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.
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.”