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The Trail Blazers appear far from ready for the regular season after a 119-74 loss at Phoenix: It was... utterly awful

The Trail Blazers appear far from ready for the regular season after a 119-74 loss at Phoenix: It was... utterly awful

Chauncey Billups, the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers who lost 119-74 in a preseason game against Phoenix on Wednesday, said he didn't want to address his team in the locker room.

Times like that following lopsided defeats, he added, may result in an emotional moment that includes saying something that cant be taken back.

Billups promised to watch the game again or whatever it was and talk to the guys tomorrow.

The Blazers, who begin the regular season next Wednesday, are in a bit of thorny territory. On the one hand, they are 0-3 in the preseason and have been outscored by a combined count of 347-274.

On the other hand, its just the start of the season. Starters arent playing starter minutes. Some have missed games. The team is adding a new offense and defending unit, as well as introducing slick coaching staff.

But Wednesdays effort wasnt a case of merely fumbling assignments here and there or trying out different lineup combinations that resulted in growing pains.

No, the Blazers were dealt with Wednesday. At the end of the first quarter, they were down 23-11. Portland trailed 59-40 at halftime. Did the team make adjustments and have a successful third quarter? Nope. The Blazers finished the quarter 93-62.

Portland made poor shots and shot poorly, 29.8% from the field and 6 of 39 on threes, while still allowing the Suns to get clean looks at the basket from all over the court. Phoenix took advantage, shooting 49.5% from the field and 39% on threes.

Damian Lillard explained, We didnt look well. Its easy to say, Oh, it s the preseason. But when you get beat like that in the preseason, you're beating yourself. Thats an ass-whoopin.

Many of the problems at hand were supposed to have been resolved by now. The Blazers left the first preseason defeat on Oct. 4 feeling as if the 121-107 defeat to Golden State provided them with the perfect road map to improvement. The Warriors pulled off 69 threes with good ball movement and ran in transition to get good shots. On the defensive side, Portland suffered from a series of uncontested threes, clout Billups hoped to clear up when he took over the team.

After a week of practice, the team returned to the court on Monday against Sacramento and lost 107-93, but Billups said he felt the squad did some nice things. Lillard agreed, pointing to the Blazers' ability to transition well and creating open shots.

However, the players on the court against the Kings werent necessarily the group of players that will head this team. Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, and Robert Covington were among the eight players who did not play for various reasons.

On Wednesday, the entire starting line-up returned to normal, and yet the team looked worse than it did against the Warriors.

Billups said he felt progress had been made during the first two weeks of practice, and that, while the team was a work in progress from etiquette, despite the fact that it was developing the effort and commitment to playing the right way.

Practices, he added, have revealed a team dedicated to learning. The players, according to Billups, talk frequently about the importance of executing the little things and having one anothers back.

Billups said thats why a game like this is so disappointing. Not because you lost, but because the mentality wasnt there.

Committing to good defense and taking better shots has been the focus of the past two weeks.

Billups stated, Youre always trying to work on something. Weve talked a lot about, were trying to create naivete. That takes time, right, but youve got to be better at it. I just felt like our urgency on the defensive end from the very beginning of the game wasnt there.

That was apparent on the scoreboard. Billups explained that the players would execute the first defensive rotation but not the second or third and then suddenly someone would be ready for a shot. Good defenses, Billups said, dont slack off in the possession because thats what good offenses depend on.

A regular-season game might not have gone as far as this one. Lillard played 23 minutes and McCollum 24, respectively. They combined for 22 points. They usually average about 50 people in a room together.

But Billups doesn't want to rely on them to always lead the team.

We want those guys and everybody else to make shots, but we want them to create them created by what we do as a team, Billups stated.

Billups said that the Blazers took too many contested threes and didnt allow the offense to work.

Lillard stated that the lack of offensive focus only fuelled Phoenixs offense.

When a team demands that you work defensively and on your offensive end, youre letting them off the hook time and time again, he added. Theyre getting inspired by it and theyve been able to maintain that energy level by pushing the ball quickly, playing at that pace because they arent having to work defensively, and offensively they're obtaining whatever they want, he added.

But its hard for a team to find traction on offense when it commits 74 turnovers in three games (21 on Wednesday).

Billups stated, It was a terrible effort.

The Suns are the defending Western Conference champions. The Blazers are attempting to get to that level, knowing that its a long journey. Maybe Wednesday's episode sparked a feeling that the journey is longer than initially anticipated.

Billups said, Today I thought we took a step back.

Billups believes the effort was not there Wednesday, which is the most alarming aspect of all of this. This is a team that lost in the first round of the playoffs last season, changed coaches, and pledged to establish 'a culture of accountability' yet plays as though everything is running smoothly.

If anything, it should be a miscommunication or misunderstanding or something like that, Lillard said. I dont think effort should ever be something we point at and say this is part of why we struggled because were not one of those teams who can go out there and win a game with anything less than 1% effort. Thats an issue thatll be addressed,

Aaron Fentress | afentree@Oregonian.com | @AaronJFen_(Twitter), @aarnJfrentress (Instagram), #AronFeen[@]AARONJEFENS_ (@AaaroneJ_FEN__) (#Aaraon_JFEENS (Tweet), [@aaraonejfense (instagramm), and @arone_fence_[.

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