Blazers

Blazers hit All-Star Break on win streak

Lillard's 44 helps Portland beat Sacramento 123-119
Staff Report

Damian Lillard had 44 points, and Enes Kanter added 22 points and 21 rebounds as the Portland Trail Blazers ended the first half of the NBA season with a 123-119 win over Sacramento Thursday night.

The win gave the Blazers three straight after a four-game losing streak.

Portland enters the All-Star Game Weekend at 21-14 and in fifth place in the Western Conference.

Lillard is set to take part in the All-Star Game Sunday on Team Lebron having been selected first among the game reserves.

De’Aaron Fox had 32 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds for Sacramento, which had six players score in double figures.

Sacramento went up 108-103 with 3:49 to go on Harrison Barnes’ layup and Buddy Hield’s 3-pointer. Lillard responded with a pullup jumper, a layup and a pair of 3-pointers in quick succession to put the Blazers ahead 115-108 with just more than a minute left.

Lillard finished with eight 3-point shots.

 

NOTES

The Trail Blazers announced that McCollum, who has been out with a left foot fracture, has been cleared for contact practice. McCollum has been out since Jan. 16 when he injured his foot in a game against Atlanta.

McCollum, who was averaging 26.7 points before he was hurt, will be key to Portland’s playoff push.

 

Lillard real judge for 2021 will be after All-Star Game

Playoff success will easily overshadow another All-Star Game snub
By Cliff Pfenning, Publisher

Social media lit up around the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday when the NBA exposed its line-up for the upcoming All-Star Game ... and Damian Lillard was not a starter for the Western Conference.

Lillard, Dame to the league's fans, got stiffed. Turns out it was by the NBA's fans, who picked Lebron James, Steph Curry and Luka Doncic as the starting guard trio, even though players and the league's media picked Lillard for the third spot.

Dame got stiffed for that third spot.

But, really, who cares as the big prize is on the court after the All-Star Game, which is set to be played between the end of the pandemic-shortened regular season and the unshortened playoffs on March 7 in Atlanta.

Would have been nice, really nice, for Damian to get into an All-Star starting role for the first time in his nine-year career.

This season is his most deserving as he's averaging nearly 30 points, four rebounds and eight assists per game to lead the Blazers to fourth place in the West, regularly closing out games with the decisive shot. And those decisive shots have been highlight worthy night after night for viewers on ESPN and the web.

But, Doncic, in his third year with Dallad, is hot right now, and even a bit outspoken about his team's motivation to win as the Mavericks struggle to reach .500 and a spot in the playoffs.

That's the real judge of the season for Dame, and he is an All-Star for the sixth time, so at least the league respects him. His fellow players and those who cover the league voted him to a starting role, but fan votes carry more weight. As do the playoffs, and fan voting has nothing to do with those games.

Portland is lined up for a first-round battle against Phoenix currently, although that's entirely volatile with seventh place and a meeting with the Lakers only 1.5 games away with seven games left on the schedule. Four of those games are against current West playoff teams.

The Blazers play at Phoenix on Monday, then at the Lakers next Friday.

 

BLAZERS WIN SIXTH STRAIGHT

NEW ORLEANS - Damian Lillard showcased his clutch credentials with 43 points, including a go-ahead three-point play with 16.5 seconds left, to lift the Trail Blazers to their sixth consecutive victory, 126-124 over the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.

Lillard also added 16 assists – his third consecutive game of at least 30 points and 10 assists — for a team playing without backcourt mate CJ McCollum and center Jusuf Nurkic.

“Our guys fought hard, but we just could not contain him at all,” said Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy. “Stopping them is 90 percent stopping him.”

Lillard had 11 fourth-quarter points and was clutch in the final seven minutes. JJ Redick gave the Pelicans a 105-103 lead with 7:34 left, capping a 7-0 New Orleans run, but Lillard then came off the bench and immediately hit a 3-pointer as Portland regained the lead. Anfernee Simons added a 3-pointer on the next possession to make it 109-105.

The Pelicans retook the lead on a pair of 3-pointers by Lonzo Ball and Redick and led for the final time at 124-123 with 26.4 seconds left after Zion Williamson made two free throws. Williamson’s finished with 36 points.

But Lillard drove past Ball on the left side of the lane for the layup and drew contact to put Portland up 126-124.

“There were 26 seconds on the clock, and I knew that whether we scored or not, if we just got a quality shot and gave ourselves enough time, even if we fouled and they made both free throws, we still would have had a chance to tie and go into overtime,” Lillard said. “So, it was really no pressure on that possession.

“I just wanted to attack, make an aggressive move. I was able to get some space. I drew contact and I just focused on the finish.”

The Pelicans had a final chance, but Ball missed a 3-pointer and Brandon Ingram threw up an airball at the buzzer.

Lillard had 11 points in the third quarter as the Blazers outscored New Orleans 35-22 to take a 94-91 lead, with Gary Trent Jr. hitting a 3-pointer from the right wing at the buzzer.

Lillard hit three consecutive 3-pointers in a 1:44 span as part of his 15-point, first-quarter flurry, which keyed a 21-8 run and produced a 35-30 Portland lead. The Blazers led by as many as 11 in the first quarter, but the Pelicans, shooting 52 percent closed out the period with an 11-5 run.

Lillard played the entire first quarter, but when he sat for the first six minutes of the second, the Pelicans made a move, taking a 45-43 lead behind Williamson’s eight points on an array of power moves to the basket from the high post. New Orleans used a 28-9 run to take a 53-45 lead.

During one five-minute stretch, New Orleans made nine consecutive shots, including two 3-pointers by Ball and one each by Eric Bledsoe and Willy Hernangomez, to stretch its advantage to 64-49. Ball’s 16 first-half points on 4-of-5 shooting from long range helped the Pelicans to a 39-24 edge in the second quarter and gave the Pelicans a 69-59 halftime lead.

What's PDX known for best?

What do sports fans mention first? Soccer or basketball?
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

When drivers for Uber or Lyft pick passengers up at the airport and describe Portland on the way to a downtown hotel, the many nicknames for the city easily glide off the pallet - Rose City, Bridgetown, Bridge City, Stumptown among the top ones.

And, Portland has two very distinct monikers for sports: Rip City and Soccer City. Or is it Soccer City and Rip City?

That's the Sports Jury question for this week, which you can vote for on the front page of oregonsports.com.

Portland has an equally fanatic fanbase for both basketball and soccer, but which one would come up first as in if there were an election and every resident could only vote for one? Ultimately the outcome might be 50.1 - 49.9 percent. One of the names would need to come first. What do Portlanders know Portland best for?

Is it Rip City? Portland got the nickname in 1977 during the NBA Title run, when radio play-by-play commentator Bill Schonely came up with it to highlight the key moments of the stirring season. Bill Walton, Maurice Lucas, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross, Dave Twardzik - they were Red Hot and Rollin' in the Rip City. Portland began a sellout streak at Memorial Coliseum that engrained 12,666 - a full house - in everyone's mind.

Portland is Rip City.

By 1977, though, Portland had already developed the nickname Soccer City from its inaugural season in the North American Soccer League due to the large, loud crowds that took over Civic Stadium for Timbers games. When the team actually outperformed its expansion expectations and reached the playoffs, not only did the Timbers win, they set attendance records twice on the way to Soccer Bowl '75.

The team and league folded less that a decade later, but the rebirth of the franchise in 2001 and it's move to Major League Soccer in 2011, have come with a fanatacism the rest of the nation has watched and admired as the way to support an American team with European flavour.

Portland is Soccer City, USA.

But with just one vote, which one gets it?

 

 

Lillard dazzles on somber night for basketball

Portland beat the Lakers 127-119 in first post-Kobe game
Associated Press

It was a game that had to be played, and the Portland Trail Blazers came out on top.

In their first game since the death of legend Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers honored one of the franchises' most revered players led by an address to the crowd by Lebron James. 

Once the contest began, James and teammate Anthony Davis combined for 59 points, but Portland's Damian Lillard nearly matched that himself.

Lillard hit seven three-point shots and went off for 48 points, just missing his second career triple-double with 10 assists and nine rebounds. He notched his first triple-double earlier in the week.

Portland got an amazing performance from center Hasan Whiteside, who hit 13 of 14 field-goal attempts on the way to 30 points. He also grabbed 12 rebounds. C.J. McCollum added 19 points for Portland.

The Blazers overcame a 61-40 deficit in rebounds by creating a 17-5 edge in turnovers. The Lakers also missed 10 free throws.

In 40 minutes, Lillard hit 17 of 30 shots and had just one turnover. McCollum made 8 of 22 shots and did not have a turnover.

Portland, which improved to 22-27 and moved to with two games of Memphis, which lost to New Orleans Friday, in the race for the No. 8 playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers return to action Saturday with a home game against Utah (32-16).

 

 

Portland bests hot Cousins

Blazers defense snubs the Kings in 112-95 win
Jan. 26, 2016 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - DeMarcus Cousins didn’t have it Tuesday night.

The Sacramento Kings forward, unstoppable in the Kings’ past two games, found his match in the Portland Trail Blazers’ defense.

Cousins, coming off games of 56 and 48 points, missed 17 of his 21 shots and scored just 17 points against Portland interior defense in the Blazers’ 112-95 win at the Moda Center.

C.J. McCollum scored 18 points, Damian Lillard had 15 points and 13 assists as Portland had seven players score in double figures.

With the win, Portland (21-26) moved into a virtual tie with Sacramento (20-25) for eighth in the Western Conference. The Blazers have won six of their past eight.

Cousins was coming off a franchise-high 56-point performance Monday night against Charlotte, but never got untracked against a Portland defense led by Meyers Leonard and Mason Plumlee.

Cousins missed nine of his first 10 shots and went 1-of-7 during the second half before leaving midway through the fourth quarter with Portland having the game in hand. Cousins also struggled at the free throw line, making 9 of 17.

“He’s a very good player, able to score in many ways, but I thought for the most part we did a good job on him,” Leonard said. “We were really locked in on what we needed to do tonight and it was just a great team effort.”

Though Cousins played 46 minutes before fouling out against Charlotte, Sacramento coach George Karl was hesitant to use fatigue as a reason for Cousins’ sub-par outing.

“As a coach I don’t like that excuse. As a human being, it’s probably a justifiable excuse,” Karl said. “He’s been so good I’m not going to complain. He’s been our horse and we’ve ridden him to a lot of good things.”

Portland’s offensive balance also played a big role in the Blazers’ win. Seven players scored between 11 and 18 points. Portland reserves Gerald Henderson, Allen Crabbe and Ed Davis were among those in double figures.

“Their bench hurt us more and that’s a sign of a good team. When you overshoot your emphasis on their No. 1 and 2 strengths, it usually opens up other opportunities. They had some guys jump in and take advantage of that,” Karl said.

Rajon Rondo had 15 points and 11 assists for the Kings, who lost in double overtime on Monday night.

Portland led 58-52 at halftime after leading for most of the first half.

The Trail Blazers maintained a narrow margin for much of the third quarter, but momentum eventually moved in their favor after Cousins missed two free throws, then committed an offensive foul. Portland immediately scored seven consecutive points for its largest lead of the game at 81-67.

Portland led 88-74 after three and continued to pour it on early in the fourth quarter. Crabbe and Henderson hit 3-pointers as the Blazers increased their lead to 100-79 with eight minutes remaining.

Can the Blazers run with it?

Some fast-action offense might be the answer for upcoming season
Augst 18, 2015 / Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

Amid the fun of home runs and Mid-Summer Classic that is baseball, the NBA sort of sneaks in all the free agent signings/unsignings and the Portland Trail Blazers are playing their role in all of it.

But, not too heavily.

Three of their starters left via FA and they traded the fourth leaving a whole line-up of changes ahead. That's the key element of this week's Sportsland, Oregon episode, recorded at Pour Sports sports bar in Southeast Portland.

The team has it's marquee player back - point guard Damian Lillard, and signed for the next six years. But, the rest of the starting line-up is a mystery with some likely options. Gerald Henderson at shooting guard. Al-Farouq Aminu at small forward. Mason Plumlee at center? Meyers Leonard as Kevin Love power forward/outside shooting specialist?

The team's tempo might be the key to the season, and not putting too much pressure on winning.

Then it's off to golf, soccer, some college football talk, and good community causes. All recorded at Pour Sports in Southeast Portland.

 

 

 

Another fourth-quarter rally ends skid

Portland loses Aldridge, but beats Kings to end three-game streak
Jan. 19, 2015 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Even after losing All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge to an injury, the banged-up Trail Blazers found a winning combination.

Damian Lillard scored 22 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:20 remaining, and Portland ended a three-game losing streak Monday night with a 98-94 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

Lillard had six points during the final 80 seconds and helped rally the Trail Blazers (31-11) from an 11-point, second-half deficit. Wesley Matthews scored 17 for Portland.

The news wasn’t all good for the Blazers, though, because Aldridge exited in the second quarter with a left thumb injury. Portland coach Terry Stotts said the status of Aldridge, who leads the team with averages of 23.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, was “under further review.” X-rays after the game came back negative.

The loss of Aldridge added to an already-depleted Portland front line, with centers Robin Lopez (wrist) and Joel Freeland (shoulder) out for extended periods. And without three of its top inside players, Portland got whipped on the boards by Sacramento (16-25), which outrebounded the Blazers 53-35.

“Being relatively undersized, we had to create some offense with our defense,” Stotts said.

Stotts turned to lightly used reserves Thomas Robinson and Will Barton for long stretches. They, along with Lillard and Matthews, were vital in helping Portland own the fourth quarter, when the Blazers forced eight turnovers and outscored Sacramento 31-19.

“I thought Will and Thomas’ energy would have a chance to change the game,” Stotts said.

The Kings were led by Rudy Gay with 26 points, while DeMarcus Cousins had 22 points and 19 rebounds. But in a game Sacramento dominated for three quarters, the Kings’ eight fourth-quarter turnovers proved to be their undoing.

“That’s eight more possessions that we had that they didn’t,” Lillard said. “It came down to us just tightening up. We got a little more physical on defense, got a little more stingy, and offensively we valued those possessions.”

The Blazers, trailing 75-67 after three, grabbed an 84-83 lead with 5:03 remaining on a 3-pointer by Nic Batum that capped a 12-2 spurt.

Cousins tied it at 89 on two free throws with 1:50 left, then fouled out 8 seconds later.

“That was huge,” Lillard said. “In my opinion, he’s one of the best bigs in the league. It would have been a handful down the stretch to stop him.”

Lillard gave the Blazers the lead for good at 91-89 on a reverse layup. Portland held off Sacramento by making five free throws during the final 1:02.

“I thought we did a great job. The pace of the game was good. I thought we fought hard tonight and gave ourselves a chance to win. It’s a disappointing loss, but I’m happy with the effort from the guys,” Kings coach Tyrone Corbin said after his team’s fourth consecutive loss.

“If we play and compete this hard every night, we’ve got a chance.”

Sacramento dominated most of the first quarter, and Darren Collison and Ben McLemore hit 3-pointers to ignite a 23-5 run for a 25-14 Kings lead.

Portland ran off nine consecutive points to cut the deficit to 31-27 early in the second. A 7-0 surge, punctuated by Meyers Leonard’s fast-break dunk, gave the Blazers a 47-43 lead 3 minutes before halftime. But the Kings had a strong finish to the quarter, and Cousins’ tip-in not long before the buzzer gave Sacramento a 56-51 halftime lead.

Sacramento continued to control the game during the third quarter, using an 8-0 run to build a lead as large as 11 points.

Blazers streak past Bulls

Portland wins its sixth-straight game, 105-87, over Chicago
Nov. 21, 2014 / Associated Press

PORTLAND - Damian Lillard had 21 points and nine assists to help the Trail Blazers beat the short-handed Chicago Bulls 105-87 on Friday night.

However, Mike Dunleavy’s flagrant foul on Lillard in the third quarter, followed by Taj Gibson’s painful left ankle injury, marred Portland’s sixth straight win.

Lillard was going up for a 3-pointer when Dunleavy barreled into him, knocking him down. Wesley Matthews ran over and pushed Dunleavy, and Aaron Brooks in turn shoved Matthews. LaMarcus Aldridge stepped in to separate the group.

Dunleavy was served with a flagrant foul, while Matthews and Brooks got offsetting technicals. Lillard made all three shots.

Afterward, Lillard called it a cheap play.

“When I was shooting the ball I saw him coming at me and I thought, `He’s not stopping,” Lillard said. “Anything could have happened.”

Dunleavy called it an “awkward moment.”

“I was going to intentionally foul him, but he went up to shoot,” he said. “What was I supposed to do?”

Chicago lost Gibson in the third quarter when he sprained his left ankle. Gibson, who came down on Portland’s Wesley Matthews, clutched his ankle and grimaced in pain before he was helped off the court. The 6-foot-9 forward was averaging 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds coming into the game.

Coach Tom Thibodeau said he didn’t think it was serious, but Gibson left the Moda Center in a boot and on crutches.

“We’ll see where he is tomorrow,” Thibodeau said.

The Bulls were already limited without Derrick Rose, who missed his fourth straight game with a sore left hamstring. Pau Gasol missed his third game with a left calf strain.

They were also missing starting guard Kirk Hinrich, who left Thursday night’s 103-88 loss to the Sacramento Kings with a chest contusion. X-rays were negative, but Thibodeau said before the game that Hinrich was day-to-day.

Rookie Nikola Mirotic came off the bench and had season highs with 24 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls.

Aldridge added 16 points and nine rebounds for the Blazers, who got Nicolas Batum back after he missed four games with a right knee contusion.

Portland jumped out to an early 25-9 lead after Aldridge’s 3-pointer. Lillard had seven assists in the first quarter alone and finished three short of matching his career high.

The Bulls closed the gap in the second quarter with an 8-0 run that pulled them to 39-35. The rally was short-lived and the Blazers went up 51-39 after a 10-0 run, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Lillard.

Portland led 61-42 at the half.

Aldridge passed to Robin Lopez for a dunk to put Portland up 70-45 before the Blazers sat their starters for the final period.

“Obviously Chicago didn’t have three of their main guys, but I liked our demeanor,” coach Terry Stotts said. “I liked our disposition, the way we came out of the gates. Our defense was solid.”

Despite the drama, Lillard thought it was one of the Blazers’ most complete games of the season.

“We started the game really well and then they found their way back in -- and we picked it right back up,” he said.

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.”

Blazers close out preseason on high note

Lillard, Kaman lead Portland past the Clippers in Los Angeles, 99-89
Oct. 24, 2014 / Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Damian Lillard scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Chris Kaman scored all 13 of his points in the first half as the Portland Trail Blazers concluded their preseason with a 99-89 victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Lillard scored seven points in Portland’s 17-4 first-period run that gave the Trailblazers a 25-16 lead with 3:08 left. He also scored his team’s final seven points of the first half for a 54-46 halftime lead for the Trail Blazers (4-3).

Meyers Leonard scored nine of Portland’s first 12 points in the second quarter to get out to a 40-30 lead with 6:29 left in the first half. He finished with 14 points. Wesley Matthews scored eight of his 10 in the third quarter, and Joel Freeland scored 10 points off the bench.

Blake Griffin scored 21 points in three quarters, including 17 in the first half, for Los Angeles (2-6). The Clippers held an opponent to less than 100 points for the first time this preseason. Griffin scored his team’s last nine points in the first quarter to cut the Trail Blazer lead to 27-21.

The Clippers bench, led by Jared Cunningham’s 10 points in the fourth quarter, cut a double-digit deficit to 89-86 with about two minutes to play. A C.J. Wilcox basket made it 93-89 with 1:08 to play, but Portland’s Will Barton answered with 43.8 seconds to play. CJ McCollum made two free throws with 28.1 seconds to play, then stole the ball and dunked for a 10-point lead.

J.J. Redick added 14 points, Chris Paul had eight points and 11 assists, and DeAndre Jordan had nine rebounds for the Clippers.

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