G18 Portland Trailblazers (10-8) vs Brooklyn Nets (6-11)
— Penny Lee (@penny10654) November 24, 2017
In winning six of their first 10 games, the Blazers averaged 107.2 points while shooting 39.4 percent from 3-point range and getting to the line 26.4 times. In the last eight, those numbers are 94.6 points, 36.7 from 3 (42.9 percent overall) and 19.4 free throws per game, which was a point of contention for Lillard on Wednesday.
“I go to the rim a lot,” he said after matching a season low with three free-throw attempts. “I’m getting smacked in my head, smacked on my shooting hand when I’m going to the basket. Guys knocking me to the ground every other play — like hard. … It’s frustrating.”
Among the other reasons is lack of transition offense for Portland, which is last with 4.5 fast-break points per game in a category led by Golden State’s 23.7. The fast break is not a new issue for Portland since it was 22nd last season at 11.7 and 26th two years ago at 10.7.
“This year, it’s been much more of a topic,” Lillard told the Oregonian earlier this week. “I feel like we’ll take it kind of as a challenge and … when we have those opportunities, try to take advantage of them. We’ve got to put pressure on people in transition, so I think we’ll improve as the season goes on.”
It’s just more noticeable this season and especially in recent games.
One of Portland’s spotty offensive showings occurred two weeks ago in a 101-97 home loss to the Nets. The Blazers shot 42.1 percent as Lillard and backcourt mate C.J. McCollum combined for 36 points on 13-of-32 shooting.
It is one of three wins in the last 11 games for the Nets since their 112-107 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 25. It also represents one of two times the Nets gave up less than 100 points this season.
Brooklyn (6-11) ranks 29th in points allowed at 114.2 and 25th in defensive rating (109.6) after Wednesday’s 119-109 loss in Cleveland. James scored 18 straight points and 23 overall in the fourth quarter when the Nets allowed the Cavaliers to make 13 of 17 shots.
“We tried different things,” Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said. “We tried switching, and he kind of picks out the guy he wants to go at. I’m disappointed. I thought we had some open looks on the offensive end that might have made it a little tighter.”
The Nets lost despite shooting a season-high 51.9 percent, mostly because they couldn’t finish down the stretch. The Nets made at least 14 3-pointers in a third straight game for the first time in team history but also gave up 15 fast-break points after allowing 16 against Golden State Sunday.
“There ain’t too much you can do. It’s just one of those nights,” Brooklyn forward DeMarre Carroll said. “We competed. We’ve just got to figure out how to close out games.”
The Nets will play their fifth game since losing D’Angelo Russell indefinitely to left knee surgery. Russell scored 21 points in Portland but was injured the next night in Utah.
Spencer Dinwiddie, who scored eight points Wednesday, will be the starting point guard. Dinwiddie is averaging 16.5 points since the Nets lost Russell while former Trail Blazers guard Allen Crabbe is averaging 18.3 points in his last four games.
Portland is 7-4 against the Nets since Lillard entered the league in the 2012 draft with a pick previously owned by Brooklyn. In last season’s visit to Brooklyn on Nov. 20, 2016, McCollum scored 33 points on 12-of-19 shooting in Portland’s 129-109 win.