Basketball is all about matchups. When the other team makes a last minute decision to start Damian Jones, you can’t just sit there and keep starting Enes Kanter like a moron. You have to react. You have to adapt. Remember: MATCHUPS. That’s what basketball is all about. MATCHUPS.
In the immortal words of Billy Donovan, “can’t play Kanter”.
Enter Meyers Leonard. He’s gotten a few DNP’s last series as well as one the first game of this series, but he played important minutes in game two and was a big part of the Blazers’ loss. The decision makes some sense: in his only two starts of the regular season, he scored 16 and 19 points, so he’s shown that he can produce in such a role. Leonard is certainly a different player from Kanter, whether or not he’s actually better matchup-wise against the Warriors is an open debate, but he definitely provides a different look. And maybe that’s all the Blazers needed.
In the first half, the experiment looked incredibly successful: Leonard had 13 points, made some big plays, held Damian Jones to a pathetic 0/0/0/0/0/3 fouls statline in three minutes, and the Blazers were up big. Then the second half happened. To use what I presume is a dead meme at this point: “Trailblazers and choking big second-half leads: name a more iconic duo”. See? I know about the memes. I’m with it. I use memes all the time. Aren’t I relevant and cool because of my knowledge of internet culture? Yes. I am.
Leonard only scored 3 points in the second half, but I don’t really blame him for the loss. He’s not the one who’s supposed to be good. That responsibility falls on C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, and they didn’t deliver. “Midget Chuck Bros” sounds like a good nickname for the tandem.