Shootaround Notes: RoLo’s Hook, Uphill Battles And Making One Play

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

After spending much of the last two days talking about the legacy of a coaching legend and the racist comments of the Clippers owner, it was nice to get back to talking about basketball at Portland’s shootaround this morning at the Toyota Center. After splitting Games 3 and 4 in Portland, the Trail Blazers return to Houston with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the Rockets with a victory Wednesday night (tipoff at 6:30 PM on KGW, TNT and 620 AM).

Some notes from shootaround …

— LaMarcus Aldridge describes it as “unorthodox.” Nicolas Batum says it’s “old school.” And Joel Freeland just calls it “effective.”

They are all talking about Robin Lopez’s hook shot, of course. And if you’ve seen Lopez’s hook before, you know why there’s varying ways of describing the most recognizable move in his offensive repertoire, which he developed as a young lad in Fresno, CA.

“It just happened playing in the driveway with my brothers,” said Lopez of the origins of his hook shot.

Though calling it a “hook shot” might be a bit of a misnomer. After all, there’s very little “hook” involved in Lopez’s hook shot. It’s more of a full arm extension followed by a flick of the wrist than a hook.

“I just tried to develop it to where it’s pretty difficult to block,” said Lopez. “Just flip the ball in. People have called it kind of a slingshot or catapult kind of thing.”

According to NBA.com/stats, Lopez made 45 of his 96 hook shots this season, a 47 percent clip. His most effective move is the driving hook shot, with the center from Stanford hitting six of the seven such hooks he took this season. He shot 6 of 10 on jump hooks, 2 of 6 on running hooks and 6 of 16 on turnaround hooks.

“I’ve never studied it, but it works well for him because he’s so tall,” said Aldridge of RoLo’s hook. “I think he just works at getting up high where other bigs can’t get to it. I think it works out for him.”

“I think he’s the only one, other than Marc Gasol, to use this old school hook shot,” said Batum. “It’s working. That gave me a lot of assists!”

As for the postseason, NBA.com/stats has Lopez down for just four hook shots, with just one make, though both of those numbers seem low. Lopez is in no way looking for his own shot, but any chance he has to score plays a small role negating Howard’s production on the offensive end. Howard is one of the premier shot blockers in the league, so it would stand to reason that Lopez might have used his hook more times than the NBA has counted, though even Lopez himself doesn’t know when he’s going to break out his hook.

“I never try to make a conscious effort to use it,” said Lopez. “It just kind of happens.”

— Even though the Trail Blazers have three chances to get a win and move on to the second round for the first time since 2000, head coach Terry Stotts says that in no way alters their approach to Game 5 tonight in Houston.

“Our mindset really hasn’t changed from game to game,” said Stotts. “It’s a hard-fought series every possession. All the cliches you want. Our mindset hasn’t changed at all.”

The 1995 Houston Rockets were one of the few teams that have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a playoff series, so the fact that they’ve done it before, albeit nearly 20 years ago, is sure to keep both teams engaged. The Rockets can look to that team for inspiration, while the Trail Blazers can look to the Suns team that lose to the Rockets in 1995 as a cautionary tale.

“We know they’re going to come out and compete, they’re going to play hard,” said Damian Lillard of the Rockets. “Your back is kind of up against the wall because this could be it. As a team, we’ve got to understand where they are as far as their season being on the line, being on their home floor. Maybe they’re thinking we win one here, go steal one in Portland and we can come back home. We’ve got to do our best not to let that happen. It’s an uphill battle for them and we’ve got to make it as hard as possible.”

— With the as tight as the games between the Trail Blazers and Rockets have been in this Western Conference four/five first-round series, the importance of valuing every possession has taken on an added significance. That’s especially true for players like Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland and Will Barton who haven’t seen a lot of playing time in this series.

“Whenever my name is called, just trying to be ready,” said Robinson, who finished his six minutes of playing time in Game 4

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with a +3. “That’s all. Whether it’s five minutes, one minute, 30 minutes, try to go out there and give a real good effort, help my team out.”

For the starters and players like Mo Williams and Dorell Wright, guys who have received regular minutes thus far in the postseason, there’s usually multiple chances to have an impact on the outcome of the game. But for the little used players who might see less than a minute of game action, there’s no time to get acclimated. They need to be ready whenever their called and prepared to make a player fresh off the bench. In this series, that could very well be the difference between a win and a loss.

“I helped my team, even if I made one play,” said Robinson. “What I have noticed in the playoffs is every play really does count. All these games are coming down to overtime, one possession games, free throw misses. They’re coming down to the wire, so everything does matter. I’m doing anything I can do. I can make a play with a minute on the court. If I do that, I’ve helped my team.”

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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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