Portland’s Bench Balls To Blowout Nets

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers won their 40th game of the season Wednesday night in blowout fashion with a 124-80 victory versus the Nets to sweep the season series in front of a sellout crowd of 20,015 at the Moda Center.

The 44-point deficit is tied for the eighth-largest margin of victory in franchise history. It is also the largest margin of victory for either team in the history of the series. Brooklyn’s 80 points are the fewest points allowed by the Trail Blazers this season.

Portland now sits in third in the Western Conference standings, three games back from Oklahoma City for the top spot. The Trail Blazers have now won four-straight despite playing without three-time All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (strained left groin).

The win was all the more impressive considering the Trail Blazers played the night before in Denver and were severely undersized without the services of Aldridge (left groin strain), Thomas Robinson (left patella tendon strain), Joel Freeland (right MCL sprain) and Meyers Leonard (left ankle sprain).

With so many players injured, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was forced to play smallball lineups almost exclusively while looking to the end of the bench for help. He got plenty of it, particularly from guard/forward Will Barton and power forward Victor Claver.

“Well, I didn’t see that coming,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was a good effort by everybody who played. I thought really the turning point in the game was the second group at the end of the first quarter — Mo, C.J., Will, Victor and Wes, they really picked up the energy, got aggressive. We were undersized but we did a lot of good things during that stretch. We were able to just keep going from there, but I thought that group really did an important job for us in the first half.”

The Trail Blazers took a nine-point lead into the second quarter, which the bench unit pushed to 24 by the halftime intermission to put the rout into motion.

Barton, averaging just 6.1 minutes per game this season, provided a spark off the bench, something he’s done more often recently as his minutes have seen an increase due to injures.

“I had a lot of fun,” said Barton. “We got a win, a big-time win, without a lot of guys that were down and injured. This is huge for us to keep this winning streak going until we can get all of our guys healthy. We just went out there and balled, everybody, as a team.”

Barton provided his trademark flair, finishing numerous alley-oops and blocking shots at the rim, to finish with 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists and a block. He is the first player with at least 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on better than 60 percent shooting since … Will Barton on April 7, 2013.

“Just playing within myself, being aggressive, playing hard, my teammates finding me for lobs,” said Barton of what he attributed his success Wednesday night to. “Just trusting me and believing in me out there. It was just a real big team effort. It wasn’t just me, it was everyone.”

Claver, who has played the vast majority of his minutes this season in the last three games, played center for much of the game and responded by scoring 13 points on five of seven shooting and five assists in 22 minutes.

“I knew it was going to be hard without all the big men,” said Claver. “When I came on the court and we played with a lot of energy, playing full-court defense, I think that pushed the team to play faster, we get some distance in the score.”

“Victor’s very smart and defensively, very rarely does he make a mistake,” said Stotts. “He’s in the right place at the right time. He’s very alert to what’s going on and he sees the game. Obviously, I thought Victor had a terrific game. There weren’t too many guys who didn’t have a terrific game tonight.”

Portland’s bench combined to score 68 points, including 13 points from rookie CJ McCollum. Mo Williams led the bench unit with 21 points, seven assists and six assists.

“We just go in to help,” said Williams. “The bench, as far as minutes-wise, we just big guys coming in and do our job. Some nights it’s going to be scoring baskets, some nights going to be just going in there and not messing up. I think that’s, for the most part, the bench guys, that’s what they do. With LA being out, those minutes have increased and we’ve been asked to do more. We’ve been asked to make plays and score the basketball and play minutes that we’ve not played all year … I thought we responded.”

With the game well in hand, Portland’s starters got some much needed rest on the second night of a back-to-back, with none of the first five playing more than 29 minutes.

“Guys came in – this wasn’t the first game that they came in ready and really stepped up for us,” said Damian Lillard, who finished with 14 points on six of 11 shooting after scoring 31 points the night before in Denver. “Will came in and flirted with a triple double. Same thing with Mo. Vic played a great game. Everybody kind of came in and played a great game. It wasn’t necessary for me to have to do a whole lot so it was good to get the rest and I’m excited we won the game.”

Nicolas Batum added 19 points, six rebounds and six assists and Robin Lopez finished with 11 points, eight rebounds in 26 minutes.

The Trail Blazers now have two days off to get healthy before hosting the Nuggets on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.

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Disastrous Fourth Quarter Ruins Portland’s Chance Of Snatching Home Court From Golden State

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
34 mins ago

OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that has happened just twice in the last seven months.

But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals. The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.

Portland led by as many as 17 points in the first half and 11 in the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.

The Trail Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.

Al-Farouq Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.

As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivital fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.

Shaun Livington and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.

Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM.

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Shootaround Notes: Fewer Adjustments, Balancing Small Lineups And Lillard Feeling Better

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
10 hours ago

The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…

• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.

So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.

“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”

That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.

“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”

The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.

“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”

• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.

But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.

“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”

Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.

Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”

• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.

“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”

And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.

“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Second Round, Game One Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…

On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. We’ll talk again after Game Two.

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