Blazers

Knicks hand Portland second straight home loss

Blazers struggle from field
The Associated Press

For one night, it was the New York Knicks' defense that stood out.

Amare Stoudemire had 23 points and eight rebounds, Raymond Felton added 17 points and 14 assists, and New York beat the Portland Trail Blazers 100-86 Tuesday at the Rose Garden.

The Knicks (22-15) held Portland to 34.5 percent shooting, and the Blazers took themselves out of the game with poor shots down the stretch.

"Our defense was great," Felton said. "Our defense is what fueled our offense tonight, and that's what allowed us to win this game."

Ronny Turiaf had a season-high 19 points and tied a season best with 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who improved to 12-8 away from home, surpassing their road win total from last season. Wilson Chandler added 17 points. Stoudemire has scored at least 20 in 22 straight games.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Blazers. Rudy Fernandez scored 12 of his 18 in the first half, while Andre Miller had 14 points and Nicolas Batum 13.

Portland had an eight-game home winning streak snapped in an overtime loss to Miami on Sunday. The Blazers looked as though they had not recovered, falling behind by 12 in the first half and wilting after briefly taking a third-quarter lead.

"I thought we looked mentally fatigued," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "We were just a step slow in everything we did."

Portland led 57-56 in the third on a layup by Wesley Matthews, but Chandler nailed a 3-pointer to regain the lead for the Knicks. Bill Walker hit a 3 to put them up 71-62, and they led by nine going into the final quarter.

Portland got within 81-76, but Stoudemire hit two free throws and Chandler silenced the Rose Garden crowd with an alley-oop slam that ended the comeback threat. The Blazers were just 4-of-18 on 3-pointers. There were no easy baskets.

"I'd say we are getting it," New York coach Mike D'Antoni said about his team's defense. "The key is that players are buying into it and trying to get better at it."

 

MIAMI 107, PORTLAND 100 (OT)

There certainly was feistiness to the Miami Heat's approach Sunday.

But it wasn't exactly the feistiness one would expect from a team that entered on a 12-game road winning streak, with victories in 20 of its previous 21

Instead, it was LeBron James, on his 44-point night, bickering at times with teammates and at the end of the first half with the coaching staff. At other times, there were glares and insolence directed toward the referees.

Through it all, the Heat battled back from an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime and eventually escape with a 107-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden.

"That's simply a resilient win," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "The guys were very confident in the huddle. There wasn't any panic in the huddles."

That confidence assuredly comes from having James on their side. With Dwyane Wade adding 34 points, it marked the first time in franchise history the Heat had one player with at least 40 and another with at least 30.

"You look at games like this and you really understand why we decided to team up and come together," Wade said. "I'm just glad to get to experience wearing the same jersey that he wears. We both understand we have each other to make big plays."

The victory lifted the Heat to 12-1 in overtime in Spoelstra's three seasons as head coach, including 6-1 on the road.

"LeBron," Spoelstra said, "was sensational."

And versatile. The Heat played the latter stages with James at center.

"We've had it in our pocket for a while," Spoelstra said of the unique lineup, one that also featured James Jones, who tied it 93-93 with a pair of free throws with 24.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

The fourth quarter ended with consecutive missed jumpers by Blazers guard Andre Miller.

"I thought 'Dre got fouled on that play," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.

Wade, Chris Bosh and James then converted the Heat's first three baskets of the extra period to put the Heat in command. James' basket was a 3-pointer, punctuated on a night of impertinence by James slapping himself on the butt after the conversion.

"I think he kind of flips the switch," McMillan said of James. "Wade was good in the first quarter. LeBron was even better in the fourth quarter."

Perhaps the Heat's feistiness was a frustration over the lack of a support system, with all but 11 of the Heat's points scored by James, Wade or Bosh.

"We were just showing our emotions," Wade said.

Bosh added 18 points, including a pair of critical baskets in the extra period. He nonetheless stood second among the game's power forwards, with LaMarcus Aldridge pacing the Trail Blazers with 31 points and 14 rebounds.

Wade handled the scoring load early, converting his first seven shots. James took over later. But after the Heat led by two at halftime, there was a 67-65 deficit entering the fourth quarter.

That deficit later would reach eight, as the Heat struggled for the second time in as many games on this five-game trip, a trip that opened with Friday's 101-95 overtime victory in Milwaukee.

A game after shooting 4 of 19 in Friday's victory over the Bucks, Wade helped spark the Heat to a 46-44 halftime lead.

Wade scored 15 points in the first quarter and had 20 at the intermission on 9-of-12 shooting.

Wade scored 13 of the Heat's first 15 points. That helped offset a 4-of-4 start by Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who closed with 22.

For a team that entered on a hot streak, the Heat spent much of the early going hot under the collar.

There was a disagreement on the bench just before halftime, when James was pulled with the staff believing he had two fouls. He quickly was reinserted to hit the final basket of the second quarter, but not before having words with assistant coach David Fizdale.

James also glared at teammates Mario Chalmers and Wade at different junctures and consistently was involved in dialogues with the referees.

The teams entered knowing something had to give, with the Blazers entering on an eight-game home winning streak.

The Blazers were without guard Brandon Roy, whose knee issues leave his status for the balance of the season unclear. Blazers center Greg Oden already is lost for the season.

Ira Winderman can be reached at iwinderman@SunSentinel.com and can be followed at http://twitter.com/iraheatbeat.

Nate gets the first national test of his future

McMillan included in national pool of coaches under the gun
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

It begins.

Heading for the new year, the Portland Trail Blazers have been somewhat of a surprise in remaining a consistent playoff contender despite the loss of three-time All-Star Brandon Roy for much of the season to injury and the continuing injury saga of Greg Oden. After starting the season as one of the best teams in the league – the Power Rankings on nba.com had them at No. 4 after Week 2, they’ve slipped to No. 8 in the Western Conference and are among a handful of teams lining up to battle for the final playoff spot and a shot at being run over by San Antonio or Dallas in the first round.

That the Blazers are in that group of playoff contenders is actually pretty impressive with all the bad news the team has dealt with injury-wise. Forward LaMarcus Aldridge is becoming the player everyone in Portland has long hoped for, and the team has strung together three win streaks to keep local fans hopeful.

But, the season is long and the Blazers are a franchise in limbo after basically trashing GM Kevin Pritchard in summer and heading into the future with a very uncertain future around Roy, who had been the core block to build around.

So, where’s that leave coach Nate McMillan? Although his future with the team seems secure, the all-but-certain job of rebuilding the team around Aldridge and not Roy seems to put him in the line of fire among the league’s coaches.

Tuesday, it came up on nba.com.

Shaun Powell, writing on coaching stability heading into the new year, put McMillan in the group likely to draw repeated public interest in their job security if their team doesn’t reach the playoffs.

Here's the group, which is eight coaches:

Flip Saunders, Washington Wizards

John Kuester, Detroit Pistons

Jim O’Brien, Indiana Pacers

Jay Triano, Toronto Raptors

Paul Westphal, Sacramento Kings

Vinny Del Negro, Los Angeles Clippers

Kurt Rambis, Minnesota Timberwolves.

Here’s what Powell wrote on McMillan:

Of all the coaches under the gun, he's clearly the best. So why, you ask, is McMillan's ouster almost certain? Well, some strange stuff has happened in Portland lately, and the heartless firing of former GM Kevin Pritchard on Draft day was particularly bloody. The Blazers, once considered an up-and-coming contender, are an internal mess, with all the injuries and bloated contracts and simmering unhappiness in the locker room. McMillan has been on the bench five years without going past the first round of the playoffs. Owner Paul Allen never makes his feelings known to the public, but can't be thrilled at what he's seeing from his seat under the basket. Oh, and just a question, but you think McMillan might want a change of scenery himself?

 

Opinion: For Oden, there’s only one righteous move

By Jeremy Lloyd

Maybe you’ve kept up to date on all the medical minutia related to the most recent season-ending-before-it-started injury to ill-fated Blazer center Greg Oden. If not, let me sum it up for you in one simple stat: In four seasons with the Blazers, Same Bowie played in 139 games. Oden? 82.

For all the energy Blazer fans spent worrying that their fragile 7-footer might be the next Bowie, the sad reality of the situation ended up being that Oden contributed nearly 70% LESS production less than his injury-prone counterpart.

It’s a worst-case scenario, and there’s no sugar-coating it. So where do the Blazers and Oden go from here? Well, sometime Friday Oden will undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee (he previously underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in 2007). From there, it will be yet another treacherous and tedious year-or-so road to recovery, one that many observers believe may simply be too much for both the body and mind of the 22-year-old.

And, just to complicate matters, Oden is in the last year of his contract and will become a restricted free agent this summer. If the Blazers want to retain his rights they will have to ante up a qualifying offer of nearly $9 million for the 2011-12 season--this for a player who may never see the court again. If Portland doesn’t make a qualifying offer, Oden becomes an unrestricted free agent, and on the off chance that he does go on to have a productive NBA career, it would be with another NBA team.

Blazers President Larry Miller indicated to the Oregonian that the team would most likely decide to take that $9 million roll of the dice on Oden this summer, but neither scenario is fair to the Blazers or their longsuffering fans.

By the end of this season Oden will have received over $19 million for his sporadic contributions to the Blazers. And even more importantly, his injuries--though certainly not Oden’s fault on a personal level--have wrecked havoc on the collective emotions of Rip City.

For Oden to accept big money to rehab most of next season in hopes of a healing miracle would be pure theft. But for him to resurface somewhere else and go on to play well with another franchise would be almost as big a slap in the face to Portland as LeBron’s poorly-orchestrated summertime Decision was to Cleveland.

If you ask me, there’s only one righteous move for Oden: Ask the team to withhold the qualifying offer, become an unrestricted free agent, and sign with the Blazers for the league minimum. He should then give the team and fan base his word that if he ever does regain his health, he will stay in Portland. Sound too simple? Doing the right thing often is.

Maybe Oden never plays in an NBA game again--it’s a real possibility. But he can go out working hard, and doing the right things. Turning down money you know you won’t earn, and pledging loyalty to a fan base that stood by you through every gruesome twist of fate? Frankly, I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Do you?

Oden to undergo microfracture surgery... Again

Roy will miss time to rest sore left knee

Right on the heels of the recent revelations about Brandon Roy's career-debilitating knee problems, this press release from the Trail Blazers fully confirms that the sky is falling on Rip City. Sigh...

TRAIL BLAZERS CENTER GREG ODEN TO UNDERGO MICROFRACTURE SURGERY FRIDAY

 PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden will undergo microfracture surgery on his left knee Friday and will miss the remainder of the 2010-11 season, the Trail Blazers announced this evening.

Dr. Richard Steadman will perform the surgery with assistance from Trail Blazers orthopedic surgeon Dr. Don Roberts at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic in Vail, Colo.

Oden, 22, has been sidelined since fracturing his left patella in a Dec. 5, 2009, game vs. Houston. A recent MRI showed damaged cartilage to the surface of his femur, and his current injury is unrelated to the fractured left patella.

Oden previously underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee Sept. 13, 2007.

He holds career NBA averages of 9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 1.43 blocked shots in 82 games over parts of two seasons from 2008-09.

Blazers get thumped in Los Angeles

A huge inside scoring edge boosts LA to 121-96 win
Staff Report

LOS ANGELES - Through seven games, inside scoring appears to be one of the Portland Trail Blazers' key areas of concern, and the Los Angeles Lakers took advantage of that Sunday night at the Fabulous Forum.

Sparked by a stellar performance by center Pau Gasol, the Lakers used a 56-30 edge in points in the paint and won 121-96.

Gasol had 20 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists while completing his fourth career triple-double by the third quarter, and the Los Angeles Lakers easily improved to 7-0 for the fifth time in franchise history.

Lamar Odom had 21 points and 12 rebounds, Kobe Bryant scored 12 points and Ron Artest played stringent defense on Portland star Brandon Roy during a smooth night of work for the Lakers, who led by 24 points in the first half and 29 down the stretch while outrebounding the Blazers 49-25.

Andre Miller scored 20 points and Nicolas Batum added 17 for the Blazers, who lost for just the second time in their last six meetings with the Lakers.

Portland dropped to 5-3 overall and returns to action Tuesday at the Rose Garden against Detroit. Game time is 7 p.m.

The Blazers begin a stretch of six games against Western Conference playoff contenders Friday in Oklahoma City, and play at New Orleans Saturday.

Shannon Brown hit three 3-pointers while scoring 15 points for the Lakers, who also started 7-0 two years ago and in 2001-02, when they began their roll to their first threepeat under coach Phil Jackson. Los Angeles' only better starts were in 1987-88 (8-0) and 1997-98 (11-0).

Gasol clinched his first triple-double since Feb. 17, 2009, with an assist on Artest's basket with 3:10 left in the third quarter. With a dominant performance down low and on the perimeter, Gasol nearly hit the marks during Los Angeles' dominant first half alone, racking up 14 points, 11 rebounds -- the same number as Portland's entire roster -- and seven assists.

The Lakers are leaning heavily on the Spaniard while starting center Andrew Bynum is recovering from knee surgery, but a summer away from basketball left Gasol energized for the task.

Two nights after struggling to hold off Toronto while getting outrebounded by 18 boards, the Lakers expected their biggest test of the young season from the Blazers, who were off to a 5-2 start. Portland has been consistently better during recent head-to-head matchups with Los Angeles, which hasn't won its season series with the Blazers since 2004-05.

But this one was no contest: The two-time defending champions improved to 5-0 at home with a comfortable lead throughout the final 3 1/2 quarters, moving the ball with veteran ease and holding the Blazers' top two scorers -- Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge -- to eight points apiece.

After beating Toronto at home one night earlier, the Blazers were sluggish from the opening tip. Los Angeles led 27-12 late in the first quarter, and Artest shut out Roy until the 22-points-per-game scorer hit four free throws in the final 1:42 of the half after Artest had checked out to rest.

Batum scored 11 points in the opening minutes of the third quarter to keep it close, and Roy finally managed his first field goal with less than 5 1/2 minutes left in the quarter.

Bryant played just 26 minutes and iced his right knee on the bench during the game. His lowest-scoring game of the season prevented Bryant and Gasol from becoming the first Lakers teammates to open a season scoring 20 points apiece in seven straight games since Jerry West and Elgin Baylor did it in 1961.

Does the NBA have its 'mind right'?

Reconstruction / Re-alignment should be part of the CBA
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

So, what's going t be part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement when the NBA Players Association gets busy with the league owners?

In these heady days of unemployment and rising salary caps, it's entertaining to ponder where all the 30 teams will be playing once the Is have been dotted and Ts have been crossed.

As the players are just as interested as the owners in making the league a success, the move of Seattle to Oklahoma City has to have more than a few people thinking about re-aligning the league to better take advantage of geographic rivalries and reduced travel costs. And, just plain fan interest.

So, at oregonsports.com and the Sportsland podcast, we've come up with a few ideas on how to move the league forward in terms of conferences, divisions and playoff structures. Even the All-Star Game is up for discussion.

VIEW CLIFF PFENNING'S NBA RE-ALIGNMENT

THE CARLOS MOLINA PLAN - 5 divisions

THE DEREK WEBER PLAN - 4 divisions

 

Blazers headed for plenty of national exposure

Portland fans gets LeBron in January
Staff Report

It’s Sunday, January 9.

On the NBA schedule, the Portland Trail Blazers play host to the Miami Heat on January 9, at 6 p.m.

That’s when LeBron, DWade and Chris Bosh come to town.

The Blazers’ schedule includes 21 games televised on TNT, ESPN or NBA TV, which puts them as one of the most televised teams in the Western Conference.

Portland begins its schedule Oct 26 at home against Phoenix, which ended its season in the first round of the playoffs last season.

Other highlight home games on the schedule include Nov. 4 against Oklahoma City, Jan. 27 against Boston, Feb. 23 against the Los Angeles Lakers, April 1 against Oklahoma City and April 8 against the Lakers.

 

MORE BLAZERS COMMENTARY

 

K-Love earns a spot on Team USA

Kevin Love is among the 12-member roster headed for Turkey
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

With all the drama surrounding Rudy Fernandez and his play for Spain over the weekend, Oregonian Kevin Love got completely overlooked. The former state Player of the Year while leading Lake Oswego to three-straight state title games, is among the 12-player U.S. Team roster announced Tuesday for the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

Blazers' season sets with series loss to Suns

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Phoenix shuts Portland's offense down just enough
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

  Jason Richardson wanted to be the wild card in the playoffs for the Phoenix Suns .
  So while the Portland Trail Blazers were focused on Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash , Richardson came up big for the third time in the first-round series, scoring 28 points in a 99-90 Game 6 victory Thursday night.
  The win sends the third-seeded Suns into the second round against seventh-seeded San Antonio, which advanced by beating Dallas 97-97 earlier Thursday night. The opening game of the Western Conference semifinals is Monday night in Phoenix.

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