LOS ANGELES — The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 49-27 on the season and 22-18 on the road with a 124-112 victory versus the Los Angeles Lakers in front of 18,110 at Staples Center Tuesday night.
“Probably more than anything else I liked our defense in the third quarter,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “We got our hands on a lot of balls, we were very active. They made a lot of shots in the first half, a lot of jump shots but I thought our activity defensively was really important, got us playing in transition a little bit.”
With the victory, Portland remains two games ahead of of Golden State for fifth and are just one and a half games behind Houston for fourth in the Western Conference standings. The Trail Blazers have now had six winning streaks of at least four games or more this season for the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign.
The game was close for the first two quarters, with Portland holding a 29-27 lead after the first 12 minutes of play despite shooting 35 percent from the field. The Trail Blazers improved 10 percentage points from the field in the second quarter, but Lakers guard Nick Young shot even better. The freewheeling guard out of USC who goes by the nickname “Swaggy P” went 7 of 8 from the field for 18 points while playing all 12 minutes in the second.
“I just got in the zone,” said Young, who finished with 40 of L.A.’s 112 points. “I got out there and played my hardest and we still keep fighting.”
But while the Lakers were forced to rely on Young to do most of their scoring, the Trail Blazers had both Aldridge and Damian Lillard to carry the load. Portland’s All-Star duo combined to score 23 points on 7 of 12 shooting while going a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line to largely negate Young’s performance and take a 63-61 lead into the intermission.
“It was a two-point game at halftime because (Young) got it going,” said Stotts. “He kept them in the game.”
Portland would take control in the third quarter by holding the Lakers to 28 percent shooting and Young to six points.
“Second half I thought we guarded better,” said Aldridge. “We tried to take away tendencies, we tried to give up less easy shots. I felt like Nick Young had a lot of easy shots in the first half. He’s a good scorer so he’s going to score, but I think we did a better job of making his shots harder.”
Along with doing a better job defensively, the fluid ball movement that has been integral in Portland’s success recently but was missing in the first half Tuesday night returned in the third quarter.
“At halftime I brought it up again about just moving the ball,” said Aldridge. “I felt like guys thought they had great one-on-one game but I was like, with this team, if you move the ball we’ll go from having a really good shot to a really great shot. So I thought guys listened to that and I thought guys made great reads in the second half.”
That ball movement would continue in the fourth quarter, with the Trail Blazers going on a 19-6 run midway through the final quarter to take a 23-point lead, their largest of the night. Portland would score just once in the final three minutes, but had more than enough of a margin to coast to a 12-point victory.
“In the first half they made a lot of midrange shots,” said Stotts. “They didn’t have a lot of points in the paint, they made a lot of their midrange and I think that kind of came back to us in the second half.”
“I knew it was a big game for us,” said Lillard. “Coming in, some said it could be a trap game with a team not in the playoff race. We knew coming in that they were a dangerous team, since they came to our place and shocked us, so I just wanted to come out aggressive, and do whatever it took to help the team a win. A lot of guys put their best foot forward, and we were able to do it.”
Lillard also added eight assists, three steals, two rebounds and a monster dunk in the nationally-televised game on TNT.
“I came off the pick-and-roll and I seen Pau (Gasol) standing straight up,” said Lillard of the dunk. “I exploded around him and I saw him get off balance a little bit and then I just rose up. I knew that he would be trying to play catchup and he had already blocked one of my shots because I had kind of like tried to lay it up, so I just wanted to go punch one. Just go try to finish strong and I was able to get through there.”
With Tuesday night’s performance, Lillard joins Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and LeBron James as the NBA’s only players with at least 1,600 points and 400 assists this year.
Aldridge shot 12 of 20 from the field and 7 of 8 from the free throw line to finish with 31 points while pulling down 15 rebounds and handing out 6 assists in 33 minutes. He’s the first Trail Blazer since Clyde Drexler in 1990 to have Trail Blazer with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists in a single game.
“You try to get a little bit low to take the contact and then as soon as he hits you he turns the other way and shoots it way high and fades away,” said Lakers center Chris Kaman of guarding Aldridge. “It’s just hard to get to. He is an exceptional shooter. Just one of those players that are unique and have a special gift that not a lot of players have.”
With their performances Tuesday night, Aldridge and Lillard are n0w the first Trail Blazers teammates since Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells in 2002 to score at least 30 points in the same game.
“LA was great on the block and Damian made shots — he was aggressive going to the basket,” said Stotts. “But I thought it was a lot of the other things. Defensively, Damian was very active throughout the whole game, got his hands on a lot of balls, got us out in transition. LaMarcus, he and Robin together were very good defensively in protecting the paint. The other thing Damian did on LA’s postups, he was setting some screens, occupying people and I thought that allowed for good spacing for LA’s postups.”
Robin Lopez, playing on his 25ht birthday, got yet another double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes. Nicolas Batum finished with 16 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes. Wesley Matthews struggled through a 4 of 12 night shooting to finish with 10 points, though he also added six assists and four rebounds.
Next up, the Trail Blazers get two days off before hosting the Suns at the Moda Center in a game with significant playoffs implications. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.
OAKLAND — For the first three quarters, it looked as though the Portland Trail Blazers might actually beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena, something that only two teams have managed to do in the last seven months.
But unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, NBA games last four quarters. And Tuesday night in Oakland, the Warriors outscored the Trail Blazers 34-12 in the final 12 minutes to come away with a 110-99 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,596 in Game Two of the Western Conference semifinals.
“We played three really good quarters, and we showed that we can compete with them, and it got away from us in the fourth quarter, obviously,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It was disappointing to lose a game that you’re competitive and you’re in a position to be in the fourth quarter. But we’ve got to close it out… It was an opportunity to get a win on the road, and we’ve got to learn from it and be ready to go get one in Game Three.”
The Warriors now lead the series 2-0.
“I think nights like tonight, they suck,” said Damian Lillard. “It hurts to go back in the locker room after you play so well for so long and you come back in there with the L. But it is a part of growth. The entire season has been growth for us. But nights like tonight, we have to close that out. We have to get that done. It was just a missed opportunity.”
The first half of Tuesday night’s game went about as well as the Trail Blazers could possible expect, with Portland taking a 17-point lead in the second quarter thanks to shooting 51 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Though the Warriors would cut into the Trail Blazers lead thanks to an 18-3 run, Portland, as was the case for most of the night, always seemed to counter at just the right time to quiet the Oracle Arena crowd. That counter in at the end of the second quarter came courtesy of back-to-back threes from Al-Farouq Aminu and Damian Lillard to push the lead back to eight by the intermission.
Portland, thanks mostly to Lillard going 6-of-11 from the field and 4-of-5 from three in the third, extended their lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter before Golden State got white hot to finish out the game. The Warriors took their first lead of the night early in the fourth quarter and would go on to win by 11 after finishing out the game by shooting 11-of-18 in the final 12 minutes of regulation. The Trail Blazers also play right into the Warriors’ hands by turning the ball over five times while going 5-of-19 from the field.
“I think the last run, they were desperate,” said Lillard. “It got to the point where it was win or lose. There wasn’t another quarter after that. It wasn’t just stay with it. It was, ‘We’ve got to do it now.’ And they played desperate, and we just didn’t respond to it well enough to finish the game.”
The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored 17 in the third quarter before finishing with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 6-of-11 shooting from three, six assists and four rebounds in 40 minutes. CJ McCollum went 9-of-19 for 22 points, two rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes.
Aminu got off to a fast start, scoring 10 points in the first quarter before finishing with 14 to go along with six rebounds and two assists. Maurice Harkless would add 11 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes with Gerald Henderson coming off the bench to add 12.
As was the case in Game One, Klay Thompson would lead the Warriors with 27 points on 7-of-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-14 shooting from three. Draymond Green, who was the driving force along with Festus Ezeli in Golden State’s pivotal fourth quarter, was just shy of another triple-double with 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists in 41 minutes while also blocking four shots.
“I think there came a point where me and Klay were trying to do too much,” said Green. “When we settled down and trusted everybody else, that’s when everything started to click for us. So as far as the way I’ve been playing with the exception of that one game, it’s playoff basketball. This is what we live for. You play the whole season to get to this point.”
Shaun Livingston and Harrison Barnes scored 14 and 13 points, respectively, with Andre Igoudala putting up 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting off the bench.
Next up, the series takes a three-day break before shifting to Portland for Game Three on Saturday at the Moda Center.
“We’ve been in bad positions time and time again, and we’ve never shied away,” said Lillard. “We’ve never not answered the call. I don’t see why this time it would be any different. In our last series against the Clippers, we were down 0-2. We went home, and the next two games they were pretty much full strength. They had their guys and we got it done those two games. Obviously, Golden State is a different monster, but we know the same thing can happen, and that’s what we’re going in there thinking and believing, and we’re back on our home floor. We’ve got to go out there and play a game like tonight and go finish it.”
Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 pm on ABC and 620 AM.
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.