Off Day Notes: Birthday Texts, Pep Talks And Coconut Waters

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

· In 2009, LaMarcus Aldridge was playing in his first playoff series, coincidentally enough, against the Houston Rockets. The first two games were in Portland, with the series moving to Houston for Games 3 and 4.

After the first two games, Aldridge didn’t fly with the team to Houston, for reasons that were not immediately known at the time. It would eventually come out that Aldridge, who has always preferred to keep his private life private, left the team to be present for the birth of his first child, Jaylen. He would rejoin the team in time for Game 3, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and five blocks in a 86-83 loss.

Aldridge was back in Houston on his son’s fifth birthday Wednesday night, though his performance and the final result would be much different this time around. Aldridge would finish with 43 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in Portland’s 112-105 victory in Game 2. His game, like his son, has grown significantly in five years.

Young Jaylen didn’t spend his birthday at the Toyota Center watching his father put on yet another dominant performance. After all, an arena in which 18,000 fans are cursing your fathers’ existence is no place for a child, but he was watching at home, perhaps while enjoying some birthday cake.

“He had text me and said — what he say? — I look like Spiderman when I had dunked the one ball,” said Aldridge. “He had fun watching the game. That was just fun for me.”

· Aldridge, prior to his 46-point, 18-rebound performance in Game 1, decided to try something different. Usually the first game of a playoff series isn’t the preferred time to switch up routines, but for whatever reason, Aldridge made one minor change: he drank a carton of coconut water, an elixir that has recently grown in popularity, particularly in Portland, in the last couple of years.

And after Game 1’s overtime victory, Aldridge guzzled down another carton of coconut water in one series of uninterrupted gulps.

So rather than tempting the fates like he had by changing his regiment in Game 1, Aldridge did the same thing before and after to Game 2.

“I did do coconut water pregame and postgame. We did it last game, I played great, so I just did it again this game.”

It’s safe to assume he’ll do the same thing Friday before and after Game 3.

· After reading a story here on ForwardCenter.net about Mo Williams speaking to Nicolas Batum during Game 1 in an effort to shake the small forward out of a first-half malaise, some responded that maybe Williams, whose three-point, two-assist performance in Game 1 wasn’t exactly awe-inspiring, should give himself a pep talk.

It turns out, Williams, along with fellow veteran Dorell Wright, who was also disappointed with his play in Game 1, did just that prior to Game 2.

“Me and Mo spoke before the game because we didn’t have a good showing, we feel like, in the first game,” said Wright. “Just come out aggressive, play our game and do what we do. This is why we were brought here, for these moments in the playoffs and I feel like we both went out there and played a solid game.”

“That’s my buddy right there,” said Williams within earshot of Wright. “Me and D.Wright, we always sit beside each other on the plane, on the bench, we always at dinner or somewhere together. With us both not playing well in Game 1 we just looked at each other, said ‘Hey man, tonight’s the night. We’ve got to come alive and be aggressive. We’ve got to make shots.’ We both did a good job of that.”

They certainly did. After Aldridge, no two players were more important to Portland’s Game 2 victory that Williams and Wright, who scored 28 of the Trail Blazers 30 bench points Wednesday night.

· Robin Lopez wasn’t having the best time of his life defending Dwight Howard in the first half of Game 2. Howard scored Houston’s first 13 points and finished the first half with 25 points on 11 of 17 shooting. And while it might have been personally frustrating for Lopez, he didn’t commit unnecessary fouls or let Howard’s outburst keep him from executing Portland’s game plan. And his teammates wouldn’t let him hang his head, even as Howard was was scoring over and around RoLo and everyone else who tried to check him in the first half.

“My teammates had my back,” said Lopez. “It makes it easy for me to play that way, keep my head up, keep playing.”

Even with Howard’s scoring prolifically, the teams entered the halftime tied 53-53. And in the second half, RoLo would have his revenge, scoring just one less point than “Superman” while also coming away victorious.

“You’ve got to stay with the game plan,” said Wright. “This is a game of runs, it’s the playoffs, it’s a lot of opportunities to hit threes, get our own post game going. You just can’t overreact to that. (Howard) is a great player and you’ve got to expect that. RoLo did a great job making him take tough shots and just trying to contain him. I think we did a great job with him in the second half.”

“Good players, they usually score in bundles,” said Lopez. “He just happened to score at the beginning of the game as opposed to the end. That happens sometimes. I’m not sure if it’s anything we did, he’s just a very good player, a very talented player.”

· Finally, while there wasn’t a single player, coach or staff member who wasn’t absolutely ecstatic to be in attendance for two Trail Blazers victories in Houston, all were very anxious to get back to Portland for Friday’s Game 3 versus the Rockets at the Moda Center.

“We know that the next two are going to be huge and we know Rip City is going to be crazy,” said Nicolas Batum who, along with Aldridge and Wesley Matthews, are the only Blazers who have played in a playoff game at the Moda Center. “I can’t wait to go home.”

The first home game of the postseason is always an exciting one, but to enter that atmosphere with a chance to take a 3-0 lead only adds to the anticipation for the players and fans alike.

“It’s two games, we would really like to get this next one,” said Lopez. “I’m excited to see the Portland fans. I know they’re excited to see us.”

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard's Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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VIDEO: Phantom Cam Recap And All 12 Of Lillard’s Game 4 Field Goals

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The Trail Blazers have arrived in Memphis for tomorrow’s Game 5 at FedExForum (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on KGW, TNT and 620 AM), wherein they will try to extend their postseason by getting their first road win of the series.

But before we completely turn the page on Game 4, let’s look back at some of the highlights, if for no other reason than it was the first time during this series that the Trail Blazers turned in a performance worthy of repeated viewing.

First, there’s the phantom cam highlights, which recaps Game 4 in super slo-mo. Damian Lillard’s spin move past Tony Allen and Beno Udrih, which he followed up by finishing with a reverse layup while absorbing contact from Marc Gasol at the 50 second mark has to be one of the best plays of Portland’s 2015 postseason.

Here’s the Vine of that Lillard spin move finish for easier repeated viewing…

And on the topic of Lillard, he scored a career playoff-high 32 points on 12-of-23 shooting in Game 4, which prompted the NBA to put together a package of all of his field goals Monday night. They also tossed in two of his game-high seven assists for good measure.

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Trail Blazers Look To Get Damian Lillard Going

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 months ago

The first two games of their first round series versus the Memphis Grizzlies have been rough for the Trail Blazers, particularly for Damian Lillard. While no Blazer has played particularly well thus far, Lillard’s struggles have been the most noticeable, especially when contrasted with his performance in last year’s first round matchup against the Rockets, a series that culminated with the 6-3 guard out of Weber State hitting a now legendary Game 6 series-winning three-pointer as time expired.

While his Game 6 performance is the most enduring memory of that series, Lillard was spectacular through all six games. He averaged 25.5 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field and a ridiculous 49 percent shooting from three while also adding 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebound and 1.3 steals in a hefty 44.7 minutes per game (you may recall that three of the six games went to overtime). The Spurs had much more success slowing him down in the second round, holding him to just 17 percent shooting from three, though he still shot 41 percent from the field and averaged almost 20 points and just over six rebounds before the Trail Blazers were eliminated by the eventual World Champions in five games.

Flash forward to today and one imagines Lillard would be happy to play as well as he did against the Spurs, let alone the Rockets, versus the Grizzlies. Shooting just 27 percent from the field and a perplexing nine percent from three, the third-year point guard lamented after practice Friday afternoon that the Grizzlies’ defense has been all but impenetrable through the first two games.

“It’s been tough,” said Lillard. “They do a really good job of clogging up the paint, keeping a lot of bodies in the paint to where it’s kind of uncomfortable being down there because they’re playing physical and they’re playing really good team defense. You’ve got to give them credit, but the good looks I do get, I’ve got to make those shots. I just haven’t made shots.”

Lillard, along with the rest of the team, has studied film in an effort to figure out way that he might get himself going heading into Game 3 Saturday night at the Moda Center. He may try to get the ball up the court quicker and look to set up his teammates more often in an effort to make the game easier for everyone involved.

“Watching film, I see a lot of times where even if they’re crowding up and there’s not a shot for me, there’s times where I can make plays for other guys,” said Lillard. “There’s always adjustments I can make. Using screens better, picking spots better, pushing the tempo. It’s really hard to score on them in the halfcourt when their defense is set, so just trying to create better opportunities, maybe make more plays so they loosen up on just trying to control me so much. Just make the game easier for myself.”

But even though there are areas in which he could better exploit what little the Grizzlies are giving him, if he’s not able to make the shots that he typically makes, be it in the playoffs last year or the regular season this year, no amount of changing up is going to make much difference.That’s why, even though you’re likely to see Terry Stotts try a few new things to get Lillard going, it’s unlikely that wholesale changes are going to be implemented. That would be impractical and also foolish, as much of what the Blazers are doing are the same things that worked well in the past, including against the Rockets in last year’s playoffs.

“We’ve done somethings, we made some adjustments between Game 1 and Game 2, different sets,” said Stotts of what he and his staff have done to try and help Lillard find his offensive rhythm. “He’s missed some good shots. A lot of the shots he’s made over the course of his career, he’s had, so you don’t want to over-analyze and do things — we’re doing a lot of the same things that have gotten him to this point. The ball is going to be in his hands, we’ve looked at different things. But ultimately, the one thing is — for everybody, not just Damian but everybody– passing the ball, finding the ball on the weakside, creating opportunities for your teammates to get easier shots. I think that lends itself to more rhythm at the offensive end.”

Portland will need that improved rhythm, and a steady dose of shot-making, if they’re to best the Grizzlies Saturday night for the first time in their last six tries. If the Trail Blazers managed to get there offensive going and still lose, they’ll know that the Grizzlies are simply a better team on both sides of the ball. But if they can somehow shake off two disappointing offensive performances to take Game 3, they’ll give themselves a chance to repeat their success against the Rockets last season rather than mimicking their failures versus the Spurs.

“We haven’t been down in a situation like this where we haven’t played well,” said Lillard. “Last year against the Spurs we lost the first three games but in that series we were making some shots, they just outplayed us. Now we’re struggling on the offensive end. It’s different but it’s a new challenge. I think we should be excited to have this opportunity because it seems like everything is going downhill. ‘Do they have a chance?’ It’s an opportunity for us to rise up again. They won the two on their court, now we’ve got to try and take it one game at a time and take care of our home court and see where it goes.”

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