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.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
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.
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.”