Practice Notes: Duncan Haunts Aldridge’s Dreams, Lillard Won’t Lock Down Parker Alone

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Trail Blazers held practice at the AT&T Center in San Antonio in preparation for Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinal series against the Spurs Tuesday night (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from the first day of Portland’s second-round preparation …

· Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge has never been shy about admitting his admiration for Spurs power forward and future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinal between Portland and San Antonio on Tuesday will be the first time the two forwards have met in the postseason, which gives the matchup a bit of a student vs. teacher feel.

“I’ve taken some of (Duncan’s) moves and modeled part of my game after him,” said Aldridge. “So whenever I’m around him I feel like I’m always learning something. It’s just a big opportunity for me.”

Aldridge has noted on many occasions that Duncan has always been his favorite player, even if he’s made life hard on Aldridge from time to time.

“(Duncan) gave it to me in the post when I first got drafted,” said Aldridge. “I had nightmares of how he scored over and over again and I couldn’t stop him.”

Of course, times have changed, as evidenced by Aldridge shooting 70 percent from the field when defended by Duncan this season. Aldridge is now unquestionably the better player, but Duncan, at age 38 and with 16 NBA seasons of experience to call on, is still remarkably effective.

“It’s a good challenge for me,” said Aldridge of going up against Duncan. “Whenever he’s on the court he’s playing at a very high level. It’s a good challenge for myself and for RoLo. I’m looking forward to it.”

· While Duncan might not be the scoring threat he once was, Tony Parker is still a terror in his 13th season, all with the Spurs. Though his scoring average dipped to 16.7 points per game this season, his lowest average in five years, he’s still shooting 50 percent from the field, a remarkable percentage for a 6-2 point guard.

“With Tony Parker you’ve got to keep him out of the middle of the floor,” said Damian Lillard, who will spend a considerable amount of time in the semifinals defending Parker. “When they run a lot of those side pick and rolls, keeping him on one side of the floor and not letting him get to the middle and explore options. I know he likes to get to the rim and I’ve got to try to do as good a job as I can limiting that.”

According to NBA.com/stats, Parker shot 40 percent from the field, well below his season average, when being guarded by Lillard this season, but the task of trying to keep Parker in check won’t fall solely to Lillard. Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are sure to take turns picking up Parker. Like the old proverb says, it takes a village to defend Eva Longoria’s ex-husband.

“I’m not going to go out there and lock up Tony Parker,” said Lillard. “He’s running off screens and in transition, he’s really fast, crafty. He’s good, he’s an All-Star, a tough cover and it’s going to definitely take a team effort to slow him down.”

· Of course, one way for Lillard to slow down Parker is to make him work on the defensive end, which is something Lillard has done quite well throughout his fledgling career. Lillard is averaging 26.3 points per game in seven career games against the Spurs, his best scoring average against any team in the Western Conference, on 50 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent shooting from three.

“I think it’s just that I have a lot of space,” Lillard said of his success scoring versus San Antonio. “Usually when we play against them, I’ve got a lot of space to operate. That makes me comfortable, I guess. I get a lot of comfortable midrange shots. They don’t really have a lot of shot blockers down there, so I can get to the rim. But they’re a really consistent defensive team, so it’s not easy at all.”

Nor will it be. But Lillard can help himself by continuing to shoot a high percentage at the rim, which he did in the six games versus the Rockets, a team with arguably the best shot blocker in the league in Dwight Howard. After shooting 50 percent in the restricted area in the regular season, below the league average, Lillard has improved to 64 percent in the playoffs, a 14 percentage-point increase.

“Just picking my spots,” Lillard said of his improved finishing at the rim. “I said it all throughout the regular season that I knew my finishing would come around. Part of it was picking my spots better and another part was just me growing over the course of the season like I said I would.”

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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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