Blazers Get Wright To Defeat Kings

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

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.

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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.

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Episode 56

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
7 hours ago

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 SoundcloudiTunes 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!

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Damian Lillard Passes His Buddy Brandon Roy In Scoring

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
21 hours ago

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.”

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Trail Blazers Enter The All-Star Break With Another Win

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
23 hours ago

PORTLAND — What a nice way to go into the All-Star break.

For the second time in five days, the Trail Blazers built a large third-quarter lead against the Rockets, then allowed them to make a comeback, only to make a final push to come away with the double-digit victory, this time to the tune of a 116-103 win in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 at the Moda Center.

“I really like the way we’re playing right now,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Defensively, we’ve been really good the last two or three weeks. Our aggressiveness has been good, our alertness has been very good and I thought we did that for most of the night tonight. It’s good to go into the break on a win streak and playing well.”

The Trail Blazers are now 27-27 overall and 16-11 at the Moda Center this season. With the win, Portland is .500 for the first time since the team was 4-4 on November 9, 2015, have won eight of their last 10 games at home and 12 of their last 15 games overall, regardless of venue. Thanks to that streak, the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings while the Rockets, a team that started the game in seventh place, drop to ninth.

“We dug ourselves a hole to start the season, giving up some games late, but we stuck with it, we kept going, we kept working,” said Damian Lillard. “We didn’t get too high or low. We were able to close in and get to .500 going into the break. Our team has done a great job of sticking to the grind, working every day in practice and staying together. That’s gotten us to where we are now.”

After ending the first quarter tied 29-29, the Trail Blazers used a 18-3 run in the second quarter to build a 12-point lead. Portland would expand their lead to 21, only to see the Rockets cut the deficit to five with 9:31 to play in the fourth. But the Trail Blazers would close out the game by outscoring the Rockets 23-15 to come away with the 13-point victory.

Portland won Tuesday’s contest despite shooting worse percentage than the Rockets from the field and the three-point line, but making eight more free throws despite having the same number of attempts and turning 20 Rockets turnovers in to 31 points more than made up for their so-so field goal percentages.

“I like the fact that we’re doing it within the context of our defense rather than gambling and extending our defense,” said Stotts of forcing turnovers. “We’re being aggressive on the ball, we’re alert on the weak side, so I think those two things combined help create those turnovers.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 9-of-22 from the field, 4-of-11 from three and 9-of-11 from the free throw line for 31 points to go along with nine assists, three rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes.

Maurice Harkless remained in the starting lineup, despite Noah Vonleh being on the active list for the first time in the last two games, and responded with his best game as a Trail Blazers with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 13 rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes.

“I liked his defense on Harden, he finished around the basket, he got rebounds, he ran the floor well,” said Stotts of Harkless. “He did a little bit of everything in a kind of understated way.”

Meyers Leonard went 6-of-9 from the field for 14 points while grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Al-Farouq Aminu shot just under 50 percent to finish with 11 points and five rebounds and Ed Davis grabbed 13 rebounds in 21 minutes. Gerald Henderson went just 3-of-10 from the field but made up for it by going 7-of-10 from the line to finish with 13 points.

The Rockets were led by James Harden, who finished with 34 points, and Dwight Howard, who added 28 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers have more than a week off before hosting the Golden State Warriors on February 19.

“We’re playing well and hopefully when we get back we pick up where we left off,” said Stotts, “but everybody could use a break.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.

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