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
The Trail Blazers held shootaround Tuesday morning at the Olympic Club in downtown San Fransisco in preparation for tonight’s Game Two of the Western Conference semifinal matchup versus the Warriors at Oracle Arena (tipoff scheduled for 7:30 pm on TNT and 620 AM). Some notes from shootaround…
• The Trail Blazers, after losing badly in Game One of their first round series versus the Clippers, made a host of adjustments going into Game Two. Whether it was having Al-Farouq Aminu guard Chris Paul, using Mason Plumlee to initiate more of the offense or giving spot minutes to Chris Kaman, Terry Stotts and is staff came up with a number of ways to mitigate L.A.’s advantages, which ultimately helped the Trail Blazers go on to win the series in six games.
So after the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the the Warriors in Game One of their second round series on Sunday afternoon, one might have assumed that Portland would once again make wholesale changes in time for Game Two Tuesday night at Oracle Arena. Turns out, that isn’t necessarily the case. While the Trail Blazers are sure to try a few different things, their adjustments will likely be a change of approach rather than tactics.
“The short answer to that is a little bit less only because it’s such a different style,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of whether he’d be make more or less adjustments versus the Warriors. “So the adjustments that we’re making for this series is just trying to adjust from playing a team that’s so different than the team that we just played six games. Clippers play a different style of game, and that’s the adjustment we have to make.”
That difference in styles between the Clippers and Warriors makes Portland’s preparation for Game Two a bit more abstract than it was in the last series. The Warriors tend to play more of a freewheeling brand of basketball than the Clippers, which requires more nuanced adjustments on Portland’s end.
“I would say fewer adjustments for sure, because they play basketball,” said Mason Plumlee. “There aren’t a whole lot of plays, they exploit what they see as their playing the game. So it’s not a whole lot of scouting of plays, it’s more tendencies and personnel.”
The changes that worked versus the Clippers not necessarily working versus the Warriors is more proof of the individuality of every playoff series. The situations might be somewhat similar, but that doesn’t mean the solutions are the same.
“Everybody keeps drawing comparisons; you’ve got to let that last series go,” said Plumlee. “Every series is new, they’re a better team. This series is completely different so we have to make a point to come out and win this next game. I don’t think you can count on them getting up 2-0 and then giving you four-straight, so this next game is a big one.”
• When the Warriors went to their small lineups in Game One, the Trail Blazers countered by doing the same, with varying degrees of success. Portland played multiple lineups during the course of Sunday afternoon’s loss that have rarely been on the court together this season, if at all, including a five-man group that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” surrounded by four guards.
But Golden State has extensive experience utilizing small lineups, at least relative to Portland, and with the personnel on their roster reflecting that reality. So it’s debatable just how much the Trail Blazers should try to match those units rather than trying to take advantage of a size advantage.
“I’ll be dating myself, but when Seattle beat Golden State back in ’92, ’93, something like that, and (Don Nelson) was playing small ball and George (Karl) stayed big with Benoit Benjamin and Derrick McKey and Shawn Kemp. So (Seattle) beat (Golden State) playing to their strengths. I think the important thing is that you play to your strengths more than anything else.”
Stotts will likely continue to give some nontraditional lineups a try when the Warriors go small, but it’ll be just as important for their standard lineups to fare better than they did in Game One, particularly after giving up 16 offensive rebounds, which led to 17 second-chance points.
Said Mason Plumlee: “I think a way to punish them when they go small is to own the glass, get second-chance points and finish everything inside.”
• Though no one in the media knew about it until he answered questions in a decidedly raspy voice after Game One, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has been battling a significant chest cold for roughly the last week. While it stands to reason that an athlete, especially one playing at the highest level, would be affected negatively by such an illness, Lillard refused to blame the infirmaty for his less-than-stellar performance Sunday afternoon at Oracle Arena.
“I actually felt pretty good,” said Lillard. “Obviously being clogged up inside, it has you a little bit more winded than usual. There’s no excuses. The bottom line is my team needs me to perform better than I did.”
And it sounds, literally, like Lillard’s lungs won’t be as much of an issue in Game Two. The 6-3 point guard in his fourth season out of Weber State didn’t exactly sound like his normal self prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he said he’s making progress toward feeling better and didn’t sound as though his chest was on fire when making said proclamation.
“I feel better,” said Lillard. “Obviously still trying to shake it. That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing the last two days, just trying to do different stuff to make myself feel better for tonight.”
Greetings from San Fransisco. After the Trail Blazers lost 118-106 to the Warriors in Game One of their Western Conference semifinal series, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, grabbed a couple mics to record the first second round edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which is now available for your afternoon listening…
On this edition, we discuss Sunday afternoon’s loss, Portland’s tough start and whether there’s anything positive to be taken from the last three quarters, dealing with Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the eventual return of Stephen Curry and if there any similarities between Sunday’s game and Game One versus the Clippers. We also answer a host of questions about Allen Crabbe, the enthusiasm at Oracle Arena, the quick turnaround from Game Six to the second Game One and give some tips on packing for regular business travel. And we also start the show off with some bad Mike Meyers impersonations. Sorry about that.
Even at full strength, the Trail Blazers were having a hard time keeping up with the Golden State Warriors in the first game of their second round, best-of-seven playoff series. But that task got significantly harder after reserve guard Gerald Henderson, who is averaging 7.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists in the 2016 postseason, was ejected after a series of altercations with Warriors center Anderson Varejao that occurred late in the third quarter of Portland’s 118-106 loss Sunday night at Oracle Arena.
The first incident took place at the 3:29 mark of the third. Henderson and Varejao collided during the run of play, sending Varejao tumbling to the floor. As he was falling, he seemed to extend his leg out in an effort to trip Henderson, which ultimately proved successful. Henderson immediately got off the floor and into Varejao’s face, prompting the officials to call assess technicals to both players.
“I bumped him — not on purpose — he tripped me on purpose,” said Henderson. “I fell hard, I didn’t like it, so came together, that’s what happens.”
But that wouldn’t be the end of the tete-a-tete between Henderson and Varejao. Though Varejao was on the bench, that didn’t stop him and Henderson from continuing their less than cordial discussion, which the officials apparently noticed, as both players were once again awarded technicals, resulting in double ejections.
“The ref threw me out from across the way. I guess he could hear what I was saying from across the court,” said Henderson. “We were talking since the first technicals happened, but there’s a lot of talking going on out there. For both of us to get kicked out of the game, it was surprising.”
Despite the tense moments, Henderson said postgame that there was no lingering animosity while noting that he was more mad at himself than at Varejao.
“I been put it behind me,” said Henderson, who finished with five points and three assists in just under 17 minutes. “We lost the game, that’s the only thing that matters. I was pissed I got thrown out, we still had a chance to win the game. I got ejected, I’ve got to be smarter, regardless of if I thought I should have got kicked out or not.”