Big Quarters From Aldridge, Batum Help Blazers Get First Win In Boston Since 2004

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

BOSTON — Neither LaMarcus Aldridge nor Nicolas Batum, who have both played the entirety of their NBA careers for the Trail Blazers, had ever beaten the Celtics in Boston. At least until Friday night, when huge third quarter production by both veterans helped the Trail Blazers to a 109-96 victory Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 18,624 at TD Garden.

The victory was Portland’s fifth in a row, a feat they accomplished just once last season, and their third road victory of the year, something they didn’t accomplished until December last season.

“I’m trying to be fair in my analysis of this because I think the fair thing to do is to credit Portland, because they’re a good basketball team,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And they’re really, really cohesive; they clearly have been playing together a while, they know the shot they’re looking for, and they’ve really got some go-to options on the block with (LaMarcus) Aldridge when they need a bucket, and then they really know what to do in those situations where they need a basket.  Whereas we might be searching a little bit, they know exactly where they need to go, and they did that.”

Batum started the contest missing his first five shots but scored 10 of his 18 points in the third quarter, a quarter in which the Trail Blazers outscored the Celtics 33-27. Batum also had three rebounds, an assist a steal in the quarter.

“Just before we start the second half all five starters came up and say, we don’t lose this game,” said Batum. “We need this game. We’re plus six, let’s go up to 10 or 14. Don’t put the crowd into it because we know if we you put this crowd into the game, it will be different. This are great fans, a great crowd so we tried to put the fans out of the game and we win.”

Batum would finish with a game-high plus/minus of +23 and proudly noted after the game that, “finally I can say I won everywhere.”

“We want to keep this winning streak going so that is one of the reasons we needed this game,” said Batum. “We got a good start, a good start right away. The way they came back in the game early, we didn’t panic we played our game and get the ball inside.”

But for as good as Batum was in the third, Aldridge was better, scoring 11 points and pulling down five rebounds in what would be the deciding quarter. While Aldridge was at his best after the intermission, he was nonetheless dominant from start to finish, ending the game with 27 points on 11 of 18 shooting, 12 rebounds, two steals and an assist in 34 minutes. Whenever the Celtics looked primed to make a run in the second half, Aldridge had an answer.

Aldridge downplayed the importance of getting his first victory in Boston, preferring to focus on the entire road trip rather than just the first game of a four-game swing.

“I’m more big picture this year,” said Aldridge. “I want to win on the road and I want to try to go above .500 on this road trip, if not win them all. It’s nice to win here but that’s small picture for me.”

But Friday night’s victory was in no way a two-man affair. Five Trail Blazers scored in double figures and everyone in the rotation who played at least 12 minutes scored. The performance continued a season-long trend of scoring coming seemingly in waves, with one Trail Blazer getting hot just as another cools off.

“I don’t think we know how we’re going to score necessarily on a certain possession but I like the way we share the ball, make the extra pass and help guys get good shots,” said Terry Stotts. “We make some tough shots and LA is a calming influence on the block. It’s a little bit of everything. We’ve done it going back to the second game of the season against Denver. I keep going back to that game where we had a different guy do it each quarter. I think that’s hopefully going to be a hallmark of our team is that we have different guys at different times depending on the opportunities.”

Portland also managed to win the rebounding battle 47-34 and outscored the Celtics 15-8 in fast-break points and 17-8 in second-chance points.

“Tonight I thought our defense is getting better,” said Stotts. “They had some guys that made some threes that don’t normally make threes but I like the way we are attacking the defense, our approach, and more than anything I think I like the way we are coming together as a team.”

Mo Williams played 30 minutes and finished with 18 points, nine assists and three steals. Williams was particularly effective in the second quarter, scoring eight points, three assists and three steals before the half.

“I thought Mo had an exceptional floor game,” said Stotts. “He had 8 assists, in the first half he didn’t have any turnovers. He’s feeling more comfortable with the offense, play calls as far as knowing, he has a good sense for the game and his team. He sees things out there and he’s able to get to them now whereas before he wasn’t as comfortable doing that.”

Wesley Matthews continued his season-long hot shooting with 13 points on three of six shooting while adding five rebounds, two assists and a steal in 32 minutes.

“When we get spread scoring from everybody, you can’t prepare for that,” said Matthews. “Scouting reports, they go through rotations and stuff but it’ll say ‘LaMarcus is going to get this, Dame is going to get this.’ When they do and everybody else is getting theirs too, you can’t prepare for that. That’s how this team is built. When we play the right way, we can beat anybody.”

Damian Lillard struggled with his shot in the first half, but continued to force the issue and was able to finish with 17 points on six of 15 shooting in addition to four assists and two rebounds. Lillard also hit his 212th career 3-pointer tonight, which is the most threes made by any player in his first 100 games played according to the NBA.

Next up, the Trail Blazers head north to Canada to face the Raptors in Toronto. Tipoff is schedule for 10 AM.

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Disastrous Fourth Quarter Ruins Portland’s Chance Of Snatching Home Court From Golden State

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
20 hours ago

OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.

But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.

“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”

The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.

“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”

The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.

Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.

“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.

Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.

As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.

“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”

Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.

Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.

“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.

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Shootaround Notes: Fewer Adjustments, Balancing Small Lineups And Lillard Feeling Better

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…

• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.

So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.

“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”

That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.

“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”

The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.

“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”

• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.

But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.

“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”

Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.

Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”

• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.

“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”

And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.

“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Second Round, Game One Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…

On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. We’ll talk again after Game Two.

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