Remember how we held Jahlil Okafor out from two games last month because he was totally definitely gonna be traded -- presumably to the Portland Trailblazers, one of the few remaining teams interested in Big Jah's quasi-reactionary NBA services? Well, you may also recall that that didn't end up actually happening, as the Blazers decided instead to deal Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets for their backup big Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick, as Jah ended up still standing as the trade deadline music stopped and was forced to retreat back to the 76ers.
Last night, Jah made the Blazers pay for failing to trade for them. And by "pay" of course I mean "regret having an easier time winning games, because they might not make the playoffs anyway and they're just hurting their draft positioning at this point." Jah had a respectable enough game by his standards: 16 points on 7-14 shooting with eight boards and just one assist. But the guy opposite him -- Nurkic, who the Blazers decided was perhaps a more viable fit for the team's long-term plans -- put up a jaw-dropping line of 28 points (on 9-18 FG), 20 boards, eight dimes and six swats. It's more rebounds, assists and blocks than Okafor has ever had in a game, and ties his second-highest-ever scoring total to boot.
The Blazers won in overtime against the Sixers last night, 114-108 though really Jah wasn't to blame so much as an absolutely abhorrent shooting performance from our back court. As the great Tom Moore would undoubtedly say, T.J. McConnell and Nik Stauskas combined to make all but 14 of their 14 field goal attempts in PDX, missing from just about every part of the court (and in every game situation) you can imagine. Dario Saric's career high 28 points on 11-16 shooting (with four triples!) and RoCo's 24 and 13 (including a buzzer-beating putback at the end of regulation to force OT) made it interesting, but it was still the third straight L for the Sixers.
Which is fine. If we're not in rooting-for-losses territory yet, we're certainly in not-getting-upset-about-losses territory at a minimum, and with a two-top-five-pick June still very much a possibility (the Lakers actually beat the Suns last night, though they're still in the No. 2 lottery slot at the moment), as long as Bob and Dario are playing well and nobody else is getting hurt, the future can (maybe, hopefully) only get brighter. Even if we still have Jah on the roster, and the Blazers are looking back at that almost-trade the way most of us look back at our choice of middle school yearbook quote.