Blazers coast past Magic

The All-Star Break seems to help the team in court return
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. - Damian Lillard returned from the All-Star break refreshed, and he played like it Thursday night.

Aside from going to the Trail Blazers facility for treatment each morning, Lillard spent the majority of his time at home watching television, relaxing and consuming water. If his first game back from break was any indication, it was exactly what he needed.

Lillard scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to rally struggling Portland to a 112-103 victory over the Orlando Magic.

“I truly believe that break played a part in me being able to come out fresh,” said Lillard, who fought through picking up three fouls in the first half. “Even though I got into foul trouble early in the game, I still felt good. I didn’t feel discouraged about that and I think that played a huge part in that fourth quarter.”

Lillard brought the Blazers back from an 11-point deficit early in the fourth with a couple of big 3-pointers and drives to the basket during a stretch in which Portland outscored Orlando 16-4 to claim the lead. Lillard’s 3-pointer from the corner with 5:21 remaining gave the Blazers their first lead since the first quarter at 96-95.

Portland would not trail again even though the game remained close down the stretch.

“He has done that often in his career,” said Portland coach Terry Stotts, whose team snapped a three-game losing streak. “When he gets to rolling like that ... I don’t know if it’s a normal thing but it’s certainly not surprising.”

But what may have been surprising was the defense of seldom-used guard Shabazz Napier, who put a stop to the penetration of Orlando guard Elfrid Payton in the second half. Napier played so well that Stotts played a three-guard lineup for much of the final 24 minutes to allow Napier, C.J. McCollum and Lillard to be on the floor together.

“More than anything else it was his defense,” Stotts said of Napier. “I liked his defense on the ball and I just didn’t feel comfortable taking him out.”

The Blazers spoiled Terrence Ross’ Magic debut and also sent Orlando to its sixth loss in its last seven games.

The Magic led by as many as 14 points, but the all-too-familiar breakdowns on the interior defense and the inability to get consistent points outside of Nikola Vucevic plagued them down the stretch.

Orlando coach Frank Vogel couldn’t hide his frustration as his team’s already slim playoff chances fade with each loss.

“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” Vogel said. “Up nine or whatever we were in the fourth quarter, you should win that game.”

It was the exact opposite feeling in the Blazers’ locker room. They had lost six of their last eight games entering Thursday night.

“Getting that feeling that we did much better than we have all season,” Lillard said. “We got a big win on the road.”

Super Bowlers, but super brand?

Where do the Patriots sit among top US sports brands?
Sportland Oregon staff

When you reflect on all the pro teams from the five major leagues across the US: NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and even Major League Soccer, what's the top brand name for fans across the nation and even worldwide?

The New England Patriots might be No. 1 in terms of Super Bowls won in the past decade, but does anyone in Greece know who they are?

In this episode, we ponder that question as well as the recent NBA trade that send DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans, sorta SNL-style, too.

Oregon is gearing up for its NCAA Tournament run, but what about Gonzaga? The Zags might be a No. 1 seed, but does the NCAA really want a school from Spokane playing in the final? We chat that up as well as how coach Mark Few might be playing the tournament up to his players.

We also hit on the key event for the upcoming week: the Daytona 500. All recorded at Pour Sports in SE Portland.


Walton reaches national listing

Big Red gets spot on all-time greatest centers
Jan. 19, 2016

Bill Walton might have only averaged 13.3 points per game during his NBA career, but he still ranks as one of pro basketball's all-time greats. In fact, an poll released in 2016 has Walton at No. 10.

Walton led the Portland Trail Blazers to their lone NBA title in 1977, earning the league MVP as well as Finals MVP in the process. Portland led the league in wins midway through the following season when a foot injury ended Walton's season and started a string of injuries that kept him from ever again fully displaying the talents that made him the top draft pick in 1974.

He played later with the Clippers organization and Boston Celtics, earning an NBA title in Boston in 1986.


No. 10 - Bill Walton, Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics (1974-87)

No. 9 - George Mikan, Minneapolis Lakers (1947-56)

No. 8 - Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks, Seattle Supersonics, Orlando Magic (1985-2002)

No. 7 - David Robinson, San Antonio Spurs (1989-2003)

No. 6 - Moses Malone,  (1974-95)

No. 5 - Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets, Toronto Raptors (1984-2002)

No. 4 - Shaquille O'Neal, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics (1992-2011)

No. 3 - Bill Russell, Boston Celtics (1956-69)

No. 2 -Wilt Chamberlain, Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers (1959-74)

No. 1 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers (1969-89)

Timbers open the right way

Portland celebrates MLS Cup with 2-1 win over Columbus
March 6, 2016 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

PORTLAND -The Portland Timbers gave their fans the best possible start to the 2016 MLS season Sunday at Providence Park - a win before a raucous home crowd.

Diego Valeri scored in the 23rd minute in front of the Timbers Army, and Fanendo Adi scored in the 79th minute to give Portland a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in a rematch of the MLS Cup final from December.

Portland celebrated it's 2015 Cup win prior to the game in several ways, then beat its opponent from the final by the same score - this time before a home crowd of 21,144.

"To see the banner of winning the 2015 (MLS Cup), that was amazing," Adi said afterward. "I think that emotion took us into the game, and we did well."

"It was a very important game for us, special," Valeri said. "The first one after the MLS Trophy, and we wanted to give the (win) three points to our fans. And, we did it."

Portland remained unbeaten in home openers in its sixth season in MLS.

The Crew actually held a number of statistical advantages from the match, including more passes, better passing accuracy and holding possession for more than 60 percent of the match. But, the Timbers won 50 of the 83 physical duels and turned them into 20 shots, eight of which were on target causing Columbus keeper Steve Clark to make six saves.

Portland keeper Adam Kwarasey made three saves.

Valeri's goal came off a free kick from 25 yards away on the left side. The right-footed kick cleared the Columbus wall and then curled into the near post to spark a celebration among a crowd that had been revved up for more than an hour of pre-game hype.

Portland continually pressured Clark with shots and had a pair of goals waived off for offsides and an inadvertent handball.

The tone of the game changed early in the second half and Federico Higuain scored on a bicycle kick in the 68th minute to tie the score.

Portland survived a strong series of action by the Crew directly following the goal, and Dairon Asprilla set of the winning goal with a drive up the left side that finished in a cross. After a couple touches, Adi jumped on the ball and slid the ball past Clark for the final score.

Columbus narrowly missed tying the game moments later when Higuain beat Kwarasey to his right, but the shot hit the post and bounced high and away from direct advantage.

Portland finished with a 20-19 edge in shots.

The Timbers continue their 34-game regular-season schedule at San Jose Sunday.

Blazers get back to winning ways

Portland returns home and ends three-game skid in overtime
March 9, 2016 / Staff report

PORTLAND - Though it took a little longer than they’d hoped, the Trail Blazers found relief at home from their recent road woes.

Damian Lillard had 41 points and 11 assists, and Portland snapped a three-game losing streak with a 116-109 overtime victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

It was Lillard’s 15th straight game with 20-plus points, the second-longest streak in the NBA behind Kevin Durant’s 48. CJ McCollum added 18 points for Portland, which moved into sixth place in the Western Conference.

“Coming off three losses in a row, this was a must-have,” Lillard said. “We had to have this one.”

John Wall had 20 points and 11 assists for the Wizards, who have lost three straight. Ramon Sessions added 21 points off the bench, while Marcin Gortat had 19 points and 10 rebounds.

Wall hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in regulation to give Washington a 104-102 lead, but McCollum hit a pull-up jumper with 5.4 seconds to go to tie it at 104. The game went to overtime when Gerald Henderson swatted away Gortat’s attempted layup.

“Gerald Henderson made a heck of a play in protecting the rim,” Wall said.

Blazers coach Terry Stotts described the block as “fantastic.”

Lillard hit a 3-pointer that gave the Blazers a 111-106 lead in the extra period. Wall answered with a 3 for the Wizards, but Lillard’s layup with 23.5 seconds left made it 113-109 and Portland hung on for the win.

The Wizards led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, but Portland wrestled back to lead 85-81 going into the fourth.

“That was a really important win for us, especially fighting back in the second half after getting down early,” Stotts said. “After losing three in a row and to gut out an overtime win, it was really important for us.”

The Blazers were back home after a six-game road trip that started with three wins but ended with three losses, capped by a 123-103 loss at Detroit on Sunday.

Henderson was key off the bench for Portland, finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds, as well as the monster block.

“This was huge,” Lillard said. “Especially with Utah losing. It was a chance to separate ourselves a little bit more. With another tough trip coming up, this was a huge opportunity to protect our home court.”

The Blazers head to Golden State on Friday. The Blazers beat the Warriors 137-105 in Portland last month behind 51 points from Lillard.

Washington was without guard Bradley Beal, who did not travel with the team to Portland because of a sprained pelvis he sustained on Saturday during a disheartening 100-99 loss to Indiana. Beal, who has struggled with injuries this season, is the team’s second-leading scorer, averaging 17.8 points.

The game was marred by a scuffle between Henderson and Alan Anderson with 1:23 left in the first quarter. The players got into a shoving match and had to be separated by teammates.

Upon review, Anderson was ejected for an elbow to Henderson’s face. Henderson got a personal foul and both got technicals.

Anderson was averaging 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds after missing the first 55 games of the season following left ankle surgery.

The Wizards went on a 12-point run to open the second half, going up 67-54. Portland answered with a 17-4 run to tie it at 71, capped by Lillard’s 3-pointer.

Big season ahead for Timbers' fans

There's new goals after the team won the MLS title in 2016
Feb. 7, 2016 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Is there anything close to a dynasty brewing for the Portland Timbers?

That’s one of the things fans of the team can dream about after the franchise won the Major League Soccer title in only its fifth year of play.

And, it’s brought the teams’ fans bragging rights throughout the Northwest in regards to league results. Neither Seattle or Vancouver, their Cascadia Cup rivals, have even played in the league championship since it began in 1996.

When the 2016 season begins, not only will defending the title be among dreams of fans, but winning more than just one will as well.

Looking at the history of the league, three franchises: D.C. United, Houston and the Los Angeles Galaxy have won back-to-back titles, but none has won three straight. That will be among the thoughts of fans when the team begins play March 6 with its season opener at Providence Park against the Columbus Crew, its opponent in the league finale.

Blazers own Houston

Portland destroys the Rockets on the road, 96-79
Feb. 6, 2016 / Associated Press

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.

Toronto finally finishes in PDX

The Raptors score a 110-103 win, their first in Portland since 2006
Feb. 4, 2016 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Kyle Lowry credited backcourt teammate DeMar DeRozan for Toronto’s latest win.

Lowry had 30 points, DeRozan added 29 and the Toronto Raptors snapped Portland’s five-game winning streak with a 110-103 victory over the Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

“DeMar was aggressive and stayed aggressive throughout the game,” Lowry said. “His aggressiveness really helped set the tempo and set the standard for us throughout the game.

Damian Lillard had 27 points and 11 assists, while CJ McCollum added 21 points for Portland in the matchup between two of the league’s dynamic backcourts.

The Raptors, who have lost only one of their last 14 games, led by as many as 16 points in the first half. But the Blazers chipped away in the third quarter and came within 85-81 on Meyers Leonard’s jumper in the fourth. Lowry answered with a 3-pointer and Portland couldn’t get closer.

Toronto extended its lead to 94-81 on Lowry’s 3 with 6:52 left in the game. The Raptors made 12 of 19 3-point attempts in the game, with Lowry scoring seven of them to match his career high.

Lillard hit a jumper and Allen Crabbe made a pair free throws to pull Portland within 106-101 with 55.3 seconds left, but McCollum missed a 12-foot jumper and Toronto hit free throws to end the threat.

“We understood it was going to be a challenge tonight,” DeRozan said. “They’ve got a great backcourt that plays extremely hard and it’s a team that’s fighting for something so we had to meet the challenge tonight.”

After a loss at home to the Denver Nuggets on Monday that snapped their franchise-best 11-game winning streak, the Raptors rebounded with a 104-97 victory over the Suns.

The Raptors’ game against the Blazers was the first of a six-game road trip.

Portland was without starting forward Noah Vonleh, who injured his left ankle in the Blazers’ 107-95 victory over Milwaukee. Maurice Harkless, who had played a combined seven minutes in the last five games, was the surprising starter in Vonleh’s place.

Going into the game, Lillard and McCollum were averaging a combined 44.9 points per game, ranked third in the league, but DeRozan and Lowry were close behind and averaging 44.

Before the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts joked about the matchup: “Let’s play two-on-two.” Raptors coach Dwane Casey, who used to work with Stotts on Rick Carlisle’s Mavericks staff, replied: “I’ll go with that.”

A fast-break dunk by DeRozan put the Raptors up 18-10 in the first quarter, and he would lead all scorers with 12 points in the period.

Boosted by eight 3-pointers, Toronto led by as many as 16 points in the first half. But a late 8-0 run pulled the Blazers within 53-47 and the Raptors led 50-51 at the half.

McCollum’s 3-pointer closed Portland within 73-69, but Lowry answered with his own and Toronto was able to keep the Blazers for gaining ground.

“They play well together,” Lillard said. “You can see it, you can hear it in how they communicate with each other. They’re a group, they’re a unit.”

Leonard was charged with a flagrant foul on Bismack Biyombo after a review late in the game.

Blazers keep streaking

CJ's big game puts Portland's win streak at 5 games
Feb. 2, 2016 / Staff

PORTLAND - CJ McCollum picked a great night to bust out a 30-point performance.

In a game where Damian Lillard scored just 14 points and missed all six of his 3-point attempts, McCollum scored 30, dished out five assists and grabbed four rebounds as the Portland Trail Blazers beat Milwaukee 107-95 at the Moda Center.

The victory moved Portland's season-high winning streak to five games and put the Blazers within two games of .500. The team remained a half-game ahead of Utah for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and kept them just 1.5 games behind Houston, which beat Miami Tuesday.

Portland plays host to Toronto, which has won nine of its last 10 games, Thursday night in the finale of a seven-game homestand. The Blazers have a five-game homestand in February that includes games with Houston, Utah and defending league champion Golden State.

The Blazers play the Rockets three times in the next three weeks.

Al-Farouq Aminu added 16 points and five rebounds in the win Tuesday, in which the team got 40 points from its bench.



Blazers move into playoff spot

Portland beats Minnesota again to advance ahead of Utah in the West
Jan. 31, 2016 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers are enjoying the comforts of home.

Lillard and CJ McCollum scored 21 points apiece, and the Trail Blazers handed the Minnesota Timberwolves their 11th straight road loss with a 96-93 victory Sunday night.

Portland extended its winning streak to four and improved to 3-0 against the Timberwolves this season.

With the win the Blazers also moved into eighth place in the Western Conference.

At home, Lillard says the team is able to more closely examine the scouting report. At home, Lillard is on his own time, playing by his own rules. It means something to him to be able to sleep in his own bed.

“Coming in we knew we had some winnable games and it was just a matter of us taking care of business,” Lillard said. “Over the last couple of games, we’ve defended better, we’ve shared the ball better and we’ve played more complete games, so that’s led us to being able to win four in a row.”

Each of the last four games, the Blazers have won by five points or less. This was Portland’s first win by three points or fewer this season.

Portland hasn’t always been able to come through in crunch time and pull out wins. The Trail Blazers’ first four losses came by a margin of six points or fewer.

“When you’re at home, you’ve got to protect your home court,” McCollum said. “When you have a lead -- 10 points, five points, whatever it may be, down the stretch of a game, you’ve got to run clock, take advantage of the defense if they’re trapping and just try to get a good shot while using the clock every possession.”

Karl-Anthony Towns, a strong contender for Rookie of the Year, was the first player on the court in double figures and finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds for the Timberwolves. It was his 25th double-double, the most of any rookie this season.

Still, Towns is not satisfied.

“It’s nice to lead the league in double-doubles for rookies, but I’d rather lead with wins,” he said. “I’m not too happy about that. I’m just playing the game and trying to do everything I can to help my team win.”

Ricky Rubio hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 92-90 with 13.1 seconds left. McCollum answered with free throws for the Blazers, and Minnesota couldn’t catch up.

Gerald Henderson made a 3 for Portland with 9:26 remaining to snap a tie. Towns answered with one of his own to even the score at 72.

Henderson wasn’t done. He hit an uncontested jumper to give Portland a lead it did not relinquish. A 3-pointer from Al-Farouq Aminu and a dunk by Meyers Leonard helped the Blazers build a 12-point cushion, their largest of the night.

Another dunk by Leonard that put Portland up 81-74 with 6:12 to go highlighted his 13-point performance.

Minnesota’s six unanswered points to begin the second half cut the Trail Blazers’ lead to three. Gorgui Dieng’s eight third-quarter points helped Minnesota claw its way to a two-point lead heading into the fourth.

As the first half was winding down, the teams traded points. Leonard’s 3 helped the Blazers go into halftime leading 48-39.

Minnesota entered ranked last in 3-point attempts this season and No. 29 in 3-point percentage at 32.4 percent. The Timberwolves went 0 for 5 on 3s in the first half.

Portland shot 22.2 percent from beyond the arc overall (6 for 27).

“We’re showing signs of growth,” Lillard said.

Leonard led the Trail Blazers’ reserves in scoring and is averaging 10.6 points per game over his last nine. “I think he held his own defensively,” Stotts said. “I’ve said this a few times: He may or may not score, but his presence on the court offensively opens things up for (Lillard) and CJ and other guys.”

Portland plays host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

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