzlies' turned into 15 points. It's the second time in four games the Trail Blazers turned the ball over at least 20 times.
"It's going to hurt us every time," said Lillard, who wouldn't blame a sore thumb for his 5-of-15 shooting or missing all five 3-point attempts.
"That's something that we've got to work on and get better at. Time and time again the more we turn the ball over the less chance we have to win games."
The Blazers have also allowed an average of 110.5 points and 49.6 percent shooting in the last four games after yielding 96.3 and 42.6 percent from the floor in the previous three.
Charlotte has averaged 91.9 points while losing 10 of the last 12 to the Blazers, but it faced the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Batum most of the time.
Batum now takes on the team he spent his first seven seasons as a key role player with before being traded to Charlotte (4-5) in June for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh. Averaging a team-leading and career-high 16.0 points, Batum scored 28 and had eight rebounds in Friday's 102-97 loss at Chicago.
''He can pass. He can shoot. He can rebound. A competitor, and he has a really high IQ,'' Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Batum, who has totaled 52 points in the last two games and went 5 of 6 from beyond the arc Friday.
Batum fared well despite playing with concern following the terrorist attacks in his native France.
"I wanted to show (France) in my way that we're strong," Batum said. "It was a sad day for us, but we're going to stay strong ... We'll be alright."
Charlotte shot 37.9 percent from the field but remained competitive by matching a franchise record with 15 3-pointers on 33 attempts. The Hornets rank among the NBA leaders shooting 36.8 percent from distance.
Lillard has averaged 23.2 points, shot 49.5 percent from the field and gone 22 of 44 from 3-point range in six games against the Hornets.