SALT LAKE CITY — The Trail Blazers finished their 2013-14 road schedule Friday night in Salt Lake City with a 111-99 victory versus the Utah Jazz in front of a crowd of 19,248 at Energy Solutions Arena.
“It’s good to get a win here,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, who moved to 200 career coaching victories Friday night. “We were disappointed with our defense in the first quarter but I thought we really turned it around in the second and third quarter, defensively. That’s how we need to continue to play. But this place is always a tough place to play. Utah plays hard every time, so it was a quality win for us.”
Portland finishes the regular season with a 23-18 record away from the Moda Center, which is tied for the sixth-best road record in franchise history. With the win, the Trail Blazers sweep the Jazz 4-0 for the first time in franchise history and move to an NBA-best 13-3 in division this season.
“Any time you can sweep a series, it’s good,” said Wesley Matthews, who played his rookie season with the Jazz. “It sets a benchmark and it also sets a tone for seasons to come. The next season, it’s something you remember.”
The win, coupled with a Houston Rockets loss earlier in the night to the Timberwolves, brings the Trail Blazers to within a half game of the fourth seed and the home court advantage in the first round that comes with it. Portland has two games left to play, while Houston has three games remaining.
For a while, it looked like the Trail Blazers might join the Rockets in losing to a team already eliminated for playoff contention. After the teams mostly traded baskets for the first nine minutes of Friday night’s game, the Jazz went on a 14-2 run to end the first quarter and take a 31-23 lead into the second.
But Portland, as they’ve done often times this season, were able to get back into the game thanks to their three-point shooting. Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Mo Williams would combine to go 4 of 9 from three in the second to help Portland outscore Utah 30-20 in the quarter to take a two-point lead into the half. Matthews was particuarly effective late in the quarter, scoring 10 points in the final three minutes of the first half.
‘They put up a fight, as we knew they were going to,” said Matthews. “This is always been a tough place to play. I’m still mad I missed a lot of easy ones still.”
The third quarter was another back-and-forth battle, with neither team able to take a put any meaningful distance between themselves and their opponent. Portland would shoot eight free throws, making seven, in the quarter to just three for Utah, but the Jazz made two three-pointers while the Blazers missed both of their attempts. The end result was a 76-76 tie game going into the final quarter.
But then, it was Lillard Time. After scoring just two points and missing all four of his attempts from the field in the first three quarters, Lillard, playing in front of a considerable number of Weber State fans, hit three three-pointers in a three minute span early in the fourth to lift Portland to a 96-85 lead with 6:28 to play in regulation.
“The first (shot in the fourth quarter) felt real good,” said Lillard. “Once that one felt good, I said, ‘If I get another clean look, I’m going to raise up again,’ and I happened to get a couple more and I hit a couple in a row. I’m just happy it came at a time when we needed it.”
Lillard would finish the quarter with 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from beyond the arc. The second-year point guard now has 463 fourth-quarter points this season, which is second only to Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant.
“Those threes really turned the momentum of the game,” said Stotts. “I don’t think LA was in the game — we had a shooting lineup in. Dame just took it on himself to make something happen.”
After Lillard’s scoring outburst, the Trail Blazes were able to once again trade baskets with the Jazz before turning the game over to the bench with just over a minute to play to cruise to a 12-point victory.
Portland got double-digit scoring nights from all five of their starters, with Matthews leading the way with 21 points on on 6 of 14 shooting.
LaMarcus Aldridge finished with a double-double of 18 points and 14 rebounds to go along with two assists in 34 minutes. Batum turned in a yeoman effort with
15 points, seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in 35 minutes. Robin Lopez took 13 shots and finished the game with 12 points and eight rebounds in 35 minutes.
Portland’s second unit also did their fair share of scoring Friday night. Led by eight-point performances by both Thomas Robinson and Will Barton, Portland’s bench finished the game with 29 points on 11 of 20 shooting.
“The bench has been solid,” said Stotts. “T-Rob, Dorell had good minutes, Will, Mo, we’re kind of sticking with that rotation. I thought they all had quality minutes and did the things we needed them to do.”
Portland now has 52 wins on the season with two game to play and are 7-1 since Aldridge returned to the lineup after missing seven games with a lower back contusion.
“I think we’re coming together at the right time,” said Stotts. “We’ve won seven out of eight, defensively we’ve been locked in, I think our offense is starting to come around again like it was earlier. I think we’re all looking forward to the playoffs and once you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen.
But before that, the Trail Blazers head home to host the Warriors in their penultimate game of the regular season. A win would assure that the Trail Blazers would finish no worse than the fifth seed in the West.
“We just got to stay focused and finish the right way,” said Lillard. “The good thing is that we’re in the playoffs, and we got a couple of big games coming up that could determine a few changes in the seeding. We just got to stay locked in on one game at a time and end the season off the right way.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.
Maryland forward Jake Layman took questions from the Portland media via conference call for the first time Friday afternoon since being acquired by the Trail Blazers from the Orlando Magic after he was selected with the 47th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. The 6-9 wing, who averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists in four seasons with the Terrapins, discussed being selected by the Trail Blazers, whether he knew the team was interested in him prior to the draft, what skills he has that are most applicable in the NBA, his defensively strengths and his plans to come to Portland in time for summer league workouts…
What was your initial reaction after being drafted by the Trail Blazers and your impressions of the franchise?
Jake Layman: First off, I’m very excited. It was such a stressful night. I was nervous all night, I didn’t really know what to expect with what was going to happen the way the draft was going last night. To finally hear my name called was just a big sign of relief, I was very excited, especially to be picked up by the Blazers because I’ve watched them play a lot. I think that their style of play fits me very well.
Why did you watch them a lot over the season?
Jake Layman: I think it was really more playoff time when I saw them play.
Where the Blazers on your radar? Did they interview you in Chicago at the combine, have any interaction with the team leading up to the draft?
Jake Layman: I did an interview with them at the combine but they were still in the playoffs, so they didn’t have really anybody there who could interview. That was really it. I didn’t work out for them. But I did know that they were very interested going into the draft, but they had no picks, so I really didn’t think much of it. So when my agent called me to tell me they traded in for the pick, I was excited.
What did you think about Portland’s recent playoff run?
Jake Layman: It was very exciting. Watching them with how young they are, how much talent they have, to be battling out there against some of the best teams in the NBA. I know how excited the fanbase was to see that happen.
What are your most applicable NBA skills right now and how do you see yourself projecting as an NBA player from a position or skill perspective?
Jake Layman: I think for me, my shooting ability, it’s gotten better each year that I was in college. So I think for me, just carrying that into the NBA is going to be huge. And also for me, I think being able to guard multiple spots on the floor is what teams are looking for now. I think that’s something I can do.
Do you know Pat Connaughton at all since you’re from the same area? Did you play against him at all?
Jake Layman: I know him pretty well. We never really played against each other in high school or anything, but just being from the same area. We were part of the Boston Globe all-star team one year, so yeah, we definitely know each other.
Do you know when you’re going to come to Portland, when you might sign and whether you’ll play for the team at summer league?
Jake Layman: Talking to the GM yesterday, I think I’m going to fly out to Portland either July 3rd or 4th and then I’ll be there for the practices leading up to summer league, which starts pretty soon after that. Then I’ll play in summer league. I’m not really sure about signing contracts or anything right now, but for summer league I’ll definitely be there.
What was your conversation like with Neil Olshey?
Jake Layman: He just asked me how I felt. All the emotion going through your head when you get drafted, it was definitely nice to talk to him. Asked me how I’m feeling and if I’m ready to get going. I was very excited to hear from him, I talked to Coach Stotts also.
How would you describe yourself off the court? What’s your personality like? How do you approach the game? Approach life or leadership or being in a locker room.
Jake Layman: I think for me, I’m a little different off the court than I am on the court. I think when it comes to being on the court, I’m definitely pretty intense. I’m always going hard, going crazy on the court. Then off the court, I’m a pretty quiet guy, very laid back, definitely a great locker room guy. I get along with everybody. That’s how I would describe myself.
You said you feel like your defensive versatility is an asset. Could you break down your strengths defensively?
Jake Layman: I think my on-ball defense has definitely gotten better over the years. But I think playing off the ball on defense, being able to come over and help and then block shots from the weakside, it is something that I’m definitely good at.
Do you feel like joining a young team, but one that has already had some success in the playoffs, give you an opportunity that other guys in the draft might not get?
Jake Layman: I think it’s a great chance to be able to come in this next year and help, make an impact on the team, just go in and help whatever way I can, whether it’s scoring, defending or all of those. I think the makeup of this team definitely gives me a chance to go in and make an impact right away.
What’s your hometown of Wrentham like? What was it like growing up there?
Jake Layman: Growing up in Wrentham, I’m one of five boys in my family, so there’s always something to do, always someone to play with. I was big into sports when I was little. My dad played baseball in college, my mom played basketball in college so I was always involved in the youth leagues, whether it was baseball, football or basketball. I think for me, my childhood was definitely run by sports when I was little growing up.
Can you see someone in the NBA who reminds you of yourself or someone who has the same skillset?
Jake Layman: Someone I’m trying to model my game after — I’m not saying I’m him right now, but it’s someone who I definitely think my game over time could be just like his — is Gordon Hayward, plays for the Utah Jazz.
Can you describe waiting to hear your name called last night?
Jake Layman: From the start of the night, you’re going in with the thought of what you’ve been hearing from teams and what your agent’s been telling you. Once the draft starts going, especially last night, it was definitely not what I expected. I was surrounded by a bunch of family and friends, so they were keeping me calm the whole time. I was just hanging in there, staying strong and to finally hear my name called, it was definitely a sigh of relief.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Trail Blazers have acquired the No. 47 pick of the 2016 Draft from the Orlando Magic, which they will use to select 6-9 forward Jake Layman out of Maryland…
Portland will select Maryland’s Jake Layman with No. 47, sources tell @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
Source: To get Maryland’s Jake Layman at No. 47, Portland will send Orlando $1.2M and a 2019 second-round pick.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) June 24, 2016
The Trail Blazers entered Thursday’s draft with no picks, though it always seemed likely they’d purchase a second round pick, as Paul Allen has shown throughout his tenure as owner that he’s willing to spend in order to bring in draft talent. The $1.2 million the Trail Blazers reportedly sent to Orlando, along with a future second round pick, for the 47th pick is significantly less than what some other teams reportedly spent to get picks later in the second round.
Assuming Layman and the Trail Blazers can come to contract terms — second round picks can negotiate their contracts, while salaries for first round picks are dictated by where they’re taken — it seems likely that he would play for the Trail Blazers at the Las Vegas Summer League, which starts in mid-July.
UPDATE: It’s official. From the team’s press release…
“Jake is a high character young man with a skill set we value on both ends of the floor,” said Olshey. “His ability to defend multiple positions and shoot the ball from range will be positive additions to our roster.”
Orlando selected Layman with the 47th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. A four-year player out of the University of Maryland, Layman (6-9, 220) posted career averages of 10.2 points (44.5% FG, 36.2% 3PT, 75.9% FT), 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Terrapins.
An Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection his senior year, Layman led Maryland to 114 wins over his four seasons and is one of just 12 players in school history to record 1,400 points (1,436) and 600 rebounds (674). Layman, 22, guided Maryland to its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2003 last season, and ranks 18th in school history in points (1,436) and 18th in rebounds (674).
According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard will not play for Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in order to rest and continue rehabilitating the plantar fasciitis injury that dogged the 6-3 for much of the 2015-16 season. I can confirm this report.
Though Lillard was able to play through the injury after missing seven games in late December, the pain caused by the plantar fasciitis in his left foot never really went away. He received treatment on his foot throughout the season, though the most effective approach to the injury, which causes extreme pain on the bottom of the foot and heel, is rest, which is obviously hard to get when you’re the leader and best player on a team trying to make the postseason. By forgoing the month-long lead up to the Olympics and the Games themselves, Lillard should have the recuperation time he’ll need to go into Portland’s 2016 training camp completely healthy.
Charnania is also reporting that Lillard was hoping for more time to make the decision before being pressed by Team USA for a commitment one way or another. This could very well be true, though if being completely healthy and rested for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season is Lillard’s motivation for declining a Team USA invite, it’s hard to figure how another week or two would change his decision.
Lillard initially declined being a part of the pool that Team USA draws their roster from, though he ultimately relented despite not feeling particularly optimistic about his chances of being named to the Olympic team after being passed over for the FIBA World Cup team in 2014. But between players opting to rest in preparation for the upcoming season and the myriad of concerns regarding the 2016 Games, the number of candidates has dwindled to the point where Lillard would have been a lock to make the Olympic team had he chosen to participate.
But Lillard opting for rest over Rio doesn’t mean you won’t have a Trail Blazer to root for during the Olympics, as Al-Farouq Aminu and the rest of Team Nigeria (a team that also includes former Trail Blazer Ike Diogu and former Oregon Duck Chamberlain Oguchi) have qualified for the 2016 Games after winning AfroBasket 2015 in Tunisia. And CJ McCollum has also been invited to play on the USA Select Team, whose purpose is to help the USA National Team prepare for international events, though players from the Select team have been promoted to the National team, with the most recent example being Mason Plumlee making the 2014 World Cup team.