The Portland Trail Blazers returned to the court for the first time in four days Wednesday night and responded with a 108-96 victory against the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of a sellout crowd of 19,998 at the Moda Center.
“I was very please with our defense, for the most part throughout the game but particularly in the fourth quarter,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We did a nice job of protecting the rim and forcing mid-range shots.”
With the win, the Trail Blazers are now 29-9 on the season and sit behind only the San Antonio Spurs, their next opponent, in the Western Conference standings. They are now 7-0 against teams from the Central Division.
Wednesday’s game had all the makings of yet another photo finish, which wouldn’t have been surprising considering two of the last three games between the Blazers and Cavaliers were decided by last-second shots, one of those in overtime. Cleveland led 94-93 after a Dion Waiters netted a three-pointer with 3:44 to play in the fourth quarter.
But it would be all Trail Blazers from there after LaMarcus Aldridge hit a three-pointer as the shot clock expired to put Portland up 96-94 with 3:17 to play. Even though it was Aldridge’s first three-pointer of the season, he said after that game that he had been practicing shooting from deep after shootaround.
“Clock was running down, I saw where I was,” said Aldridge. “I figured, I’ve been working on (three-pointers) all day this morning, so might as well shoot it. It went in. That’s rare for me, but I made it, so that was good for us.”
Aldridge’s three-pointer also served as a lesson to his younger teammates that just because you don’t take a lot of three-pointers doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t practice shooting them.
“That was a big-time shot,” said Damian Lillard. “He had a hand in his face, he doesn’t really shoot threes. In shootaround today I told him to stop shooting threes because he never shoots them in a game and he just happened to make that one.”
After Aldridge’s triple, Anderson Varejao answered back with an offensive rebound and a putback on the ensuing possession to tie the game at 96-96, but the Trail Blazers would hold the Cavaliers scoreless for the remaining two minutes, 54 seconds of regulation.
“I thought everybody took an individual challenge,” said Stotts of his team’s defense late in the fourth quarter. “On their pick and rolls, our bigs were good at containing the ball and not giving them an alley to the basket. With the one-on-one defense, our stances were good and taking away angles to drive. The help defense was there. So I just think it was a combination of good individual defense and good, especially, pick and roll defense.”
On the flip side, the Trail Blazers found their flow on offense in the fourth, finishing the final quarter by shooting 57 percent from the field and 56 percent from three. Portland would end the game on a 12-0 run thanks to six-straight points from Aldridge and three-pointers from Lillard and Wesley Matthews.
“We’re a high-potent, offensive team,” said Matthews. “Eventually our shots are going to fall. We’ve got guys that make too many good plays and guys that can knock down shots too well to not make shots for a full game.”
Playing a nip-and-tuck game for the first three quarters before pulling away in the fourth has been a recent trend for the Trail Blazers, and that was no different Wednesday night against the Cavaliers.
“I think a lot of good team are able to (extend leads) in the fourth quarter,” said Stotts, “and I think we’re a good team. We want to be able to be in position to win games in the fourth quarter, whether we explode or whether we win a nail-biter. I think we have the confidence and resolve and determination to find a way to win in the fourth quarter.”
Aldridge led all scorers with 32 points on 12 of 26 shooting to go along with 18 rebounds, four assists and a steal in 35 minutes. The Blazers are now 19-3 this season when Aldridge records a double-double.
Damian Lillard got the best of Kyrie Irving in the matchup of up-and-coming point guards, finishing with 28 points, six rebounds, 5 assists and two steals in 36 minutes. Lillard scored 20 of his points in the first half.
Matthews scored five points in the fourth quarter
to finish with 15 points, four assists, a rebound and a steal. Nicolas Batum scored just seven points on five shots but also added nine rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.
Mo Williams struggled through a three of 11 night from the field but finished with eight points and a game-high seven assists. And Thomas Robinson turned in another energetic performance off the bench with four points, six rebounds and a block in just under 13 minutes.
Next up, the Trail Blazers begin an incredibly difficult four games in five nights stretch on the road with a contest Friday night against the Spurs in San Antonio.
“Challenging,” said Stotts when asked to describe the upcoming trip, with also includes games against the Mavericks, Rockets and Thunder. “It’s four teams that are in the playoffs. I’m always reluctant to talk about a whole road trip. Right now, it’s about San Antonio and they’ve won six in a row and have the best record in the NBA, or close to it. So the road trip is challenging, but like anything else, you can’t look at the whole thing. If you’re going to read a 2,000-page book, you can’t look at the whole book. You’ve got to take the first chapter.”
Tipoff for that first chapter is set for 5:30 PM.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.
Maryland forward Jake Layman took questions from the Portland media via conference call for the first time Friday afternoon since being acquired by the Trail Blazers from the Orlando Magic after he was selected with the 47th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. The 6-9 wing, who averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in four seasons with the Terrapins, discussed being selected by the Trail Blazers, whether he knew the team was interested in him prior to the draft, what skills he has that are most applicable in the NBA, his defensively strengths and his plans to come to Portland in time for summer league workouts…
What was your initial reaction after being drafted by the Trail Blazers and your impressions of the franchise?
Jake Layman: First off, I’m very excited. It was such a stressful night. I was nervous all night, I didn’t really know what to expect with what was going to happen the way the draft was going last night. To finally hear my name called was just a big sign of relief, I was very excited, especially to be picked up by the Blazers because I’ve watched them play a lot. I think that their style of play fits me very well.
Why did you watch them a lot over the season?
Jake Layman: I think it was really more playoff time when I saw them play.
Where the Blazers on your radar? Did they interview you in Chicago at the combine, have any interaction with the team leading up to the draft?
Jake Layman: I did an interview with them at the combine but they were still in the playoffs, so they didn’t have really anybody there who could interview. That was really it. I didn’t work out for them. But I did know that they were very interested going into the draft, but they had no picks, so I really didn’t think much of it. So when my agent called me to tell me they traded in for the pick, I was excited.
What did you think about Portland’s recent playoff run?
Jake Layman: It was very exciting. Watching them with how young they are, how much talent they have, to be battling out there against some of the best teams in the NBA. I know how excited the fanbase was to see that happen.
What are your most applicable NBA skills right now and how do you see yourself projecting as an NBA player from a position or skill perspective?
Jake Layman: I think for me, my shooting ability, it’s gotten better each year that I was in college. So I think for me, just carrying that into the NBA is going to be huge. And also for me, I think being able to guard multiple spots on the floor is what teams are looking for now. I think that’s something I can do.
Do you know Pat Connaughton at all since you’re from the same area? Did you play against him at all?
Jake Layman: I know him pretty well. We never really played against each other in high school or anything, but just being from the same area. We were part of the Boston Globe all-star team one year, so yeah, we definitely know each other.
Do you know when you’re going to come to Portland, when you might sign and whether you’ll play for the team at summer league?
Jake Layman: Talking to the GM yesterday, I think I’m going to fly out to Portland either July 3rd or 4th and then I’ll be there for the practices leading up to summer league, which starts pretty soon after that. Then I’ll play in summer league. I’m not really sure about signing contracts or anything right now, but for summer league I’ll definitely be there.
What was your conversation like with Neil Olshey?
Jake Layman: He just asked me how I felt. All the emotion going through your head when you get drafted, it was definitely nice to talk to him. Asked me how I’m feeling and if I’m ready to get going. I was very excited to hear from him, I talked to Coach Stotts also.
How would you describe yourself off the court? What’s your personality like? How do you approach the game? Approach life or leadership or being in a locker room.
Jake Layman: I think for me, I’m a little different off the court than I am on the court. I think when it comes to being on the court, I’m definitely pretty intense. I’m always going hard, going crazy on the court. Then off the court, I’m a pretty quiet guy, very laid back, definitely a great locker room guy. I get along with everybody. That’s how I would describe myself.
You said you feel like your defensive versatility is an asset. Could you break down your strengths defensively?
Jake Layman: I think my on-ball defense has definitely gotten better over the years. But I think playing off the ball on defense, being able to come over and help and then block shots from the weakside, it is something that I’m definitely good at.
Do you feel like joining a young team, but one that has already had some success in the playoffs, give you an opportunity that other guys in the draft might not get?
Jake Layman: I think it’s a great chance to be able to come in this next year and help, make an impact on the team, just go in and help whatever way I can, whether it’s scoring, defending or all of those. I think the makeup of this team definitely gives me a chance to go in and make an impact right away.
What’s your hometown of Wrentham like? What was it like growing up there?
Jake Layman: Growing up in Wrentham, I’m one of five boys in my family, so there’s always something to do, always someone to play with. I was big into sports when I was little. My dad played baseball in college, my mom played basketball in college so I was always involved in the youth leagues, whether it was baseball, football or basketball. I think for me, my childhood was definitely run by sports when I was little growing up.
Can you see someone in the NBA who reminds you of yourself or someone who has the same skillset?
Jake Layman: Someone I’m trying to model my game after — I’m not saying I’m him right now, but it’s someone who I definitely think my game over time could be just like his — is Gordon Hayward, plays for the Utah Jazz.
Can you describe waiting to hear your name called last night?
Jake Layman: From the start of the night, you’re going in with the thought of what you’ve been hearing from teams and what your agent’s been telling you. Once the draft starts going, especially last night, it was definitely not what I expected. I was surrounded by a bunch of family and friends, so they were keeping me calm the whole time. I was just hanging in there, staying strong and to finally hear my name called, it was definitely a sigh of relief.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Trail Blazers have acquired the No. 47 pick of the 2016 Draft from the Orlando Magic, which they will use to select 6-9 forward Jake Layman out of Maryland…
Portland will select Maryland’s Jake Layman with No. 47, sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
Source: To get Maryland’s Jake Layman at No. 47, Portland will send Orlando $1.2M and a 2019 second-round pick.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
The Trail Blazers entered Thursday’s draft with no picks, though it always seemed likely they’d purchase a second round pick, as Paul Allen has shown throughout his tenure as owner that he’s willing to spend in order to bring in draft talent. The $1.2 million the Trail Blazers reportedly sent to Orlando, along with a future second round pick, for the 47th pick is significantly less than what some other teams reportedly spent to get picks later in the second round.
Assuming Layman and the Trail Blazers can come to contract terms — second round picks can negotiate their contracts, while salaries for first round picks are dictated by where they’re taken — it seems likely that he would play for the Trail Blazers at the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts in mid-July.
UPDATE: It’s official. From the team’s press release…
“Jake is a high character young man with a skill set we value on both ends of the floor,” said Olshey. “His ability to defend multiple positions and shoot the ball from range will be positive additions to our roster.”
Orlando selected Layman with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. A four-year player out of the University of Maryland, Layman (6-9, 220) posted career averages of 10.2 points (44.5% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 75.9% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Terrapins.
An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection his senior year, Layman led Maryland to 114 wins over his four seasons and is one of just 12 players in school history to record 1,400 points (1,436) and 600 rebounds (674). Layman, 22, guided Maryland to its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003 last season, and ranks 18th in school history in points (1,436) and 18th in rebounds (674).