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.
It’s summer time in Portland (or at least, it’s supposed to be), which means there’s no lack of street fairs, farmers markets, beerfests and art walks to attend. Anyone who frequents such events knows how hard it can be to get from Point A to Point B when there’s thousands of people in between.
But Damian Lillard has you covered. In a new adidas short entitled “Creating Clutch,” the 6-3 point guard out of Weber State traverses a busy street market in China (wearing the “PDX Carpet” colorway of the D Lillard 2, if I’m not mistaken) using an array of moves that you can incorporate into your own crowd-surfing…
In “Creating Clutch,” Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard shows us there is no such thing as downtime if you want to be one of the best clutch players in the NBA. A crowded street market in China during his recent Summer tour became his court, the ultimate opportunity to test his creativity and put his skills to the test.
With Portland’s foray into free agency now complete, Joe Freeman, he of The Oregonian/OregonLive.com, and I, Casey Holdahl of ForwardCenter.net/TrailBlazers.com, hit the Moda Center studio to record another edition of the Rip City Report podcast, which you can listen to below…
In this almost all Twitter-submitted questions edition, we discuss the signings of Evan Turner, Festus Ezeli and Meyers Leonard, the decision to match the offer the Brooklyn Nets extended to Allen Crabbe, how the additions and returns could change lineups going forward and the notion that the Trail Blazers need to make a trade. There’s also some hot Pokemon Go and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” talk to start the show, so you might want prepare yourself to fast-forward through the first few minutes.
UPDATE: The team has officially announced that they have matched the Nets’ offer sheet to Allen Crabbe, though a “formal announcement” and Crabbe actually signing the contract will not occur until later in the week.
After finishing up their pursuit of new free agents, the Trail Blazers have wasted little time in turning their attention to the free agents on their own roster. After reportedly signing restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard to a four-year deal, the Trail Blazers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, have matched the four-year, $75 million offer sheet the Brooklyn Nets tendered to third-year guard/forward Allen Crabbe, ensuring that the former Cal Bear will be back in Portland next season…
The Portland Trail Blazers have matched Allen Crabbe’s four-year, $75M offer sheet with Brooklyn, league source tells @TheVertical.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
Nets bid on Crabbe has been thwarted — and Crabbe returns to Blazers on four-year, $75M contract. Now, Nets wait on Tyler Johnson sheet.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
The message out of Portland ownership and management is clear: Blazers trying to win this year and beyond — loading up on this roster.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) July 10, 2016
As is often the case when it comes to restricted free agents, the Nets offer to Crabbe, who has averaged 7.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game through three season, was considerably larger than many assumed the 6-6 wing would receive in an effort to discourage the Trail Blazers from matching. And after the Trail Blazers signed free agent guard/forward Evan Turner to a four-year deal, some assumed that combined with the size of the Nets offer might result in Trail Blazers letting Crabbe walk.
But that would not be the case. Crabbe has been a favorite of the front office and coaching staff since the team acquired former Pac-12 Player of the Year via trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2012 Draft. And though he played sparingly in his first two seasons, he saw his minutes increase dramatically in 2015-16, as he appeared in 81 games and responded with averages of 10.8 points on 44 percent shooting and 39 percent shooting from three, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists while serving as one of the team’s best perimeter defenders.
There were rumors that outside of the money and years, Crabbe, who has typically come off the bench for the Trail Blazers, was intrigued by the opportunity to start and play a larger role with the Nets. But for his part, Crabbe seemed more than satisfied that he would be returning to Portland…
— Allen Crabbe (@allencrabbe) July 10, 2016
With Crabbe now signed, forward Maurice Harkless is the last Blazer still available on the free agent market. Like Crabbe, Harkless is a restricted free agent, which gives the Trail Blazers the right to match any offer he receives from another team. It is also possible for the Trail Blazers to sign Harkless even if he doesn’t receive an offer sheet from another team, as they have reportedly did Sunday with restricted free agent power forward Meyers Leonard.