Moda Center Crowd Lifts Blazers To Come-From-Behind Victory Against Bulls

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers entered Friday night’s contest with an eight-game winning streak, which looked to be dead on arrival with the Bulls jumping all over a seemingly road-weary Portland squad to start the game. But a Moda Center-fueled comeback in the third quarter put the Blazers in position to defeat the Bulls 98-95 .

“It’s the best crowd in the NBA and we need them the rest of the season,” said Wesley Matthews. “It’s going to be a long ride hopefully. We’re geared up and we want them to be geared up. Every game should be like that.”

The victory extends Portland’s win streak to nine games and their overall record to 11-2. The win also gave Portland their fifth-straight victory against Chicago, a team that has not won in Portland since Feb. 2006.

“I thought that was as impressive a half of basketball as we’ve played at both ends of the floor,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Obviously, defensively we picked it up in the third quarter. I wish we’d played like that at the beginning of the game, but it’s good to know we have that in us. We can point to that as what we need to do more often. It was a great effort in the second half.”

Portland trailed 59-44 going into the third quarter, but a furious rally, lead by the all-around offensive exposition by Wesley Matthews and lockout defense resulted in the Trail Blazers outscoring Chicago 34-12 in the quarter to take a 78-71 lead into the fourth.

“We didn’t change any schemes – we just played harder, played better, played with more focus, more intensity, more attitude – all the things basically that Chicago did in the first half,” said Stotts of his team’s third quarter performance. “Our mindset and our approach to the game in the second half was what we needed in against a team like Chicago that’s been through a lot together and they know how to compete at a very high level consistently. We did that in the second half.”

And there was one other facet Stotts didn’t mention: pride.

“There was intensity and pride,” said Nicolas Batum. “On this situation it’s not about basketball, it’s just about pride. They kick us. They kick us in the first half. Dominating the ball, they played harder than us, they wanted it more than us. So when we came back it wasn’t about plays and basketball, just who wants it more. Second half we got 34-12. You show it, we wanted it more than them.”

But even with Derrick Rose leaving the game toward the end of the third with an apparent right knee injury, the Bulls counter-punched, and hard, to start the fourth. Led by Kirk Hinrich, the Bulls outscored the Trail Blazers 24-10 in the first nine minutes of the final quarter to take a 95-91 lead with 3:15 to play. Back-to-back three-pointers by Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum and a long two-pointer from Matthews gave Portland a 96-95 lead with 1:37 to play.

The Bulls had numerous chances to take the lead with under 30 seconds to play, but neither Hinrich or Mike Dunleavy could find the the mark late, leading to a shot clock violation with 12 second to play. LaMarcus Aldridge, who struggled from the field all night, was fouled and sent to the line with seven seconds to play. Aldridge has had issues at time with late-game free throws, but that wasn’t the case Friday, as he made both from the line, giving the Blazers a three-point victory.

Matthews ended the game with 28 points on 12 of 19 shooting to go along with two rebounds and two steals. While he sparked Portland’s third quarter run, he also got off to yet another great start, scoring 10 points on four of six shooting in the first quarter. He is shooting 26-44 (59.1%) from the field and 15-for-25 from 3-point range (60.0%) in first quarters this season and has been even better in the past five games, going 18-for-27 (66.7%) from the field and 12-for-18 (66.7%) from beyond the arc.

Stotts said Matthews’ first 13 games of the 2013-14 season are the best he’s seen his starting shooting guard play.

“I just take it and roll with it and try to build on it,” said Matthews. “I appreciate the compliment. I appreciate that but I can’t settle. As soon as I settle, that’s when I get content and I’m not helping my team. My thing is I’m hungry all the time, I want to get better all the time. I watch film, see what I did wrong and try to be ready and do better tomorrow.”

Batum turned in a 17-point, eight-rebound, five-steal, three-assist performance while playing superb defense on Rose in the third quarter. Batum is the fifth NBA player this year to record at least 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a game (Anthony Davis, Josh Smith, Loul Deng, Stephen Curry).

Lillard bounced back from a slow start to end the night with 20 points, six assists and two rebounds. Robin Lopez kept Portland hanging on in the first half with nine points and nine rebounds and finished the game with a 13 points and 16 rebounds, a career high. double double.

“Robin was fantastic,” said Stotts. “He, obviously, was a presence in the paint. He got whatever rebounds he got – 16, but he kept pursuing the ball. Even the ones he didn’t get, he kept balls alive. He just plays hard. He’s a team guy and he wants to do what we need him to do.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Oakland to face the Golden State Warriors Saturday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 PM on CSNNW and 620 AM.

“Obviously we want to win games,” said Stotts. “Having the winning streak is nice and everything, but I think the way we’re approaching is just win the next game.”

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Podcast: The Rip City Report, Finalized Roster Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
15 hours ago

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.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. Thanks as always for listening.

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VIDEO: McCollum Brothers Talk Tournament, Who’s Mom’s Favorite on ESPN

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
19 hours ago

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.

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Stotts Talks Super Teams And Suits On The Doug Gottlieb Show

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 days ago

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.”

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