Trail Blazers Grind Out Overtime Win Versus Bucks At Home

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

PORTLAND — It took five extra minutes, but the Portland Trail Blazers moved to 44-24 on the season and 25-9 at home with a 120-115 overtime victory versus the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

“I’m glad I’m standing here after a win instead of a loss,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Give Milwaukee a lot of credit. They’ve had a long seasons, Larry (Drew) has done a great job of keeping them competing and playing hard. They played a great game and certainly don’t want to take anything away from what they did, they played hard the whole game. That being said, we didn’t come out with the urgency that we needed … We understand that we were very fortunate to win the game tonight.”

The Trail Blazers improve to 8-1 this season against the Eastern Conference Central Division, including a 5-0 sweep at home and now have a 20-4 record against the Eastern Conference, the best mark of any West team against the East this season.

Tuesday night’s contest had all the excitement you would expect from a midweek game versus the team with the NBA’s worst record, which is to say it was a low-energy affair from the start. The Trail Blazers committed four turnovers in the first three minutes and missed seven of their first 12 shots against a team ranked 23rd in the league in points allowed per game.

The lone bright spot in the first quarter came courtesy of Nicolas Batum, who scored 11 of Portland’s first 13 points and ended the quarter with 16 points on 6 of 8 shooting from the field and 2 of 3 shooting from three. His teammates combined to go 5 of 15 from the field while the Bucks shot 52 percent from the field to take a 29-26 lead into the second quarter.

“Nic kept us afloat in the first half,” said Stotts. “We didn’t have a lot of offense really going in the first half. He was making his jump shots, he was looking to be aggressive. I hope that makes everybody happy since everybody wants Nic to be aggressive. We needed his offense in the first half. He continues to fill in the gaps.”

The Bucks cooled down in the second quarter, though it was hard to tell if that was due to Portland’s improved defense or their own regression. Milwaukee shot just 6 of 20 on the way to scoring just 18 points in the second quarter. The Trail Blazers were still playing sloppy, as evidenced by five more turnovers in the quarter, but Mo Williams hit all four of his shots, including two three-pointers to score 10 in the second and help Portland take a 52-47 lead into the halftime intermission.

“(Williams) kind of steadied the ship in the first half when the bench guys, the reserves were out there,” said Stotts. “We need Mo. For him to be able to come in and play the minutes he’s playing and be as effective, that’s why we got him here.”

In the second half and overtime it was Wesley Matthews who would save the Trail Blazers from what would have been their worst loss of the season. After scoring just five points on 2 of 6 shooting in the first half, Matthews came alive in the second. The 6-5 guard out of Marquette snapped out of a mini shooting slump to go 4 of 6 from the field and 3 of 3 from three to finish regulation with 20 points. He would add six in the overtime to finish with a game-high 26 while also adding two assists, two rebounds and two steals in 41 minutes.

“I’m taking the same shots I’ve been shooting, they just happened to fall tonight,” said Matthews. “Just continue to attack, get to the free throw line and put pressure on the defense that way. I’m not going to change anything I’m doing. I still feel like every shot that I shoot is supposed to go in and I’m going to continue to play that way.”

Even with Matthews picking up where Williams and Batum left off, Portland trailed the Bucks, a team with just 13 victories this season, 98-96 with nine seconds to play in regulation. That was actually a lucky position for the Trail Blazers to be in considering Milwaukee guard Ramon Sessions, a career 80 percent free throw shooter, went 2 of 4 from the line in the final 18 seconds of the fourth quarter.

With the game on the line, the Trail Blazers looked to Damian Lillard, despite having shot 3 of 14 from the field at the time, to take the final shot. Despite having a layup attempt thwarted in his last drive, Lillard went right back to the rim and was able to get the roll to tie the game at 98-98 with four seconds to play.

“We were down two and we spaced the floor out and let me go isolation,” said Lillard. “It didn’t really make sense for me to settle for a jumper when we were only down two and I felt like I could get to the rim.”

Sessions would take and miss a three as time expired to send the game to overtime.

From there, it was all Lillard, Matthews and Williams. The guard trio combined for all of Portland’s 22 points in the overtime period led by 10 points on 3 of

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6 shooting from the field and 4 of 4 shooting from the free throw line from Lillard.

“I got some good looks,” said Lillard. “I missed one when they went in the zone. They had a blown coverage and I had a good look. I had another kickout that was a really good look. Wes hit me in the corner, that was a good look. Nic swung me one in the corner earlier and I had a good look. It was just, the ball wasn’t going in. They felt good coming off my hands. I just wanted to stay with it. I knew it would come a point in the game where I knew I would need to make a shot or I was going to need to do something. I didn’t have my greatest shooting night but we won the game and when the game was on the line, I was able to find a way to get it done.”

The Bucks would get 10 points in the overtime period from forward Khris Middleton, but his teammates could also muster seven points, allowing the Trail Blazers to escape with a five-point victory.

“Tonight we were happy with the win – we’re always going to take a win, ugly, pretty, it doesn’t matter,” said Matthews. “But we’re not happy with the way that we played. Credit them, they played hard. We knew they were going to do that. Since the trade deadline, they’ve been a pretty good offensive team but that doesn’t excuse our performance. We’ve got to come out with urgency because every game matters for us and that’s how we’ve got to play going into the post season.”

Batum did almost all of his scoring in the first half and focused on distributing in the second to finish with a near triple-double of 21 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in 44 minutes. Williams ended the night with 23 points on 7 of 12 shooting and three assists. Lillard, though he shot just 1 of 11 from the three point line, managed to score 20 points while handing out four assists.

Robin Lopez rounded out the starters with yet another double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds in 37 minutes.

Next up, the Trail Blazers host the Wizards Thursday at the Moda Center before heading out on yet another five-game road trip. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.

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Lillard’s ‘Music Monday’ Is Back With New ‘Talk To Em’ Track

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

With Portland’s playoff run now over, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard now has some free time on his hands to pursue his off-court interests. He’s already hit up Oak’s Park for some late-night rollerskating, attended a Portland Thorns game at Providence Park and welcomed his old buddy Tim Frazier back to town. And today, we know he’s back in the studio making music.

In a re-launch of the “Music Monday” feature that he started last offseason on his Soundcloud page, Lillard, or to be most specific, “Dame DOLLA,” has posted a new track entitled “Talk To Em” featuring V.I.P and Bozzle (who I think are Lillard’s cousins)…

One of Dame’s verses…

They glorifying goofballs, I’m salty as Utah
When you real they uncomfortable, plotting for you to fall
Man I’m changing up the game, forget about the politics
I stick my neck out for my loved ones, I’m like an ostrich
A lot of love around me you haters keep doing opposite
I’m really incompetent to taking many compliments

That sounds about right. Previous “Music Monday” releases from last year include “Soldier In The Game,” “Full Stomach,” “Why?” “Free Bands” and “The Villains.” Then there’s non-Music Monday releases such as “I Wish I Could Tell You,” “Heatwave,” and “They Sleep,” which, like “Talk To Em” was produced by Jahlil Beats, who also produced, among other things, the Rick Ross/Meek Mill hit “Ima Boss” and that Bobby Shmurda song whose name I can’t put on this blog. And of course, there’s “Bigger Than Us,” the video for which currently has roughly 750,000 views on YouTube.

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Podcast: Rip City Report, End Of Season Edition

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 weeks ago

A happy Friday the 13th to all of you loyal podcast listeners. Before everyone goes their separate ways now that the offseason is here, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net and TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio one last time to record a season-ending edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…

On this edition, we attempt recap the series versus the Warriors, which ended in five games with a 125-121 loss at Oracle Arena Wednesday night, and the season in general, discuss the lasting effects of the playoff run and the respect that they earned from around the league due to their performance and look forward to some of the questions the Blazers will have to answer in the offseason, particularly in regard to free agency. And as always, we finish up by answering your Twitter-submitted questions on topics such as the culture the Trail Blazers have developed, (more) free agency, exit interviews and favorite moments from the just-completed season. It’s been a fun one.

You can find the Rip City Report on SoundcloudiTunes and Stitcher. Thanks to all of you who listened and left reviews this season.

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Trail Blazers Talk Season, Free Agency During Exit Interviews

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 weeks ago

Less than 12 hours after being eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers returned to their practice facility in Tualatin to meet with the coaches to discuss offseason plans, clean out their lockers and take questions from the media one last time before starting their vacations.

Here’s the audio and a few quotes from Terry Stotts and the players from today’s exit interviews…

TERRY STOTTS

On the 2015-16 season…

“Like I said last night, this has been a special season. This group of players, what they were able to do individually and collectively, our chemistry was really good. We had good guys, they got along, players and coaches. It means a lot and it goes both ways. It was a joy. I think players enjoyed coming to work every day and I know the coaches and staff did, too.”

On whether this was his most rewarding season as a head coach…

“No question. This was an extremely rewarding season because it kind of played out the way we wanted it to. And we’re not talking about the record or the playoffs, everything was about growth, improvement, getting better throughout the season and being better at the end of the season. I think we did that individually and collectively and from a coaching standpoint, that’s as pure as it gets. That’s what coaching is about. You don’t get to experience that very much at the NBA level.”

On whether he expects anyone on his staff to be interviewed for various open head coaching positions…

“I hope so. I can’t say enough about how good my staff is. I think Jay Triano and Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool are all ready to be considering for head coaching jobs. I think they’re all prepared to do a great job as a head coach depending on whatever a team is looking for. I hope they get consideration because they’re all very deserving.

DAMIAN LILLARD

On many of his teammates deciding to stay in Portland during the offseason…

“That means a lot because I stay here every summer. I’m used to coming in here like ‘I wonder when everybody else coming back to town,’ you know what I mean? The trainers are here, the coaches are here and it’s an empty gym. And even after the game last night, on the plane, I started getting worried already. I was sitting on the plane like ‘Man, we had some success this year, it was unexpected it was no pressure. Next year people gonna expect a little bit more’ and I started to get worried about too many pats on the back. ‘They weren’t supposed to do this but they did that.’ I started getting worried, but we don’t have those kind of guys. We’ve got hungry guys, we’ve got humble guys that work hard. We had a taste this season as a young group of how well we could do and what it takes. We lost to a really experienced, championship team. That makes me happy to hear that so many guys are going to be here working out in the summer because that lets me know that they see how close we are and they see how important it’s going to be going forward.”

On free agency and having a say in the process…

“I’m pretty sure they’ll communicate what the plans are with me, but like I’ve said in the past, my job is to be a good teammate, to make sure I put in my time and become a better player and that’s what I’ll do. They ask me my opinion on something, I’ll give them my honest opinion, but I love all the guys that we have on our roster now. I think going forward, if we continue to grow together, we’ll be a good team. Obviously it’s a business and rosters change, players make decisions for themselves, so when that time comes, we’ll see what happens. But when they come to me ask for my opinion or what I think about something, I’ll tell them what I think.”

ALLEN CRABBE



On what he’s looking for as a restricted free agent…

“Any pay raise is going to be significantly higher than what I’m making now. But like I said earlier, it’s just situation really for me. It doesn’t make sense to make a lot of money and go to a team that, if you don’t fit that system, then get paid a lot of money to be frustrated? That doesn’t make sense to me. The culture here, it’s great. I know this organization well, I know the system, know the coaches, players. It’s just real comfortable here. I wouldn’t mind being here, I really wouldn’t. It’s really just coming down to situation and how I can continue to improve as a basketball player.”

On head coach Terry Stotts…

“Definitely think he should get an extension. I feel like everybody here knows that he should get an extension. He’s done a great job with this team. It’s really hard to put into words what he did with this group because nobody expected us to do what we did. Even from Day One, even through the games where we were 11-20, seven-game losing streak, he never folded and he always told us it’s all about trusting the process and we stuck with that throughout this whole year.”

CJ MCCOLLUM

On spending time in Portland this offseason…

“I think, for one, it doesn’t rain a lot in the summer, so that helps. Just being around the facility, 24 hour access, you’re able to get a lot of things done without a distraction. You go home, you go to certain cities, you either got to pay to get in the gym or you’ve got to worry about people interrupting you while you workout. I go back to my high school but sometimes I’ve got to just like lock the door so I can just workout and not have to worry about certain interruptions because you can’t get through a full workout when people are coming in, talk to you. It’s meant to be a compliment to you, it’s hard. So I think it helps that here, you just come in, the doors are locked, you’ve got your finger scan, you workout when you want, the weather is nice. You’re paying rent here anyway, so it makes sense.”

On the camaraderie of the roster and the changes that might be in store…

“I think we had a really unique group. They did a great job of putting together like minds, young guys who are easy to talk to. Nobody is really arrogant or overly cocky. We’ve got some ignorant guys on the team that you guys guys know who’s outlandish with his statements. I won’t put him out there, he knows who he is. Besides that, we all got along well, everybody spoke their minds, nobody was afraid to say certain things. If somebody played bad, if somebody wasn’t doing things the right way, you could address it and nobody would frown or look at you the wrong way. So I like the way our team is put together, I like the work ethic everybody had. This is one of the rare teams where you could hang out with players off the court. Everybody’s got their friends, but I could hang out with any one of the 15 guys off the court and be perfectly comfortable, eat dinner, et cetera… We’ve got a really good unit and a lot of guys made themselves some money this year, a lot of guy’s prices went up. Hopefully we can rekindle the flame, but if not, we had a good run, we had a good year together collectively and wish everybody the best of luck in the free agency process.

MEYERS LEONARD

On how he’s approaching restricted free agency…

“To be honest with you, I haven’t had a real concrete conversation with my agent about this. I wanted it to be, right now, about my rehab and about supporting the guys, being there however I could, I guess more from an emotional standpoint, for the team. I certainly wish I could have been out there. With that being said, I’m sure we’ll talk within the next couple of days about how we’re going to really approach this, the timing of things, I suppose what teams are interested, what teams would maybe like to meet in person. I don’t have a concrete plan at this point. Restricted free agency, it gets a little hairy, it takes time, teams maybe don’t want to tie their money up. I honestly don’t know all the ins and outs of it. Like I said before the season when I didn’t accept an extension, I’m confident in where I’m at. It’s my agent’s job to present whatever he has on his mind and what’s on my plate from that side of things. My job right now is simply to rehab my shoulder, continue to work on my leg strength, which is a huge focus of mine for this summer, and just figure out different way in the weight room or out here, even simple things as ball handling, just trying to improve as a player and as a man.”

ED DAVIS

On why he’s going to spend much of the offseason in Portland…

“I’m coming back to Portland just because went through all that rain, got to enjoy some of the sun. I like it here. I’m renting a spot, so I’m just going to stay here. I like Todd (Forcier) and BK (Ben Kenyon) and those guys, so definitely going to put a lot of work in in the weight room. It’s always good vibes here so I don’t think guys want to get away. Some teams, you want to get away just because you don’t like certain people. It’s not like that here. I enjoyed being here so that’s why I’m going to stick around and do most of my training out here.”

On the realities of keeping a roster with multiple free agents together…

“It’s going to be tricky with all the salary cap stuff going on. I think a lot of the guys who are free agents definitely raised their value. I think everyone did. You never know. I hope all those guys get paid well, I think they will. They deserve it. You just never know with free agency, who they go after and things like that, but I hope everybody comes back, but that’s not really realistic. It doesn’t really work like that in the league. I just tried to enjoy that time yesterday because I’ve been around a little bit and I know how the business side of things work.”

MASON PLUMLEE

On his mindset going into the offseason…

“This summer is big for me, become more of a scoring threat. I think there’s a lot to be added. I look forward, if the opportunity is there, to come back to have some stability from a staff perspective. I would look forward to coming back to a similar situation from one season to the next. I’ve played for three coaches in three years, so I think that would be something I’d look forward to as well… Once you’ve been traded, you never know.”

MAURICE HARKLESS

On being a restricted free agent…

“Free agency is something I haven’t really thought about. I’ve tried not to think about it during the season and we just finished yesterday, so it hasn’t really been on my mind yet. It’s something that we’ll have to think about soon.”

On his first season in Portland…

I loved it. It was by far the most fun season I’ve had. These guys here are great, the organization is great. I really, really enjoyed it and looking forward to seeing what happens this summer.”

GERALD HENDERSON

On his first season in Portland…

“It’s the most fun year I think I’ve had as a pro. We had a great group of guys, high character guys, silly guys and it was a fun year. That’s without even being on the court. On the court, we had a special group. We came together halfway through, really made it a special year all the way until last night when we’re playing against the champions, gave them all we had. Played a tough series, obviously it didn’t end the way that we wanted it to, but it’s a year we’re all proud of.”

His thoughts on entering free agency and what he’s looking for…

This is my second time doing it and it’ll be a little different than the first time. I think getting a taste of what this year and this postseason was like and how much fun, how competitive it is, I think, number one, being on a team that’s a winning team. It’s obviously tough to get on one of the elite elite teams, but that could be a possibility. That could easily be a possibility here. Being on a team that is about winning and that’s a good fit for me.

Al-FAROUQ AMINU

On his first season with the Trail Blazers…

“It was an amazing journey of growth. We grew a lot throughout the season, personally and as a team. It was just fun to be a part of it.”

How he looks back on the season in terms of enjoyment…

The season was great. Any time you have guys that are the same age, it just makes it a lot easier to get along. It’s easy to have relatable points, different things like that. A lot of us are going through similar things in our careers so you get to relate on that note. When it came to comfortably in that sense, it was just unbelievable. And then I think that’s why the chemistry was there as well. Even our vets and the older guys like Chris Kaman, they were a joy to be around as well. From top to bottom, everybody was kind of in that same wavelength of what they were trying to do. It just made it easy to get along.

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