In A Tight Series, Trail Blazers Try To Shore Up The Little Things

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

TUALATIN — The Portland Trail Blazers returned to practice on Saturday after dropping Game 3 to the Rockets at the Moda Center Friday night. They watched some film and the players who see infrequent playing time were engaged in a live scrimmage when the media was let into the gym, but for the most part, one got the sense that it was a light day.

And at this point, that’s probably the way it should be. After all, the Blazers and Rockets finished with identical regular season records, the average margin of victory in the series is 4.6 points and two of the three games of the series have gone to overtime. In short, there’s is very little separating these two teams.

“I think we all knew that we’re very evenly matched,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts after Game 3. “We’re very similar in styles. I think these are the games we’ve got to expect.”

So when two teams are so close, what does a team work on to gain an advantage? There are missed opportunities and mistakes in every game and minimizing those instances is certainly a goal, but there’s no amount of practice that is going to prevent a game-winning shot off a broken play or a career 21 percent three-point shooter hitting both of his three-point attempts at pivotal moments.

“I think (Game 3) did a good job of putting the whole season in perspective,” said Robin Lopez. “We realize all these games have been very close matchups. It could very easily be 2-1 in favor of the Rockets, it could be 3-0 in favor of us. It really comes down to a few plays in each game.”

Which is what every player asked about what the difference had been in the series so far repeated. While big-time performances from the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwight Howard and Damian Lillard put each team in place to come away victorious, it’s the little things that have ultimately been the tipping points in the series.

“It’s just details, like lose balls, offensive rebound, turnover, those little things,” said Nicolas Batum. “We’ve got to get a better start tomorrow. We can’t start with a 10-0 run for them. All those details count at the end because you lost by two, three or four or a last shot, like what happened the first three games almost, those details count a lot.”

The Trail Blazers know what they need to do, and for the most part, have done those things very well. But at this point, there’s no amount of running up and down the court on an off day that’s going to make any difference regarding which team moves on to the Western Conference semifinals. Any improvements to be made are mental.

“I think we realize we need to be a little free out there, but at the same time, we can’t lack that edge. And we feel there were parts of the game yesterday where that was the missing ingredient.”

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VIDEO: Lillard Cuts Through Crowded Street Market In New Adidas Ad

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.

But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…

Here’s what the folks at adidas have to say about the spot…

In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.

The spot is one of three released by adidas as a part of the “Here To Create” series, which includes football players chasing rabbits through the Everglades and some kind of soccer/motocross amalgam.

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Post Free Agency Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

With Portland’s foray into free agency now complete, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…

In this almost all Twitter-submitted questions edition, we discuss the signings of Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard, the decision to match the offer the Brooklyn Nets extended to Allen Crabbe, how the additions and returns could change lineups going forward and the notion that the Trail Blazers need to make a trade. There’s also some hot Pokemon Go and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” talk to start the show, so you might want prepare yourself to fast-forward through the first few minutes.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. And a reminder that the offseason is a great time to leave a review on iTunes!

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Trail Blazers Match Four-Year Offer For Allen Crabbe

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
7 days ago

UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.

ORIGINAL POST

After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…


As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.

But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.

There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…

With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.

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