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Blazers streak toward Memphis

Portland drops its fourth-straight, but that was just the regular season
April 15, 2015

DALLAS - It may not have looked good, but at least it didn't feel bad for the Portland Trail Blazers - Wednesday night's loss to Dallas.

The Mavericks won their 50th game for the first time in four seasons, beating the Blazers 114-99.

And, no one got hurt for Portland.

The Blazers got 19 points from LaMarcus Aldridge and 13 points and 10 assists from rookie point guard Tim Frazier, but lost their fourth consecutive game to close out the regular season at 51-31, one game better than the Mavs.

At the end of the night, they had learned their first-round playoff opponent will be Memphis, which dropped from second to sixth, and finished fifth in the conference standings in just one week. The best-of-seven series begins Sunday in Memphis.

Portland played Memphis four times this season, and lost all four games.

Playoff games begin Saturday.

PLAYOFF MATCH-UPS

Western Conference

Golden State vs. New Orleans

Houston vs. Dallas

Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio

Portland vs. Memphis

Eastern Conference

Atlanta vs. Brooklyn

Cleveland vs. Boston

Chicago vs. Milwaukee

Toronto vs. Washington

 

Blazers get beat-up again

The 101-90 loss at Oklahoma City includes injuries to Batum, mcCollum
April 13, 2015 / Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY - Russell Westbrook made the most of his second chance.

The NBA’s scoring leader tallied 36 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists, and the Thunder beat the Portland Trail Blazers 101-90 on Monday night to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Westbrook almost didn’t get to play. He picked up his 16th technical at Indiana on Sunday. The automatic one-game suspension that usually accompanies that number would have kept him out of what turned out to be a must-win game. But the foul was rescinded Monday morning.

“I was worried once I got it during the game, but at the same time, the NBA does a great job of figuring out which tech is doable and which ones get rescinded, and I’m just happy mine got rescinded,” Westbrook said.

Enes Kanter added 27 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder, who would have been eliminated from the Western Conference playoff race with a loss. Now, the Thunder need a win at Minnesota and a loss by New Orleans at home against San Antonio on Wednesday to advance. Any other scenario and New Orleans secures the No. 8 seed.

“We put ourselves in this position,” Westbrook said. “But at the same time, we’ve just got to go out and take care of our business and see what happens.”

Meyers Leonard scored a career-high 24 points for Portland. The Trail Blazers, who already were locked into the No. 4 spot in the West, were without injured starters LaMarcus Aldridge (left foot sprain) and Arron Afflalo (right shoulder strain).

Portland coach Terry Stotts said Aldridge, who missed his second straight game, might play in the regular-season finale Wednesday at Dallas.

“I think it is important that if L.A. can play, that he can play, and he has been out for a little bit,” Stotts said. “I think that is important to kind of keep the edge, but how much? That is to be seen.”

Westbrook followed up his career-high 54-point effort Sunday by making 13 of 27 shots to extend his lead over Houston’s James Harden in the race for the scoring title. He scored 17 points in the first half, and Oklahoma City led 49-42 at the break. The Thunder shot just 35 percent in the first half, but they had 13 offensive rebounds and 10 second-chance points.

Damian Lillard’s 28-foot 3-pointer cut Oklahoma City’s lead to five with about seven minutes left in the third quarter before the Thunder went on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a 3-point play by Dion Waiters, to go up 66-54. Westbrook scored 13 points in the third quarter, and Oklahoma City led 81-70 heading into the fourth.

Portland cut Oklahoma City’s lead to six midway through the fourth, but Anthony Morrow quickly drained a 3-pointer, and the Thunder maintained control from there.

There must be a million ways to lose in the West

Mon, 04/13/2015 - 6:00am
Cliff Pfenning
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Wow. Just a couple weeks ago, it was sort of a gimme that the Portland Trail Blazers would be playing either the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs or possilby the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

After a pair of stirring runs by the Spurs and Clippers, the opponent could be Memphis or Houston, with the Blazers having played their way out of homecourt edge in the series.

This is what makes the Western Conference one of the best conferences in any pro sport in the world. Not only are there so many quality teams - two teams with winning records will miss the playoffs entirely, but so many of the playoff teams are closely matched that even their playoff seeds are up in the air until the final three days of the season.

Sports books in Las Vegas must be loving this because there's two odds-on favorites - Golden State and San Antonio, but so many upset potentials.

NBA executives have to be loving how the playoffs are shaping up, too, with a pair of season upstarts: Golden State in the West, and Atlanta in the East, possibly lining up against the stars of their conferences: the NBA champion Spurs against Lebron James' Cleveland in the conference finals.

But, that's anything but a gimme in the West.

 

 

Blazers drop farther from homecourt edge

Loss at Golden State puts pressure on final stretch
April 9, 2015 / Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. - Stephen Curry never talks about his case for NBA MVP unless he’s asked. Instead, he prefers to let his play speak for itself.

Note to Curry: The message is coming through loud and clear.

Curry eclipsed his own NBA record for most 3-pointers in a season, scoring 45 points to rally the Golden State Warriors to a 116-105 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

“I finally played a fourth quarter,’’ he joked, indirectly referring to how many lopsided wins have limited his playing time. “So I wanted to get out there and make some plays.’’

Curry entered the game four shy of his mark of 272 3-pointers, which he set two years ago in the season finale at Portland. He hit six before halftime and eight overall, teaming with fellow Splash Brothers star Klay Thompson to bring the Warriors back from 13 points down.

Curry finished 17-of-23 shooting, including 8-of-13 from 3-point range, which had Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob salivating over the statistics following coach Steve Kerr’s postgame news conference.

“Unbelievable,’’ Lacob said.

Curry added 10 assists, and Thompson scored 26 to help Golden State avoid its first three-game losing streak this season. Curry became the first Warriors players with at least 40 points and 10 assists in a game since Latrell Sprewell in 1997.

“He played like he wants to be MVP,’’ Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge said.

And indeed he does.

“He never says anything about it,’’ Kerr said of Curry’s candidacy, “but you better believe he wants it.’’

The Warriors (64-15), who have already secured home-court advantage throughout the playoffs because of a tiebreaker over East-leading Atlanta, clinched the NBA’s best record.

Aldridge had 27 points and six rebounds, and Damian Lillard added 20 points and eight assists for the Blazers, who had already locked up the Northwest Division. However, that doesn’t guarantee they’ll get home court in the first round -- that’s based on record -- and Portland (51-28) fell two games behind the Los Angeles Clippers (53-26) in its chase for that, mostly because it couldn’t corral Curry.

“We tried to mix up our coverages a little bit because he came out making shots from everywhere,’’ Lillard said. “It pretty much just didn’t matter. He made shots with a hand in his face, off balance, deep, everything. He just had it going.’’

On one play in the fourth quarter, Curry lost Lillard on the perimeter with a nifty behind-the-back dribble late. He threw up a 3 and ran down court as if he knew it would go in -- and it did.

Curry added another jumper and converted a reverse layup between a pair of Portland scores to put the Warriors up 102-97 with more than 3 minutes to play.

But Lillard and Aldridge kept bringing the Blazers back with an inside-out, two-man game that gave Golden State fits. Portland moved within a point before Golden State’s All-Star duo put away the game.

Curry made three free throws, Thompson broke free for a layup and Curry delivered the dagger -- crossing over Aldridge in the corner and hitting a step-back shot from 18 feet that gave Golden State a 111-103 lead with 1:11 left.

“He’s our MVP,’’ Thompson said. “He should be for the league.’’

Blazers close out Wolves, Warriors next

Portland routs Minnesota in advance of the West's tog dogs
April 8, 2015

PORTLAND - All the Trail Blazers can do is try to win their final four games. The playoffs will sort themselves out, coach Terry Stotts said.

“What will be will be,” Stotts said following Portland’s 116-91 rout of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

Portland has already captured the Northwest Division title but continue to battle for home-court advantage in the playoffs. They sit 1 1/2 games behind the Clippers and the Spurs for fourth place in the conference standings, and the four teams with the best records get home-court advantage.

“We know that the more games we win we give ourselves a better chance of having home court, so we wanted to come out and attack the game,” said Damian Lillard, who finished with 17 points. “I thought we did a great job of that.”

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 24 points and 13 rebounds before sitting out the fourth quarter. Robin Lopez added 18 points.

Andrew Wiggins had 29 points for the injury-depleted Timberwolves, who have lost eight straight and remain in the basement of the Western Conference.

Portland led by as many as 28 points and the Timberwolves, with just nine players available and playing the second of back-to-back games, were simply overwhelmed.

“They’ve got a lot of depth, we don’t have much depth, so it was a combination of things,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “We couldn’t withstand when they had runs.”

Portland had rested Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Chris Kaman on Monday at Brooklyn, where it lost 106-96. It was a one-game East Coast road trip to make up a game originally for Jan. 26 that was postponed by bad weather.

Minnesota was coming off a 111-116 loss at Sacramento on Tuesday.

The Timberwolves had a long list of inactives for the game, including center Gorgui Dieng, guard Ricky Rubio, guard Gary Neal, center Nikola Pekovic, forward Shabazz Muhammad, and forward Anthony Bennett.

Kevin Garnett was listed as questionable with a sore right knee but did not play. He has missed 15 games.

Aldridge’s layup gave the Blazers an early 23-13 lead, and he finished the first quarter with 15 points and seven rebounds. Lillard’s 3-pointer extended the lead to 39-26.

Meyers Leonard’s 3-pointer gave Portland 771 3-pointers this season to break a franchise record. The Blazers had 779 at game’s end.

Portland led 55-36 at the half, and maintained an 84-62 lead going into the fourth quarter. Lillard also sat for the final quarter, as did Batum.

Lillard said he hasn’t been scoreboard watching lately, despite the looming playoffs and Portland’s still-uncertain home-court status.

“At first, I was watching it a lot, but now it’s at the point where the season is coming to an end, and we just focus on ourselves and playing the right type of basketball we want to play going into the playoffs.”

Blazers wrap up Northwest title

Portland's 30-point win over the Lakers seals up long-awaited honor
April 3, 2015 / Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The Portland Trail Blazers returned to their locker room to find black T-shirts hanging in their stalls with bold red-and-white letters reading ''Northwest Claimed.''

Damian Lillard threw a couple into his traveling bag, but no Blazers put them on.

While they're thrilled to have some souvenirs from the franchise's first outright division title of the 21st century, the Blazers also are thinking ahead to bigger celebrations.

C.J. McCollum scored a career-high 27 points, Lillard added 20 and Portland celebrated its Northwest Division title with a 107-77 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

''It's an honor to be a part of this team and do so many things that this organization hasn't done for so long,'' Lillard said.

Arron Afflalo scored 17 points for the Blazers, who clinched the title earlier in the night with Oklahoma City's loss at Memphis. The Northwest crown is the first division title since a co-championship in 2009 for these Blazers, who earned the franchise's first playoff series victory since 2000 last spring.

''It's something that we'll always be a part of, and we need to relish this and enjoy it, because it doesn't happen all the time,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ''It's good to be a part of history, winning the title outright. Like I told the team, the banner is going to go up, and we'll always be a part of it.''

With Portland still fighting for home-court advantage later in the playoffs, with a game against streaking New Orleans set for Saturday night in Portland. The Pelicans have won four straight games and head for the Rose City just a half-game behind Oklahoma City in the race for the eighth playoff spot in the West. The Blazers are just a half-game behind both San Antonio and the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth-best record in the West and homecourt edge in the first round of the playoffs.

Lillard outscored the Lakers by himself in the first quarter (14-12), and Portland jumped to a 25-point lead during the second as Portland worked toward its first season sweep of the Los Angeles franchise in 21 years.

''I was disappointed at the start, because I didn't think we came out ready,'' Lakers coach Byron Scott said. ''I thought they came out like, `Listen, let's punch them in the mouth and see how they react.' I didn't think we reacted very well. I'm disappointed in that aspect.''

Rookie Jordan Clarkson had 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Lakers, who matched the franchise record with their 55th loss.

Los Angeles will miss the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time since 1976. The Lakers also lost 55 games last season, but their winning percentage (.267) currently is slightly higher than that of the 1957-58 Minneapolis Lakers (.264), who only played 72 games.

Wesley Johnson had 11 points and a career high-tying 15 rebounds for the Lakers, who have lost 14 of 18.

Warriors help Blazers to fifth straight loss

Golden State clinches division title with 122-108 win over Portland
March 24, 2015 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - The music was turned up in the locker room and the mood was festive, but Golden State didn’t overdo the celebration of the team’s first division title in 39 years.

These Warriors aren’t done yet.

“We might be a little subdued, but I think everybody is proud of what we’ve done. We still have 11 games left to keep getting better so I think everybody is focused on that,” Stephen Curry said. “But I think everybody is pretty happy right now.”

Curry had 33 points and 10 assists, and the Warriors pulled away from the short-handed Trail Blazers in the second half for a 122-108 victory Tuesday night. Andre Iguodala came off the bench to score 21 points for the Warriors, who won their seventh straight to push their record to an NBA-best 58-13.

Golden State hadn’t won the Pacific Division crown since the 1975-76 season, the year after the team won the NBA championship.

After the game, many players sported T-shirts that read “Pacific Claimed.”

With a comfortable lead on second-place Memphis in the Western Conference, the Warriors have dropped just one of their past 12 games. Playing the second of a back-to-back, the team shot a season-high 60.2 percent for the game.

“Golden State is a terrific team,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They’re solid on both ends of the court, and they showed that. They were very good all night. They passed the ball well -- they had 30 assists after three quarters and 37 for the game. They kind of put on a clinic as far as how to share the ball.”

Damian Lillard had 29 points for the Blazers, who have lost five straight following a 1-4 road trip. Despite the slump, Portland has remained atop the Northwest Division, five games in front of Oklahoma City.

The Blazers were without All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge because of a left index finger sprain, as well as fellow starting forward Nicolas Batum, who has lower back pain. Backup center Chris Kaman was out because of a right shoulder strain.

Portland already was missing guard Wesley Matthews, who was lost for the rest of the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon March 5 against Dallas. The Blazers have gone 3-5 without him.

Because of the absences, Portland started a lineup that included regulars Lillard and Robin Lopez, along with Matthews’ replacement, Arron Afflalo, and reserves Alonzo Gee and Dorell Wright.

Portland plays at Utah Wednesday night, with the Jazz featured as 4.5 point favorites despite being eight games under .500.

Golden State limited guard Klay Thompson to 25 minutes because of a sore ankle that kept him out of three games during the team’s homestand. Thompson, who finished with 16 points, returned Monday night for the Warrior’s 107-76 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Draymond Green added 14 points and 11 rebounds, while Andrew Bogut had 10 points and 16 rebounds.

“We’re very comfortable with how we’re going to get shots every single night,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Then it’s just about executing and not turning the ball over, staying aggressive and making the smart plays.”

The Blazers jumped ahead 24-18 early on Lillard’s off-balance jumper and extended the lead to 47-39 on C.J. McCollum’s 3-pointer.

Lillard’s 3 made it 53-41 but Curry answered with consecutive 3-pointers to keep the Blazers from pulling away. Leandro Barbosa’s 3-pointer pulled the Warriors within 66-55, but Portland still held a 62-57 advantage at the half.

The Warriors went on a 10-0 run to pull in front 69-66. Lillard hit a 3 to tie it, but Golden State scored nine straight to go up 80-69.

Golden State pushed the lead to as many 17 points. Allen Crabbe’s 3-pointer got the Blazers within 100-91 with 8:02 to go, but they couldn’t catch up.

Blazers get beat up in Memphis

Aldridge, Batum leave game during loss to Grizzlies
March 21, 2015 / Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Portland Trail Blazers lost their season-worst fourth straight and may have lost leading scorer LaMarcus Aldridge for an extended period.

Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies seem to be morphing into playoff mode as the regular season hits the stretch run.

Jeff Green had 23 points and Mike Conley scored 21 with nine assists to lead Memphis to a 97-86 victory over the struggling Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

The loss dropped Portland four games behind Memphis for the Western Conference’s second seed and left the Trail Blazers wondering about the latest injury to Aldridge.

The All-Star forward injured his left hand in the first half and left the arena with his swollen hand wrapped. The injury was to the same hand but not isolated to the left thumb he injured in January.

In addition to Aldridge, who had 16 points in the first half, starter Nicolas Batum also didn’t play in the second half because of a sore back.

“We’ve got our backs up against the wall right now,” said guard Damian Lillard, who led the Trail Blazers with 27 points and seven assists. “Lose four tough games and now we’ve got two guys go down.”

Green returned to the Memphis starting lineup after a change against Dallas on Friday night had him coming off the bench. Green regained starting status when Courtney Lee sat out with an injured right hand.

“Same confidence, same approach, just shots are starting to fall,” Green said. “Just continuing to be aggressive and play off of (Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph).”

Randolph added 17 points for Memphis, which won its second straight. Gasol had 13 points, and Tony Allen finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

C.J. McCollum had 13 points, and Dorell Wright scored 10 for Portland.

The Blazers were creeping up the Western Conference standings a week ago. But the losing skid has them sliding back to the middle of the playoff standings.

“It was a tough game to begin with and after (the injuries) it became a little more tough,” Lillard said. “But I think we’re still a good team. We’ve just got to keep playing and keep believing and we’ll be fine.”

Memphis shot 42 percent to 43 percent for Portland. Memphis, however, connected on 11 of 18 from outside the arc. The 11 3-pointers matched Memphis’ season high.

“The 3-point line was the difference,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “They made a good amount of 3s for them. I like the way we competed. It was a tough game, and we knew it was going to be a tough game on the road.”

Memphis carried a 53-44 lead into halftime and extended the advantage to double digits through much of the third quarter.

Portland managed to cut into the lead in the fourth, but never got closer than seven as Randolph scored 11 points in the final period.

Blazers dominate Toronto again

Portland gets big game from Aldridge, Batum in 113-97 victory
March 15, 2015 / Associated Press

TORONTO - Portland’s Nicolas Batum was so pleased with the way his team played in a big win over the Raptors, he called it “a dream game.”

To slumping Toronto, it was more like a nightmare.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 10 rebounds and the Trail Blazers beat Toronto for the 12th time in 13 meetings, routing the struggling Raptors 113-97 on Sunday night.

“That was a great game tonight, one of the best games of the year,” said Batum, who finished with 10 points and 12 assists, one shy of his season-high. “Offense and defense, the way we played was serious, very focused on the game plan. That was a dream game almost. I would love to play like that every time.”

Damian Lillard scored 23 points, and Arron Afflalo had 14 to help the Trail Blazers open a five-game trip with their eighth victory in nine games. They improved to 3-1 since losing starter Wesley Matthews to a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon.

“We’re peaking at the right time,” Aldridge said. “You want to peak toward the end of the season and right now we’re peaking at the right time.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points, and Jonas Valanciunas had 14 for Toronto. The Raptors lost for the 10th time in 12 games. Toronto, which beat Miami on Friday night, has not won consecutive games since a four-game run on either side of the All-Star break that included home wins over the Clippers, San Antonio and Washington, and a road victory at Atlanta.

Lou Williams scored 11 points, and Kyle Lowry, Amir Johnson and Greivis Vasquez each had 10 for Toronto, who sent many in the sellout crowd of 19,800 home early after falling behind by 18 points in the final quarter.

“We have to make sure we get stops,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “If you don’t it’s going to be a long night, especially against a great 3-point shooting team like Portland.”

Batum’s double-double was his second in five games, and he’s scored 10 or more in four of those.

“He probably benefited from the All-Star break more than anybody,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “It allowed him to kind of rest his mind and rest his body and he’s been the Nic Batum that we’re all used to.”

Trailing 93-79 after Chris Kaman’s layup to begin the fourth, Toronto cut it to eight with a 6-0 run. After a Portland timeout, the Blazers replied with eight straight points, including a 3 by Afflalo and two straight dunks by Dorell Wright, to restore the double-digit cushion. The Raptors never threatened again.

Blazers cruise past Pistons

Portland beats struggling Detroit 118-99
March 13, 2015 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - The Trail Blazers didn’t have to scramble to finish against the Detroit Pistons, and that was a good thing with a looming five-game road trip.

Damian Lillard had 28 points, including five 3-pointers, and Portland built a big lead in the first half and cruised to a 118-99 victory over Detroit on Friday night, handing the Pistons their ninth straight loss.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 22 points for the Blazers, who have won two of three since losing starter Wesley Matthews to a ruptured Achilles tendon. Portland led by as many as 23 points and sat its starters with four minutes left in the game.

“It was good to have one of those games,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “To have everybody play under 30 minutes, you need one of those every once in a while.”

Andre Drummond, who ranks second in the league in rebounds, had 16 points and 17 boards for the Pistons, who clinched the team’s seventh straight losing season. Greg Monroe added 19 points in Detroit’s fifth straight loss on the road.

“They were just making shots, they were just doing what they’re doing,” Monroe said. “They didn’t do anything out of the ordinary, they just moved the ball well and made their shots.”

The game got chippy in the end, with Portland’s Joel Freeland and Detroit’s Shawne Williams exchanging words and butting heads with a little more than a minute left. Both players were ejected.

Portland sits atop the Northwest Division and is a game up on Houston for third in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers were coming off a 105-100 victory at home over the Rockets, which clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The Pistons were coming off a competitive 105-98 loss to Golden State on Wednesday.

Paced by Lillard’s 13 points and four assists, Portland took a 35-24 lead into the second quarter. Robin Lopez had a short jumper before a layup and a free throw to extend the lead to 54-38.

Portland led 64-46 at the half, with Lillard, Aldridge and Arron Afflalo all in double figures. Aldridge, who leads the Blazers with 23.3 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, rested the entire fourth quarter.

Lillard finished with nine assists.

“I think our team as a whole just played well offensively, the way we moved the ball, the way we executed,” Lillard said. “A lot of the shots that I got were good looks. It helps when you’re executing and moving the ball the way we did.”

Still adjusting to the loss of Matthews for the remainder of the season, the Blazers were also without reserve guard Alonzo Gee, out because of oral surgery.

The Blazers have won five straight overall against Detroit and seven straight at the Moda Center.

Still, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said he saw positives.

“I thought we made offensive improvement tonight against a good defensive team,” Van Gundy said. “I thought our pace and ball movement were better. There was offensive improvement but we couldn’t find a way to stop them at all.”

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