Howard, Harden Too Much For Trail Blazers To Handle

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 years ago

Houston’s all-star duo of Dwight Howard and James Harden combined to score 62 points, with many of those coming in the paint, to power the Rockets to a 116-101 victory over the Trail Blazers Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

The loss, their first at home this season, drops to the Trail Blazers to 2-2 on the season.

“Houston is a talented team and I give them credit for the way they played,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Harden made tough shots. Howard finished around the basket and made his free throws. We could never quite get over the hump.”

The Rockets, one of the most disciplined teams in the NBA when it comes to shot selection, outscored the Trail Blazers 54-28 in the paint and 19-6 on fastbreak points.

“They’re very specific in what they do,” said Stotts. “They shoot threes and they get to the paint. Guys like Harden get to the rim, get to the paint. Lin gets to the rim, gets to the paint. Obviously Howard was 10 for 13 and I don’t think he took anything outside the paint. That’s their style of play and then you throw in transition which is usually paint points, that’s part of what they do. That being said, I think we need to do a better job of defending the paint. We’re one of the bottom teams right now (in opponents points in the paint). We’ve been defending the three well, but we’ve got to do a better job of defending the rim and defending the paint.”

Portland trailed by just five going into the intermission but the game turned early in the second half when Robin Lopez was assessed his fourth foul with 11:11 to to play in the third quarter. From that point, the Rockets would go on a 17-4 run to take control.

“We passed up a lot of shots in the third quarter,” said Wesley Matthews, who finished the game with 19 points, three rebounds and a steal while committing four fouls trying to slow down Harden. “We were trying to maybe do too much, a little too unselfish. Coach has a thing where he keeps saying, ‘Keep playing. Keep playing. Keep playing.’ Plays were made and we’re supposed to shoot it and we didn’t shoot it. I know I turned down some, Nic turned down some. There’s still two ends of the court and we didn’t make many stops on that end.”

Portland would make numerous runs late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, cutting the lead to five with 8:11 to play after a Mo Williams 20-footer, but they would get no closer than that, ultimately losing by a 15-point margin.

‘They’re the type of team that can put runs on you,” said Stotts. “They put points up quickly. We did a decent job of staying within striking distance. We cut it to five. At the end of the third quarter we had a steal and a break away that had a a chance of breaking the momentum, but like I said, on a night that we didn’t necessarily shoot the ball well, it was difficult to catch them.”

Damian Lillard lead the Trail Blazers in scoring with 22 points to go along with five assist and four rebounds in 42 minutes. LaMarcus Aldridge finished with 21 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block. Aldridge became the first Trail Blazers since Cliff Robinson in 1995 to start the season with four 20-plus point performances.

Lopez was limited to 18 minutes due to foul trouble, which is not entirely unexpected when matching up opposite of Howard.

“I think I did some good things individually, but I don’t know if I did great things for the team,” said Lopez of his defensive effort. “There were a few possessions where they got to the rim too easily. Just all night, they had too many shots at the rim.”

Wesley Matthews ended the night with 19 points, three rebounds and a steal and Nicolas Batum rounded out Portland’s double figure scorers with 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

With Joel Freeland sidelined with a sore hip, Meyers Leonard played his first significant minutes of the regular season backing up Lopez, finishing with six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes.

“I thought he played well,” said Lopez of Leonard’s performance. “First, I thought he shot the ball with confidence when his shot was available. There were a few issues here and there on defense, but I thought he worked hard out there. I don’t think he hesitated too much out there, which I think is important.”

The Rockets were lead by Harden who, after a rough performance Monday night against the Clippers in L.A., scored 33 points on 11-for-18 shooting while going nine-for-ten from the free throw line. Howard turned in a double-double with 29 points and 13 assists.

“The guys showed a lot of resilience, James (Harden) and Dwight (Howard) had tremendous games, I thought Omri (Casspi) had a tremendous game off the bench, Patrick (Beverley) gave us a big lift, so everybody played well. It was really, you know, the guys that were out there did a nice job.”

The Trail Blazers now have two days off before beginning a home-and-home back-t0-back series with the Sacramento Kings Friday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.

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VIDEO: Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving And Paul George To Appear On ‘We Bare Bears’ Cartoon

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
22 hours ago

It’s well known that Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has many interests. While practicing and playing basketball is how he spends the vast majority of his time, the 6-3 guard out of Weber State is an aspiring rapper, a pitchman for the likes of adidas, JBL and Spalding and an ambassador for Special Olympics. And now, he can add “cartoon character” to his list of roles, as he, along with Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Indiana’s Paul George voiced characters for an upcoming episode of “We Bare Bears” on Cartoon Network…

 

Some additional information from the folks at Cartoon Network…

… A special episode of the Cartoon Network Original Series We Bare Bears, featuring Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, premiering Thursday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. (ET/PT). The episode, “Charlie Ball,” features characters voiced by the players. The “All-Star” episodes of Teen Titans Go! and We Bare Bears will replay on Cartoon Network throughout NBA All-Star weekend.

Cartoon Network continues its NBA All-Star 2016 celebration with special segments integrated into some of its leading television shows beginning on Thursday, Feb. 11. Through its popular CN Sayin’ app, Cartoon Network will provide kids with an opportunity to send questions via video submissions to their favorite NBA players. Select questions and responses will then be featured within Cartoon Network’s on-air integrations throughout NBA All-Star.

Sports-themed episodes of Cartoon Network series will be available on VOD and TVE. Highlights from the All-Star special episodes of We Bare Bears and Teen Titans Go! will be on Cartoon Network’s YouTube Channel, the Cartoon Network app, CartoonNetwork.com, as well as VOD.

Not being named to the 2016 All-Star Game was certainly disappointing, but being immortalized in an All-Star themed cartoon seems like a decent consolation prize.

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Homestand And Win Streak End With Loss To Raptors

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers saw both a seven-game homestand and a five-game winning streak come to an end with a 110-103 loss to the Toronto Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Thursday night at the Moda Center. What’s more, the win was Toronto’s first in Portland since the 2006-2007 season, ending Portland’s seven-game home winning streak versus the NBA’s lone Canadian squad.

“Toronto is a good team, I think that’s pretty obvious,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “They’re a very good team and there’s a reason why they’re the second-best team or have the second-best record in the East. I thought we were close — obviously the first quarter getting behind (14) — but they shot the ball extremely well.”

With the loss, the Trail Blazers fall short of getting back to .500 for the first time since the second week of November. Portland is now 24-26 overall and 15-11 at home this season. The win moves the Raptors to 34-16 and is their 13th victory in their last 14 games.

While it wasn’t a wire-to-wire victory for the road team, the Trail Blazers’ lone lead came after less than a minute had elapsed in the first quarter. The Raptors would take a 14-point lead by the end of the quarter.

“Our first quarter defense wasn’t even close to being good enough, especially against a playoff team, a really good team like them” said Damian Lillard. “They shot the ball really well and we made a few mistakes that allowed them to get themselves going and start believing. You have to take your hat off to them, they;re a really good team and they brought a real challenge to us. Hopefully the next time we play them we’ll come out and have a better start.”

In a trend that would continue for the majority of the night, every time the Trail Blazers would succeed in cutting into the Raptors’ lead, Toronto, usually led by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, were always able answer with a few timely baskets or defensive play to keep Portland at bay. Portland had a chance to cut Toronto’s lead to three with 35 seconds to play after a Lillard steal, but CJ McCollum couldn’t get the midrange shot on the ensuing fastbreak to fall.

“It’s a shot I hit nine out of 10, easily,” said McCollum. “Left it a little short. Can’t happen. End of the game, that’s a big possession, open shot, open look. I hit that then it’s a three-point game, 36 second left, don’t need to foul, we can play it out. It’s a good learning experience.”

The Trail Blazers were led by Lillard, who scored just six points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half before finishing with 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field and 9-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. His first three-pointer, which didn’t come until the fourth quarter, made him just the third player in NBA history to make at least 125 three-pointers in each of his first four season. Lillard also added 11 assists for his 12th double-double of the season.

McCollum went 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-6 from three to finish with 21 points, six rebounds and two assists. Allen Crabbe scored 17 points off the bench and Gerald Henderson added 10 to round out Portland’s double-digit scorers. Henderson’s ninth point Thursday night gave him 6,000 points for his career.

Portland forward Maurice Harkless started Thursday’s game in place of Noah Vonleh, who sat out with a sprained left ankle, and finished with two points, two points, two blocks and a steal in 16 minutes.

Toronto’s starting backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points on 21-of-44 shooting. Jonas Valanciunas put up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds. Portland native Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each scored 12 points off the bench.

Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for the first time in nearly three weeks to take on the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 pm.

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McCollum On The Skill Competition: ‘I Ain’t Going To Be Cool Like A Lot Of Those Other Guys’

Casey Holdahl
by Casey Holdahl
2 days ago

The NBA announced the participants Saturday night events at the 2016 All-Star Weekend in Toronto on TNT Thursday night, with Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum being one of the eight players selected to compete in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.

Here’s what McCollum had to say about being selected to participate in the Skills Challenge, his chances of winning the event, not being “cool,” the addition of power forwards and centers and what else he’ll be up to in Toronto…

Your thoughts on being invited to participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge. You had said you wanted to compete in at least one of the events at All-Star, sounds like someone was listening.

CJ McCollum: “I would have liked to be in the Three-Point Contest too, but I’m definitely thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Skills Challenge. I look forward to trying to bring home another winning trophy like Dame did.”

When did you find out you were selected?

CJ McCollum: “A couple of weeks ago.”

Damian won it twice, I assume he’ll probably give you some pointers. But that’s got to be some pressure too considering he’s going to rib you if you won’t win it.

CJ McCollum: “Nah, no pressure. This is all in good fun, it’s a competitive environment, the juices will be flowing. I’ll definitely get some pointers from him, get a little bit of practice in next week.”

What do you feel like you bring to the Skills Challenge that will put you in a good position to win it?

CJ McCollum: “I’m gonna go hard and try to win. I ain’t going to be cool like a lot of those other guys. Hopefully they continue to try to be cool; I’ll go hard. Get in and out of cuts, try to make crisp passes, knock down the shot and keep it moving.”

You mentioned practice. You going to wait until you get in Toronto or put in some time before that?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll probably practice here next week, get a couple runs in.”

What do you think about the field? They’re letting bigs in this year.

CJ McCollum: “Yeah, I see we got a lot of big men in there. They’re shooting threes now days, they’re becoming more well-rounded. Glad to see them competing in this as well and hopefully a guard brings home the championship, not a big.”

I think a lot of people are picking last year’s winner, Patrick Beverley, or Isaiah Thomas as the favorites. How do you like your chances?

CJ McCollum: “I like my chances. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good chance at winning. Obviously it’s about getting the pass in there, making sure you make the jumpshot and everything else should be easy.”

A lot of guys who come up playing basketball participate in three-point or dunk contests, but have you ever done anything similar to the Skills Challenge?

CJ McCollum: “No, I’ve done three-point competitions before, but never a skills setting like this.”

You mentioned you were planning on going to All-Star Weekend even if you weren’t selected to compete in an event, so what else do you have scheduled for Toronto?

CJ McCollum: “I’ll be at the Players Association meeting on Friday. I have a couple of events with my sponsors, I think I’ll have something with Mountain Dew, a couple NBA Cares events and then I also sit on a panel. And I think I might do a segment for Inside Stuff while I’m there, maybe a community service event as well. But I don’t have my full schedule yet.”

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