Blazers Win Third-Straight And First This Season Versus Grizzlies

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 48-27 on the season and 27-9 at the Moda Center this season with a 105-98 victory versus the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday night.

“Well much like the last few games, I really liked how we’re playing,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I liked our mindset, I liked our focus from beginning to end. Except in the fourth quarter – outside of a couple loose possessions, I thought we were really locked in on both ends of the court. We matched their physicality.”

With the win, coupled with a Warriors loss, the Trail Blazers now have a two-game lead on Golden State for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Portland is also two and a half games behind the Houston Rockets for the fourth seed.

“Memphis is most likely a playoff team and they’ve beaten us rather handily, particularly the first game,” said Stotts. “The second game, we’re in the middle of rough road trip and they caught us at a good time and we didn’t play that well. It’s not about a statement game, but I do like the process of how we’ve gotten better over the last three games.”

The loss dropped the Grizzlies to ninth in the West, though just a half game behind both the Mavericks and Suns, a team that lost to the Lakers Sunday night, for the seventh and eighth spots.

After being soundly outplayed in the the first two contests against the Grizzlies this season, the Trail Blazers started out Sunday night’s game with their best quarter of the season versus Memphis. Portland shot 55 percent from the field in the first and out-rebounded the Grizzlies 12-9. Memphis also shot better than 50 percent from the field, but Portland was nonetheless able to take a 25-23 lead into the second quarter.

But Portland had led at the end of the first quarter in the last game against the Grizzlies and still managed to lose by double digits.

So to make sure that piece of history would not repeat itself, the Trail Blazers started the second quarter on a 16-6 run to take an 11-point lead with just under six minutes to play in the half. Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson would each go 3 for 3 from the field in the second to combine for 14 points.

“That’s something that’s been consistent actually over the past few games,” said Robin Lopez of Portland’s bench production. “Even when we didn’t come out with a win necessarily, we’ve been getting nice contributions from our bench. They’ve been getting a lot of experience and they’ve been proving themselves.”

LaMarcus Aldridge was also perfect in the second, hitting both of his shots from the field and all four of his free throws for eight point. Portland as a team would shoot 63 percent from the field and out-scored Memphis, a team featuring talented post players Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, 18-12 in the paint. The Trail Blazers also made 12 of 14 free throws and out-rebounded Memphis 13-7 to take a 57-45 lead into the halftime intermission despite hitting just one three-pointer.

Portland, despite playing their third game in four nights, all in different time zones, came out just as well in the second half as they did in the first. The Grizzlies give up the third-fewest amount of points in the NBA at 94.0 per game, but had no luck slowing down the Trail Blazers Sunday night, with the home team following up a 32-point second quarter with a 29-point third. Portland would once again shoot better than 60 percent as a team from the field, though this time it was Damian Lillard who would do the damage, going 4 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from three for 10 points in the quarter.

The Trail Blazers, up 16 points, would let down their guard a bit going into the fourth quarter, particularly near the end of the game. After shooting well above 50 percent for the first three quarters, Portland’s percentage in the fourth dropped down to 32 percent. Luckily for Portland, Memphis wasn’t much better, shooting 42 percent from the field and 25 percent from three. They’d win the quarter 28-19, but needed to do much more to make up for the first three quarters.

Portland was led by Aldridge who finished with 28 points on 50 percent shooting while grabbing four rebounds and playing deft defense on Gasol. The three-time All-Star, who recently missed seven games with a lower back contusion, fell on his backside late in the fourth quarter, though he remained in the game and played 33 minutes on the night.

“I’m a little sore,” said Aldridge. “It definitely woke up my little contusion, but I’m okay.”

Williams finished with 17 points on 7 of 9 shooting and handed out four assists in 29 minutes. The 6-1 guard in his 11th season is shooting 63 percent from the field in his last three games, all wins, while averaging 5.6 assists.

Lopez ended up one point short of a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds in 35 minutes. He become just the fourth Trail Blazer to record at least 300 offensive rebounds in a season and is only one of two players in the NBA with at least 300 offensive rebounds this year. He is the first player since Dwight Howard in 2010-11 to log at least 300 offensive rebounds and 130 blocks in a season.

After a quick stop at home after a five-game trip, the Trail Blazers now head back on the road for a one-game trip in Los Angeles against the Lakers on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM

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Disastrous Fourth Quarter Ruins Portland’s Chance Of Snatching Home Court From Golden State

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.

But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.

“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”

The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.

“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”

The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.

Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.

“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.

Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.

As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.

“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”

Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.

Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.

“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.

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Shootaround Notes: Fewer Adjustments, Balancing Small Lineups And Lillard Feeling Better

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…

• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.

So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.

“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”

That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.

“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”

The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.

“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”

• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.

But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.

“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”

Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.

Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”

• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.

“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”

And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.

“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Second Round, Game One Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 days ago

Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…

On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. We’ll talk again after Game Two.

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