PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 45-24 on the season and 26-9 at home with a 116-103 victory versus the Washington Wizards Thursday night at the Moda Center.
Portland is now 21-4 against the Eastern Conference this season, the best mark of any Western Conference team. The win also broke Portland’s three-game losing streak to the Wizards dating back to the 2011-12 season.
The Trail Blazers used a 19-2 run spanning from the 1:37 mark in the second quarter to the 10:02 mark in the third quarter to take the lead, one they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
“The ball was moving,” said Wesley Matthews. “It was a lot of fun to be out there. That’s how we play. That’s how we get on a roll. That’s how we got to be one of the hottest teams, because the ball was flying and we caused a problem either in pick and roll or in isolation situations where two are looking at one and we kick the ball out and we move it and the ball finds energy. We were all moving tonight.”
The ball moved particularly well in the third, with Portland tallying 10 assists on 13 made shots in the quarter. That ball movement yielded great looks from three and the Trail Blazers responded by shooting 62 percent from the field while going 6 of 11 from beyond the arc in the third.
“Make shots – there really wasn’t much to it other than I thought the ball found our shooters and they shot it with confidence,” said Stotts of his team’s third quarter production. “It wasn’t necessarily anything that we ran. I just felt like shooters were shooting with confidence. The thing that I’m pleased about is that our spacing lineup is kind of getting a rhythm, whether Mo (Williams) is in the game or Mo is not in the game. It’s kind of working the way it should as far as opening up the court and opening up three point opportunities and we’re still able to defend and rebound with that group.”
While the Trail Blazers broke the game open in the third, they were only in that position thanks to coming out with much better energy early in the game. Portland’s first quarter was downright stellar compared to their performance Tuesday night against the Bucks. The Wizards, led by 13 points from All-Star point guard John Wall, had a 28-23 lead after the first 12 minutes of the game, but Portland turned the ball over just twice and shot 40 percent from the field, both which were vast improvements from the game before.
“I was really pleased with the way we played,” said Stotts. “The first quarter was a little slow, but offensively, we were really moving the ball. There was a nice rhythm to it.”
Portland got early production from Dorell Wright, who started in place of LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion) for the fourth-consecutive game. After going 0 of 8 Tuesday against the Bucks, Wright hit 3 of 5 shots in the first for seven points while also pulling down five rebounds in the first. Wright would finish the game with 15 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the field, 3 of 6 shooting from three and seven rebounds.
“It was all mental,” said Wright of his improvement from his previous performance. “I’m a shooter. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I understand what I need to do as far as getting prepared for the next game. I just had a short memory and tried to make my shots today.”
With shots falling, all the Trail Blazers needed to do in the second half was lock down defensively to come away with the victory. They did just that, holding the Wizards to 32 percent shooting in the third while forcing four turnovers.
“We were more ready to start the second half,” said Nicolas Batum, who pulled down nine rebounds in the third. “More intensity and more energy to start the second half. We got stops, we started running and we got more rhythm. When we got in a rhythm, we started making shots. So we started on defense and then we got open shots. Damian got some good assists and Wes made shots. Very good second half tonight.”
Batum ended the night with 12 points, 14 rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes.
Portland was led by Matthews, who matched a season-high with 28 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the field and 4 of 9 shooting from three.
Lillard finished with a double-double of 23 points and 10 assists while turning the ball over just once in 35 minutes.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Lillard. “We did a great job of moving the ball. Guys were flying around on the defensive end, tipping balls, and that allowed us to get out in transition. I think we just made the right plays. If there was an open guy, we made that pass. Some guys even had wide open shots and passed it up with the defender running at him to get the next guy a better shot. When you have that, that’s when you have a special situation. That’s what makes our team special, like we were at the beginning of the season. It’s exciting to see that we’re getting back to that.”
With four three-pointers in Thursday’s game, Lillard broke his own franchise record for three-pointers made in a season. He now has 186 threes this year with 13 games remaining in the regular season.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for their second five-game road trip of March with a game against the Bobcats in Charlotte on Saturday.
“We didn’t fare as well as we wanted to on the last road trip, to put it nicely, politely,” said Matthews. “So we know what we’ve got to do. We’ve got a tough stretch, teams that we’ve taken care of before. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got to show up to play and we’ve got to play with urgency like every game is our last.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 4 PM.
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”
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.