When the clock hit zero on Saturday in New Orleans, it became clear that Portland’s fun season, which included a 12-game win streak, first-team all-NBA buzz for Damian Lillard, and promising playoff hopes were all for naught.
In fact, it was clear a lot earlier than that.
The Blazers, the 3rd seed in the West, looked lost even on their home floor to begin the series, dropping both at home to open the playoffs. Even though it was only a few days into the playoffs, it was clear they were in the midst of an epic collapse. Then and there, we realized that we’d seen this show before.
Portland’s disasterous series feels very similar to the Raps-Wizards sweep in 2015. #NBAPlayoffs
— Raptors Cage (@RaptorsCage) April 20, 2018
And as Portland dropped the two final games on the road, they went down in history as the first higher-seed to be swept in the playoffs since those 2015 Raptors, who were the first since the 2011 Lakers against Dallas in Round 2.
That year, the Raps went back to the playoffs after the infamous 2014 Brooklyn series, no longer content with just being there. The 2014 was fun and surprising, but the 2015 team was looking for more. Instead, the 4-seed was blown out of the gym.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll say it: It was embarrassing,” forward Patrick Patterson said. “A horrific effort on our part.”
Kyle Lowry, the only All-Star on the team, saw his 18 PPG on 41.2% shooting over the season turn into 12 on 31.2%. Dwane Casey, who had been praised all season for the rebirth of the team, was suddenly called to be fired. Everything turned upside down.
Damian Lillard, the only All-Star on Portland, saw his 26.9 PPG on 43.9% shooting turned into 18.6 on 35.2%. A week ago, asking if Terry Stott’s job was safe was an absurd question. Now, there’s already other teams showing interest.
Although the Blazers have already made the playoffs five times Dame, the success that the Raps have had by not panicking after a disaster beyond belief shows a blueprint for teams like the Blazers. If there’s some potential there, stick with what you have, and things may come into place.
Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic are 27, 26, and 23 years old. In 2015, Lowry, DeRozan, and Jonas Valanciunas were 22 years old.
Had the Raptors blown things up after a bad stretch, where would they be now? There’s different answers for this, but most aren’t the first seed in the conference.