HOUSTON - The Portland Trail Blazers were determined that this trip to Houston would end much better than their last visit here when they were stung by a tough overtime loss to the Rockets.
That was clear from the beginning of this one. Damian Lillard had 21 points and 10 assists and the Trail Blazers built a big lead early and rolled to an easy 96-79 win over the Rockets on Saturday.
In their last game here they led by 15 in the fourth quarter before Houston rallied to force overtime and got a 108-103 win on the day coach Kevin McHale was fired in November.
“We talked about it for a little while after and we was sick about that one,” Lillard said. “We talked about it. Especially coming into tonight, we said to remember what happened last time.”
On Saturday, the Trail Blazers were up by 19 at halftime and scored the first six points of the third quarter to make it 61-36 with about 10 minutes left in the quarter.
James Harden made four quick points after that before the Trail Blazers used a 13-2 run -- with 3s from Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Al-Farouq Aminu -- to push the lead to 74-42.
The Rockets scored the last 11 points of the quarter, with the first nine from Harden, to cut the lead to 74-53 entering the fourth. But Portland opened the fourth with an 8-2 spurt.
“That was a really good win,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Defensively we were solid all (game). For the most part we took away and they didn’t get 3s or transition.”
Harden led the Rockets with 33 points.
“We’re just a slow step on everything,” Harden said. “When you get a slow step, you give guys confidence early on in the game. They kind of rode that wave out and were making shots.”
The Trail Blazers had six players with 10 or more points. McCollum and Gerald Henderson had 16, Maurice Harkless had 14, Aminu had 11 and Mason Plumlee had 10.
The Rockets made a bit of a game out of it when they scored 11 straight points to get within 89-78 with about 3 minutes left. But Portland used a 5-1 spurt after that to fend off the late charge.
Houston entered the game shooting 35.5 percent from 3-point range but made just 7 of 36 for a season-low 19.4 percent. But it wasn’t just the Rockets’ long-range shooting that was terrible on Saturday -- they shot just 32.5 percent overall, which is also a season-low. They were also outrebounded 54-43.
“It’s disappointing the way we came out and played this game,” Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “As important as this game was it’s disappointing to say the least.”
The Trail Blazers led by six at the end of the first quarter and opened the second quarter with a 13-2 run to extend the lead to 42-25.
The Rockets got within 44-30 after an alley-oop dunk by Dwight Howard with about 7 minutes left in the second quarter. But Houston couldn’t do anything on offense after that, making just one field goal the rest of the first half to trail 55-36 at halftime.
Houston made four free throws in that span but missed 11 shots and had five turnovers.
Portland routes Lakers in Bryant's final game in the Rose City
Jan. 23, 2016 / Associated Press
PORTLAND - While Damian Lillard was the star of Portland’s victory over the Lakers, it was Kobe Bryant’s night.
Lillard had 36 points, including five 3-pointers, and the Trail Blazers beat Los Angeles 121-103 on Saturday night for Bryant’s last game in Portland.
“Growing up, I was a Warriors fan but when the playoffs came I was a Lakers fan because we never made the playoffs. I was on Kobe’s back, like, `Let’s go Kobe, let’s go Shaq.” Lillard said. “Now to play against him, and to know him, it’s been a pleasure.”
CJ McCollum added 28 points for the Blazers, who led by as many as 27 points in the first half on the way to their eighth straight victory over the Lakers.
D’Angelo Russell came off the bench with 21 points for the Lakers, who dropped their sixth straight game. But all eyes were on Bryant, a Portland nemesis dating back to the 2000 Western Conference finals, who finished with 10 points.
It was the second of a back-to-back for the Lakers, who fell 108-95 to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. The game was played on the 10th anniversary of Bryant’s 81-point game against Toronto, which remains the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.
Because of the back-to-back, there was speculation that Bryant would not even play against the Blazers, but he started. It was Bryant’s 62nd career game against Portland.
Bryan finishes 6-26 in Portland, his worst record in any city. But while the Blazers have pestered him during regular season games, most fans remember the 2000 conference finals. Portland was up by 15 points in the fourth quarter of Game 7, but the Lakers -- led by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal -- came back to win.
Still, there is grudging respect for Bryant, evident in the mixture of cheers and boos when Bryant was announced in pregame introductions, and an occasional “Kobe! Kobe!” chant broke out among the fans.
“There were too many Lakers’ supporters for my taste, but I’m glad they showed Kobe some appreciation,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said, adding with a grin, “maybe a little too much.”
Bryant called the night “a blast.”
“I have so many great memories here. Most of the time I ended up on the losing side of things during the regular season,” he said. “The fans, the playoff battles ... great memories. I just tried to take it all in tonight.”
Bryant said Portland, Sacramento and San Antonio were among his favorite places to play.
Portland pushed its lead to 35-20 in the first half, with Lillard and McCollum combining for 24 points. Gerald Henderson’s 15-foot jumper pushed the lead to 43-24.
The Lakers closed the gap to 53-46 after Lou William’s jumper and free throw. Williams hit a 3-pointer that got the Lakers within 59-52 at the end of the half, but McCollum answered with his own 3 and the Blazers led 62-52 at the break.
Portland extended the lead to 101-76, going on an 18-4 run to close out the fourth quarter. The Lakers closed within 103-88 after Russell’s 3-pointer and free throw and fans chanted “We want Kobe,” but Bryant was already done for the night.
A fan behind the Lakers’ bench held a sign that read “Thank You Kobe.” Bryant embraced both Lillard and McCollum after the game and left the court to a loud ovation.
It was the sixth time Lillard had 30 or more points against the Lakers.
Lillard, McCollum lead 3-point barrage in comeback victory
Jan. 10, 2016 / Associated Press
PORTLAND - After hitting his third consecutive 3-pointer, Damian Lillard flapped his arms above his head and motioned to the crowd while screaming, “Come on, man! Let’s go!”
“I got some good looks at the rim and let them fly,” Lillard said.
The star guard scored 31 points, including five 3-pointers in the last 3:07, and the Portland Trail Blazers rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 115-110 on Sunday night.
Portland coach Terry Stotts said calling Lillard’s performance “big” would be an understatement.
“You don’t see that very often,” Stotts said.
C.J. McCollum added 22 points for Portland, which hit a season-high 19 3-pointers to snap a three-game losing streak. Lillard finished with eight 3s, which matched his career high.
Thunder guard Russell Westbrook nearly had his fourth triple-double of the season but fell short with 25 points, 15 assists and nine rebounds. Last season, Westbrook led the NBA with 11 triple-doubles.
Kevin Durant had 28 points for Oklahoma City and has scored 20 or more in 23 consecutive games.
With 3:19 remaining, Andre Roberson hit a buzzer-beating 3 to put Oklahoma City up 103-95. That started a 3-point shootout. Lillard hit three straight 3s, and Allen Crabbe drained another to cut the Thunder’s lead to 108-107 with two minutes left.
Lillard wasn’t done. He hit two more 3s to give Portland a three-point lead, and an offensive foul on Oklahoma City with a minute left brought fans to their feet. But it was Mason Plumlee’s block for the Blazers with 30.9 seconds left, Lillard said, that made all the difference.
“Changed the game completely,” Lillard said. “That was the game-winner right there.”
Lillard finished with 17 points in the final quarter. Durant went scoreless in the fourth.
“They played well in the fourth, and we didn’t,” Durant said. “All those made shots kind of broke our backs.”
The loss ended a four-game road win streak for the Thunder.
The Blazers and Thunder kept it close in a sloppy first quarter. Steven Adams slammed a one-handed dunk for Oklahoma City, and Maurice Harkless answered with a 3.
Portland led 52-46 at halftime. Westbrook had just two points heading into the break.
Lillard’s eight points in two minutes allowed the Blazers to open their lead to 65-55 in the third quarter. Quick points from the Thunder, including a 3-pointer and a free throw by Adams and a running jumper from Durant, trimmed Portland’s lead to two.
The Thunder rallied to take the lead, but McCollum’s 3 at the buzzer to end the third brought the Blazers to 85-80.
Amid the fun of home runs and Mid-Summer Classic that is baseball, the NBA sort of sneaks in all the free agent signings/unsignings and the Portland Trail Blazers are playing their role in all of it.
But, not too heavily.
Three of their starters left via FA and they traded the fourth leaving a whole line-up of changes ahead. That's the key element of this week's Sportsland, Oregon episode, recorded at Pour Sports sports bar in Southeast Portland.
The team has it's marquee player back - point guard Damian Lillard, and signed for the next six years. But, the rest of the starting line-up is a mystery with some likely options. Gerald Henderson at shooting guard. Al-Farouq Aminu at small forward. Mason Plumlee at center? Meyers Leonard as Kevin Love power forward/outside shooting specialist?
The team's tempo might be the key to the season, and not putting too much pressure on winning.
Then it's off to golf, soccer, some college football talk, and good community causes. All recorded at Pour Sports in Southeast Portland.
A fourth-quarter rally gets Portland it's first win over the Grizzlies
April 27, 2015 / Associated Press
PORTLAND - After the final buzzer of their Game 4 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers all gathered in a huddle at midcourt and raised their clasped hands skyward.
All of them were smiling.
Portland had avoided elimination from the playoffs with a 99-92 victory over Memphis.
“I think since the last game when we went 0-3, the big thing we’ve been talking about is having heart and playing with pride -- and just not being swept,” said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who had 32 points. “Everybody’s always saying, ‘Nobody’s ever done it, coming back from 0-3.’ We didn’t want to focus on that. We wanted to focus on just today, and doing everything we had to do to give ourselves a chance to keep playing.”
Memphis led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Portland rallied to deny the Grizzlies their first playoff sweep. Lillard united the team in timeouts, then encouraged the hometown fans by gesturing for cheers late in the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Portland, while C.J. McCollum added 18 points -- including two clutch layups and a 3-pointer down the stretch. The victory snapped Portland’s seven-game losing streak to the Grizzlies, including all four regular-season meetings.
Game 5 is Wednesday in Memphis. The winner of the series goes on to face the Golden State Warriors in the second round.
Portland went 0-3 against Golden State this season.
The Grizzlies were playing without starting point guard Mike Conley, who was inadvertently elbowed in the face in the third quarter of Game 3 and underwent surgery on Monday morning. His status for the rest of the playoffs is uncertain.
Marc Gasol led the Grizzlies with 21 points, and Courtney Lee added 19.
“When you’re up 10 points with six minutes in the game in this league, you got to finish,” said Zach Randolph, who had 12 points for Memphis. “Especially in these circumstances and what we’re playing for. So it’s frustrating.”
McCollum’s layup with 4:50 left knotted it at 82. Gasol’s hook shot on the other end denied Portland the lead, but McCollum made another layup to tie it again with 2:36 to go.
Gasol made two free throws but Lillard hit a 3-pointer and a free throw to put Portland in front 88-86 with 1:58 left. Randolph’s layup tied it again for the Grizzlies before McCollum’s 3-pointer put the Blazers up 91-88.
Lee’s layup closed the gap to 92-90 with 19 seconds left. After Lillard’s free throws, Gasol dunked, but Lillard and Batum made free throws as time wound down before Aldridge’s rebound and layup at the buzzer.
“Well, it was good to get a win, obviously. That’s an understatement,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.
Nick Calathes started for the Grizzlies in Conley’s place. It was his first career playoff start and first of the season. He finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers.
Memphis backup guard Beno Udrih, who had 20 points in the opener, hurt his ankle in the first half of Game 2 but returned in the third quarter and finished with 10 points. He warmed up Saturday night but didn’t play. He played in Game 4 and had 13 points.
Meyers Leonard hit a 10-foot jumper and added consecutive 3-pointers to put Portland up 35-30 in the first half. Aldridge’s layup gave the Blazers a 43-37 lead, and they went on to a 55-48 halftime lead.
Memphis opened the second half with a 10-2 run capped by Lee’s 3-pointer to go up 58-57.
Lee’s long jumper put Memphis in front 62-57 and Portland went cold, going 0-for-10 from the field until McCollum’s layup with 5:32 left.
The Grizzlies outscored the Blazers 27-13 in the third quarter and carried a 75-68 lead into the final period.
Jeff Green’s 3-pointer gave the Grizzlies the biggest lead of the game, 80-70, with 8:48 left.
Gasol was blunt about what happened from there:
“We stopped competing. We tried to trade buckets with them, and we played a little bit too fast. We did not execute as well as we could have,” he said. “They took away the momentum that we built and got away with a win. Got to give them credit.”
The Memphis Grizzlies haven't been a secret for some time in how they've been developed during a season - they're built for a playoff run. Incredible how that can be said when Zach Randolph is one of their starters, but the deliberate and physical style of play they have says "we want to make every possession count."
In the past four seasons, they've been past the first round twice, reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2013. The other two seasons, they lost in the first round - in seven games each time.
Heck, if they've had Greg Popovich as coach, the Grizzlies might have an NBA Title or two in the trophy case.
So, how can the Portland Trail Blazers create that same reputation around the NBA? That's going to be quite a challenge this summer for General Manager Neil Olshey with the team facing that prospect soon by trailing the Grizzlies 3-0 in their first-round series.
The Blazers have pieces of a playoff contender in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, but the third part of the planned threat - Nicolas Batum - has never played up to his role. Perhaps it's time to see what his value is on the open market. This summer.
With only one playoff series win in the past 14 seasons, and only two seventh games since 1990, Portland just hasn't gotten the playoff excitement its fans crave.
Somehow, there's a gameplan that hasn't gotten on the chalkboard that will get Portland into some form of playoff run it hasn't been in since the days of Clyde, Terry, Duck, Buck and Jerome.
Aldridge is a player. Lillard is a player. CJ McCollum appears to be one who can take his place in the building process.
Olshey is in need of being a player himself this summer. Portland is a wierd place that remains calm during the summer, making solid moves like bringing Robin Lopez in at center two summers ago. But, that move got only one playoff series win. Snagging Aaron Afflalo at the trade deadline this season didn't make an impact either.
Whatever the moves end up being, one of the playoff elements that can happen even off the court is in the court of public opinion. Portland has chased after big names, notably Paul Millsap one summer, but no big names seem interested in winding up in a nice, humble town. That's a factor that has to change this summer if the team's history is to change in the playoffs.
The latest episode of Sportsland delves into the big stories for the week
Groundhog Day, 2015
It's Portland's turn to talk Super Bowl, and what motivated the Seattle Seahawks to call anything other than a run to Marshawn Lynch to wrap up a win over New England. Perhaps it was just a way to give someone else besides Lynch - the loudmouthed interviewee - a chance to get the publicity, that someone being quarterback Russell Wilson.
Co-hosts Cliff Pfenning and Derek Weber talk up the Super Bowl, as well as what motivated the NBA to avoid putting hometown hero Damian Lillard on the NBA All-Star team for the second-straight year. Anti-Portland senitment? Whatever is was, the show delves into that.
Also, Oregon State men's basketball. Last week, the Beavers were looking like a team that could potentially play its way into the NCAA Tournament. Then, they hit the Arizona schools on the road, and looked like a team desitined for an early exit from the Pac-12 Tournament.
Not so for the OSU women's squad, which continues to impress the nation by blowing out every opponent on their conference schedule.
It's all recorded at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.
Boston wins with a last-second shot, 90-89, as Batum exits with injury
Jan. 22, 2015
PORTLAND - Having learned All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge would be out for six to eight weeks earlier in the day, the Portland Trail Blazers nearly pulled off a hearty victory Thursday night. Instead, it was a rancorous defeat.
With just 1.9 seconds left and trailing the Portland Trail Blazers 89-87, Boston’s Evan Turner hit a 3-point shot that pushed the Celtics to a 90-89 victory at the Moda Center.
The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Celtics, and snapped a 24-game road losing streak against teams from the Western Conference. It was the team’s first win over the Blazers in three seasons.
Boston had four starters in double figures paced by Avery Bradley with 18 points. Jared Sullinger added 17 points and nine rebounds.
Damian Lillard had 21 points and seven assists to lead Portland, which has lost five of its last six as the team struggles with injuries to their front line. Already without Aldridge and starting center Robin Lopez, starting forward Nicolas Batum left the game with a wrist injury that has been nagging him.
“Everybody knows what Nic can bring and what LA brings, so we have to figure out diffident ways of scoring and sometimes different ways of playing,” said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. “The differences are fairly obvious.”
Lillard’s 3-pointer put Portland up 87-81 with 4:44 left, but the Celtics answered, pulling within 87-85 on Bradley’s pull-up jumper before Sullinger’s put-back layup tied it.
Wesley Matthews missed one of two free throws to give the Blazers the edge, and a turnover gave Portland the ball on the other end. But the Blazers struggled to score and settled for Thomas Robinson’s free throw to lead 89-87 with 26.6 seconds left.
Boston missed a shot, but snared the rebound, and on the ensuing inbounds play, nearly had the ball stolen from Sullinger. But, scrambling on the floor, Sullinger flipped the ball to Turner for the go-ahead 3-pointer, and Lillard couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
Most fans at the game were looking for a call of jump ball as Sullinger was tearing the ball from a pile of layers and passing to a wide open Turner.
The Blazers were hit before the game with the news that Aldridge had torn a ligament in his left thumb and would need surgery. The 6-foot-11 power forward is expected to miss from six to eight weeks.
Aldridge was injured in Monday’s 98-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings. He leads Portland with averages of 23.5 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.18 blocks per game.
“It’s tough,” Aldridge told reporters in Portland’s locker room before the game. “I definitely didn’t want to have anything like this going on right now.”
The injury is blow to the Blazers, who were already without Lopez because of a fractured right hand and center Joel Freeland with a right shoulder strain.
The Celtics shook up their lineup, starting Brandon Bass instead of Tyler Zeller. Coach Brad Stevens said before the game he wanted to see Bass and Sullinger play together.
“We’re not accomplished enough to say we have to have on starting lineup right now,” Stevens said pregame.
Matthews said of the loss, “We blew it. We had possessions, we had chances, we had opportunities.”
Memphis holds off a late comeback to beat Portland 102-98
Jan. 17, 2015 / Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - With all of the Memphis Grizzlies’ firepower, it was reserve point guard Beno Udrih who came up with not one, but two key baskets to preserve a win.
Udrih’s second basket with 8.7 seconds left helped Memphis hold off a Portland rally, and the Grizzlies won their fourth straight 102-98 over the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.
“I looked at the clock and it was a low clock,” Udrih said of the final basket. “I didn’t want to put somebody else in a position to shoot a desperate shot, so I just got to my spot. I was feeling pretty good the whole game, so I just knocked it down.”
The 22-footer completed a perfect 7-for-7 night shooting for Udrih, who was playing for injured starter Mike Conley.
Zach Randolph had 20 points and 15 rebounds, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee matched Udrih’s 17 points and Marc Gasol finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks for the Grizzlies.
Memphis led by as many as 20 in the second half, but saw that dwindle to 95-93 when Portland’s Damian Lillard connected on a 3-pointer with 1:06 left. Udrih’s 20-footer as the shot clock expired on the next possession helped Memphis maintain the lead.
Lillard connected on another 3-pointer with 27 seconds left, but then Udrih made his 22-footer.
“I was pleased with our effort in the second half,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Beno made two jumpers that obviously made a difference. We put ourselves in a position to win a game on the road against a good team and just fell a little short in the second half.”
LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 32 points, 18 in the second half, while Wesley Matthews finished with 25 points. Lillard, who struggled through three quarters, scored 23, including 10 in the fourth as Portland made its comeback.
The loss gave Portland its first three-game losing streak this season. The Blazers return to action Monday with a home game against Sacramento.
“If I knew the answer, I would fix it,” Aldridge said when asked about execution. “So, I don’t know. I think we’ve got to look in the mirror and see what we’re doing.”
Portland only converted a third of its shots through much of the first three quarters. That allowed Memphis to extend its advantage to 20. The Trail Blazers were able to trim the Memphis lead to 78-70 after three.
Matthews and Aldridge keyed a 12-2 rally in the middle of the fourth. Aldridge backed down whatever defender the Grizzlies rotated to him.
Portland got no closer than three points in the final minute thanks to Udrih’s baskets -- both coming late in the shot clock.
“I thought the fourth quarter was as close to playoff intensity as you can get in game 40,” Memphis coach Dave Joerger said.