The Portland Trail Blazers won yet another Northwest Division contest at the Moda Center with a 115-104 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves Saturday night. With the victory, the Trail Blazers matched their win total from last season with three months to go in the regular season.
While the matchup was billed as a showdown between the NBA’s two best power forwards, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love, it was Trail Blazers small forward Nicolas Batum who provided the highlights early.
Batum, who the Timberwolves tried to acquire via restricted free agency two summers ago, scored Portland’s first five points and finished the first quarter with 11 points, five rebounds and three assists. He would finish the night with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 35 minutes.
“I liked the way Nic came out,” said Stotts. “He was aggressive in transition, took the ball to the basket. But whoever it is, I think that kind of sparks confidence with our team.”
The Timberwolves would counter with Kevin Martin, who almost matched Batum with 10 points in the first quarter. He would stay hot for the duration of the contest, finishing the game as Minnesota’s leading scorer with 30 points on 11 of 22 shooting.
Wesley Matthews would pick up where Batum left off, scoring 10 points in the second quarter to help the Trail Blazers take a 65-57 going into halftime
That lead would evaporate quickly after the intermission with the Timberwolves starting the second half on a 14-5 run to tie the game at 71-71 with 7:23 to play in the quarter. But Portland would answer back, outscoring Minnesota 16-10 from that point to take a six-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Portland would start the fourth quarter with another run by outscoring Minnesota 18-7 to open up a 105-88 lead with 5:31 to play in regulation. And the Timberwolves would once again respond with a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 10 with three minutes to play. But the Timberwolves were unable to string together baskets consistently late in the game and the Trail Blazers would hit just enough free throws to come away with a 11-point victory.
Aldridge would finish as Portland’s high scorer with 21 points and six rebounds in 34 minutes the game after putting up a career-high 44 points against the Nuggets on Thursday. His counterpart, who was voted in as a starter for the 2014 Western Conference All-Star roster, finished with 15 points on just four of 12 shooting.
“I thought we were very attentive to how (Love) gets his baskets, as far as they run screens for him,” said Stotts. “LaMarcus did a very good job on him in the post, kept him from getting easy baskets. For him to only have one offensive rebound takes a lot of work because he’s always around. If you do a good job on his post-ups and take away offensive rebounds, that leaves perimeter shooting and I thought we did a good job of not giving him necessarily clean looks.”
While Aldridge described the matchup between himself and Love as a “let down,” the performance from Portland’s bench was anything but, scoring 32 points combined while extending Portland’s lead in the second quarter.
“Our reserves were very good in both halves and made a difference in both halves, the energy, just a little bit of everything,” said Stotts. “Mo (Williams) did a nice job of running the team, C.J. (McCollum) took advantage of his opportunities, Thomas (Robinson) brought energy, Joel (Freeland) battled like he always does, so those guys really made a difference for us.”
Mo Williams led the second unit with 16 points and a team-high six assists in 25 minutes. The Trail Blazers are now 16-2 when Williams scores in double figures.
Thomas Robinson and Joel Freeland did the grunt work for the bench unit, combining for 12 rebounds.
“We’ve got to be consistent with it and come in every game and try to give these guys a lift when they need it or be somewhat neutral when those guys have it going,” said Williams. “Tonight was a night where I thought we won the battle of the bench. We want to be consistent and try to win the battle more nights than some.”
While all but one of the starters finished with a negative +/-, ever player in the bench ended on the positive side, led by Williams (+20), Robinson (+19) and C.J. McCollum (+19), who finished with six points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 15 minutes.
“He’s going to have some really, really good nights,” said Williams of his rookie backcourt partner. “Like tonight, he got it going. We went to him and he’s going to have those situations where he’s going to have to knock down the open shot. I thought he did a real good job. Defensively, he had a couple good deflections on his man. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do. He’s going to be a really good player in this league. He’s only going to get better.”
Robin Lopez would finish with his 17th double-double of the season with 15 points, 10 rebounds while also handing out three assists. He scored most of his points in the paint, where Portland outscored Minnesota 60-46, which is their second-highest paint total this season.
Matthews would turn in an 18-point, six-rebound, two-assist performance in 34 minutes and Damian Lillard would struggle shooting the field but still managed to net 14 points and five assists in 33 minutes.
Next up, the Trail Blazers fly to the Bay Area to take on the Golden State Warriors tomorrow at Oracle Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 PM.
The relationship between Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver predates both of their current occupations. When the two first sat down for a interview back in 2010, McCollum had not yet been drafted by the Trail Blazers with the 10th overall pick of the 2012 Draft (though that would happen later that night) and Silver, while already tabbed to take over for outgoing commissioner David Stern, was still pulling duty as deputy commissioner.
Every year since then, McCollum and Silver have met up in New York City after the end of the season to discuss topics pertaining to the NBA and society in general. In 2014, they discussed the situation with the previous Los Angeles Clippers ownership, the age limit, emerging technologies, Silver’s first year as the NBA’s head honcho and their favorite Jay-Z tracks. In 2015, McCollum, armed with a few seasons of experience and a new job at The Players’ Tribune, followed up on some of the questions from the year before regarding the age limit while also bringing up issues such as ads on jerseys, transparency in officiating and head injuries.
And in their fourth annual interview, released on The Players’ Tribune as a part of McCollum’s summer internship with the athlete-owned website, the two discuss how far they’ve come (or in CJ’s case, how much weight he’s lost) since their first meeting in 2012, Silver’s handshakes, whether the NBA would have their All-Star Weekend at “remote locations” like the NFL, whether the league is considering moving the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, the 2016 NBA Finals and the suspension of Draymond Green and recent efforts to increase diversity in NBA front offices. You can watch an excerpt of the interview in the above video, or read the entire Q&A over at The Players’ Tribune.
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).