LOS ANGELES – It was a tough way for Portland to drop its third straight loss after the Trail Blazers “thought they played well enough to win,” as multiple players made mention of that postgame.
But ultimately, Portland did not make enough shots down the stretch and the Clippers flexed on the Blazers with their multiple weapons.
Thursday night’s 107-101 loss to the Clippers, was also a difficult pill for the Blazers to swallow because the team felt they played some of their best defense of the season. They also gave credit to Hassan Whiteside’s second half performance and Anfernee Simons’ fourth quarter scoring flurry.
People talk about teams’ tale of two halves all the time, but what about a tale of two halves for an individual player?
Even Whiteside himself admitted he had a very different game as well as a different approach to the game from the first half to the second.
“I got two early fouls in the first half, and I always know it’s like a game of two halves, so I came out and just [saw] how I could impact the game more,” Whiteside said.
Through the first two quarters it was Clippers big man Ivica Zubac who was impacting the game more.
Whiteside looked out of sorts.
But, something really seemed to happen at halftime.
Damian Lillard explained postgame that it wasn’t as if there was a talk with Whiteside in the locker room at the end of the second quarter, but rather just multiple discussions during timeouts throughout the entire game.
“Just in the huddle,” Lillard said of specific talks he and others had with Whiteside. “A few times in the first half, he set a good screen and then didn’t roll, defensively, he was slow to react, not just him, we had a few guys – same thing. But I think, he just kind of was taking it to heart. He was receptive to one or two people getting on him, ‘like we need you to dive harder, we need you to finish in the paint, we need you to move a little faster,’ and he definitely stepped it up.”
At the break, Whiteside had just two points on 1-of-7 shooting. He also had six rebounds in nearly nine minutes of action along with his two personal fouls.
After Whiteside’s second half turnaround, he finished the game with 17 points, 19 rebounds, and two blocks in 27 minutes.
“He played at the level we need him to play at it in the second half, and I think that was a huge part of why we played so much better in the second half,” Lillard added.
If it wasn’t the team talking to Whiteside to try and nudge him with extra motivation or criticism, did the national television broadcast have something to do with Whiteside’s second half performance?
During the TNT halftime show, the TNT crew had plenty of criticism aimed at the Blazers big man.
“Tonight, he’s playing with no effort,” Shaq O’Neal said of Whiteside.
“He got that money and then packed it in, and then Portland was stupid enough to take him,” Charles Barkley added.
They continued, “Do you think he knows what his strengths are?” asked Kenny Smith. “Yeah, going to the bank twice a month… stealing money,” Barkley responded.
Whiteside didn’t say whether or not he had heard about the comments before the start of the third quarter, even though watching the game it looked that way, but he did have something to say in regards to the halftime comments.
“I expect Shaq to diss, I mean, Dame killed him in a rap battle. We ain’t gonna hear anything positive from Shaq ever again. And Charles Barkely will pretty much go along with,” Whiteside said.
The 30-year-old gives a lot of credit to change in his game to watching the first half on the team’s iPad.
“I had to come out in the second half being a little bit more aggressive. I had more fouls to give. I missed a couple chippy shots in the first half. I looked at it on the iPad and saw what [the Clippers] were doing defensively. I looked at film at halftime and can gauge what they were doing,” Whiteside added.
And for those who have ever or will ever question Whiteside’s effort, he had this to say Thursday night:
“You can’t average a double-double not giving effort. You can’t go out there getting all those rebounds, not giving effort.”
Whiteside also mentioned he is “not perfect” and he is also “not worried” about the Blazers dropping three in a row because he knows it’s a long season.
Thus, Whiteside will continue to watch game film on the iPad during games, continue to bring the effort, and continue to let the criticism comes his way as he and the Blazers continue to grind through this season.