Blazers Miss Their First Chance To Clinch With Loss To Suns

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

PORTLAND — After the Trail Blazers lost to the Suns for the second time this season way back on Nov. 27, Portland head coach Terry Stotts quipped that he was happy he wouldn’t have to play Phoenix again for four months.

Stotts reiterated that sentiment after Friday night’s game, and for anyone who watched, it’s easy to understand why.

Despite having a one-point lead at the end of the third, the Trail Blazers scored just 13 points in the fourth and were defeated 109-93 by the Suns in front of 20,089 at the Moda Center. The loss breaks a four-game winning streak for the Trail Blazers, who are now 49-28 on the regular season and 27-10 at the Moda Center. Phoenix also takes the season series 3-1.

“They just really play well against us,” said Stotts. “They average about 40 second chance points and fast break points against us. They push the tempo. Obviously they’re active on the offensive glass and extra possessions hurt us.”

Friday night’s game was the first opportunity the Trail Blazers had to clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland now trails Houston by two games for the fourth seed and lead the Warriors by one and a half games for the fifth seed.

“We’ll probably have another chance to (clinch),” said Lillard. “We would have liked to do it tonight, but I think we’ve got four more home games and hopefully we’ll have another opportunity.”

It looked as though the Trail Blazers might cash in that opportunity, at least through the first three quarters. Both teams made runs at various times in the game, with the Suns taking a seven-point lead in the first quarter and the Blazers going up 10 in the third quarter, but neither team was ever able to pull away for very long.

That is, at least until the fourth quarter. Phoenix started the fourth on a 20-5 run which culminated with a Goran Dragic layup with 5:07 to play that put the Suns up 99-85. Phoenix reserve guard Gerald Green would lead the charge, as he had done for much of the night, scoring 12 of his game-high 32 points during that run.

“I saw him play a game similar to that where he had 40,” said Lillard. “We knew that he was an explosive scorer. He’s shooting the ball really well this year. He got on tonight. He started to make everything and was feeling it. He played a great game.”

Meanwhile, Portland would go almost six minutes without a field goal during that same stretch in the fourth, which doomed whatever chance they had to come away with their fifth-consecutive victory.

“We struggled scoring,” said Stotts. “Gerald made some big momentum plays that energized them. We got down 10 or 12 and really couldn’t mount a charge after that.”

But if giving up points was the symptom of Portland’s fourth quarter woes, it was allowing the Suns to crash the offensive glass that was the illness. Phoenix beat Portland on the boards all night, out-rebounding the Blazers 59-48, but

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it was timely offensive rebounds by the Suns that lead to Portland’s undoing. Phoenix grabbed five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter to just one for Portland.

“They were just running to (offensive rebounds), they were quick,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “We were kind of trying to scramble and trying to help and find shooters and they were just running in and getting them.”

The Suns also managed to make something of those extra possessions, turning those five offensive rebounds into 11 second chance points.

“There’s some boxing out, some they went and got some of it, some of it we had the ball in our hands and didn’t secure it, sometimes it was a 50-50 ball and they came up with it,” said Stotts of Phoenix’s offensive rebounding. “Some of that is them, some of it is us. When you give up 23 offensive rebounds, there’s probably a host of reasons.”

What was harder to assess is why the Trail Blazers have had such a difficult time with the Suns this season. All three games Portland has lost to Phoenix this season have been by double-digits. Their lone victory came by one point and would have been a loss had the Suns been able to convert a tip in at the buzzer back on November 13.

“I think it’s their ability to go small and spread the floor out and we haven’t been able to stop them in transition,” said Lillard. “We allowed them to get out and get threes and get into the paint and make plays. We haven’t been able to take that away from them.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Robin Lopez, who finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks in 36 minutes. Aldridge also scored 18 while pulling down seven rebounds.

Nicolas Batum flirted with a triple-double before finishing with 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Lillard rounded out the double-digit scoring starters with 15 points and seven assists.

Along with Green, Suns guard Eric Bledsoe also broke the 30-point mark while grabbing seven rebounds and handing out three assists.

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Pelicans at the Moda Center on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.

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Trail Blazers Grind It Out To Win Series And Advance To Western Conference Semis

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
11 hours ago

PORTLAND — It wasn’t easy, but usually that’s the way things go in an elimination game.

Though it came down to the final seconds, the Portland Trail Blazers were able to defeat an undermanned Clippers team 106-103 Friday night at the Moda Center in Game Six of their first round playoff series. With the win, the Trail Blazers take the series 4-2 and move on to face the Golden State Warriors, the reigning NBA champions, in the Western Conference semifinals.

“Hey, 106-103 is beautiful,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who become just the fourth Portland head coach to get his team out of the first round more than once. “Look, it was a grind it out game. They have some players who can put the ball in the basket and play off the dribble. Honestly, we lost so many of these type of games early in the season, to keep our composure and make the plays, get a rebound, make some free throws, trust your teammates. It’s not going to be a beautiful 48 minutes. But what I have a problem with is that when you don’t score, it’s considered ugly basketball – when two teams are really competing and playing hard and defending, to me, that’s a thing of beauty as well.”

With the win, the Trail Blazers improve to 10-0 all-time at home potential playoff series-clinching games. The Trail Blazers are the first team since 2000 to win four-consecutive playoff games in the same series. What’s more, the Trail Blazers are just the 16th team in NBA history to win a series after starting off losing the first two games.

And after failing to win a playoff series for 14-straight season, the Trail Blazers have now advanced to the second round in two of the last three seasons.

The Trail Blazers, as was the case in Game Five at Staples Center, were never able to put the Clippers away in the first three quarters, with the visitors, playing without Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, taking an 82-80 lead into the fourth quarter. Portland would erase that slim deficit and take a seven-point lead of their own late in the fourth, but the Clippers never relented, tying the game at 103-103 with 32.1 seconds to play.

But Mason Plumlee would save the day, as he’s done on multiple occasions in the first round, by securing an offense rebound and getting fouled while attempting a putback with 14.7 seconds to play. He’d make both free throws, and would go 1-of-2 from the line on the next possession, to secure the three-point win.

“It feels great,” said Plumlee, who became the first Trail Blazer since 1977 to record at least 10 rebounds in five-straight playoff games. “There’s no easy playoff wins, there’s no easy series. Our guys were resilient, they really played well. We’re ready for the next round.

The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 9-of-21 from the field for 28 points to go with seven assists and five rebounds in 38 minutes. CJ McCollum went 7-of-16 from the field and 2-of-3 from three to add 20 points.

Plumlee finished with nine points, 14 rebounds, four assists and a steal in 31 minutes. Maurice Harkless scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half to go with three rebounds in 29 minutes. Allen Crabbe went 5-of-9 to add 13 points and five rebounds in 31 minutes.

The Clippers had five players score in double figures led by Jamal Crawford, who went 10-of-25 from the field for a game-high 32 points. Austin Rivers, who was bloodied in the first quarter after catching an elbow from Al-Farouq Aminu, causing a gash that required 11 stitches, finished with 21 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now move on to face a Golden State Warriors team that set the NBA record for wins in a season with 73 after winning the 2015 NBA Championship. Reigning MVP Stephen Curry is currently sidelined with an MCL sprain and is not expected to be available for the first two games of the series, though Golden State still managed to advance to the second round nonetheless.

“We thought this team was tough without CP and Blake, but (the Warriors are) a championship team,” said Lillard. “Even without Steph, they’re still a championship team. We’ve got to keep our mind right, compete and play together. We can’t be worried about who’s not out there because we just watched them beat Houston by 25 twice without Steph. We’ve just got to keep improving on the things we’ve done well and be locked in defensively.”

On the plus side, the Trail Blazers were one of the few teams to best the Warriors this season, blowing out the defending champs 137-105 on February 19. However, Golden State took the other three games of the season series by an average of 20.3 points.

“They pose a lot of problems,” said McCollum. “Historically speaking, they had a really good year breaking the record for wins, losing one game at home I believe this year, so you know it’s going to be a tough environment. Offensively, even without Steph, they do a great job of moving the ball. Draymond is the head of the snake now that Steph’s out, and he moves the ball well. He’s the heart and soul of the team and he gets everybody involved. Klay will be a little bit more aggressive looking to score without Steph and Harrison Barnes and Shaun Livingston and the rest of the guys will be a lot more aggressive too.”

The Trail Blazers will now fly to the bay area for Game One, which is scheduled for Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

“As the series goes along, both teams will make adjustments,” said Stotts. “They’ve had some time to think about us. It’s going to be a challenge obviously, but we’ll watch a lot of video tonight and tomorrow, have a meeting tomorrow, and be ready to tip it up on Sunday.”

Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.

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Trail Blazers Ignore The Notion Of Inevitability Going Into Game Six

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
22 hours ago

When the Western Conference first round series between the Trail Blazers and Clippers started, many assumed it would be a quick affair, with the Clippers eventually moving on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round. And after Warriors point guard Stephen Curry suffered a knee injury that will keep the reigning MVP sidelined for the start of the second round, much of the conversation revolved around how that would improve the Clippers’ chances of beating the defending champs in the Western Conference semifinals. The fact that the Clippers still had to beat the Trail Blazers two more times didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

A few days later, that narrative has flipped. Leading the series 3-2 with a chance to clinch in Game Six tonight at the Moda Center (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on KGW, ESPN and 620 AM), the Trail Blazers are now Golden State’s presumptive opponent, as injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have all but ended the Clippers’ playoff run.

But just as the Clippers still had to win four games to advance, so too do the Trail Blazers, which is a good reminder that there are no such thing as inevitability when it comes to sports. “That’s why the play the game,” might be trite, but it’s still as true as it ever was, something the Trail Blazers know as well as any team still alive in the postseason.

“We just go out there and play, we don’t really pay attention to what’s being said,” said CJ McCollum. “You can’t read into that too much. First we were supposed to get swept, first we were just happy to win a game, so you just go play. You don’t really worry about the other stuff, you just control what you can control, keep your mindset the same, understand that nothing is inevitable. You’ve got to go out there and play.”

Though the Trail Blazers were able to beat the Clippers 108-98 at Staples Center in Game Five sans Paul and Blake, a team led by JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers still managed to take a five-point lead into the half and had the game tied at 71-71 going into the fourth quarter, so it’s not as if any team, including Portland, can just roll the ball out in a playoff game and expect to emerge with the victory. After all, if that were the case, the Clippers would already be in Oakland preparing for the Western Conference semifinals.

“We understand that they’re a good team,” said McCollum “Regardless of what’s happened, regardless of what injuries they’ve gone through, they’re still a good team and we’ve still got to go play the game.”

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Game Five Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

And we’re back. After the Trail Blazers defeated a shorthanded Clippers team 109-98 in Game Five at Staples Center to take a 3-2 lead in the first round series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studios once again to deliver another playoff edition of the Rip City Report podcast. Please consider listening…

On this episode, Joe and I discuss the Trail Blazers being on the verge of winning just their second playoff series in the last 16 years, what we’re expecting to see during Game Six Friday in Portland, make our picks for the Trail Blazers’ MVP and most surprising during the first five games, how the injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin change the narrative surrounding the series and answer some of your Twitter-submitted questions regarding Chris Kaman’s birthday, non-Moda Center places to watch Game Six, player playoff bonuses and give a few binge watching suggestions, not that you’d ever need to watch TV again with all these fine podcasts we’re providing for you.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. And since we recently surpassed 100 reviews on iTunes, I’ll refrain from asking for reviews for at least the new few days.

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