damian lillard

Blazers play on to Memphis

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.”

Blazers are playoff-building bound

Sun, 04/26/2015 - 10:03pm
Cliff Pfenning
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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 Pats' Pick, Dame and the Beavs

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.


Celtics snare a win from 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.”

Blazers starting to cool down

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.

Clippers hold off Blazers again

Chris Paul and Co. rally in the fourth quarter for 100-94 win over Portland
Jan. 14, 2015 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Jamal Crawford scored 25 points, DeAndre Jordan had 17 points and 18 rebounds and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Portland 100-94 on Wednesday night.

Crawford scored the go-ahead basket on a 3-pointer with 3:55 remaining as the Clippers (26-13) came back from a six-point deficit.

It was Los Angeles’ second win over Portland (30-9) this season and ended the Trail Blazers’ four-game winning streak.

Chris Paul had 23 points and 10 assists and Blake Griffin scored 18 points for the Clippers.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 37 points and 12 rebounds for Portland. Aldridge, who missed his season high by two points, went 14 of 28 from the floor.

Damian Lillard had 15 points, while Chris Kaman had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Meyers Leonard, 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers.

After Crawford’s 3-pointer gave the Clippers the lead, they pulled away by making six free throws during the final 1:16. Paul went 10 of 10 at the line during the fourth.

The Clippers led 27-21 after the first quarter, and held off Portland through halftime as they rode Crawford’s hot hand. He hit two 3-pointers and scored 10 points during second quarter to give Los Angeles a 50-49 halftime lead.

Portland’s first-half offense went through Aldridge, who hit 10 of 16 shots and scored 22 points.

The game remained tight throughout the third quarter, though the Clippers never trailed. Los Angeles led by as many as seven points, but Portland eventually wiped out the deficit, as Leonard hit two free throws with 1:26 remaining to tie the score at 72. Aldridge scored 13 points during the third quarter.

Lillard triggered a Portland surge early in the fourth, as his 3-pointer gave the Blazers an 85-79 lead. Los Angeles quickly responded, going on a 10-3 run to take an 89-88 lead with 4:32 remaining on two free throws by Paul.

Atlanta makes an Eastern statement

The Hawks roll through PDX with a big win over the Blazers
Jan. 3, 2015 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Paul Millsap had 27 points and six rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Portland Trail Blazers 115-107 on Saturday night to become the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Jeff Teague added 22 points and the Hawks, playing the second game of a back-to-back, improved to 11-5 on the road, including six straight wins.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Blazers, who have lost just three games at home this season. LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 30 points and 12 rebounds.

Atlanta led by as many as 20 points in the second half.

The Hawks were coming off a 98-92 victory at Utah on Friday, which popped them into the top spot in the Eastern Conference for the first time since Dec. 27, 1997.

The Blazers got a hard-fought 102-97 overtime victory at home against Toronto on Tuesday, to extend their winning streak at the Moda Center to seven straight games.

With Matthews effectively guarding Kyle Korver, the Blazers jumped out to an early 8-0 lead after Matthews’ 3-pointer. But Atlanta went on an 18-3 run to lead 29-20 at the end of the first quarter.

The Hawks led by as many as 11 points in the second quarter, while the Blazers struggled with turnovers, finishing the half with 13.

Portland pulled to 50-47 on consecutive late baskets from Aldridge. Nicolas Batum added a layup, but the Hawks led 52-49 at the break.

The Hawks extended the lead in the second half, going up 62-51 on Millsap’s dunk. Teague’s basket pushed the advantage to 81-61.

The Blazers responded with a 14-2 run to close out the third quarter, capped by Damian Lillard’s long 3-pointer that closed the gap to 83-75.

Portland was hurt early in the fourth when center Joel Freeland appeared to injure his right shoulder and was whisked to the locker room. Freeland had been getting more minutes in the absence of Robin Lopez, who is out with a broken hand.

Lillard for President? Rose Bowl redux

The year-end episode of Sportsland delves into the hardcore topics
Dec. 29, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

So, what happened to the Rose Bowl?

Sure, it's where the Oregon football team will be playing in the College Football Playoffs Thursday, but the game itself - the Rose Bowl, got pretty much dropped to a playoff game being played at the Rose Bowl. That's a topic the Sportsland crew takes on in the year-end episode, recorded at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.

It's just a semifinal, and might not ever be the same game - although the playoff committee might have been able to keep the game relevant with a simple switch of match-ups. What if Oregon were playing Ohio State instead of Florida State?

Then, it's onto the NBA and the amazing Blazers' season, led by Damian Lillard. He'll never get voted to the All-Star team, because Portland is so far from the national limelight, but if he continues to play at his current pace, might he be a top contender for MVP?

The cast talks up his competitors as well as which team looks most dangerous in terms of playoff potential.

And, a few picks for the NFL playoffs, all of which wraps of the year.




Blazers move up ladder

Friday's win over the 76ers pulls Portland toward Conference lead
Dec. 26, 2014

PORTLAND - Missing two centers and All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge, the Portland Trail Blazers used their long-range shooting to earn another win Friday night.

Damian Lillard scored 28 points, Wesley Matthews had 25 and the Trail Blazers hit a season-high 18 3-pointers on their way to a 114-93 win over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Moda Center.

Matthews went 7-for-14 from beyond the arc, and Lillard made three 3-pointers. Eight Portland players made at least one 3, and the Blazers (24-7) tied a franchise record with 43 3-point attempts.

The win moved Portland within a half-game of Golden State for the best record in the Western Conference.

Aldridge was sidelined for the second time in three games with an upper respiratory illness, and centers Chris Kaman (birth of child) and Robin Lopez (right hand fracture) also were unavailable. But the Blazers are among the NBA’s top five in 3-point attempts and makes, so they had more than enough offense to post their seventh win in eight games.

“We knew we were short-handed, obviously without LA and (Lopez), so we knew it was going to be a different type of game,” Lillard said. “I thought we went out there and did what we needed to do.”

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown pinned much of Portland’s perimeter success on defensive mistakes.

“When you know you’re going to get hit, and you didn’t really do the job you needed to do to give ourselves a chance, it’s discouraging,” Brown said.

Portland wasn’t entirely lost inside. Center Joel Freeland grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds, a Blazers season high.

Tony Wroten, who missed Philadelphia’s last game with a right knee sprain, came off the bench to score 22 points. Michael Carter-Williams had 17 points, and K.J. McDaniels finished with 12.

Philadelphia (4-24), which had won two in a row, made 3 of 14 shots from beyond the arc. The Blazers lead the NBA in 3-point shooting defense at 29.9 percent.

Lillard and Matthews got rolling during the third quarter. Matthews made back-to-back 3-pointers, and Lillard scored 12 consecutive points for Portland in one stretch. The duo scored 22 of the team’s 27 third-quarter points as Portland increased its lead to 88-74.

Leading 27-24 after the first quarter, Portland put together a dazzling display of 3-point shooting. The Blazers made seven 3s, including three by Matthews, to build a lead as large as 16 points. Dorell Wright’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer gave Portland a 61-51 halftime lead.

“We are a relentless team, a confident team. We’ve played and won every kind of way this season,” Matthews said.

With Aldridge and Kaman out, Portland used its eighth starting lineup of the season.

The Blazers have won 13 of 15 home games this season for their best home start since 1998-99 when they were 14-1.

Lillard uses the Spurs

Portland's All-Star goes for a career-high in 3OT victory at San Antonio
Dec. 19, 2014 / Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO - Damian Lillard scored a career-high 43 points, including 16 after regulation, and the Portland Trail Blazers handed the San Antonio Spurs their second straight defeat in triple overtime by rallying for a 129-119 victory Friday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 32 points and 16 rebounds, and Wesley Matthews added 16 points as Portland (21-6) extended its winning streak to four games, and improved to 9-5 against teams from the Western Conference.

Tim Duncan had 32 points and 10 rebounds, Danny Green added 27 points and Tiago Splitter scored 14 for San Antonio.

The Spurs dropped their two previous home games by a combined three points, including a 117-116 loss in triple overtime to Memphis on Wednesday.

It was the first time a team has played consecutive triple-overtime games since the Baltimore Bullets did so in December 1951.

Lillard decimated San Antonio’s hopes almost singlehandedly on Friday, scoring the first nine points in the third overtime, including crossing up Green for a 20-foot jumper and a 120-112 lead with 3:04 remaining. Lillard’s ensuing 3-pointer gave Portland a 123-112 advantage, leading San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to empty his bench.

The Spurs scored the initial six points in each of the first two overtimes, but failed to hold the lead.

Steve Blake’s 3-pointer with 30.2 seconds left in the second OT gave Portland a 112-110 lead and Cory Joseph tied the game 7 seconds later on a floating jumper.

Duncan hit consecutive turnaround jumpers early in the first overtime, but Aldridge grabbed a missed 3 by Matthews that didn’t touch the rim and fed Lillard, who drained a tying 3-pointer with 13.6 seconds remaining.

The win was Portland's second over the Spurs in five days, but Monday's win in Portland featured Duncan sitting out. The Blazers next travel to New Orleans Saturday, then play at Houston and at Oklahoma City Monday and Tuesday, respectively. At 9-5, only Dallas has fewer wins than Portland among teams currently headed for the playoffs.



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