The Portland Trail Blazers tied their franchise record for three-pointers made Thursday night with 21 treys versus the Bobcats at the Moda Center. Portland set the record on December 14 against the 76ers in Philadelphia and took only a couple of weeks to tie that record, making them the first team in NBA history to make at least 20 three-pointers twice in an NBA season. It’s a reminder that just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t necessarily mean that it can’t be done.
After struggling in the first few games of their first round playoff series, the play of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in Games Three, Four and Five has been one of the main reasons the Trail Blazers hold a 3-2 advantage versus the Clippers. Mason Plumlee has arguably been Portland’s most valuable player, and both Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless have delivered game-changing performances at times during the series, but the attention Lillard and McCollum draw from the Clippers’ defense has allowed for their teammates to have a chance to shine in the postseason. And despite L.A.’s defensive gameplan focusing almost exclusively on stopping Portland’s starting backcourt, Lillard and McCollum are combining to average just over 40 points a game during the 2016 playoffs.
Given that, and the fact that they even made the playoffs, let alone are a game away from winning Portland’s second playoff series in the last 15 years, TNT analyst Charles Barkley declared on last night’s edition of “Inside The NBA” that Portland’s backcourt is second only to Golden State’s, the team the Trail Blazers would face should they advance to the next round.
First off, let’s just state the obvious: Pretty much nobody thought the Portland Trail Blazers were going to make the playoffs when the season started back in October. Some statistical models had Portland as one of the eight best teams in the West this year, but I’m not sure there was a single human covering the NBA who had the Trail Blazers making the 2016 postseason.
So the Clippers television broadcast team of Ralph Lawler and Michael Smith saying the Trail Blazers would not make the postseason during Portland’s preseason game at Staples back on October 22, 2015 isn’t a surprise. But they seemed REALLY sure they would join the inauspicious group of teams that went from winning at least 50 games the season before to missing the playoffs, which obviously didn’t happen, as the Trail Blazers and Clippers will meet in Game One in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs Sunday night…
Lawler, one of the legends of NBA broadcasting, repeats over and over that the Trail Blazers have “no chance” of making the postseason. Again, this wasn’t really a unique opinion (full disclosure: I did not think at the start of the season that Portland would make the playoffs, though I knew they’d be much better than most predicted), but to come out so strongly about their presumed inability to make the postseason, only to have then end up being the first round matchup he’ll end up calling, is quite the twist of fate. And in Lawler’s defense, he did preface his statement by saying “You’d never know it by the way they’re playing tonight,” so that’s kind of a compliment!
Game One between the Trail Blazers and Clippers tips off Sunday at 7:30 pm on KGW and Rip City Radio 620 AM.
(And for the record, this is all in good fun and should be taken as such. You could fill the reservoirs at Mt. Tabor with all of the predictions I get wrong throughout the course of the season, so if you’re tempted to get pissed off at this kind of thing, please take a moment to reconsider.)
The Portland Trail Blazers fell 136-111 to the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena Sunday night at Oracle Arena. Portland led 37-31 after the first quarter and were within five points late in the third quarter before the Warriors pulled away in the fourth for a 25-point victory.
But the game within the game between the two starting point guards ended up being much closer than the final score. Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP and the overwhelming favorite to secure the highest individual honor in the NBA again this season, finished with 39 points on 13-of-21 shooting while his counterpart Damian Lillard, an Oakland native, went 13-of-27 for 38 points while almost single-handedly keeping Portland in the game during the first three quarters. And while basketball is obviously a team sport, the third quarter of Sunday night’s game had the feel of a one-on-one affair, with Lillard and Curry going shot-for-shot, literally, during a stretch midway through the third quarter.
“He wanted his team to win the game and I wanted my team to win the game,” said Lillard. “So there for a second, we just went at it for a little bit.”
“You get to matchup with a guy like that, you go back and forth and he’s not going to back down and I’m for damn sure not going to back down, so it turned into what it was,” said Lillard. “But I don’t think it was a me against you type of thing. He made a play for his team and I came down and did the same. A couple times I made passes that led to other passes. That’s what kind of game it turned into.”
“It’s fun obviously because good things are happening but you want to weather the storm on his end because he’s obviously such an explosive player,” Curry said of Lillard during that stretch in the third. “You could play great defense and he’ll still knock down the shot, so you know he’s capable of doing that and not letting it shatter our confidence or make us play passive on the other end of the floor. So you just want to keep going back at him.”
In the end, the Trail Blazers faltered when Lillard subbed out late in the third quarter, giving the Warriors just enough of an advantage to take a double-digit lead into the fourth, though it wasn’t for a lack of effort from the 6-3 guard out of Weber State.
“He’s obviously a great player and has had some big nights against us shooting,” said Curry of Lillard. “I know he loves playing in Oakland, so we wanted to weather the storm and keep going at it.”