Portland Trail Blazers: 6 Reasons Why the Season Took a Turn for the Worst

Bryant Knox@@BryantKnoxFeatured ColumnistApril 11, 2012

Portland Trail Blazers: 6 Reasons Why the Season Took a Turn for the Worst

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    The Portland Trail Blazers started off the 2011-12 NBA season hot out of the gate, but their 7-2 record and No. 1 seed out West have long disappeared into a disappointing year.

    Now just 27-31, the Blazers are 4.5 games out of the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference and appear to be headed toward the lottery for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

    The year has been a rough one, and while no one factor is to blame for the disappointment, a number of issues have contributed to the frustrating season taking place in Rip City.

Brandon Roy's Retirement, Greg Oden's Procedure

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    Before the season had even begun, Brandon Roy announced his retirement from the NBA, Greg Oden suffered another setback and LaMarcus Aldridge underwent a routine heart procedure.

    For some teams, this would be the tale of a tough season. For Portland, this was a season's worth of injury troubles packed into one unfortunate preseason day.

    The team did go on to sign guard Jamal Crawford and make some noise out West to start the year, but if you believe in omens, that one dark day in Portland may have set the path for a rough season ahead.

Feb. 6 Overtime Loss to Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The same way that it's tough to blame a loss on any one possession, it's tough to blame a lost season on any one game.

    Both situations, however, bring to mind the devastating overtime loss at the Rose Garden to the Oklahoma City Thunder back on Feb. 6.

    The Trail Blazers entered that game 14-10 on the season, having won 11 of 12 games at home. 

    However, one bad call at the end of regulation—confirmed by the NBA—and exceptionally poor execution in overtime seemingly changed the course for the team moving forward.

    Since that game, the Blazers have posted an 8-9 record at the Rose Garden and did not win back-to-back games until an overtime victory against the Dallas Mavericks April 6.

    It's difficult to blame a season on one game, but it's easy to point out that since that game against the Thunder, the Blazers just haven't been the same.

Point Guard Play

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    Raymond Felton started the season slowly, and quite frankly, he is just now starting to show signs of competency at the point guard position for the Portland Trail Blazers.

    Averaging 14.1 points, 8.6 assists and 5.0 rebounds in his last nine games is fantastic, but where was that the first 49 games of the season?

    Nate McMillan seemingly wouldn't play the young guys in meaningful minutes, so finding a true reserve point guard never took place throughout the season.

    Crawford eventually took over as the backup—and even the starter for a while—but his score-first mentality and inconsistent shooting wasn't exactly what the team was hoping for.

    Point guard has been a problem in Portland for quite some time now, and this season proved to be one of the more trying years in recent history.

Closing out Games

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    The Trail Blazers started off the season the right way in a tightly contested 107-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers

    Since then, though, the team has gone just 4-12 in games decided by five points or fewer, and has fallen into the trap of late-game one-on-one basketball.

    LaMarcus Aldridge broke the trend last week, hitting a game-winning jumper to seal the deal against the Dallas Mavericks, but it's not often enough that the Blazers look to run a play for their best player in crunch time.

    If you've watched this team close out games this season, it's apparent that they miss the clutch isolation of Brandon Roy, and those close losses have proven to be a difference maker when it comes to the playoff race out West. 

Losing the Locker Room

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    Heading into the March 15 NBA trade deadline, rumors were beginning to surround the Trail Blazers locker room that players and staff members were both beginning to question head coach Nate McMillan.

    ESPN's Chad Ford even said that Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton had "quietly orchestrated a mutiny..."—something that Crawford vehemently denies

    Whatever was happening, though, resulted in a lack of effort and lackluster play heading into the second half of the condensed NBA season.

    In games leading up to the deadline, the Blazers suffered an 18-point loss to the Boston Celtics, a 17-point loss to the Indiana Pacers and a 42-point loss to the New York Knicks.

    The effort was nowhere to be found at that point in the year, and the team was seemingly headed straight into the ground both on and off the court just halfway through the season.

March 15 Trade Deadline

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    The Trail Blazers' troubles this season seemingly culminated at the March 15 trade deadline.

    When the team sent away two starters, waived former No. 1 pick Greg Oden and fired head coach Nate McMillan all on the same day, the Blazers found themselves officially entering the dreaded rebuilding phase with a month and a half remaining in the regular season.

    In the long run, these moves may ultimately be what keeps Portland relevant moving forward.

    At the time, though, they put the year in perspective and unofficially propelled this team into tank mode for the rest of the miserable experience that had been the 2011-12 NBA season.