PORTLAND — Trail Blazers reserve forward Dorell Wright hit a go-ahead three-pointer with 7.3 seconds on the clock to give Portland a 100-99 victory versus the Sacramento Kings in front of 20,002 Wednesday night at the Moda Center.
there,” said Wright, whose only make of the night was the game-winner. “That was pretty cool right there, especially sitting over there being mad at myself for not making those shots the whole game and then Coach giving me an opportunity to go back out there. That was big time. It was a big win for us. I’m just happy I was able to knock it down.”
Portland is now 1.5 games behind the Houston Rockets for the fourth seed in the West and up two games on the Golden State Warriors for the fifth seed with three games to play.
With the win, the Trail Blazers are now 51-28 on the season, which is tied for the eighth-most wins in franchise history, and 29-10 at the Moda Center. The Trail Blazers have take the seasons series with the Kings 3-1 and have not lost a series to the Kings since the 2007-08 season.
“It was an exciting way to win a game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Dorell picked a good time to make his shot. Sacramento did what they do well. The way they rebounded the ball in the second half in particular really hurt us. Turnovers hurt us. For me, it is good to get one of these close wins. It’s been a while since we’ve won some close ones so no matter how it comes, it gives us a little momentum.”
Portland led by as many 15 in the first half, though one never got the sense that the Trail Blazers were going to put the Kings away early. While the Trail Blazers shot 62 percent from the field in the first half to just 35 percent shooting for the Kings, Portland turned the ball over 10 times, leading to 16 points for Sacramento.
“Like in most cases, it’s a little bit of everything,” said Stotts as to the cause of Portland’s turnovers in their first game since clinching a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. “Some of it is poor decisions, some of it is good defense. It’s kind of a mixed bag.”
The tide started to turn for the Kings at the end of the first half, with rookie point guard Ray McCallum hitting a three-pointer as time expired in the first half to cut Portland’s lead to 56-46 heading into the intermission.
Sacramento would drastically improve their shooting in the third, hitting 11 of 18 shots while center DeMarcus Cousins put up 14 points in the quarter on 7 of 10 shooting. And while the Trail Blazers wouldn’t keep up the hot shooting they experienced in the first half, they managed to cut their turnovers down to just three in the third, which resulted in the home team giving up just two points of their halftime lead going into the fourth.
And that’s where things would really go sideways for Portland. Sacramento started the fourth on a 13-5 run to cut the lead to one with just under nine minutes to play in regulation. The Trail Blazers were able to hold off the Kings for the next seven minutes, but another Sacramento run, which was capped by a 17-foot jumper by Cousins, gave the visitors a 97-95 lead, their first of the night, with 1:31 to play.
“We made that a lot tougher than it should have been,” said Lillard. “We had a double-digit lead and we didn’t come up with rebounds, we didn’t make the plays we need to make the plays that we needed to make just to finish the game out and they made a huge charge.”
The Kings lead 99-97 with 14 seconds to play after the teams traded free throws. Portland called a timeout to draw up a play for Lillard and Aldridge to get into a pick and roll, though neither would end up taking the penultimate shot of the game. That honor would go to Wright.
“In that situation, you have LA and Damian in a pick and roll and they have to make a play,” said Stotts. “With Nic, Wes and Dorell out there, they have to make a decision. Reggie Evans was guarding Dorell and he was protecting with LA on the roll and Dorell was open. It was a good decision by Damian to find him and showed trust that you have to take what the game gives you and Dorell knocked it down.”
Wright’s three, which he said was his first since high school, was the only thing that kept the Trail Blazers from a crippling loss, playoff seeding-wise, to a team long since eliminated from the postseason.
“Coach gave me the option to go run the baseline and go to either side,” said Wright. “I know that play. Dame likes to go to his right hand so he can get to the basket. Once Reggie Evans – he’s a four-man and that’s the best thing about me being out there with bigger guys on me, he crashed the paint. I moved Nic up a little bit and I was in the corner where I could give him an easy outlet and he made a good pass and I just took it with a lot of confidence and knocked it down.”
The Kings had one last chance to win the game, but McCallum, who scored 10 points in the fourth and finished with game with 23 points on 7 of 15 shooting, missed a 21-footer as time expired.
“I thought I got a good look at a shot, that’s just a shot that I have to make,” said McCallum. “Unfortunately, I didn’t knock it down.”
The Trail Blazers were lead by LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished the night with 22 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Lillard’s last assist gave him a double-double for the night with 19 points and 10 assists. Wesley Matthews also scored 19.
The Kings got 30 points and 12 rebounds from Cousins, who averaged 33.3 points and 11.5 rebounds versus the Trail Blazers this season.
Next up, the Trail Blazers play their final road game of the season Friday night in Utah versus the Jazz. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.
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.
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.”
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.