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.
It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…
Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…
… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.
Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.
Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.
Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consultation prize.
PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.
“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”
With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.
While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.
“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”
In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.
“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.
McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.
Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.
Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.
Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.
The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…
Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.
CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”
When did you find out you were selected?
CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”
Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.
CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”
What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?
CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”
You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”
What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.
CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”
I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?
CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”
A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?
CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”
You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?
CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”