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.



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.

Timbers season just ran dry

Those last-minute goals were a soul-wrenching, playoff killer
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

The Portland Timbers had a pretty good run in 2020, for the crazy year it was. 

But, the MLS Cup playoffs ended in dramatically crummy style - a shootout loss.

It was just a minute away from a win, or even a couple inches in terms of how a ball rebounds of a post.

They worked out in favor of a scrappy FC Dallas team on a chilly, damp Sunday night.

Portland still ended up having won the mid-year MLS Challenge Cup and finished third in the Western Conference, good enough for a spot in the North America Champions League in 2021.


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?



MLS sets Timbers home playoff date

Potland will host Dallas in two weekends, Nov. 22
Staff Report

With one trophy already in hand, the Portland Timbers will begin their search for a second Nov. 22, with a home match in the first round of the MLS Western Conference playoffs.

Portland will play host to FC Dallas at 7 p.m., at Providence Park. The team has not announced any plans to allow spectators within the stadium.

The two teams did not meet during the abbreviated regular season nor the MLS is Back Cup that played out in July and August in Orlando, Fla.

Portland won the summer tournament, and will be looking to return to the Cup finale for the third time, and second since winning in 2015. Portland fell to Atlanta, in Atlanta, in 2018.

Dallas has played for the MLS Cup once, but never won.

The Timbers enter having lost just once in their past six games, going 2-1-3 with two of the draws being against LAFC.

Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse both tallied nine goals for Portland during the 25-match season. Felipe Mora had seven goals and Yimmi Chara added four with eight assists. Valeri led the team with nine assists.


Timbers closeout with draw

Late goal pulls PDX 1-1 with LAFC, playoff next
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

And, now finally, the MLS Cup is on the line.

After the tournament-in-a-bubble, and collapsed regular season, the Portland Timbers can finally focus on the annual battle for the league championship, and they'll be part of it as the third seed in the Western Conference.

Portland closed out is regular season with a 1-1 draw in Los Angeles, netting the tying goal in the 90th minute to finish with an 11-6-6 record and 39 points. The point total tied with Sporting Kansas City and Seattle, but those teams had played fewer matches and had a higher point-per-game average, and were seeded first and second, respectively, for the upcoming playoffs that begin Nov. 20.

Jorge Villafana headed home Portland's goal to cap of the regular season, scoring for the first time in five years. The Timbers scored 46 goals in their 23 matches, topped only by LAFC with 47 goal in 22 matches. The two teams tied 1-1 just a month ago.

Portland will play at least one playoff game at Providence Park, starting with Dallas, which finished sixth.

The other Western match-ups are:

Sporting Kansas City vs. San Jose

Seattle vs. LAFC

Minnesota vs. Colorado





Timbers head for Decision Day with LA in mind

After 1-0 loss to Colorado, LAFC might be first-round opponent
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

After a 1-0 loss at home to Colorado Wednesday, the Portland Timbers had little to gain from looking back at an uninspired effort at Providence Park, but everything to look forward to with Sunday's match at LAFC as it might very well be the opponent in the quarterfinals of the Major League Soccer playoffs. P

ortland dropped to second behind Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference standing with the loss, and are just a whisper ahead of Seattle, with each having one match remaining.

Los Angeles sits in sixth.

There certainly are plenty of pathways LAFC could remain there and the Timbers could wind up third, which would put the two teams up against one another in the first round. P

ortland plays at LAFC Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

The eight playoff teams in the Western Conference have played their way into the expanded playoffs, with four being left out.

Chara goal boosts Timbers to first

Portland tops Vancouver 1-0 entering final week
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

PORTLAND - Yimmi Chara followed a historic game of passing off goals to scoring one Sunday, leading the Portland Timbers to a 1-0 victory over Vancouver and to the top spot in the Western Conference with just two matches remaining in the regular season.

Chara, who tied an MLS record with four assists in a 5-2 win Wednesday over the LA Galaxy, smashed home a cross from Jorge Villafana in the 61st minute and the Timbers survived a late surge from the Whitecaps to move atop the Western Conference just ahead of Sporting Kansas City.

Portland improved to 11-5-5 for 38 points, and to 1.81 points per match which the league moved to determine which eight teams would qualify for the playoffs as every team will not finish with the same number of matches due to COVID-19 issues causing postponements. Kansas City sits at 1.80 and 36 points, but having played 20 matches - one less than Portland.

The Seattle Sounders sit in third with 35 points and 1.75 per match, but also with 20 matches.

Portland plays host to Colorado Wednesday, then plays at LAFC Sunday, when the regular season will wind down.

Vancouver entered Sunday's match having scored just 24 goals in 21 matches, and averaging a league low eight shots per match. The defensive nature of the match kept Portland from many scoring chances until the hour mark when a build-up on the right side switched to the left and Villafana scorched a cross from the end line to Chara, who powered home a shot for his fourth goal of the season. Villafana's assist was his fifth of the year.

The Whitecaps finished with a 12-11 edge in shots, but only two of them needed a save from Portland's Steve Clark, and he earned his fifth shutout of the season and second over Vancouver.




Timbers rebound in big way

Portland overwhelms LA Galaxy 5-2 to end skid
Staff Report

The Portland Timbers washed away two weeks of struggles in just 30 minutes Wednesday night, scoring three times on the way to a 5-2 win over the LA Galaxy at Providence Park that secured a playoff spot.

Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored in the sixth and 19th minute and Diego Valeri sent home a penalty kick in the 30th minute for a 3-0 lead that helped the cause of erasing the memory of two consecutive late-game goals that turned wins into draws tucked behind a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake.

Portland improved to 10-5-5 for 35 points in the Western Conference standings, tied for second with Seattle with three games left in the regular season.

The scoring outburst was in line with what the team did at the start of the month, destroying the Galaxy 6-3 on the road directly before a 3-0 win over San Jose. It moved the Timbers to the top of the league in scoring, tied a 44 with LAFC.

Portland's 1-all tie with LAFC, Oct. 18, followed by a 1-all draw with Seattle Thursday both came about from opponent goals in extra time at the close of the match. 

Eryk Williamson and Andy Polo added second-half goals for the Timbers.

Cristian Pavon scored both goals for the Galaxy, which remained at the bottom of the West at 5-11-3, 18 points. The team is likely to miss the playoffs for the third time in four seasons.

The Timbers return to action at home Sunday against Vancouver at 7 p.m.



Timbers don't win/lose again

Portland gives up extra-time goal, settles for 1-1 draw with Seattle
Staff Report

It happened again.

For the third time this season, and second in five days, the Portland Timbers gave up a goal in extra-time and settled for a 1-1 draw, this time with rival Seattle at CenturyLink Field Thursday.

The Timbers got a goal in the 10th minute from Andres Flores, and it held up for more than 80 minutes before Will Bruin scored in the 93rd minute to cause the draw between the teams atop the Western Conference standings. Bruin's shot was the only one on goal for the Sounders who outshot the visitors 15-8. Seattle held an 8-3 edge in corner kicks as well.

Portland moved to 9-5-5 overall with 32 points, and remained tied with the Sounders. But, they missed out on moving three points ahead of their rivals due to the late goal.

LAFC managed a 1-1 draw with the Timbers Sunday with a goal in the 93rd minute at Providence Park, where the team settled for a 4-4 draw with Real Salt Lake, Aug. 29, when the visitors scored in extra time as well.

Portland has nearly a week off before facing the LA Galaxy Wednesday at home.



Timbers keep rolling with 3-0 win

Portland overcomes weather and San Jose at Providence Park
Staff Report

The season just keeps getting brighter for the Portland Timbers, whether the weather cooperates or not.

Behind a brace from Jaroslaw Niezgoda and a stellar performance from its defense, the Timbers beat visiting San Jose 3-0 Sunday for their fifth-straight win in MLS play.

Portland stayed even with Seattle atop the Western Conference standings through 16 matches, and produced a shutout for the third time in four matches.

Following a 1-1 draw with the Earthquakes on Sept. 16, the Timbers are 6-1-1 in their last eight matchs, and have outscored their opponents 21-10 - with four of those opponents' goals in a 4-2 loss at LAFC, Sept. 13.

Portland returns to action Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, which is nursing a three-match losing streak.

Felipe Mora's goal in the 86th minute off a brilliant cross from Diego Chara gave him seven goals for the season, matching both Diego Valeri and Jeremy Ebobisse for the team lead. Portland is the lone team in the league with three players having scored seven goals this year. Niezgoda improved his total to five goals.



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