The Portland Trail Blazers had a five-game overall winning streak and a five-game road winning streak snapped Wednesday night in Minneapolis with a 120-109 loss to the Timberwolves at the Target Center.
The Trail Blazers looked like a team playing their fourth game in five nights, falling behind by as many as 32 before going into the halftime break trailing 69-43.
“Obviously the first half was terrible,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Minnesota played terrific. They had everything going in transition. We gave up too much in the first half and dug too deep of a hole. I was pleased with the way we competed in the second half. We came back and made it a game. We cut it to 10 and they made the threes, but the first half was a tough one.”
Nothing the Trail Blazers defensively seemed to bother the Timberwolves, as they shot 59 percent from the field in the first half thanks in large part to going 27 of 34 on points in the paint in the first half.
“We let them get too many easy baskets,” said Damian Lillard. “In the first half I think they had 40 or 50 points in the paint. It wasn’t just them going past us, it was us letting them get out in transition, us not finding guys. They were comfortable doing what they do well and we didn’t take them out of their comfort zone and they scored a bunch of points.”
Portland would make a push to start the second half, cutting the lead to 10 with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. But the Timberwolves would finish the quarter on an 18-8 run to extend the lead to back to 19.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable lead, the Trail Blazers, particularly Lillard, refused to go down quietly. Lillard would score nine points, all on three-pointers, to help Portland cut the lead to five with 46 seconds to play. But Minnesota would close the game out with six-straight free throw makes between Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin to ice the 11-point victory.
“We got good looks, we had open shots, we made good plays.” said Lillard. “We just didn’t make the shots. When you’re not making shots you’ve got to find a way to get it done on the other end. By the time we started to actually get it done on that end and make some shots, we were digging ourselves out of a hole. That made it that much tougher. We fought back – I think we cut it to five. If we had done a better job in the first half we would have never been in that position. They deserved to win.”
Lillard finished with 36 points, two short of his career-high, on 13 of 24 shooting while adding six assists, six rebounds and three steals in 41 minutes.
Nicolas Batum ended the night with 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks in the losing effort.
LaMarcus Aldridge struggled from the field but still managed a double double of 15 points and 14 assists to go along with three assists and a steal.
“It was just one of those nights,” said Aldridge of his seven of 22 shooting performance. “Couldn’t throw a rock in a lake if I tried to, if I was standing in the water. It was just one of those nights where my legs weren’t under me and I couldn’t make any shots. Once you go down that path of not making shots, it just motivates you a little.”
Wesley Matthews rounded out Portland’s double-digit scorers with 16 points.
The Timberwolves were led by Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic, who combined for 59 points and 24 rebounds on 24 of 37 shooting.
“(Love) was looking like George Gervin passing the ball out there,” said Aldridge. “He definitely played great, he led his team tonight.”
With the loss, Portland finishes the four-game trip 3-1, though there was no celebration in the post-game locker room, with some players pointing out that, given the nature of the wins against the Cavaliers and Pistons, the the trip could have easily finished 1-3.
“We’ve got to grow up and continue to play like the hunted,” said Matthews, who described Portland’s record on the trip
as a “mad” 3-1. “We’ve got to keep playing hungry, we’ve got to know that we’re going to get every team’s best shot. People are getting up to play against us and we’ve got to rise to the challenge. We’ve got to embrace the fact that our record is what it is and not just expect to win every game.”
After four games on the road in five nights, Portland now played their next four at home over the course of nine days, starting with the Pelicans at the Moda Center on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.
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.”
OAKLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers had roughly 36 hours to prepare for Game One of their Western Conference Semifinals matchup versus the Golden State Warriors after eliminating the Clippers in Game Six at the Moda Center on Friday night. There was only so much film they could watch, only so many Warriors-specific plays they could learn before a 12:30 pm tipoff Sunday afternoon in Oakland.
That was a reality reflected in Portland’s performance to start the game, as they made just five field goals and trailed by as many as 20 in the first quarter before going on to lose 118-106 to the top-seeded Warriors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 at Oracle Arena.
“Certainly wasn’t the start we wanted,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to get off to such a poor start. Our offense, we had trouble scoring. Their defense got into us. It was just — we struggled at both ends, and probably more so on the offensive end, which fed into their defense. They had second chance point, they had fast-break points. It was a little bit of everything.”
The Warriors now lead the series 1-0 with Game Two scheduled for Tuesday.
“To start the game, we played like a team playing it’s second game in 30 hours,” said CJ McCollum. “We can’t start like that, especially here.”
The good news is the Trail Blazers improved as the game went on. Portland shot 52 percent from the field an 67 percent from three in the second quarter, utilizing small lineups that featured Maurice Harkless at “center” to eventually outscore Golden State 34-28 in the quarter. The Trail Blazers managed to cut the Warriors’ lead to single digits on numerous occasions before the half but were never able to keep the deficit in check for more than a possession or two, allowing the home team to take a 14-point lead into the intermission.
The Warriors, playing without reigning MVP Stephen Curry, who is sidelined with a sprained right MCL, would reestablish their dominance in the third quarter, holding Portland to 9-of-27 shooting from the field and a particularly stingy 1-of-8 from three. Between their defense and shooting 50 percent from both the field and three in the quarter, Golden State took a 26-point lead, their largest of the night, before heading into the fourth up 93-73.
Portland was able to give the final score an air of respectability by outscoring Golden State 33-25 in the fourth, but never realistically threatened the defending champs before the final buzzer. And while there was little to like about their Game One performance, the Trail Blazers can take some comfort in knowing they were able to bounce back from a rough start in the first round to win their series versus the Clippers.
“We got beat pretty soundly in Game One against the Clippers and we made some adjustments, we played a little bit better and got better as the series went along, and we need to do the same thing,” said Stotts. “So we’ll watch the video, see what we can come up with for Game Two. But there’s no question that we have to play better and learn from Game One like we did with the Clippers.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who finished with 30 points, five assists and four steals in 41 minutes. CJ McCollum added 12 points, three rebounds and three assists in 40 minutes. Portland’s starting backcourt combined to shoot 13-of-43 from the field, with many of those makes coming when the game was already out of reach.
“We’ve just got to be better,” said Lillard, who said he’s been battling a chest cold the last few days (and sounded like it when answer questions postgame). “I got some looks that I need to make, CJ did as well. We just got to be better offensively if we want to have a chance against this team.”
Al-Farouq Aminu shot 6-of-13 from the field and 3-of-8 from three for 15 points in 25 minutes. Harkless added 10 points and three rebounds, with Mason Plumlee grabbing a game-high 13 boards.
Allen Crabbe continued his strong play as of late, going 6-of-9 from the field for 15 points and five rebounds in 33 minutes. Ed Davis went 5-of-6 from the field to finish with 11 points and seven rebounds before fouling out in 18 minutes.
Gerald Henderson finished with five points and three rebounds in 16 minutes before being ejected after getting receiving two technicals for arguing with Warriors center Anderson Varejao, who was also ejected.
The Warriors were led by Klay Thompson, who shot 50 percent from both the field and three to finish with a game-high 37 points to go along with five rebounds in 37 minutes.
“We’ve got to do a better job, starting with me if I’m guarding (Thompson),” said McCollum. “Got to make sure I’m pacing better and making him curl. Hard hedges got to be there, especially if it’s Bogut or somebody setting setting that screen where he’s not really a good shooter. We’ve got to make sure we make them pay for that.”
Draymond Green put up a triple-double of 23 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists in 37 minutes. Shaun Livingston added 12 points and with both Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut finishing with 10 points.
Next up, the Trail Blazers will try to regroup before heading back to Oracle for Game Two on Tuesday.
“I got some looks that I usually would have made that I didn’t knock down,” said Lillard. “So next game, I look forward to the challenge again. At this point in the season, all that matters is winning. You either win or you lose; you advance or you go home. At this point, we’re just trying to fix things and make sure that our season keeps going.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm.