The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 42-19 on the season and 24-8 at home with a 102-78 wire-to-wire victory against the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night in front of a sellout crowd of 20,043 at the Moda Center.
“A really good bounce back win for us, especially going out on the road,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “After the Laker game and a disappointment with how we played, it was a good defensive effort. We shared the ball. Just an all-around good game for us in a lot of ways.”
After getting off to one of their worst starts in recent memory Monday night in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Trail Blazers looked determined to make sure the issue wouldn’t repeat itself on Wednesday.
“We were playing against a similar team [to the Lakers],” said Wesley Matthews. “They shoot threes, they run, they get up in transition. They have a lot of guys who can shoot at a high clip. If they get hot, if you give any team confidence in this league, anything can happen. We just saw that against the Lakers. We wanted to correct ourselves on what we did the other night and we were able to do that.”
Portland held Atlanta to just 23 percent shooting in the first quarter one on side of the ball while shooting 46 percent on the other. The Trail Blazers also won the first quarter rebounding battle 15-10, all of which helped the home team take a 29-19 lead into the second quarter.
Things only got worse for the Hawks in the second half. Playing without All-Star power forward Paul Milsap (knee), Atlanta struggled to find consistent scoring, following up a five field goals in the first quarter with just six in the second.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers shot an impressive 7 of 15 from the three-point line and continued to stretch their rebounding advantage thanks in part to Nicolas Batum, who pulled down 13 rebound in the first half (the Hawks as a team only had 19). By time the intermission arrived, Portland had a 56-38 victory despite LaMarcus Aldridge going 0 of 6 in the first half.
“My timing is just off,” said Aldridge, who finished the night 1 for 13 from the field. “Since coming back, I haven’t felt like my timing has been great. I was really trying to find it in my minutes that I was out there and they were double-teaming some and were trying to dig a lot, so I was trying to force the issue on my rhythm, but I definitely didn’t find it tonight. I’ll find it tomorrow at practice.”
Even with Aldridge struggling, the Trail Blazers would come out early in the third quarter to put the Hawks away for good. Portland would lead by as many as 24 in the third and 29 in the fourth, allowing for Stotts to keep all of his starters under 30 minutes while still coasting to a comfortable victory.
“There was a lot to like,” said Stotts. “We rebounded the ball well, we took away transition. When we switched their pick and rolls I thought LA in particular and our big guys did a good job of containing Teague in his penetration. Our rim protection, when he did penetrate, Robin [Lopez] or LA or Meyers [Leonard] was there.”
With the game well in hand, the only suspense in the second half was whether Kyle Korver’s streak of 127 consecutive games with a made three-pointer would come to an end. But with the game all but decided, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer opted to keep Korver on the bench rather than chase what is already an NBA record.
“He’s a competitive guy,” said Budenholzer of Korver. “He’s going to want to be ready to play our next game. It’s a heck of a streak. We all feel fortunate to be part of it. He’s an amazing competitor, an amazing shooter and we’ll all move on.”
The Hawks shot just 4 of 27 as a team from three, with Korver missing all five of his attempts while being hounded defensively by Matthews.
“Just make it uncomfortable for him,” said Matthews of his approach to guarding Korver. “He likes space. I had the pleasure to be on the other side when he was on my team in Utah and I saw what happened when he got space. Kyle can light it up any given night and I was trying to make sure it wasn’t tonight.”
Batum went as far as calling Matthews Korver’s “boyfriend” for the night, in that wherever Korver went, Matthews went, too.
“It was just a bad game all around for us,” said Korver. “I’m a little bummed for sure, but it was good while it lasted. I think someday we’ll look back on it and be proud, but obviously it was just a tough game all around for us and that was part of it.”
While one noteworthy streak came to an end, Batum’s run of double-digit rebounding games continued unabated with the forward setting a new career-high with 18 boards.
“Like I’ve been saying the last two games, just try to crash the boards a little more than I used to,” said Batum, who has pulled down 49 rebounds in his last three games. “I try help the big inside because he does a good job protecting the rim. Sometimes Robin tries to block the shot so I have to rotate and get a rebound.”
With his career-high, Batum becomes the fifth Trail Blazers since 1985 and the seventh player in the NBA this year to put up three straight games of at least 15 rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers begin a five-game road trip in Dallas versus the Mavericks.
“It’s going to be a really tough road trip for us,” said Aldridge, “but if we go out and take care of business and keep playing defense like we did tonight, anything is possible.”
Tipoff is scheduled 5:30 PM
Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is currently holding his annual youth basketball camp in Beaverton, and unlike some of these events put on by other players, Lillard is there actually there working with the kids every day. If you send your child to the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp, he or she is going to meet Damian Lillard.
But even though the focus is on the kids, Lillard took a few minutes to take questions from the media about the camp, his recent trip to Asia, working with Special Olympics, the upcoming free agent signing period on his involvement with recruiting and why he declined to to play for Team USA.
Regarding the Damian Lillard Basketball Camp experience…
“When I get up there and speak, I tell them ‘Make sure you thank your parents, make sure you listen to the coaches, follow their instructions, be coachable, work hard.’ Just simple things like that, a lot of basic things that could teach them a lot more than how simple it is, things like that. Just being here and having a presence is the biggest thing. The session that you guys just watched, it’s something that I’ve enjoyed because it allows me to kind of break apart the game for the kids. For them it might be a little bit boring, but it’s 10 minutes of the day where they get to listen and see what’s going on, that it’s deeper than just a pass and a shot. Some of them are probably too young to follow it as well as the older ones, but I think it’s something that you can really teach them at a young age.”
On his relationship with Special Olympics…
“When I was 17, when I first got on campus at Weber State, it was a mandatory thing, we did a one day camp with Special Olympics. The first day I kind of just went in there, I didn’t really know much about it. But then I saw that some of them, they wanted to play against us and they could actually play. They had as much passion with the game as I did, they really enjoyed our company. I’ll never forget, it was a random day like months after the Special Olympics event and there was a kid — I’ll never forget his name — Jason Depper. I was at the mall and he walked up to me at the mall like ‘Remember I made that shot on you?’ and I was just like ‘That’s funny.’ It had that type of impact on him. I’ve been involved ever since.”
On his recent trip through Asia with adidas…
“It was fun, did some pop-ups at stores. I went to some 3-on-3 tournaments, watched a lot of kids play. They’re playing so they can all make it to Beijing and it’s like a super tournament over there right now. I did some promotion for my shoes and things like that, I went back to a store that I opened up after my rookie year in Taipei, I went back to Manila. We did a huge event there, I got to get in the three-point shootout, they let me perform a couple times over there. It was kind of on the spot performances, but I had a lot of fun.”
Why he decided not to be a part of the 2016 Olympic team…
“It was simple: the last three months of the season I played with plantar fasciitis and it really bothered me. There was days the games seemed like the only time I could play, and that was adrenaline and two hours of treatment before the game. I didn’t want to go into next season dealing with it. I actually really wanted to play and I was really close to saying ‘Just forget it, I’m going to go’ but I didn’t want to go to Rio and come back a month before training camp and my foot still be bothering me, then I can’t give what I want to give to my team. That was just more important to me.”
On free agency…
“I think there’s some guys out there that can really help take our team to the next level. I really like the guys we have, too. I’m a strong believer that if guys go home and get better over the summer, we come back, we’ll be that much better. We’ll continue to get better. But my job is to make sure that I’m prepared and when I’m asked about a player that can help us, I’m going to give my honest opinion. That’s my duty to our team.”
His thoughts on Portland’s free agency plan…
“I’m excited, because it’s not hard to see… Our whole roster could look at free agency and say ‘This guy could help us, this guy could help us.’ It’s just a matter of how bad they want to be here, what we have to offer compared to what they would like. We’ll see where it goes. I have no doubt that our team is going to be ready regardless of who we bring in, who we don’t bring in. We’ll come back ready.”
Whether he’s going to help recruit free agents in person…
“Maybe. Maaaaaaybe… I might. To help our team, of course.”
Regarding what he’d tell free agents who might have “red flags” about joining Portland’s locker room…
“When I speak to these guys, I’m going to tell them what it is with our team on how we do things, what will be tolerated and what won’t. If we happen to get someone that has red flags, we don’t know for sure if that’s ‘he said, she said’ or if it’s real or if it’s the situation or people around him or what. But if it comes to our culture and our individual, it will be addressed. Nobody going to back down to nobody, let somebody come in here and think something is going to change, because it’s not. That’s not just me. I’m going to be the first one to say something because that’s just what it is. I know CJ (McCollum) is going to back that up and each guy down the line is going to back that up. We show up every day to practice to work, we show up on time, we hold each other accountable, we allow our teammates to hold us accountable and that’s the bottom line. We don’t do cute stuff, we show up and do what we’ve got to do and that’s it. If you don’t want to do it, it’s not going to work.”
Greetings fans of NBA offseason news. With the 2106 Draft now completed and the free agent moratorium less than 48 away, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record yet another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
This week, Trail Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard joins the show to discuss his travels around Oregon this offseason, rehabbing from the shoulder surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season, “sprint mechanics” and his upcoming restricted free agency. As for the rest of the show, we briefly recap Portland’s draft night, which netted the team Maryland forward Jake Layman, discuss what we know about the negotiations regarding the team’s television rights and discuss the unpredictability that is free agency.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.