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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Stotts Roots For His Doppelganger In Super Bowl 50

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
4 hours ago

The 2015-16 NFL season comes to a close Sunday with the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers facing off at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, CA. And after having an official rooting interest the last two years by way of the Seattle Seahawks, a team owned by Paul Allen, making the Super Bowl in consecutive seasons, the Trail Blazers seem fairly ambivalent about the result this time around. Various player on Portland’s roster have acquaintances on both the Broncos and Panthers, and Gerald Henderson is probably pulling slightly for Carolina considering he spent his first six NBA seasons in Charlotte while playing for the Bobcats/Hornets, but outside of those casual ties, the preference among most of the Trail Blazers is to simply see a good game regardless of which team wins.

Outside of Terry Stotts, that is. While he’s not taking the game too seriously, if at all, Portland’s head coach would like to see the Broncos win the Super Bowl for one reason: he looks a bit like Denver quarterback and future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. Despite being almost 20 years older and roughly five inches taller, it’s not uncommon for Stotts to be mistaken for Manning, at least outside of Portland.

“I was sitting in Starbucks in a Vegas and a guy kept looking at me while I was drinking my Starbucks,” recalled Stotts. “As I was leaving he showed me a picture on his phone and he goes ‘Is this you?’ and it was a picture of Peyton Manning. I said ‘No, wrong guy’… And last summer I was up in Canada and somebody thought I was Peyton Manning up there, too.”

It’s not hard to see the resemblance. They share similar complexions, similar builds and just have the somewhat difficult to pinpoint look of men who have played contact sports at their highest levels for extended periods of time. Putting your body through that kind of rigor obviously takes a toll, one that can be seen in both Stotts and Manning, the most obvious example being the long, thin nose rendered permanently crooked by countless hits and multiple breaks that both men share.

peytonstotts

But on a more obvious and less esoteric level, the two share some easy to distinguish features that make for apt comparisons. They both have narrow jaws, long faces, large foreheads and closely cropped, slightly thinning brown hair parted from left to right. Then there’s the shared facial expressions that fluctuate between aw-shucks when content and red-faced, about-to-blow when angered. Whatever is, Stotts looks enough like a Manning to get mistaken for Peyton on the regular while somehow avoiding comparisons to his younger brother Eli, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants.

One might assume Stotts would take offense at being mistaken for a Manning considering he’s built a relatively impressive pro sports resume of his own, but apparently the flattery of the comparison more than outweighs the annoyance of being lesser known.

Said Stotts: “Saying that I look like someone who is 20 years younger than me is totally okay.”

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Harkless And Henderson Hit On The Same Night In Houston

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
22 hours ago

It’s been a bit of an up and down year for both Maurice Harkless and Gerald Henderson in their first seasons as Trail Blazers since being acquired via separate trades during the 2015 offseason,

Henderson missed all of training camp, preseason and the first eight games of the regular season, a difficult hurdle for a new player to clear, even for one entering his seventh NBA season, after undergoing a minor hip surgery in the offseason. As for Harkless, he’s already appeared in more games this season with the Trail Blazers as he did during the entirety of his last season with the Orlando Magic, though he’s seen most of his statistics, from minutes to points to rebounds, diminish every month as the year has played out.

For much of the season, Harkless and Henderson have been in a competition for playing time, with head coach Terry Stotts playing both roughly equal minutes in the first half of games, with the second-half minutes going to whoever played the best in the first. That went on for the first half of the season until Stotts opted to cut his rotation from 10 players to nine, which resulted in Henderson’s minutes increasing considerably while Harkless was relegated to playing mop-up minutes or simply drawing DNPs.

But Saturday night in Houston, Stotts would need both Harkless and Henderson with starting power forward Noah Vonleh out with a sprained left ankle and Allen Crabbe, Portland’s top sixth man this season, sidelined with a bout of gastritis. They responded by combining for 30 points on 11-of-21 shooting while taking turns checking Rockets All-Star shooting guard James Harden as Portland defeated Houston 96-79 at the Toyota Center. It was arguably the first game in which both players exceeded the high hopes Trail Blazers fans had for the two athletic wings, a game in which they were menaces on the defensive end while managing to take advantage of the opportunities provided by playing alongside the likes of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum on the offensive end.

“I (Harkless) he was very consistent with (Harden),” said Stotts. “He had good length, he was really in tune every possession. Harden is a great player, he’s going to get shots and you’re not going to completely stop him but I thought he worked really hard on him.”

Harden finished with 33 points, but needed 18 shots from both the field and free throw line while committing a career-high 10 turnovers, due in large part to the effort Henderson and Harkless put in.

“Gerald had a lot of bounce,” said Stotts. “He’s been on a roll, he’s feeling very comfortable out there. I thought defensively, he was good as well, he had his stint on Harden.”

As noted by his head coach, Henderson played easily his best basketball of the season since the middle of January, which has coincided with the Trail Blazers winning 10 of their last 13 games. Whether it’s due to being completely fit after missing the start of the season or knowing he’s going to second-half minutes — or a combination of both — Henderson has looked more like the player who started 292 games over six season with the Hornets.

“I feel good. I think that’s how I’m used to playing. I feel good and if I go in the game I try to bring energy — that’s it — on both ends of the floor. I think that helped us win tonight.

“I feel good and if I go in the game I try to bring energy — that’s it — on both ends of the floor,” said Henderson. “I think that helped us win tonight.”

While Henderson’s production has become somewhat expected over the last month of the season, seeing Harkless go from playing seven minutes combined in the five games prior to starting the last two games in place of Vonleh has been a surprise. Harkless himself said he was a bit taken aback by his promotion, though it was something he had prepared himself for, even when he was only playing fourth-quarter blowout minutes.

“I just stayed locked in the whole time,” said Harkless. “Even when I wasn’t playing at all, just stayed locked in, stayed ready, just kept working every day. I knew it would come back around.”

He only got 16 minutes in his first start of the season versus the Raptors, taking just one shot and scoring just two points in the loss. But on Saturday, Harkless almost doubled his playing time to 30 minutes and made a much larger impression in the process, going 2-of-3 from three in the first quarter and 6-of-13 from the field for the game while grabbing six rebounds and tallying two steals.

“I definitely think I just played better tonight,” said Harkless. “Last game, I hadn’t played in six games or something like that, it kind of caught me off guard when (Stotts) told me I was starting. So I think a little bit of it was rust but tonight I just went out there and just played. Making those first two shots, that was big for me as well.”

“For a guy to go games without even checking on sometimes or getting in for the last few minutes of blowouts, he could have easily been in his feelings and checked out on us, but he’s stayed locked in,” said Damian Lillard of Harkless. “At practice when they get out there and play three-on-three, he’s playing hard, he’s competitive, he’s positive. He’s been himself. I talked to him, I told him ‘You’ve just got to stick with it. You’re a huge part of what we’re gonna do. Just keep your mind right and be ready because you never know.’ We had a few guys do down and now he’s playing really well for us. I was happy with the way he played tonight.”

It’s hard to tell what will happen to Harkless’ and, to a lesser extent, Henderson’s minutes once the Trail Blazers are back to full strength. But for the first time this season, the full potential of both players was a welcomed sight.

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Trail Blazers Put The Past Behind Them By Winning In Houston

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
1 day ago

HOUSTON — The old saying goes that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” If Saturday’s result in Houston is any indication, the Trail Blazers’ collective memory is well intact.

After losing to in overtime in the last game in Houston despite owning a 15-point fourth-quarter cushion, the Trail Blazers did a much better job protecting their lead in the second meeting, with the result being Portland besting the Rockets 96-79 Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 18,308 at the Toyota Center.

“That was a really good win, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “I like the way we came out. Defensively we were solid all night, for the most part… They’re a dangerous team. They can get the threes going and I liked we kept our composure when they made their run.”

Portland is now 25-27 overall and 10-16 on the road this season after playing their last seven games in the cozy confines of the Moda Center. The Trail Blazers have now won 10 of their last 13 games and are currently mere percentage points behind the Utah Jazz for eighth in the Western Conference.

The Trail Blazers looked to be the better team Saturday night from the opening tip. Portland shot 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from three in the first quarter while scoring eight points on six Rockets turnovers to take a 29-23 lead into the second quarter. They’d start the quarter a 13-2 run to take their first double digit lead of the night and would go up by 21 by way of holding the Rockets to just four made field goals in the second quarter while turning six more turnovers into seven more points. Add with the Portland bench outscoring Houston’s 18-0 in the first half and it was easy to see how the road team took a 55-36 lead into the intermission.

“We played really well defensively, I thought,” said Damian Lillard. “We set the tone from the start of the game with active hands, getting our hands on the balls. We just weren’t fun to play against to start the game. That’s what we wanted to go coming out tonight and we did a great job.”

Portland would take their largest lead of the night at the 5:01 mark of the third quarter, though Houston managed to get that down to 21 before the start of the fourth. The Rockets would continue to slim the Trail Blazers’ lead, getting it down to 11 points in late in the fourth quarter. One can imagine there had to be a little nervousness on Portland’s bench after seeing two-thirds of a 32-point third quarter lead evaporate, especially with the specter of the last game in Houston still looming. But after a 10-0 Rockets run cut the lead to 91-76 with two minutes to play, Portland scored the final five points of the game to secure the 17-point lead.

“I don’t know if nervous is the right word, but certainly the way (Houston) won the last time here, I think that was probably in the back of everybody’s mind,” said Stotts. “They’re capable of doing that… I liked the way we kept our composure and pulled out the win.”

Six Trail Blazers finished in double figures led by Damian Lillard, who went 7-of-20 from the field and 3-of-9 from three to finish with 21 points and 10 assists for yet another double-double in 36 minutes.

CJ McCollum went 6-of-13 from the field to finish with 16 points, while Gerald Henderson went 5-of-8 from the field to 16 points as well. Al-Farouq Aminu filled up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block. Maurice Harkless, who started his second-straight game in place of Noah Vonleh (sprained left ankle) and saw extended minutes due to Allen Crabbe missing the game with gastritis, went 6-of-13 from the field for 14 points, six rebounds and two steals in 30 minutes.

Portland’s bench would outscore Houston’s 24-12 thanks in part to the Rockets not getting any points from a reserve until early in the fourth quarter. James Harden finished with a game-high 33 points with Dwight Howard adding 17, but no other Rocket scored more than eight points in the loss.

“James (Harden) is a good player,” said Henderson, who spent a good chunk of his minutes defending the hirsute shooting guard. “He knows how to score, he knows how to draw fouls so sometimes it’s very difficult to guard him. He got his 30 but we felt like we did a good job containing some of the other guys.”

Next up, the Trail Blazers head to Memphis to finish a quick two-game trip versus the Grizzlies at FexEd Forum on Monday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 pm.

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