The Portland Trail Blazers got a bounce back performance from their starting point guard, a near-perfect shooting performance from his backup and near identical production from their starting frontcourt to beat the Detroit Pistons 109-103 at the Moda Center Monday night.
“I thought it was another solid win,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I was pleased with our offense, disappointed wiht our defense, but ultimately we made stops when we needed to. You can never analyze a win too much, but it was definitely good to get a win and I think it shows we still have room to grow.”
With the victory, which was achieved on Military Appreciation Night, the Trail Blazers move to 5-2 on the season and have won three-straight for the first time since a four-game streak in early January 2013.
After a one for 15 shooting performance in Saturday night’s 96-85 victory against the Kings in Sacramento, Damian Lillard responded Monday night with a seven for 16 night from the field to finish with 25 points. He did much of his damage from deep in the first half, going a perfect four of four from three. He also added four assists, five rebounds and a block in 35 minutes.
“I didn’t shoot the ball well in Sacramento but I thought I played a good game other than that,” said Lillard. “We won the game. I took the same shots that I’ve been taking, they just went in (against Detroit). I didn’t think about it too much but I’m happy we were able to win the game.”
Stotts predicted prior to the game that Lillard would have a bounce back effort similar to the 33-point performance he turned in against the Heat last season after going one for 15 two nights before against the Magic.
“I had a good feeling that he would play a good game,” said Stotts. “I think he’s somewhat unphased by a bad shooting night and, in some respects, comes back even better. I think he showed that last year.”
Lillard’s performance, while impressive, wasn’t nearly as efficient as Mo Williams’, who finished with 17 points on seven of nine shooting. Williams hit his first five shots of the night before missing a 19-foot jumper at the 2:36 mark of the fourth quarter.
“He was big time,” said Lillard of Williams. “He always picks up the pace of the game with the speed he plays at. Tonight he made shots, he made plays for guys. Guarding (Brandon) Jennings, he was pursuing over every pick and roll. He changed the game and that’s what we need him to do, come in and change the game.”
But it wasn’t just Portland’s guards who had hot nights from the field. LaMarcus Aldridge turned in yet another fine all-around performance with 18 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while his fellow big man Robin Lopez had his best game as a Trail Blazer with 17 points on seven of ten shooting and 10 rebounds.
“I love Robin,” said Stotts. “He just played hard every minute he’s out there. He gives effort at the boards at both ends. He’s a great team player and does what we need him to do. When he’s able to contribute offensively, that’s great. For him to get a double-double, he’s really an important part of our team.”
After the game, Aldridge attributed Lopez’s performance to the time-tested advantage of playing in front of family.
“His mom is here so she’s staying for the rest of the season now!” joked Aldridge. “He was making post moves and diving to the basket, throwing dimes to me. Tonight, he played with that energy and that high level that we need from him. He blocked shots, he rebounded, he scored, he was talking more tonight. I thought his energy was great tonight.”
While Lopez’s energy and Portland’s shooting percentages could be described as great, their defensive, by the admission of nearly everyone in Portland’s locker room, was not, as evidenced by Detroit outscoring Portland 60-36 points in the paint. While Stotts was satisfied with some of what the team did, particularly forcing the Pistons to shoot mid-range jumpshots, he said he’d like to see his team slow down opponents more often.
“I’d like to get to the point where we’re able to take away other teams’ strengths a little bit better,” said Stotts. “Detroit did what they did. They are a paint team, they are an offensive rebounding team. We did a better job with the transition defense, but they’re a transition team. I’d like to get to the point where we’re a little bit better at taking away other teams’ strengths. That being said, they shot a fair amount of mid-range shots. Actually, they shot more mid-range shots than they usually. They shot 42 percent from mid-range which is a decent number. If you look at effective field goal percentage, we did a nice job. We took away threes. I would have liked to have rebounded the ball a little bit better. The first half, I would have liked to control their transition a little bit better. Shots at the rim, control that a bit better. Just getting to a point where – teams do what they do, we just need to not let them do it quite as well as they normally do.”
The Pistons were led by Brandon Jennings (28 points on 11 of 24 shooting) and sophomore Andre Drummond, who turned in a double-double with 16 points and 16 rebounds in 42 minutes. Greg Monroe added 19 points and eight rebounds in the losing effort.
Next up, the Trail Blazers look for some opening-night revenge when they host the Suns at the Moda Center. Tipoff is schedule for 7 PM.
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.”
After a practice last week in Tualatin, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, who has been vocal about his desire to be involved at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto in one way or another, was asked to make the case for why he should be a participant in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, an All-Star Saturday event featuring an obstacle course that tests dribbling, passing and shooting. McCollum’s response?
“Why should I be in the Skills?” said the 6-3 guard in his third season out of Lehigh. “You’re looking at a guy who plays two positions, for starters. Can pass, can shoot, can score. Should I say anymore?”
Apparently not, as it was announced Thursday at the top of TNT’s weekly edition of “Inside The NBA” that McCollum has been selected along with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, L.A.’s Jordan Clarkson and Houston’s Patrick Beverley to compete at the 2016 Taco Bell Skills Challenge. From the team’s press release…
Through 50 games this season, McCollum ranks second on the team in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg). He is shooting a team-high 39.1% from beyond the three-point line.
McCollum recorded 35 points (14-28 FG), 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals against Sacramento on Dec. 27, making him the first NBA player to log at least 35 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals in a game since Kevin Garnett on Dec. 10, 2004.
Playing in his third NBA season, McCollum is ranked eighth in the NBA with 116 three-point field goals. He’s also scored 20 or more points on 23 different occasions in 2015-16.
McCollum joins his running buddy Damian Lillard as the only Trail Blazers to ever participate in the Skills Challenge, which was added to the All-Star Weekend festivities in 2003. Lillard won the Skills Challenge in 2013 as a part of his successful quest to compete in all five All-Star Weekend events and then defended his title in 2014 along with Utah guard Trey Burke as a part of the short-lived attempt at making the Skills Challenge a team event, so you can be sure Dame is going to have some pointers for CJ. And Lillard will probably never let McCollum hear the end of it if he doesn’t win, so there’s some extra motivation there as well.
The Taco Bell Skills Challenge is scheduled to take place Saturday, February 13 at 5:30 pm Pacific.