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.
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
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.