Suns Pound The Paint To Beat Trail Blazers In Season Opener

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
3 years ago

PHOENIX– After being statistically one of the best defense teams during the preseason, the Portland Trail Blazers began the regular season by allowing the Phoenix Suns shoot 52 percent from the field, leading to a 104-91 opening-night loss at US Airways Center.

“Well, the Phoenix Suns outplayed us,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They were ready from the get-go, they got out and ran. All the things that we’ve been working on, we had a setback today. Transition defense, we were slow reacting to that. Their guards did a good job of penetrating; we gave up too many shots at the rim. We didn’t necessarily shoot the ball well in the first half, but we battled back. We were in a position to win the game with three minutes to go, it was a five-point game. They outplayed us.”

After spending the bulk of training camp focusing on defense, the Suns jumped out to a 30-16 first quarter lead thanks in large part to second-year center Miles Plumlee, who scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter while helping the Suns outscore Portland 18-4 in the paint. Phoenix would eventually finish the game with a 52-24 advantage on the paint.

“I thought Bledsoe and Dragic made some tough shots in the paint,” said Stotts. “Miles Plumlee, I would imagine that might have been a career game for him. They passed the ball well then they got to the paint, the finished well when they got there. They made some tough shots but I thought we could have done a better job as well.”

Phoenix shot 60 percent from the field and scored 11 fastbreak points in the first quarter to set an unfortunate precedent.

“I think we let them come out, punch us in the mouth a little bit,” said Robin Lopez, who finished with three points and two rebounds. “They came out as the aggressors. I don’t think we really reacted until some time in the second quarter. By then it was too late. I think they had 30 in the first, something like that, and that’s too many points in a quarter, let alone to start off a game.”

The Trail Blazers would rally at the end of the second quarter thanks to three-straight three-pointers by Damian Lillard to cut Phoenix’s lead to four going into the half, but the Suns would answer with a 12-0 run early in the third to reassert control.

“They made plays. We fought back and got back into it and they had guys that made plays tonight,” said LaMarcus Aldridge. “Bledsoe played great, the big fella down low, Plumlee, played great. I thought they had guys that made plays tonight. We came out a little bit slow and they were home and it’s their opener and they have a bunch of new players, young players who are getting their first opportunity to play, to start. They just had more energy than us. We fought back but it just wasn’t enough.”

Portland would get to within five after a Lillard three-pointer and a Robin Lopez free throw with 3:15 to play, but Phoenix would score the last eight points to come away with a 13-point win.

“I got a little worried there when it got down to five, especially with a young team to see how they react,” said Suns first-year head coach Jeff Hornacek. “But they made a couple nice stops. That is the key for us. When we get stops, we are able to fast break. We had a pretty good transition. I think it was that one play that Eric ended up throwing it all the way down to Goran that really helped to separate at the end. Our guys played defense. I thought they did a great job together playing together.”

Damian Lillard lead all scorers with 32 points on 10-of-20 shooting. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 28 points, four rebounds and two assists. No other Trail Blazer scored in double figures.

“We need more people that just Damian and LaMarcus scoring, but again, with our emphasis on defense we’re going to have nights where not everybody can score,” said Stotts. “It was deflating that the progress we had made in the preseason wasn’t there tonight.”

Nicolas Batum grabbed 13 rebounds in addition to seven points and four assists. Wesley Matthews finished with nine points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Suns guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe combined to score 48 points, while Plumlee and P.J. Tucker added 18 points apiece.

The Trail Blazers now travel to Denver for a Friday night game against the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.

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Podcast: The Rip City Report, Finalized Roster Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

Greetings podcast enthusiasts. Between CJ McCollum getting an extension and Moe Harkless signing a new deal, Portland’s roster for the start of the 2016-17 regular season is all but finalized. So it seemed like a good time to hit the studio with Joe Freeman of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…

On this edition, we discuss the near-max extension for McCollum and the four-year, roughly $40 million contract for Harkless, which directions Terry Stotts might go in terms of starting lineups and minutes allocations, the news that both Al-Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli will forego playing for Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics, give a quick rundown of the preseason schedule and answer your Twitter-submitted questions.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. Thanks as always for listening.

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VIDEO: McCollum Brothers Talk Tournament, Who’s Mom’s Favorite on ESPN

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

Last weekend, Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and his older brother, Errick, were guests on ESPN’s SportsCenter to discuss, amongst other things, The Basketball Tournament, which is billed as a “open application, 5-on-5, single-elimination, winner-take-all basketball tournament” in which the winning team takes home $2 million in prize money. Errick’s team, Overseas Elite, won the tournament last year and are in the finals, which airs Tuesday at 4 PM Pacific on ESPN, again this year.

But the tournament wasn’t the only topic of conversation, as any time you get two brothers together, you’re contractually obligated to ask them which is mom’s favorite. One one had, CJ still lives with his mom, so you might assume he’s the got the No. 1 son ranking sewn up, but it sounds like Errick was the much better behaved child and mom’s tend to have long memories, so it sounds like it’s a bit of a tossup.

 

“CJ, he was a good kid,” said Errick, “he just liked to get into things. He was really physical. She couldn’t take him around any other kids or he would, like, get into little altercations with them because he just played too rough.”

Sounds about right.

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Stotts Talks Super Teams And Suits On The Doug Gottlieb Show

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
5 days ago

On Thursday, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was a guest on The Doug Gottlieb Show on CBS Sports Radio. Over the 15 minute conversation, Stotts discusses LeBron James saying he would have been his pick for 2016 NBA Coach of the Year, Kevin Durant signing as a free agent with the Golden State Warriors, the notion of “super teams” in the NBA, having confidence in your players and his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive.

You can listen to the entire interview here, though I’m transcribed a portion which you can read below…

On LeBron James saying Stotts should have been Coach of the Year:
“To be honest, it felt pretty good. I have a lot of respect obviously for LeBron, what he does and what he’s done in his career, but for him to come out and say that, it made me feel good.”

On Cleveland winning the NBA Finals after being down 3-1 to Golden State:
“Obviously it was historical. A lot of things went into it, but when a team can do that and to win two games on the road being down 3-1, it’s really remarkable. It just put an end to a historical season as it was with Golden State and what they did during the regular season, the way they came back against Oklahoma City and then for Cleveland to do that, it was just remarkable. I thought it was a remarkable season to begin with and it finished that way.”

On Kevin Durant signing with the Warriors:
“My first reaction was he earned the right to be a free agent. I know a lot of thought went into it and it wasn’t a decision that he took lightly. I know he took a lot of criticism for making that decision but I think he earned that right to make whatever decision he felt was best for him. I think it’s going to be interesting with Golden State. Obviously defending them is going to be a challenge because — we talked about versatility — they were already an extremely talented offensive team and he’s going to make them better. They’re going to be a different team than they were last year, they’re not going to have the big guys. When you lose Festus Ezeli, who is on our team now, and Andre Bogut and Maurice Speights, the look of their frontline is going to be different. But I think they could be just as good just because of what they’ll be able to do at the offensive end.”

His thoughts on “super teams” in the NBA:
“You know, I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the league. I’ve just kind of accepted that that’s the way things are. I know people have made comparisons when LeBron went to Miami and that was supposedly the first super team and they won two championships, but it’s not like there was a five year, seven year run dynasty. When you get out on the court, you still have to play the games. Obviously Golden State is going to be very good, but you’ve got to play an 82-game season, you’ve got to go through four series to win a championship. I think the league does thrive on star power, whether it’s star power within a team or having a team be a star. I don’t know, I think the league is doing extremely well, I think it’s extremely popular. I think this is just another story that people are going to be interested in.”

On having confidence in shooters like Allen Crabbe and CJ McCollum:
“I’m a big believer in confidence when shooting. It probably goes back to my freshman year in college when I didn’t know whether to shoot or (laughs) you know the phrase. But anyway, I’m a big believer in confidence and Allen and CJ are two different categories. CJ struggled with injuries his first two years and was trying to get incorporated into a roster that was winning 50 games and never really got into a rhythm. I think shooting is about rhythm and confidence. Same thing for AC, really, is that he did have opportunities to play in his first two years but he was playing behind Wes Matthews and Nic Batum and his opportunities on the court were limited. When you’re looking over your shoulder and trying not to make mistakes and putting pressure on (yourself) to make a shot, it’s difficult. I really give it to CJ and Allen, they were ready for this year and they were prepared for it, the opportunity was going to be there. But I think that a lot of players — and you know, you played — is that if the coach trusts me, I’m going to play better. Whether I trusted them or not their first two years, certainly their opportunity was there and I trusted them with the role that they were going to have.”

On his participation in the Men’s Wearhouse National Suit Drive:
“Every year what I do is I go through the closet and knowing that I’m going to get some suits in the fall, I go through and weed out the older ones. There’s certain ones that I do kind of have a special place in my heart for them, but other than that, I just take some of the older suits and the Men’s Wearhouse has a great program with the suit drive to give away suits to people who can use them. I’m kind of a bigger guy so hopefully there’s some big guys out there who are able to take advantage of them.”

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