Trail Blazers Drop Consecutive Games For First Time This Season With Loss In New Orleans

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

The Portland Trail Blazers started a back-to-back road trip Monday night with a 110-108 loss to the Pelicans at New Orleans Arena.

Damian Lillard tied the game at 108-108 on a 27-foot three-pointer with 10 seconds to play. But on the ensuing possession, Pelicans’ guard Tyreke Evans hit a 14-foot fadeaway jumper with 1.2 seconds remaining in regulation to give New Orleans the lead.

Portland would have one last look, with Nicolas Batum finding LaMarcus Aldridge on the baseline, but Anthony Davis, who blocked two of Aldridge’s shots on the night, forced Aldridge into a tough shot that went off the top of the backboard as time expired.

“Had a couple of options,” said Aldridge explain the last play. “Looked at Wes on the back screen. I actually thought Wes was open for a second so I kind of stood there and I guess both of the guys went with Wes then I was open. (Batum) threw it to me. (Davis) is athletic so I tired to pump fake him at first to see if I could get him off the ground. He really didn’t jump, so I just shot it.”

The Trail Blazers have now lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

While the game wasn’t ultimately decided until the final seconds of regulation, the Trail Blazers put themselves in a tough position to win the game in the first half by giving up 40 points in the paint.

“We started out too slow,” said Aldridge of Portland’s first half defense. “We started out letting them be very comfortable in the pick and roll. We were letting the guards get to the basket a little bit too much. We turned it on in the second half but we definitely can’t do that anymore. We’ve got to come out and play with the intensity we had in the third and the fourth (quarters) in the first half.”

The Trail Blazers did a better job of limiting penetration in the second half, but were still never able to take the lead, though they did tie the game multiple times in the fourth quarter.

“I liked the way we defended in the second half even though the numbers don’t show it,” said Stotts. “Thought New Orleans made a lot of midrange jump shots. We did a much better job with points in the paint and limiting transition, second chance points, all those things in the second half.”

Even though they were better in the third and fourth quarters, Portland still allowed an opponent to score over 100 points for the ninth-consecutive game.

“We just can’t rely on our offense,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in 38 minutes. “Your offense isn’t going to come with you every night. We have to rely on the fact that we can get stops, we’re able to get stops, and let that fuel our offense. We can’t go in (thinking) we’re going to outscore this team, we’re going to outshoot this team. We have to go in (thinking) that this team is going to be a hell of a night for them trying to score on us.”

Aldridge passed Jim Paxson for fifth on the all-time franchise list in points with 10,027. Aldridge is now behind only Clyde Drexler (18,040), Terry Porter (11,330), Cliff Robinson (10,405) and Jerome Kersey (10,067) on the franchise scoring ledger. Aldridge finished with 28 points on 13 of 24 shooting, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 39 minutes while battling Davis on the defensive end for much of the night.

“He’s competitive, I’m competitive,” said Aldridge of the matchup with Davis, who finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. “I definitely wasn’t trying to let him stop me and I don’t think he wanted me to stop him or to score on him, so we definitely battled. I think when you have two good power forwards in one game, you’re always going to battle.”

Lillard played a game-high 41 minutes and finished with 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Unfortunately his performance was nullified by the play of Pelicans guards Jrue Holiday (31 points, 13 assists, seven rebounds) and Tyreke Evans (20 points, five rebounds and four assists). Evans in particular was especially effective in the first half, scoring 14 of his 20 points on six of seven shots before the halftime intermission.

“We knew coming in that (Evans) wanted to get into the paint,” said Lillard. “That’s another thing, just knowing personnel and knowing what we’ve got to take away from them. Knowing that he wanted to get to his right hand and get to the rim, we should have did a better job of taking that away. Early on we let him get his confidence up and we finally fixed it a little bit in the second half. By that time, he’s believing. He knocked down a jumper to win the game, so we’ve just got to do a better job.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers fly to Oklahoma City to take on the Western Conference leading Thunder on New Year’s Eve while trying to avoid third third-consecutive loss.

“We’ve got 24 wins, we’ve lost seven times,” said Matthews. “We just dropped two in a row, yes, but by no means is this writing anything off. We’re human, but at the same time, we’re not excepting it. All that 24 and seven is great, but we’re pissed off. We were pissed off coming into this game, we’re pissed off about Miami, we’re pissed off now. The beautiful part is we have no one to be mad at but ourselves. Look in the mirror and get ready to bring it tomorrow.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 5 PM.

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Disastrous Fourth Quarter Ruins Portland’s Chance Of Snatching Home Court From Golden State

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
23 hours ago

OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.

But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.

“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”

The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.

“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”

The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.

Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.

“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.

Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.

As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.

“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”

Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.

Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.

“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.

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Shootaround Notes: Fewer Adjustments, Balancing Small Lineups And Lillard Feeling Better

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

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.”

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Podcast: Rip City Report, Second Round, Game One Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

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.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. We’ll talk again after Game Two.

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