The thing that makes you angriest, I think, is that the Pelicans are just so bullshit.
Anthony Davis is spectacular, of course, even against a team with the kind of roster that can really screw down on him. So the fact that he has led the New Orleans Pelicans to a 3-0 lead over our once-promising Portland Trail Blazers—including two torturous home losses and a full-on ass-kicking in Louisiana—is logical, if still shocking.
But E'Twan Moore? Even I, a professional sports writer, have a sketchy-at-best understanding of who that even is, but here he is roasting the Blazers like a squirrel rotating on a spit. Jrue Holiday is a dude whose career has seemed completely over on like three separate occasions, but there he goes, turning Damian Lillard into a fumble-fingered Millhouse.
Nikola Mirotic? Chicago's finest wonder-boy washout, maybe the most disappointing NBA player who ever lived? He's shooting and dunking like God herself touched the center of his being.
But no one, NO ONE is more bullshit than Rajon Rondo. Every year this guy dogs it during the regular season, drifting in and out of competence, doing everything he can to convince any rational person that his career is over. And then he gets in the goddamn post season and there he is, Rajon the beast, resurrected at the rim and shooting three pointers like it's… uh, never, he has never been good at shooting three pointers. Except in the playoffs, when he is good at it every year seemingly purely out of spite.
But hey: Let's give the Blazers some credit for how shitty they've been.
Because they could not be getting fucked as badly as they are without turning in some TRULY heinous work out there.
Jusuf Nurkic has been next to unplayable. He has been destroyed by the more athletic Davis on defense, which is probably within the acceptable range of outcomes, but his work on offense has been so atrocious as to make you wonder if he is even a functional modern NBA player.
Nurk has always tended towards softer finishes at the rim than are necessary, for certain—hooks where there should be layins, layins where there should be dunks—but squaring down against a squad that is doing everything they can to make sure he doesn't score, his slight malfeasance has blown up into a full blown sepsis, poisoning the team from the inside every time he takes the court.
Lillard? Holy god. Oh my god he's been so terrible.
It's been a matter of faith among Blazer fans that Lillard is the man in these kinds of situations, coming off a year where he will probably be first or second team All-NBA, an iron willed competitor who blah blah blah.
But for reasons both tangible and mysterious he has been, just, like, horrible at basketball all series, so bad that you kind of have to wonder if he's injured, somehow, even though he doesn't LOOK injured. He's totally unable to make a three and getting stuffed at the rim so much that it's like the universe itself has decided to punish him for winning Rookie of the Year over Davis that one time.
And CJ McCollum, who should probably be picking up the slack? Pedestrian. Managing not to embarrass himself, I suppose, but not doing anything serious to make up for the lack of play-making from the other guard spot.
Aminu has been fine. Good, even. I just thought I should write about a bright spot.
After the first game of this series, an editor at a very popular website that pays very well sent me an email that said "Hey they're gonna win, and I'm gonna want you to write something about them." When I read that, I said "Yes, they are, come on, it would be so stupid if they lost to the PELICANS, whose second best player is injured and whose third best player is Jrue Holiday." But here we are, the Blazers wallowing around in a pit of malfeasance and COSTING ME PAID WORK.
John Canzano and also everyone else on the internet and everywhere have started wondering if this nonsense might cost someone else work when this travesty has ended and… uhh, yeah, it's starting to be hard to think it won't. Nurk's re-signing is extremely in the air, CJ looks like a pretty meaty trade piece, coach Terry Stotts is annoying people by not doing much to make the Blazers be not horrible.
But, people, no one, NO ONE looks more vulnerable than Neil Olshey, the architect of this tower of nonsense. Paul Allen love firing GMs. Loves it. And in a case like this, its hard to watch and not think that the central problem with this squad is how it was constructed.
You might notice I haven't mentioned Evan Turner yet. Now is the perfect time.
If Nurk has looked unplayable in this series, Evan Turner (who was, to be fair, injured last night) has looked unplayable in some third-tier European leagues. It's not necessarily that he is terrible in some inherent way. It's just that the game has passed him by so aggressively that proposing his midrange, iso'ing ass to solve any basketball problem at all just seems completely bizarre.
On some level, I guess you have to dap up the Pelicans' coaching staff for scouting the Blazers well and shutting down pretty much everything they want to do in this series. But even I, a genuine idiot, know that a defense helping off of non-shooting ass Turner to seal off Lillard's penetration and prevent him from shooting is the most blatant Achilles' heel in the universe.
The only reason that dude is on the team is that Neil paid him ENTIRELY TOO MUCH MONEY to stand around and fuck up the Blazers' spacing. The wave has passed Olshey by hard as hell, the team needs to recalibrate and bring in some egghead numbers maniac, not a haircut dude who is into salesmanship. The squad has been constructed in a way that excludes winning and, after they get their asses beat, they probably have to address it.
Aminu has been good, though. Congrats to him.