The Portland Trail Blazers, after starting the preseason 0-2 at the Moda Center, got their first win of the preseason with a 96-86 result against the Utah Jazz in front of a sellout crowd at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, ID.
The Trail Blazers were led by exemplary and efficient performances by Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Lillard finished the night with 23 points on eight-of-15 shooting, five assists and a rebound in 29 minutes. He also held Jazz rookie Trey Burke to seven points on three-of-ten shooting to easily win the point guard matchup for the Trail Blazers, who were the designated home team.
“I felt like, playing against (Burke), I had to set the tone,” said Lillard. “First point guard taken and he’s kind of in a similar situation to what I was coming in, gonna play a lot of minutes and being the starting point guard on an NBA team. When I came in there was guys that was feeling like they needed to show me something and set the tone on me when they played against me because it was my first year and I was the summer league MVP and there was all this hype. Same goes for him. And the next season, the same will go for whoever the next guy is.”
As dominant as Lillard was, Aldridge might have been better. The two-time All-Star had his way with Utah’s bigs, scoring 20 points on eight-of-nine shooting while pulling down eight rebounds in just 18 minutes.
“It was just one of those night where I was in a really good rhythm,” said Aldridge. “I had a really good warmup today and I know I was going to (play) limited minutes, so got really loose pregame. It just carried over. I think every guy on the team is working hard right now. I think our rhythm is going to come by playing together more.”
Aldridge made a point of praising second-year power forward Joel Freeland, saying Freeland’s improvement defensively in the post has made his job much easier.
“I’m not even worried about my game; I’m excited about what Joel Freeland did tonight, all of those blocks and all of those contests at the rim,” said Aldridge. “That’s big-time for me. I feel like if he can continue to do that all year, he’s going to make our team better. I keep telling him about it. It’s really, really good for us. I think he had at least four or five of those where he went up and either blocked it or made the guy miss and I think that’s big because last year, we were really bad at that.”
Wesley Matthews and Will Barton, starting in place of Nicolas Batum (concussion), finished with eight points apiece. Robin Lopez added seven points and nine rebounds. Mo Williams pitched in with 11 points and seven assists off the bench.
Portland held Utah to 38 percent shooting from the field and outscored the Jazz in the paint 38-22. Turnovers were once again an issue for the Blazers with 23 giveaways on the night, but 10 blocks and winning the rebounding battle 49-38 more than made up for the rash of miscues.
Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Salt Lake for a rubber match at Energy Solutions Arena on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM on 620 AM.
Neither Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard nor Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love were selected to participate in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game taking place Sunday night in Toronto. But instead of spending their time sulking, the point guard who plays in Portland and the power forward who grew up just down the road in Lake Oswego, aka The Brothers Hooper, hit the studio to collaborate on the new “Droppin’ Dimes” track for State Farm…
It’s not nearly as serious as Lillard’s “Bigger Than Us” video, but every discography needs some good party tracks.
Howdy kind listeners. Before we all take some much needed respite before the start of a brutal March schedule, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studios at the Moda Center to record an All-Star break edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this week’s episode we marvel at the Trail Blazers being 27-27, good for seventh in the Western Conference, and how that’s going to cost Freeman some money/beer at some point, the emergence of Maurice Harkless since joining the starting lineup, Portland rising while other teams in their general range struggle, discuss how we’ll be spending our respective All-Star breaks and answer a host of questions pertaining to the upcoming trade deadline, Gerald Henderson’s tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard passing Brandon Roy and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve already since forgotten. As I noted during the show, my brain is already on vacation.
You can find the Rip City Report on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And consider using a small portion of the time you would usually spend watching the Blazers to give us a review on iTunes! You can be as mean as you want!
Though they were never teammates, Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy manage to talk from time to time. Their relationship started not long after Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft and they’ve stayed in contact ever since over the years. During those somewhat regular chats, the current and former faces of the Trail Blazers’ franchise sometimes discuss the responsibility that comes with that title, especially at a relatively young age, and what could have been if the 6-3 guard out of Weber State and the now-retired 6-6 guard out of Washington ever had the opportunity to play alongside each other in Rip City.
And the next time they talk, they’ll have something new to discuss. With his 31-point performance in Tuesday night’s victory versus the Rockets, Lillard passed Roy for 15th in franchise history in points. Lillard now has 6,119 in less than four seasons in Portland, surpassing the the 6,107 points that Roy scored in five seasons before knee injuries ended his career far too prematurely.
“I mean, that’s an honor,” said Lillard of passing Roy. “Just to be moving up on that list period, but I mean, if Brandon Roy got to play as long as he should have played and people would have liked to have seen him play, I probably would never pass him, so it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor you know, but the more important thing is just continuing to be myself and continuing to win games.”
Which Lillard has done an excellent job of his season. He’s the only player to rank in the top-6 in both scoring (24.3 points per game) and assists (7.3 assist per game) this season and has led the Trail Blazers to a 27-27 record this season, vastly outperforming preseason expectations, despite being the only holdover from last season’s starting five.
Though he’s had plenty of help this season from the likes of CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, Lillard’s performance through 54 games is the the primary reason that the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference. Roy, a three-time All-Star, was a fantastic player in his own right, a player whose peak performances are still the stuff of legend in Portland, but even he never carried the load that Lillard has this season. And of course, Lillard has already helped the Trail Blazer win a playoff series in his first four season in Portland, something Roy never accomplished.
“He’s been pretty good in a short amount of time,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of Lillard. “I mean, Brandon Roy, I wasn’t here for that, but I know what an imprint he made on the city and the franchise and how important he was to the Blazers. The fact that Damian has passed him this early in his career really says something because I know how good Brandon was. I know his career was cut short but everybody here holds him in high regard.”
Assuming Lillard experiences relatively good health — the seven games he missed this season due to plantar fascitiis are the only games he’s missed in his profession career thus far — there’s no reason to think that he won’t replace Roy as the best guard to play in Portland since Clyde Drexler, if he hasn’t taken that mantel already. But Roy can take some satisfaction in knowing that at least some of the success Lillard has had as a Trail Blazer was accomplished in part due to emulating the example he set on and off the court.
“When (Roy) got to Portland, a lot of the stuff he did, it brought excitement,” said Lillard. “I think the city really embraced him, they liked who he was as a person along with what he did as a player, obviously. I think because I kind of came and did the same thing, did some of the same things he did, I think he respects that… He was well respected, people appreciated the kind of person he was and he got it done on the floor. I think I can say the same for myself.”