The Portland Trail Blazers started a four-game road trip off with a 100-90 loss to the Washington Wizards Monday night at the Verizon Center.
Portland has now lost their last four road games.
“We played great on the road early in the season,” said Damian Lillard. “We played great at home also, but now teams have done their scouting, they’re playing us a little bit harder because of our success so far. We’ve just got to stick with it. We’ve got confidence in ourselves and we know what makes us successful. We’ve just got to stay with it and understand that rough patches are a part of this league.”
Things started out well enough for the road team. Even though they finished the first quarter trailing 32-29, they shot 62 percent from the field, had nine assists on 13 made baskets, scored 16 points in the paint and turned the ball over just three times.
It was more of the same in the second quarter, with both teams answering opponent runs with runs of their own. Portland went on a 12-0 run to take a 48-43 lead with 4:24 to play in the first half, the Wizards countered with a 9-0 run to end the half and take a 56-55 lead into the halftime intermission. Portland shot 60 percent in the quarter and outrebounded the Wizards 13-6.
But the third quarter would once again be Portland’s undoing, as was the case in recent losses to the Grizzlies and Wizards.
“It was two different halves,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Both teams had the offensive going in the first half. Second half, defenses tightened up. Our turnovers in the third quarter obviously hurt us, gave them momentum.”
The Trail Blazers shot just 35 percent and turned the ball over seven times in the third after doing a nice job in both categories in the first half.
“We didn’t make a lot of shots in the second half and they did a great job offensively getting to things they wanted to get to,” said Lillard. “But I think it came down to us not making shots. When you aren’t having a great night defensively you’ve got to find a way to at least make shots. When you are making shots, you’ve got to find a way to get it done defensively, especially on the road.”
Missing shots alone might not have been enough to sink the Trail Blazers, but the Wizards turning the ball over just once in the third while grabbing four offensive rebounds, all of which were converted to points, was too much to overcome. The Trail Blazers would shoot 35 percent in the third quarter and trailed 82-69, all but sealing their fate on the road.
“We’re getting good looks, we just haven’t been shooting the ball as well as we were early in the season,” said Lillard. “We’re confident that we’ll get back to it but in those third quarters before we were coming out hot and making shots. Now we’re missing some shots and the other teams are making shots, so that makes it tougher, especially when, like tonight, we had all those turnovers and they turned it over six times. That makes everything that much harder.”
Portland would eventually cut the lead to six with 1:12 to play, but never really threatened the Wizards, who turned 16 turnovers into 17 points.
“We aren’t a team that forces a lot of turnovers to begin with, but if they’re going to have six turnovers when we can’t turn it over as many times as we did,” said Lillard. “That really allowed them to get out and get some fastbreak points, kind of get themselves energized and get the crowd into it. When they have six turnovers we can’t have however many we had.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who shot eight of 19 from the field to finish with 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge handed out a season-high six assists to go along with 20 points and ten rebounds.
Nicolas Batum had 18 points, four rebounds and three assists in the losing effort, but turned the ball over a game-high five times. Robin Lopez finished one rebound short of a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds in 35 minutes.
The Wizards were led by John Wall with 22 points, five assists and five rebounds. Trevor Ariza went four of seven from the three-point line and finished with 20 points in 39 minutes.
Washington got a boost off the bench from Kevin Seraphin, who scored 19 points on 10 shots in just 23 minutes.
“The x-factor was Seraphin,” said Stotts. “Seraphin had a terrific game. He did a little bit of everything; he made jump shots, he made postups, he drew fouls. That kind of put us in a bind for a while.”
Seraphin’s scoring outburst was particularly tough to overcome with Portland’s bench scoring just six points combined on three of 14 shooting.
“The bench, they need to take advantage of the opportunities that are there, but it’s a team thing,” said Stotts. When their shots are there, hopefully they’ll contribute. We don’t have go-to guys coming off the bench, they’ve got to just take advantage of the opportunities while they’re there. ”
The Blazers are now 5-5 in their last ten games, though they still sit in third place in the Western Conference standing.
“It’s been up and down,” said Aldridge. “We’ve definitely got to be more consistent offensively and defensively. I thought tonight we had moments where we were good on both sides of the ball, and then we had moments where we just played bad.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers have a day off before facing the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:30 PM.
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.”
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.”