LaMarcus Aldridge

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.”

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.”

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.

Officially a loss

Portland struggles with shooting and bad breaks in Warriors loss
Nov. 2, 2014

PORTLAND -  Warriors guard Klay Thompson was getting pestered by Portland’s Wesley Matthews, so in a split second he scrapped his plans to drive to the hoop and instead just shot on the run.

The shot fell with 8.9 seconds left on the clock, and Thompson finished with 29 points in Golden State’s 95-90 victory over the Trail Blazers on Sunday night.

“If I had a jumper I was going to shoot it and if he was on my hip I was going to try to get to the rim,” Thompson said. “Since he was right there I decided to try a tough floater and it went in.”

It was the Warriors’ third straight win to open the season -- their best start since 1994-95 when they opened 5-0.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Blazers, who dropped to 1-2 to start the season.

Portland hit just seven of 27 3-point shots in the game, and also had a key possession turned into a turnover with 14.5 seconds when officials overturned a call following a scramble and gave the ball to the Warriors to set up Thompson’s shot. Portland had two turnovers thereafter, and will look to end a two-game skid against the Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night.

After wrestling for the lead throughout the fourth quarter, Aldridge’s layup and a fadeaway jumper with 2:01 left gave Portland a narrow 90-88 lead.

Andre Iguodala missed the second of a pair of free throws for Golden State with 26.3 seconds to go to keep the Blazers in front. But Thompson nailed the floater to give the Warriors a 91-90 lead with under 10 seconds on the clock.

“We bring him (Thompson) off a little counter-screen on the baseline and Matthews chased him, but this is what Klay has become now. He’s not just a jump shooter. He’s a guy who can get into the paint and use his size and strength to get shots up like that,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

Steph Curry made free throws the rest of the way for the final margin. Curry finished with 21 points for the Warriors.

Thompson scored a career-high 41 points the night before in a 127-104 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Thompson combined with Curry to score 72 of Golden State’s points.

Coach Steve Kerr said before Sunday’s game that he was impressed -- but not only with the scoring outburst from the duo known as the Splash Brothers.

“It’s a tandem that’s playing both ends of the floor. That’s exciting,” he said.

Thompson and Curry scored Golden State’s first 16 points against the Blazers, and the Warriors built a 24-14 first-quarter lead after Thompson’s 3-pointer.

Golden State led by as many as 12 points, but Portland closed the gap to 38-27 following Matthews’ 3-pointer and Thomas Robinson’s basket. The Blazers couldn’t pull in front but kept it close and trailed by just 51-48 at the half.

Portland briefly pulled ahead 68-66 late in the third quarter on Will Barton’s 22-foot pull-up jumper and the game was tied at 68 going into the back-and-fourth fourth.

Robin Lopez, who had collected five fouls, hit a short jumper to give Portland an 80-79 lead with 5:49 left. Andrew Bogut’s tip-in and Thompson’s dunk gave the Warriors back an 85-84 lead.

Lopez finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers.

There was talk about Damian Lillard’s slow starts after the first two games of the season. He had totaled just six first-half points and was 2-for-10 from the field.

The All-Star guard’s first-half woes continued against the Warriors, and he was 1-for-8 for five points. Lillard finished with 11 points.

Lillard said he’s struggled for a game or two in his young career, but never for a series.

“I think it’s just one of those stretches you have to go through, and that you can grow from,” Lillard said.

Blazers Coach Terry Stotts was unconcerned.

“Dame just plays the game,” he said. “He’ll get his shots.”

It's finally time for NBA season to start

Amid all the hype over college football, Damian and the Blazers return
Oct. 27, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Now that Lebron is back in Cleveland, can anyone stop the Cavaliers - especially with Kevin Love on the frontline?

Plenty of teams, as the Chicago Bulls get favorable press across the country as the chief team to challenge, and in many cases, beat Cleveland to the reach the NBA Finals.

Cleveland may have the bigger names from off-season acquisitions, but the Bulls have Derrick Rose back from injury, off-season pick-up Pau Gasol from the Lakers, and coach Tom Thibodeau, who is respected about as much as any NBA coach after Greg Popovich of the Spurs.

So, it's an easy pick to put either Cleveland or Chicago into the NBA Finals from the Eastern Conference.

The West? That's the key discussion of Episode 21 of Sportsland, Oregon, 2014. The NBA and college football, which has the Oregon Ducks headed toward their nemesis from the past two seasons - Stanford - this weekend.

The Blazers are a key figure as a wild card in the Western Conference, having two All-Stars on the team in LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, who is getting national publicity thanks primarily to Adidas. Lillard has the game to put himself in conversations with Lebron, but he doesn't have the playoff magic. At least until last year. Portland won a first-round playoff series for the first time in more than a decade last year on a series-ending shot by Lillard. Can the team and Lillard match or improve on that this year? And, in a crowded Western Conference where the top eight teams seem fairly consistent, but where they are within that top eight might change weekly.

Defending NBA Champion San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland, Memphis, Dallas, Golden State and Houston.

Chicago and Cleveland in the East. Just about anyone in the West, as long as one of the conference finalists is San Antonio.

HERE'S OUR PRESEASON PICKS:

DEREK WEBER                  CLIFF PFENNING

        EAST                       EAST

  1. Chicago                1. Cleveland
  2. Cleveland             2. Chicago
  3. Brooklyn              3. Toronto
  4. Toronto                4. Miami
  5. Washington          5. Washington
  6. Miami                  6. Charlotte
  7. Atlanta                7. Brooklyn
  8. Charlotte             8. Indiana

        WEST                      WEST

  1. San Antonio         1. Los Angeles Clippers
  2. LA Clippers          2. San Antonio
  3. Oklahoma City     3. Portland
  4. Memphis             4. Oklahoma City
  5. Houston              5. Dallas
  6. Portland              6. Golden State
  7. Golden State       7. Houston
  8. Dallas                 8. Memphis

CONFERENCE FINALS

Derek - Chicago def. Cleveland; San Antonio def. Oklahoma City

Cliff - Cleveland def. Chicago (or Miami if DRose lost for season); Los Angeles Clippers def. Golden State

FINALS

Derek - San Antonio def. Chicago

Cliff - Los Angeles Clippers def. Cleveland

What's a guy like new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer get for his $2 billion purchase of the Clippers? A few good calls?

It's all in this episode of Sportsland, Oregon, recorded Monday at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.

 

 

 

Aldrige deserves attention

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 8:03am
Cliff Pfenning
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For all the talk of the offensive power LaMarcus Aldridge had displayed in the first two games of the NBA Playoffs, it was his defense that quietly carried the Portland Trail Blazers to victory Wednesday night.

Aldridge went off for 43 points on 18-of-28 shooting Wednesday, just three nights after scoring 46 points, which put him among NBA greats for playoff output in a two-game stretch.

But, his defense absolutely shut down Houston's Deight Howard, who began the game by scoring the Rockets first 13 points - all in impressive style. At the half, Howard had 25 points, and had TNT commentator Shaquille O'Neal boasting his season-long badgering of the NBA's most intimidating player had finally gotten through. And, he wouldn't shut up about it, even when Charles Barkley tried to get a word in.

Barkley - pro sports best overall commentator - pointed out that whatever Howard had done in the first half, it wasn't going to be enough if the rest of the Rockets didn't fulfill their game they were on the path to another loss.

Aldridge's play garnered only a brief few seconds at the end of the halftime commentary - and it was his offensive output of 23 points.

All the commentators missed out on the work Aldridge did on Howard at the end of the first half and start of the second half. After dominating the game's opening 20 minutes - primarly against Robin Lopez, Howard drew a defensive match-up with Aldridge and scored only one point in the next 16 minutes. Aldridge kept Howard away from dunk territory and forced him to be a shooter. Howard responded by basically throwing the basketball in the direction of the basket, not actually shooting.

Without dunking, Dwight Howard is just a good big man, not the dominating center Shaq slobbered all over at halftime.

Houston is likely to produce the same offensive attack Friday in Game 3, but will also have the freedom to shoot and attack with abandon as the underdog that knows the 2-0 series edge the Blazers have, it's only nine total points that separate the two teams after two games. And, the Rockets have played sub-par in both of those games, while the Blazers have gotten career-defining performances from its top player.

This series is far from over, but not if Aldridge continues his incredible play - and there's nothing to indicate he won't. If that happens, it's not going to take long to look at the rest of the league and wonder if Howard, a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, can't stop him, who can?

 

 

 

Blazers romp through Texas

Portland beats Houston again to take 2-0 series lead
April 23, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

LaMarcus Aldridge did it again, this time with a deeper supporting cast and a more motivated opponent.

Aldridge scored 43 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 112-105 victory at Houston Wednesday night, giving the Blazers a 2-0 lead in the NBA Playoffs first round series.

Damian Lillard added 18 points, while Mo Williams and Dorell Wright combined for 28 points off the bench to help carry the team past the Rockets, who got 32 points from center Dwight Howard and double-figure points from its other four starters.

Portland, though, outscored the Rockets 30-13 off the bench, and Howard scored only seven points in the second half.

"This is definitely the best I've felt going into a game, and I think this team in general just believes in me so much," Aldridge told media afterward. "They just ride the wave so well. ... I think having 15 guys have your back like that, it's great."

Portland plays host to the Rockets Friday and Sunday, with the best-oif-seven series winner facing either San Antonio or Dallas in the second round.

Should the Blazers beat Houston, they're guaranteed another series in Texas.

Portland, which finished the regular season with nine wins in 10 games, has not won a playoff series since 2000.

The Blazers, after a 122-120 overtime win on Sunday, looked headed for a 1-1 series tie in the first half, when the Rockets pulled to an 8-point lead and twice had 3-point shots rim out off fastbreak opportunities. But, they rebounded and had the game tied at 53-all at halftime. With their lead at one late in the game, they pulled away in a fashion they hadn't shown off during the second half of the regular season.

After two games, only Portland, Washington and Miami hold 2-0 series advantages. Of the 16 first-round games played, the visiting team has won nine - a playoff record.

 

 

LMA is the key for Portland

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 10:41am
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It's no secret the Portland Trail Blazers will go only as far in the playoffs as LaMarcus Aldridge takes them.

The first round series against Houston offers a tremendous opportunity for Aldridge carry an underdog - even one that won 54 games during the regular season - past a huge favorite - the Houston Rockets.

Houston has two fan favorites in center Dwight Howard and shooting guard James Harden, while the Blazers are virtually hidden in the Northwest with a pair of All-Stars on its roster as well - Aldridge and point guard Damian Lillard.

The Rockets have the luxury of directing one of its youngest players, Terrence Jones, to defend Aldridge, with his entire focus during the game simply to stick to Aldridge. That's a huge advantage for the Rockets in that they can direct a player to just hound an opponent's top player. So, if Aldridge were going to assume the leadership role that the Blazers need him to, that's where it starts - with Jones, then the rest of the Rockets.

 

Blazers pump up playoff bid

Portland could move to No. 4 seed if Houston unwinds
April 10, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Six wins in their last seven games has the Portland Trail Blazers back in the hunt for homecourt advantage in the first round of the NBA Playoffs after Wednesday's games.

The Blazers still need a couple of key wins in their last three games, and some listless play from the team they're chasing - the Houston Rockets.

Portland got an inspiring win over the Sacramento Kings, 100-99, Wednesday as guard Dorell Wright made a game-winning three-point shot with 7.5 seconds remaining. Solid defense secured the win over the Kings, who are 27-52. Houston, meanwhile, lost at Denver, which is 34-44.

Portland (51-28) enters its final three games trailing current fourth-seed Houston (52-26) by 1.5 games, and is ahead of Golden State (48-29) by two games.

Currently, the Blazers would face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs with the Rockets having home-court advantage.

The Blazers finish the regular season at Utah Friday, and with home games against Golden State Sunday and the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday.

Houston finishes its season with games against Minnesota, San Antonio, and two match-up with New Orleans.

Portland played the Rockets in the 2009 playoffs, but lost in six games despite having home-court advantage. The Blazers finished fifth in 2010 and '11, but lost in the first round each time.

Portland hasn't won a first-round series since 2000.

 

Who do you root for?

Is there a Final Four underdog? And, can LMA lead Portland to a series win?
March 31, 2014 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

How can anyone root for Kentucky as an underdog in the NCAA Tournament? Well, they are, according to their seeding in this year's tournament at No. 8. Connecticut, a regular national champion, is seeded No. 7, but reached the Final Four along with UK.

So, who's an underdog this year?

That's a key topic for the Sportsland, Oregon crew during this week's episode, recorded at Blitz Pearl in Northwest Portland.

With Wisconsin reaching the Final Four, the cast of Cliff Pfenning and Derek Weber discuss the frustration of Oregon's second-half collapse against the Badgers in the third round. How far away are the Ducks from a regular trip to the Elite Eight and Final Four?

Then, it's off to the Blazers and the danger they faced just last week of seemingly being on a path to ninth place in the Western Conference. Once LaMarcus Aldridge returned from an injury, the team settled down and won three straight to reclaim their position as a potential No. 4 seed.

Portland Timbers, Portland Winterhawks and Roofball all claim some portion of discussion of the show.

 

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