Blazers hitting early wall

To color it anything other than what it is would be a lie. So it’ll be thrown out in simple black and white: the 2005-06 Portland Trail Blazers have hit a wall, as in the wall. In their embarrassing 118-89 blowout of a loss to the Miami Heat on Sunday night at the Rose Garden, the Blazers were out-hustled, outmanned and outplayed. It was a murder scene. And it was a hard one to watch go down.

From the opening tip, the Blazers looked like they would rather be sitting in their lush homes, watching this weekend’s NFL highlights, rather than taking on Shaq, D-Wade, The Glove and White Chocolate. Out of sync doesn’t even begin to describe it. More like: every-Blazer-fan-in-the-arena-deserved-a-refund kind of bad.

In fact, midway through the third quarter, the game took on the appearance of one of those over-before-it-began NCAA affairs that Top 25 teams use to pad both their records and their stats. That, or a Miami Heat Sports Center highlight reel.

“There was no defense at all,” said a dejected Nate McMillan. “No commitment to the defensive end of the floor. We weren’t competing. It was awful. We quit. We stopped playing.”

And the numbers back it up. Miami had 30 fast-break points to Portland’s eight; 62 points inside the paint to the Blazers’ 38. The Heat shot an astounding 58.8 percent from the floor to the Blazers’ 41.9 percent. They led every other significant team category by a wide margin. And they made the Trail Blazers look like something out of the NBA’s D-League.

Leading Miami was All-Star guard Dwayne Wade, who scored an easy 31 points to go along with five boards, seven assists and a career-high six steals. Jason Williams had his back with 20 points (on eight of 11 shooting) and eight assists. Forward James Posey was four of six from three-point range, giving him 12 on the night. And Antoine Walker threw in 16, including three of six from beyond the arc.

By the fourth quarter, nearly everyone who was left at the Rose Garden was making their way towards the exits, while boos rang out like a boxing ring bell after a stopped fight. Yet, still, the onslaught continued. Miami took and made uncontested shot after uncontested shot, while the Blazers could make neither lay-up nor dunk. And while the Heat threw the ball around like it was a hot rocket, Portland often put the ball up without even making a single pass.

The final result: a laugher. Or a massacre. Take your pick.

“The effort just wasn’t there. They controlled the tempo and they controlled the game,” said Blazer guard Jarrett Jack.

Center Joel Pryzbilla echoed him. “I don’t see progress. We take a couple of steps forward and then we take a lot more steps back. We just quit out there. We weren’t scrapping. We didn’t bring it. It wasn’t Nate McMillan basketball.”

So, where do the Blazers go from here, now that they’ve hit the wall? Their record stands at 10-24 on the year. They’ve lost six straight. And their schedule only gets harder as the year goes on.

All of the “Ready or not, here we come” and “Young teams are fun to watch, not to play” slogans are absolutely useless when the Blazers perform as they have of late. As are the catchphrase-like terms “youth movement” and “rebuilding process.” Right now, at this moment, the Portland Trail Blazers look like the worst team in the NBA. There’s a catchphrase for you.

It’s not that often that you see a man (or, for that matter, a head coach in professional sports) with the confidence, composure and poise of Nate McMillan look completely bewildered and at a loss to explain what exactly is happening to his team. But that’s how McMillan looked on Sunday night, standing in front of the podium during his post-game press conference. His face was full of shock. His words poured out like searchlights.

He looked like a groom who had been stood up at the altar.

Questions abound.

“Were these guys conditioned to play like this before they got here?” McMillan said.

“And will we be able to change them while I’m here, coaching? Maybe I’ll be gone before then. If they’re getting the message, if the message was getting through to them, we wouldn’t have seen this tonight.”

So far there aren’t any easy answers.