PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers fell to 43-24 on the season and 24-9 at home with a 113-112 loss to the Golden State Warriors Sunday night at the Moda Center.
With the loss, Portland is now just 1.5 games ahead of the Warriors for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Golden State now holds a 2-1 lead in the season series, with the fourth and final contest scheduled for April 13 in Portland.
After trailing for almost all of the first three quarters, the Warriors took the lead midway through the fourth quarter thanks to the hot shooting of Stephen Curry, who finished the game with 37 points, 28 of those coming in the second half.
“Disappointed to lose another close game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I thought we played a good game. Stephen Curry got hot in the second half. We had some miscommunication on giving up some threes, but it’s just that we have to
figure out ways to close out games and realize plays — when we had a 16, 18-point lead, we can’t take our foot off the gas. Steph Curry, he’s done that before and we couldn’t get him under control.”
After going 3 of 9 in the first half, Curry was nearly unstoppable in the second. The 6-3 All-Star guard out of Davidson played the entire second half and hit big shot after big shot to get Golden State back in the game after trailing by as many as 18 in the third quarter. Whether he was getting open shots in the pick and roll or taking contested jumpers out of isolation, Curry rarely missed after the intermission, regardless of who the Blazers threw at him.
“You can say trap him, but that opens up other guys rolling to the basket, opens up other three-point shooters,” said Stotts. “So I thought Wes (Matthews) did a good job on him towards the end of the fourth quarter. We did a good job on him in the first half. To be honest, I thought the shots he made in the second half were tougher than the ones he missed in the first.”
Curry put up 13 points in the third quarter and 15 in the fourth while shooting 8 of 15 from the field and 5 of 8 from three to put the Warriors in position to win the game in the fourth.
“He’s a superstar,” said Wesley Matthews of Curry. ” The way he plays, he’s unconventional. He’s not one of those guys where they have to run a set for him and he’s going to come off a screen and then he’s going to catch it and then he’s going to isolate at this spot – he has the ball from the moment they inbound the ball and with the ultimate green light. I think we did a solid job on him in the first half. He came alive a little bit but the last four or five minutes, it wasn’t (just) him.”
No it was not. While Curry got the Warriors back into the game, it was his teammate and “Splash Brother” Klay Thompson who finished off the Trail Blazers in the fourth. The 6-7 shooting guard, who is the son of former Trail Blazer Mychal Thompson, shot 4 of 8 from the field and 3 of 5 from the three-point line in the fourth to end the quarter with 15 of his 27 points.
After a back-and-forth battle through the last six minutes of the game, the Warriors took the lead for good on a Thompson three-pointer with 11 seconds to play to put Golden State up 113-111. Thompson got a wide-open look after the defense collapsed on Curry as he drove to the basket. The Trail Blazers tried to recover to the three-point line, but could not do so in time.
“He’s a big time player,” said Warriors head coach Mark Jackson of Thompson. “There’s no question about it. He’s as cool as they come. It does not bother him making and missing shots. He’s not afraid to take the next one.”
The Trail Blazers had a chance to at least time the game on the ensuing possession. With 11 seconds to play, the Trail Blazers got the ball to Damian Lillard, who drove the lane and drew contact while putting up a shot, though did not get the call, nor the bucket.
“I knew that they thought I was going to be in the mid pick and roll and they would try to kind of trap me,” said Lillard of his final attempt. “I could tell they were trying to stay until I picked up the ball. So I just had (Robin Lopez) clear out instead of him coming up. I figured Thompson would jump on the side thinking I was going to have a screen and roll, then I would have a lane. I took off. I wish I would have been able to get to the rim cleaner.”
Nicolas Batum grabbed the offensive rebound and did get a foul call on his putback attempt. Batum would make the first but miss the second with five seconds to play. A mad scramble for the rebound ensued, with Batum eventually coming away with the rebound, but his desperation three-pointer with two seconds to play was well off the mark.
“Up 18 at home, we can’t do that,” said Batum. “We did a good first half, played good in the first half, great defense. Had a good lead in the third quarter again, up 17 or 18, then we let it go. They started making shots but we didn’t get shots. We let them play like they want to play and we missed shots. But at the end, we got a chance to win the game anyway. They make plays, we make plays and it goes their way.”
The Blazers were led by Lillard, who finished with 26 points on 8 of 22 shooting to go with seven assists and two rebounds. Batum finished with 23 points, 14 points and five assists in the losing effort. He is the first Trail Blazer in franchise history to record back-to-back games with at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and four three-pointers after doing the same thing in Friday night’s victory in New Orleans.
Robin Lopez tallied his 25th double-double this season and the 40th of his career with 14 points and 10 rebounds in 38 minutes. He also handed out a season-high four assists. Dorell Wright, starting for the seventh time this season in place of LaMarcus Aldridge (lower back contusion), and Matthews added 13 points apiece. Mo Williams, who returned earlier than expected from a hip injury sustained in last Tuesday’s loss in Memphis, scored 12 off the bench.
Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.
Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.
Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.
But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.
“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”
Sounds about right.
On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.
You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…
On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”
On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”
On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”
His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”
On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”
On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”