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
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.”