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.
Howdy kind listeners. Before we all take some much needed respite before the start of a brutal March schedule, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the studios at the Moda Center to record an All-Star break edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
On this week’s episode we marvel at the Trail Blazers being 27-27, good for seventh in the Western Conference, and how that’s going to cost Freeman some money/beer at some point, the emergence of Maurice Harkless since joining the starting lineup, Portland rising while other teams in their general range struggle, discuss how we’ll be spending our respective All-Star breaks and answer a host of questions pertaining to the upcoming trade deadline, Gerald Henderson’s tenure in Portland, Damian Lillard passing Brandon Roy and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve already since forgotten. As I noted during the show, my brain is already on vacation.
You can find the Rip City Report on Soundcloud, iTunes and Stitcher. And consider using a small portion of the time you would usually spend watching the Blazers to give us a review on iTunes! You can be as mean as you want!
Though they were never teammates, Damian Lillard and Brandon Roy manage to talk from time to time. Their relationship started not long after Lillard was selected by the Trail Blazers with the sixth overall pick of the 2012 Draft and they’ve stayed in contact ever since over the years. During those somewhat regular chats, the current and former faces of the Trail Blazers’ franchise sometimes discuss the responsibility that comes with that title, especially at a relatively young age, and what could have been if the 6-3 guard out of Weber State and the now-retired 6-6 guard out of Washington ever had the opportunity to play alongside each other in Rip City.
And the next time they talk, they’ll have something new to discuss. With his 31-point performance in Tuesday night’s victory versus the Rockets, Lillard passed Roy for 15th in franchise history in points. Lillard now has 6,119 in less than four seasons in Portland, surpassing the the 6,107 points that Roy scored in five seasons before knee injuries ended his career far too prematurely.
“I mean, that’s an honor,” said Lillard of passing Roy. “Just to be moving up on that list period, but I mean, if Brandon Roy got to play as long as he should have played and people would have liked to have seen him play, I probably would never pass him, so it’s a great accomplishment. It’s an honor you know, but the more important thing is just continuing to be myself and continuing to win games.”
Which Lillard has done an excellent job of his season. He’s the only player to rank in the top-6 in both scoring (24.3 points per game) and assists (7.3 assist per game) this season and has led the Trail Blazers to a 27-27 record this season, vastly outperforming preseason expectations, despite being the only holdover from last season’s starting five.
Though he’s had plenty of help this season from the likes of CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis, Lillard’s performance through 54 games is the the primary reason that the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in seventh place in the Western Conference. Roy, a three-time All-Star, was a fantastic player in his own right, a player whose peak performances are still the stuff of legend in Portland, but even he never carried the load that Lillard has this season. And of course, Lillard has already helped the Trail Blazer win a playoff series in his first four season in Portland, something Roy never accomplished.
“He’s been pretty good in a short amount of time,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of Lillard. “I mean, Brandon Roy, I wasn’t here for that, but I know what an imprint he made on the city and the franchise and how important he was to the Blazers. The fact that Damian has passed him this early in his career really says something because I know how good Brandon was. I know his career was cut short but everybody here holds him in high regard.”
Assuming Lillard experiences relatively good health — the seven games he missed this season due to plantar fascitiis are the only games he’s missed in his profession career thus far — there’s no reason to think that he won’t replace Roy as the best guard to play in Portland since Clyde Drexler, if he hasn’t taken that mantel already. But Roy can take some satisfaction in knowing that at least some of the success Lillard has had as a Trail Blazer was accomplished in part due to emulating the example he set on and off the court.
“When (Roy) got to Portland, a lot of the stuff he did, it brought excitement,” said Lillard. “I think the city really embraced him, they liked who he was as a person along with what he did as a player, obviously. I think because I kind of came and did the same thing, did some of the same things he did, I think he respects that… He was well respected, people appreciated the kind of person he was and he got it done on the floor. I think I can say the same for myself.”
PORTLAND — What a nice way to go into the All-Star break.
For the second time in five days, the Trail Blazers built a large third-quarter lead against the Rockets, then allowed them to make a comeback, only to make a final push to come away with the double-digit victory, this time to the tune of a 116-103 win in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 at the Moda Center.
“I really like the way we’re playing right now,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Defensively, we’ve been really good the last two or three weeks. Our aggressiveness has been good, our alertness has been very good and I thought we did that for most of the night tonight. It’s good to go into the break on a win streak and playing well.”
The Trail Blazers are now 27-27 overall and 16-11 at the Moda Center this season. With the win, Portland is .500 for the first time since the team was 4-4 on November 9, 2015, have won eight of their last 10 games at home and 12 of their last 15 games overall, regardless of venue. Thanks to that streak, the Trail Blazers enter the All-Star break in the seventh spot in the Western Conference standings while the Rockets, a team that started the game in seventh place, drop to ninth.
“We dug ourselves a hole to start the season, giving up some games late, but we stuck with it, we kept going, we kept working,” said Damian Lillard. “We didn’t get too high or low. We were able to close in and get to .500 going into the break. Our team has done a great job of sticking to the grind, working every day in practice and staying together. That’s gotten us to where we are now.”
After ending the first quarter tied 29-29, the Trail Blazers used a 18-3 run in the second quarter to build a 12-point lead. Portland would expand their lead to 21, only to see the Rockets cut the deficit to five with 9:31 to play in the fourth. But the Trail Blazers would close out the game by outscoring the Rockets 23-15 to come away with the 13-point victory.
Portland won Tuesday’s contest despite shooting worse percentage than the Rockets from the field and the three-point line, but making eight more free throws despite having the same number of attempts and turning 20 Rockets turnovers in to 31 points more than made up for their so-so field goal percentages.
“I like the fact that we’re doing it within the context of our defense rather than gambling and extending our defense,” said Stotts of forcing turnovers. “We’re being aggressive on the ball, we’re alert on the weak side, so I think those two things combined help create those turnovers.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 9-of-22 from the field, 4-of-11 from three and 9-of-11 from the free throw line for 31 points to go along with nine assists, three rebounds and three steals in 35 minutes.
Maurice Harkless remained in the starting lineup, despite Noah Vonleh being on the active list for the first time in the last two games, and responded with his best game as a Trail Blazers with 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, 13 rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes.
“I liked his defense on Harden, he finished around the basket, he got rebounds, he ran the floor well,” said Stotts of Harkless. “He did a little bit of everything in a kind of understated way.”
Meyers Leonard went 6-of-9 from the field for 14 points while grabbing eight rebounds off the bench. Al-Farouq Aminu shot just under 50 percent to finish with 11 points and five rebounds and Ed Davis grabbed 13 rebounds in 21 minutes. Gerald Henderson went just 3-of-10 from the field but made up for it by going 7-of-10 from the line to finish with 13 points.
The Rockets were led by James Harden, who finished with 34 points, and Dwight Howard, who added 28 points and 13 rebounds in 35 minutes.
Next up, the Trail Blazers have more than a week off before hosting the Golden State Warriors on February 19.
“We’re playing well and hopefully when we get back we pick up where we left off,” said Stotts, “but everybody could use a break.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.