Blazers Get Right With Furious Fourth Quarter

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 years ago

Through three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers would sink further into malaise with a loss to yet another team far below them in the standings.

But furious fourth quarter performances from LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Thomas Robinson lifted the Trail Blazers to a 110-94 victory over the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at the Moda Center.

“Well we need that one,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was pleased for a lot of reasons. I thought our defense to start the game, our defense in the fourth quarter obviously was very good. Thomas Robinson came in and gave us nice energy in the fourth quarter. Wes carried us midway through the second half and LA was great all night.”

With the win, the Trail Blazers move to 27-9 on the season and sit a half game back from Oklahoma City and a full game behind the Spurs for the best record in the Western Conference.

Aldridge scored 21 points in the first half, but no other Trail Blazers logged more than seven before the intermission. Portland trailed by as many as 12 in the second quarter before pulling to within six before the halftime break.

“We had defensive letdowns. I thought loose balls – they played with a little bit more energy and urgency than we did,” said Stotts of the first quarter. “We didn’t necessarily shoot the ball well. A lot of times it’s a combination of both things. I was disappointed with our defense in the second quarter, and like I said, our urgency affecting the game.”

Portland trailed 75-71 going into the fourth, but they would start the quarter on a 13-5 run to seize control of the game. The Trail Blazers seemed inspired by the play of Robinson, who looked to reclaim his spot in the rotation with a six-point, three-rebound performance. While those numbers are in no way eye-popping, Robinson finished a game-high +22 in just 11 minutes, with all of those minutes coming in the pivotal fourth quarter.

“I just wanted to prove to coach that’s who I am as a player,” said Robinson. “I go back and forth with myself mentally and I have since I got drafted, trying to prove something to everybody, show that I can do so much other stuff that it just takes away from who I am. That’s what caused me to get out of the rotation. Going into tonight or any of the other games that I didn’t play, just mentally, patiently waiting for my time to get in.”

With Robinson providing the necessary hustle and Matthews handling the bulk of the scoring (10 points on four of nine shooting in the fourth quarter), the Trail Blazers would outscore Orlando 39-19 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 16-point victory in front of a crowd of 18,949.

Aldridge finished with a game-high 36 points to go along with nine rebounds, three blocks and an assist. With his first free throw of the night, he surpassed Geoff Petrie for seventh on the Trail Blazers all time made free throws list (1,793) and by playing in his 544th career game, tied Rasheed Wallace for ninth in games played.

Batum, playing with a broken left (non-shooting) middle finger, recorded a triple-double with 14 points, a career-high 14 assists and 10 rebounds.

“I just get used to it now,” said Batum of playing with a broken finger. “I practiced with it and tried to not think about it and tried to play through it.”

Batum joins Rajon Rondo, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the only NBA players with at least four triple-doubles over the past two seasons. He is just the fifth Trail Blazer in franchise history to record at least four triple-doubles.

“Last night in Sacramento, I thought he was tentative early in the game,” said Stotts of Batum. “As the game progressed in Sacramento, he looked more and more comfortable with it. Tonight, he hits that first shot and was aggressive and it didn’t look like he had any effects from it. It’s easy for me to say – I’m sure it’s bothering him – but I didn’t think he played like it was affecting him.”

Matthews shook off a rough shooting performance in the loss to the Kings on Tuesday to finish with 17 points, five rebounds and four assists in 30 minutes.

Said Mathews: “I was just trying to get back to being angry. Like I said after the Brooklyn game – a new level of angry, a new level of mad. Not to say I toned it down, but over the course of the season, I might have lost a little bit of it, so I had to get it back.”

Wednesday’s game was also the debut of Trail Blazers rookie guard CJ McCollum, who checked in for the first time in his professional career at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter. After missing the first 34 games while recovering from a fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, McCollum finished with four points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

“It was what I expected,” said McCollum. “Getting to come in and kind of contribute off the bench and help contribute in a win was great. Great way to start my career. Just want to make sure I’m tight in everything, continue to work hard and not be content.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Celtics Saturday night. Tipoff is schedule for 7 PM.

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VIDEO: McCollum Brothers Talk Tournament, Who’s Mom’s Favorite on ESPN

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 hours ago

Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.

But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.

 

“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”

Sounds about right.

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Stotts Talks Super Teams And Suits On The Doug Gottlieb Show

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.

You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…

On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”

On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”

On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”

His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”

On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”

On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”

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McCollum Talks Extension And Staying Hungry On Rip City Radio

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
6 days ago

Though it hasn’t been officially announced, news broke Monday that the Trail Blazers and CJ McCollum have agreed on a four-year maximum extension that will keep the combo guard out of Lehigh in Portland for the foreseeable future. A day later, McCollum joined Dan Sheldon and Aaron Fentress on 620 Rip City Radio to talk about signing the extension and his future in Portland, which you can listen to in its entirety below…

A few choice quotes from the 20 minute interview…

On when he found out that the extension was in the works..
“I found out a little while ago that we were in talks, we were discussing an extension this summer. I actually flew out to Las Vegas for a photo shoot with Nike around the time the Select Team was out there and my agent told me not to fly back to the east coast because I was supposed to fly back to Philly to watch my brother’s 3v3 tournament game. So once he told me to fly back to Oregon I had a pretty good idea things were going to be finalized shortly.”

On whether he was smiling on stage at Damian Lillard’s concert because he knew about the extension…
“I had a good idea they were in discussions and I was excited about the opportunity to extend my career with the Portland Trail Blazers. I love the city, I love the team and the organization. That smile was the combination of a lot of things.”

On why he didn’t hold out for any player options or trade kickers in his extension…
“I love the city and I’m happy here. I’ve actually been looking for homes since my rookie year but I was not going to buy because I’m a business man and I think it’s important you have a secure situation before you begin to make expensive purchases such as purchasing real estate. But I told my agent I like it here and I’m content. I like the situation I’m in, I like the staff and I’m happy to be here with no outs, no trade kickers, ect. I want to be here and I told him that. So I said ‘Do what you’ve got to do to get it done and have me here long term.’”

Regarding whether or not it will be difficult to wait a year before his new contract kicks in…
“No, no no. I do a really good job of keeping my team close. My business manager, my financial advisor, my agent, we do a great job of discussing financial situations and continue to play a budget. I’m just thankful to have the opportunity, but I’m not really counting down the clock or anything like that. This is a game I love dearly, this game is priceless. You can’t really put a price on this game I’ve played my entire life for free, it just so happens I’m fortunate enough to get a max contract and be able to play at the highest level and have a role that’s carved out. But the next step is to continue to get better and not worry about the money, not worry about the labels and all that stuff. You perform well on the court and everything else will fall into place. I don’t really have any dates set. I make good money now and obviously I’ll make great money later, but it’s all in good time. I just try to live in the present.”

How he plans on staying motivated with a max contract…
“I stay paranoid. That’s the thing that got me to this point is being paranoid, playing with a chip on your shoulder understanding that it’s more than just money, it’s more than just playing for a starting spot. You’re playing for your last name, you’re representing the organization, I’m representing Canton, Ohio every time I step on the court, I represent Lehigh University. Growing up my mom and dad always told me you play this game because you love it, you play it because it’s fun and the rest will fall into place and you just have to pretend every time you step on the court there’s a little kid watching you that’s never seen you play before. He’s never seen you play, he’s only heard stories about you and his only impression is going to be of how you perform that day. So that’s kind of how I carried myself and why I put so much time in, because I don’t want that little kid to be disappointed in me. I don’t want him to say ‘Ah man, CJ’s not as good as we thought, doesn’t play as hard as I thought he was going to play.’ I want him to say ‘Wow, he goes hard no matter what, he plays a total game, he plays unselfishly and he had fun doing it.’ So that’s the kind mark I want to leave and eventually when I have kids I want them to understand that I got here through hard work. Nothing was ever handed to me.”

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