NEW ORLEANS — The Portland Trail Blazers broke a four-game losing streak Friday night in New Orleans with a 111-103 victory versus the Pelicans in front of 16,913 at the Smoothie King Center. With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 43-23 on the season and 19-15 on the road.
“A much needed win, needless to say,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was really proud of the way we competed. Our focus, the style of play, just the way we moved the ball offensively. Even though we gave up 103 (points), I thought we did a lot of good things … Everybody that was on the floor tonight really had an impact on the game”
The Trail Blazers, playing without both LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion) and Mo Williams (hip strain), were led by Nicolas Batum, who finished with a monster double-double of 22 points and 18 rebounds in 45 minutes. Batum also added five assists and a steal in the winning effort.
“That was big for us to get this win without LaMarcus, without Mo, without Joel (Freeland),” said Batum. “Everybody stepped up tonight. That was a tough one. A win is a win, so we’re good.”
Batum is the first player in Trail Blazers history to record at least 22 points, 18 rebounds, five assists and four 3-pointers in a game and joins Kevin Love, LeBron James and Antoine Walker as the only players in NBA history to accomplish the feat. He’s also averaging 12.6 rebounds in the month of March, which is almost six boards higher than his season average.
“We played small, so (rebounding) is kind of my job to do,” said Batum. “I tried to do it the last couple of games when LaMarcus was out. I can’t leave Robin by himself inside or Meyers or T-Rob, so I’ve got to go (to the boards). I’ve got the ability to go get rebounds. That’s what I do the last couple games, so I just tried to keep doing it.”
Batum played the entirety of the second half and sat less than three minutes total, which was an unfortunate necessity with two of Portland’s top six rotations players on the bench due to injury.
“I just couldn’t take him out,” said Stotts. “He was playing so well, doing every as a facilitator, shooter, rebounder, various defensive assignments. I just couldn’t take him out. I don’t like playing a guy a whole half, but Nic was able to handle it.”
The Trail Blazers used a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter, with seven of those points coming courtesy of Damian Lillard, to turn a five-point deficit into a four-point lead with 3:47 to play in regulation. The second-year guard, who most recently played at the Smoothie King Center as a member of the Western Conference All-Star team, scored 16 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.
“Everybody was contributing,” said Lillard. “I think that’s how we was able to stay in the game. Coach just kept deciding to put me in ball screens and put me in situations where I could attack, especially late in the game. Shots started to fall. I was able to make some plays and get it going a little bit.”
After shooting just 3 of 10 in the first three quarters, Lillard went 5 of 7 from the field and 2 of 3 from three in the fourth, including a deep triple with 1:14 to play to put Portland up 107-100 to all but assure victory for the road team.
“Big plays,” said Stotts of Lillard’s fourth-quarter. “He lives for those moments. The three that he hit was a big three for us. But defensively he was into the ball, got some deflections. He was very determined.”
The Blazers were aided by the play of Dorell Wright, who started in place of Aldridge and responded by going 4 of 8 from the field and 4 of 6 from three to finish with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes. Wright was particularly effective in the early going, scoring 12 of his 15 points in the first half while Lillard and Wesley Matthews struggled from the field.
“If I’m open, I’m going to take my shots and I’m going to knock them down with confidence and I’m going to shoot them with confidence,” said Wright. “Guys were able to find me early on in the game. I was able to hold it down a little bit before Wes and Dame really got it going. I think the shots I did make in the first half really kept us in the game as well when I was in there. Wes finally got it going, Dame finally got it going and I think they did a great job as far as closing the game.”
Wright also drew the unenviable task of guarding Pelicans All-Star power forward Anthony Davis for much of the game. The second-year player out of Kentucky finished with a career-high 36 points on 15 of 27 shooting but pulled down just nine rebounds against an undersized Portland squad.
“He’s a young, good player,” said Wright of Davis. “He’s going to be real, real good. He’s going to be a big star in this league. You can just see the potential. He’s still raw out there but he definitely has the tools to be one of the great players. I just tried to challenge him, use my speed against him, speed him up a little bit and make him make tough shots. He’s about six inches taller than me, so sometimes he didn’t see me. I just tried to do the best I could, make him take tough shots.”
Portland also got double-digit scoring from Matthews, who ended the night 20 points, two rebounds and two assists, and Robin Lopez, who put up 19 points, four rebounds and three blocks playing against his former teammates.
While finishing the trip 1-4, which included two regrettable losses to the Mavericks and Rockets to being the losing streak, the Trail Blazers return home to Portland basically in the same position when they left: in fifth place in the Western Conference standings.
“We needed to stop the bleeding, there’s no question about that,” said Stotts. “I think there was some frustration losing four in a row, but we played some good basketball during those stretches and we just came up short. You’ve got to stem the tide. This was, especially with LA and Mo out, I think that made it even that much more important.”
The Trail Blazers now head back to the Moda Center for a three-game homestand starting on Sunday versus the Warriors. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consultation prize.
PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.
“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.
While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.
“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”
In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.
“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.
McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.
Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.
Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.
The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…
Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.
CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”
When did you find out you were selected?
CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”
Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.
CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”
What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?
CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”
You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”
What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.
CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”
I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?
CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”
A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?
CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”
You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”