Portland TrailBlazers

NBA Playoffs: Oregon Ducks Players and Coaches Pulling for Portland Trailblazers

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When it comes to sports we are all a fan of someone, whether its the Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Seattle Seahawks or the Philadelphia Eagles. On Friday the Oregon Ducks Football team wrapped up another Spring Practice leading up to the Spring Game next Saturday. Several players and coaches were asked about who they were fans of. It seemed that members of the Oregon Ducks Football family were pulling for the Portland Trailblazers in the NBA Playoffs.

Keanon Lowe Feature

It seemed that the most vocal leader when it came to expressing their ‘fandom’ was Oregon Ducks Senior Wide Receiver Keanon Lowe who is excited for the series coming back to the Moda Center. “That’s what I’m fully focused on now that practice is over. I wear my Clyde Drexler jersey that’s kind of what we’re sticking with for the playoffs.” As far as his teammates like Oregon Ducks Running Back Bralon Addison, being fans of the Houston Rockets, “They’re not really tweeting very much now huh? They haven’t had mich to say this last day.”

One member of the team, Oregon Ducks Quarterback Marcus Mariota reportedly fell asleep during Game One of the series. Lowe was not too forgivng, “I don’t know how much basketball they watch in Hawaii.” Lowe is happy to be a part of the Playoff Experience, “I’m excited about this – they haven’t won a series since I was in like 2nd grade.”

Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost talks about preparation for the 2014 season
Oregon Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost talks about preparation for the 2014 season

NBA Playoff fever has also set in with Oregon Ducks Offensive Coordinator Scott Frost who grew up in the Midwest and pulled for the Boston Celtics, but he has been watching the Trailblazers series with Houston, “We’ve got a bunch of Blazers fans around here and everyone is into it. More than anything I enjoy watching players I like now.” Frost was asked a rather unique question concerning basketball. If the Oregon Ducks Football team and Oregon Ducks Basketball team had a Starting Five, who would lead the Football squad on the hardwood. His choice for Point Guard was obvious, but I’m sure that Oregon Ducks Basketball Coach Dana Altman would throw a challege flag on the choice. “Johnny’s (Loyd)gonna have the point.I think Arik (Armstead) has played enough basketball to deserve it. (Oregon Ducks Wide Receiver)Dwayne Stanford would definitely be on the team. Bralon Addison is really quick and maybe DeForrest Buckner to get some more size in there.

If you haven’t been watching the NBA Playoffs the Portland Trailblazers are up two games to none on the Houston Rockets as of this post. Whether your an Oregon Ducks football player, coach or a casual fan we’re all fans of the Portland Trailblazers right now. Damian Lillard and LeMarcus Aldridge have led the charge for Portland in the post season and on Friday night they will look go take a commanding 3-0 lead on the Houston Rockets in the best of seven series.

The Oregon Ducks Spring Game inside Autzen Stadium is set for next Saturday, May 3rd. Kickoff is 11am and the game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks.

 

Portland Trail Blazers Lose 2nd Preseason Game, 104-98 vs Phoenix Suns

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The Portland Trail Blazers (0-2 preseason) dropped another game, this time to the visiting Phoenix Suns in a 104-98 loss at home. This is the Blazers’ second loss in as many attempts. While preseason games have no baring on the regular season, fans have to be disappointed with the poor play thus far.

Phoenix held a 19-point lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter before a valiant comeback effort by Portland. Guards Will Barton and Damian Lillard, combining for 17 points in the quarter, made the lopsided game appear closer than it actually was. Barton finished the game with 13 points and Lillard a team-high 19.

Portland Trail Blazers vs Phoenix Suns
Portland Trail Blazers vs Phoenix Suns | (Bruce Ely/Oregonian)

The Blazers were without a few stars. Starting small forward Nicolas Batum is out indefinitely with a concussion. No. 10 draft pick C.J. McCollum is still out and as well as offseason pickup Dorell Wright.

Making his return to the lineup was center LaMarcus Aldridge who posted 10 points and six rebounds in 13 minutes of action. The big man has been battling the injury bug this offseason and it’s unclear when he’ll be back to 100%.

For the Suns, Goran Dragic‘s 19 points off of the bench was the difference maker. He led the team in scoring while also tallying one rebound and five assists. Power forward Marcus Morris finished with 15 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting in 30 minutes.

Portland will return to action on Friday night for a bout with the Utah Jazz in the Moda Center.

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How High is Damian Lillard’s Ceiling?

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After the best rookie season in Portland since Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard is ready to improve on his award winning season and take the next step forward. As a rookie he quickly established himself as the jewel of the 2012 NBA Draft class winning every single rookie of the month award through the season. He finished 2012-13 with 19.0 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.1 RPG and a league-high 38.6 MPG.

While it’s hard to expect much more from the dynamic playmaker, there’s nothing holding Lillard back from surpassing even the wildest Blazer fans’ dreams.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard

But in order to become one of the NBA’s elite he’ll need to sure up a few aspects of his game. The first one being his three-point shooting. Lillard shot just .368 from deep, connecting on 185-of-503 attempts. At media day, Lillard addressed this issue and said it was something he was working on.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I want to shoot at least 40 percent from three,” Lillard said. “Field goal percentage should probably be higher than it was last year, so 48 percent, somewhere around there… hopefully.”[/gn_quote]

Finding a consistent deep range threat in Lillard would not only be vital to his own game, but would  do wonders as well for the team. Portland ranked 20th in the NBA last season in three point shooting at .353 and hasn’t been in the top-10 since 2008 when they had that Roy guy.

Roy not only helped with his dominant shooting but also his driving ability, which allowed sharpshooters to knock down shot after shot. While the Blazers don’t have the outside weapons now that they did then, they still have forward Nicolas Batum and shooting guard Wesley Matthews who are underrated threats.

Also, the arrival of lottery pick C.J. McCollum is still an unknown. McCollum has been listed as the Blazers’ backup shooting guard but being a top-10 pick he’ll definitely see serious minutes, especially if he can gel with Lillard. This article by Hoops Habit even projected that the duo could be one of the best in the NBA.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard | (Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

Another area that Lillard will need to improve upon if he’s looking to join teammate LaMarcus Aldridge in the all-star game will be his assist-to-turnover ratio. Lillard’s 2.2 ATR, while not terrible, is hardly that of an elite point guard. Lillard had the 39th best ratio for players of his position last season behind guys nowhere near his skill level.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I haven’t even thought about the (assist-to-turnover ratio) numbers, but you don’t want to turn the ball over the same amount of times you did the previous season,” Lillard said. “Coming in, my priority is going to take better care of the ball. Hopefully, my assists will be up higher, and my turnovers will be lower.”[/gn_quote]

With how often Lillard has the ball in his hands, it’s no wonder that he’s going to have his fair share of turnovers. With added shooters (McCollum, free agent Dorell Wright) to the team, expect to see Lillard’s efficiency rise dramatically.

Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard | (Bruce Ely/Oregonian)

But being specific, what is the ceiling for Lillard? Is it a reserve all-star appearance? A starting role in the all-star game? An MVP? Has he already hit his peak and this all moot?

This will be another transition year as Lillard and Aldridge continue to build their on-court chemistry. Expecting anything above an all-star appearance is simply ludicrous. Should Lillard vastly improve on his weaknesses, as were discussed above, he could receive an all-star bid. Even that is an extreme stretch. I can easily name 10 guards better than Lillard.

  1. Chris Paul, Clippers
  2. Tony Parker, Spurs
  3. Russell Westbrook, Thunder
  4. Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers
  5. Rajon Rondo, Celtics
  6. Stephen Curry, Warriors
  7. James Harden, Rockets
  8. Dwyane Wade, Heat
  9. Kobe Bryant, Lakers
  10. Derrick Rose, Bulls

I list these in no particular order, but firmly believe that each is more proven than Lillard… at this point. That’s the key. At this point.

Who knows how Bryant or Rose will return from injury? Who knows if Harden will implode with a locker room cancer like Dwight Howard? Who knows how Parker will fare with an aging team around him? Will the dinosaur that is Wade move aside and let LeBron James steal the show in Miami completely? How will Rondo do with complete garbage surrounding him?

Lillard has the potential to make the top-5 of this list if all the pieces fall into place perfectly. That is, of course, for this next season. If we’re looking long-term Lillard easily projects to being a top-3 guard by the prime of his career.

Hopefully for Blazers fans all the pieces GM Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts have put in place are still there in a few years. And you know who I’m talking about… Mr. Aldrdige.

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Rasheed Wallace to Be Assistant Coach for Detroit Pistons

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Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace

According to Detroit News, the Detroit Pistons have hired Portland Trail Blazer legend Rasheed Wallace to its coaching staff.

This marks the subsequent end of an accomplished playing career and the beginning of a coaching career. Though Wallace did not have to file retirement papers with the NBA because he is not under contract with an NBA team.

Wallace was hired by the Pistons to mentor a talented group of young big men including Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and recent draft pick Tony Mitchell.

But will Wallace have a positive effect on this group of impressionable young bigs? While I’m skeptical if former players can successfully help current players with their game, (did Javale Mcgee or Dwight Howard really get better after working with Hakeem Olajuwon?), I think Wallace can lead these players in the right direction. That is, if they have a purely basketball related relationship I see a lot of Wallace in Monroe. Like a young Wallace, Monroe is abnormally mobile for his size, is a proficient passer and has the strength inside to overpower smaller bigs.

Although he hasn’t proved to be effective as a mid range shooter yet in the NBA (only makes about a third of his shots from 10-15 feet), Monroe has the potential to be much better. Wallace, who was an excellent shooter for his position, should be able to fix a few kinks in Monroe’s jumper. He also should help Drummond develop some semblance of a post game.

But maybe most importantly, I think Wallace will be able to relate to the Piston players and possibly help them learn from his mistakes. He has always been a likeable guy in the locker room despite his problems on the court and in the community.

Happy trails, ‘Sheed.

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Overlooking This Season, the Blazers Look to Move Forward

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Getty Images
Blazers head coach Terry Stotts (right) and rookie point guard Damian Lillard (left) discuss strategy (Getty Images)

After witnessing the Portland Trail Blazers (33-49) season unravel faster than the ribbon protecting the most gargantuan present under the tree from an impatient child, it’s time to look to the future.

No matter how utterly horrendous your favorite NBA team is, every fan has the luxury of looking forward to the NBA draft and free agency. While some are calling this year’s draft the worst since the year 2000 when Kenyon Martin broke his leg into being selected number one overall, there is always a diamond in the rough (former all star Michael Redd was taken 43rd in that same draft). In the Blazer’s case, free agency might be more beneficial considering their more pressing need for proven commodities than potential.

The Blazers’ starting guards and forward situations are almost certainly set, but the rest of the spots in next year’s rotation are seemingly up for grabs. The formula for the Blazers woes this season was: NO Bench + No Defense + No Rebounding = No Playoffs. The Blazers not only had the worst scoring bench in the NBA by an astounding eight points, but also averaged 15 fewer bench points than their opponents PER GAME!!

Not to mention, the Blazers were the fourth least efficient defensive team in the NBA last season thanks to no shot blocking presence (unless you count Batum on the fast break) or elite defender on the roster. Finally, they ranked 20th in the NBA in team rebounding rate.  Suffice it to say; although the blazers have a talented core, they lack the role players to establish a consistent winner. Thanks to the NBA draft and free agency, these holes can be filled before next season. But can anyone on the current roster quell Portland’s deficiencies?

Meyers Leonard showed a lot of improvement this season, showing not only dunking ability and rebounding potential, but a feathery jumper, which could develop into a serious weapon with a summer spent in the gym. Also, Eric Maynor proved to be a useful acquisition and would be an above average back up point guard if General Manager Neil Olshey opts to keep him. Although Will Barton, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland were largely ineffective cogs on the worst bench in the NBA this season, they will also have a chance to earn minutes next year. Still, the Blazers seriously need a deeper talent pool in order to establish some semblance of a respectable bench.

Considering the difficulty rookie’s typically face making a significant impact on the defensive end, the Blazers should sign defensive specialists in Free Agency. Lamarcus Aldridge cannot be the biggest player in the Blazers’ starting five for them to succeed defensively. Thus, it would be wise for Olshey to sign a true center. Although no center available is ideal in this free agent class, a few players could strengthen Portland’s frontline.

Samuel Dalmbert (Jeffrey Phelps/ Getty Images)
Samuel Dalmbert
(Jeffrey Phelps/ Getty Images)

Upcoming free agent Samuel Dalembert would compliment Aldridge’s scoring prowess with defense, shot blocking and rebounding. Dalembert didn’t receive as much playing time as he is used to due to the emergence of young bigs Larry Sanders and John Henson, but was able to average 5.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game in under 17 minutes of action a night.

San Antonio Spur, Tiago Splitter could also be a serviceable big for the Blazers. He wouldn’t block a ton of shots, but his adept mobility, rebounding and touch around the basket would be useful. Atlanta Hawks big man Zaza Pachula could provide similar skills as Splitter, although he tore his ACL earlier this month.

If perimeter defense were the sole determinant of skill in the NBA, Memphis wing Tony Allen would be Lebron James. Allen has been the best perimeter defender in the NBA for a few years now. Not only does he shut down opponents individually, but he is also excellent at rotating defensively and causing havoc off the ball. One Grizzlies lineup with Allen at shooting guard ranked the number one defensive lineup in terms of points allowed per possession in the Association. It will be interesting to see how much money it will take to sign him considering perimeter defensive specialists rarely attract big contracts.  If the Blazers can’t get Allen, Denver forward Corey Brewer would also certainly bolster the Blazers’ defense.

In the draft however, they should look for bench scoring.

Although nothing is certain until the Ping Pong balls unscrupulously make their decision in the draft lottery on May 21, the Blazers will most likely pick somewhere between ninth and 12th. I will go into more detail about whom the Blazers should select after the draft lottery, but for now, I will provide some calculated but vague generalities based on pure speculation.

Peter Yang/ESPN The Magazine
Peter Yang/ESPN The Magazine

Big men will likely dominate this section of the draft and the Blazers could use another big considering JJ Hickson’s possible departure. Two of the best scorers in college basketball, Cody Zeller and Kelly Olynyk could both be available at the time the Blazers are on the clock.  Both would provide scoring off the bench, although both would almost certainly be a liability defensive liability.

Another guard with upside who can score off the bench could be useful as well. If UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad slips to the latter portion of the lottery, he would be a good value pick for the Blazers. Muhammed is a versatile scorer who plays with a lot of tenacity and toughness.   Lehigh guard CJ McCollum missed most of his senior season after injuring his foot in January, but their is a lot to like about the guard.  Look no further than the tape of Lehigh’s upset victory over 2 seed Duke in 2012 to find the evidence.  The guy can shoot the lights out of the gym, not only in spot up opportunities, but he made an impressive 49% of his shots off the dribble.  Still, he is a bit of a tweener who plays like a shooting guard but has the size of a point guard at only 6-3.  He may have trouble stopping NBA shooting guards but he could potentially be a quality scorer at the NBA level.

If somehow the unthinkable happens and the Blazers land a top three selection, they would go for the two most likely players in the draft to reach an All Star game, shooting guard Ben Mclemore and center Nerlens Noel. Luckily, both players play the top two weakest positions in the Blazers’ starting lineup.  Mclemore was not only a human highlight reel, but also a three-point marksman for the Kansas Jayhawks. Noel may not have lived up to his predecessor Anthony Davis offensively, but before he tore his ACL, he averaged more than four blocks per game. Once he is healthy, he will immediately make penetrators think twice before going at the rim.  Still, he will miss part of his rookie season rehabbing his torn ACL.

The Blazers also possess two second round picks. It is almost impossible to predict which second rounders will make an impact in the NBA, but I have a few I like. I think former UNC wing Reggie Bullock could be a solid knockdown shooter and tough perimeter defender in the NBA.  UCLA forward Kyle Anderson could be a rich mans Luke Walton who does a little bit of everything relatively well and North Texas forward Tony Mitchell could be a good defender and rebounder at the NBA level.

So many variables are in play that consequently, I have no idea what is going to happen this summer.  Let’s hope this off-season turns out to be more like the years we drafted Clyde Drexler or Terry Porter and completely opposite to the years we traded Moses Malone, drafted Martell Webster instead of Chris Paul or drafted the two centers who must not be named ahead of Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.  But first, the draft lottery awaits.

Aldridge’s long-range shooting binge a discouraging sign for Blazers

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Terry Stotts, the former Dallas assistant turned Portland head coach, is already catching criticism for his Dirk Nowitski-esque usage of All-Star big man LaMarcus Aldridge.

The first-year coach has imposed a new offensive scheme that features more wide-open, free-flowing play, and so far, the result has had a negative effect on Aldridge who, through Monday, is shooting a career-low .425 from the field. After going 7-17 from the field last Thursday, Aldridge was asked about his recent long-range shooting binge by The Oregonian’s Jason Quick.

“[Stotts] has plays that he calls that get me to the block,” Aldridge said. “Other than that, you float to the elbow. So the offense is designed for me to be at the elbow.”

What’s worse, Aldridge seemed to get defensive when asked by Quick if he was shooting too many jumpers.

“I don’t [think so],” he responded. “Obviously you do, you asked the question.”

A jumpshot by PF LaMarcus Aldridge
(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The developing trend is not being overplayed, and it is something Blazers fans should be keeping an eye on. Aldridge is a career 41.8 percent between the paint and the three-point line as opposed to a 58.3 percent shooter from inside the paint, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com, and through seven games he is launching more mid-range jumpers than ever. Joe Kaiser of ESPN.com had Aldridge “playing small, not big” as his number one trend to watch so far this season, but let’s let the numbers tell the full story.

The majority of Aldridge’s shot attempts are coming from outside of 16 feet, as he leads the league in mid-range jumpers. In previous years Aldridge had taken these long twos around 35 percent of the time, but this year he is taking them almost 60 percent of the time. (Ben Golliver)

And while Aldridge has always been considered one of the better jump-shooting big men in the league, he has never been on the same level as Stotts’ former power forward Dirk Nowitzki who is a 46.8 percent shooter from mid-range. Moreover, Aldridge has been an elite scorer in the low-post throughout his career. In Aldridge’s best season, 2011-2012, he averaged about 10 shots a game from inside of 10 feet, while this year he is only averaging 5.4 from inside, according to Kaiser.

If there is one positive, it is that Aldridge has been distributing the basketball better than ever. Through Monday, Aldridge is averaging 4.4 assists, which is way up from his career mark of 1.8. Regardless, though, his overall efficiency so far this season (17.44 Player Efficiency Rating) is the worst it has been since his rookie year.

With the Blazers struggling—they are 2-5 through Monday—Stotts needs to begin to realize that he no longer has Dirk Nowitzki at power forward. What he does have is a dominating post player with good range to keep defenses honest. If this realization happens later and not sooner, the Blazers could be facing a long year.

“[Aldridge] is transforming from a post presence with range to a glorified wing shooter right in front of our eyes,” writes Kaiser. “That could be a bad thing for the Blazers.”

So far, for Aldridge and for the Blazers, it certainly hasn’t been a good thing.

Blazers Fall to Hawks, 95-87, at Rose Garden

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PORTLAND – The Portland Trail Blazers (2-5) have now lost their fourth consecutive game, after opening the season with a winning record, in a 95-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks (3-3).

The Hawks climbed out to an early 22-9 lead putting Portland in all too familiar situation of being down early. Portland went on a 15-2 run starting at the 9:40 mark in the fourth quarter to bring the Blazers one of their few leads in the game at 82-80. It didn’t last long, however, as Atlanta responded with a 10-0 run to close the game, turning a two-point deficit into an eight-point win.

“We keep putting ourselves in holes,” guard Wesley Matthews said after the game. “We can’t keep doing that to ourselves.”

Matthews finished the game with 17 points on 3-9 shooting (0-6 from three-point range). He also was a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line. He was third on the team in points scored behind J.J. Hickson and Nicolas Batum who each scored 19 points.

Like last game, Portland’s bench put in a poor performance against the Hawks by only combining for six points on 2-12 shooting. Portland’s bench has been outscored 89-10 in close loses to the Spurs and Hawks (26-6 against Hawks).

Joel Freeland was 0-5 with 0 points scored, Meyers Leonard was 1-4 with four points and Ronnie Price went 1-3 with two points. Portland’s bench played a total of 54 minutes with the starters playing 186.

Despite the slow start and four-game losing streak, head coach Terry Stotts believes that his team is continuing to grow and that a 2-5 record is not something to be concerned over.

“Certainly, the record is important, but the other things are more important at this point,” Stotts said. “Certainly, we want to go in and win every game. But as I said when I got job, I’m going to base it on how we’re playing and how we’re improving. That’s how I judge our team.”

Fans and media new going into this season that Portland would have a difficult opening stretch with two new starters, a new coaching staff and a difficult schedule. Portland has the ninth toughest strength of schedule (.540) and have an RPI of 17th in the league (.477) according to ESPN rankings.

The Blazers’ schedule will get a lot easier in December when they open with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats, Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings and Toronto Raptors. Of those five games, Portland should get four wins in that stretch.

As for the immediate schedule, Portland has the Kings on the road tonight followed by two home games against the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. With those two home games, it’s safe to say fans will be packing the Rose Garden to see the stars come to the Rose City.

NOTES –

  • The Blazers and Hawks entered the match with an even-split 50-50 win record against the other in 100 matches played. Atlanta now takes the series lead 51-50.
  • Portland’s 195-game sellout streak came to an end last night, one of the longest in the NBA. The sellout streak started on Dec. 21, 2007.

HAWKS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
A. Horford 31 6-10 0-0 3-4 10 4 0 0 4 4 +17 15
J. Smith 28 9-22 0-0 1-1 11 3 1 1 2 5 +18 19
J. Teague 34 4-11 0-1 5-6 2 8 3 0 3 0 +13 13
D. Stevenson 38 2-4 2-4 0-0 2 0 2 0 1 0 +3 6
K. Korver 31 5-8 4-6 2-2 3 2 2 0 2 4 +12 16
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
I. Johnson 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 1 -3 0
A. Tolliver 10 1-3 0-2 2-2 1 0 1 0 3 1 -4 4
Z. Pachulia 23 1-6 0-0 0-0 9 0 0 2 0 2 -14 2
D. Harris 9 2-3 0-0 0-1 1 2 0 0 0 1 -2 4
A. Morrow 13 2-5 1-2 0-0 0 0 1 1 0 3 +4 5
L. Williams 18 3-7 0-3 5-6 1 1 4 0 1 1 -4 11
TEAM   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF   PTS
35-79 7-18 18-22 41 20 14 4 16 22   95
    44.3% 38.9% 81.8%
BLAZERS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
L. Aldridge 36 4-13 0-0 6-9 6 8 2 0 5 5 -4 14
N. Batum 40 8-17 3-8 0-0 7 1 1 0 4 2 -6 19
J.J. Hickson 33 8-14 0-0 3-5 18 0 2 1 3 1 -4 19
D. Lillard 39 5-18 2-7 0-0 3 2 2 1 4 3 -20 12
W. Matthews 38 3-9 1-6 10-10 4 1 3 0 1 2 0 17
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF +/- PTS
J. Freeland 12 0-5 0-0 0-0 1 1 0 1 0 0 -4 0
M. Leonard 15 1-4 0-1 2-2 2 0 1 2 1 2 -2 4
R. Price 18 1-3 0-1 0-0 4 2 1 0 1 4 +5 2
W. Barton 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 1 0 -2 0
S. Pavlovic 6 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 1 1 0 0 -3 0
TOTALS   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PF   PTS
30-83 6-23 21-26 47 15 13 6 20 19   87
    36.1% 26.1% 80.8%  

Blazers Fall to Spurs 112-109 Despite Career Performance From Batum

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PORTLAND – The Portland Trail Blazers (2-4), could not hold on to an early lead against the San Antonio Spurs (6-1) as Portland has now last three consecutive games after opening the season 2-1. The Blazers entered the second half with a 52-43 lead, but surrendered 69 points in the second half on defense, and were unable to keep up in the shootout.

Budding star Nicolas Batum had one of the most impressive games of his young career, but was just long on a potential game-tieing 3-point shot that could have sent the game into overtime. Batum finished the game with 33 points and seven rebounds, but was disappointed with the outcome of the game.

“We should have won the game before that. I need to make those shots, but we should have won the game before that,” said Batum after the game.

It was a home-coming for former Blazer Patty Mills who started for the injured Tony Parker. Mills played 23 minutes while scoring seven points on 3-9 shooting.

The key difference in the game was the bench scoring. San Antonio’s bench outscored the Blazers 63-4. Yes, you read that correctly. Rookie Meyers Leonard (2) and Sasha Pavlovic (2) each recorded one basket for a total of four points. Portland’s bench shot 2-10 in the game. As for Spurs, backup Gary Neal led the team with 27 points.

“He carried us on his back,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said about Neal’s performance in the game. “Sometimes a player will do that, and he picked a good time for it.”

The Spurs have had troubles, like many teams, escaping the Rose Garden with a victory. The Spurs had lost seven straight games at Portland.

“It was exciting, just to be part of a win like that,” said Neal. “Since I’ve been here we haven’t beat Portland in Portland, so it was a big win. A great, great team win. I’m glad we were able to pull it out in the end.”

Despite Portland’s youth, the Spurs looked like the young and spirited team on the court. Veteran and future hall of famer Tim Duncan nearly recorded another double-double with 22 points and nine rebounds. Duncan also had a team-high three blocks.

Across from Duncan was Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who had a season-high 29 points on 12-26 shooting. Aldridge is eighth in the league in scoring at 21.8 PPG. As of now, he’s on pace for another all-star season.

SPURS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
T. Duncan 32 7-12 0-0 8-9 9 1 1 3 1 22
K. Leonard 23 5-6 0-1 0-0 3 1 3 0 3 10
B. Diaw 15 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 2 0 0 1 0
P. Mils 23 3-9 1-2 0-0 2 4 1 0 2 7
D. Green 32 4-7 1-3 1-2 5 2 0 1 3 10
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
D. Splitter 18 2-3 0-0 2-2 2 0 0 1 3 6
M. Bonner 2 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 0
S. Jackson 31 3-8 2-5 5-6 3 3 2 0 3 13
G. Neal 32 11-16 2-3 3-4 7 1 0 0 1 27
C. Joseph 0 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
N. de Colo 5 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 2 0 0 0 0
M. Ginobili 28 5-8 1-3 6-8 4 4 2 0 3 17
TEAM   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
40-70 7-18 25-31 36 20 9 5 21 112
    57.1% 38.9% 80.6%  
BLAZERS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
L. Aldridge 41 12-26 0-2 5-6 4 7 2 4 3 29
N. Batum 39 11-18 5-7 6-6 7 4 2 1 3 33
J.J. Hickson 34 5-8 0-0 3-4 14 0 1 0 0 13
D. Lillard 38 8-16 4-8 0-1 3 6 2 0 4 20
W. Matthews 37 4-11 1-3 1-2 3 4 2 0 2 10
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
J. Jeffries 3 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 0
L Babbitt 4 0-1 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 0
M. Leonard 13 1-3 0-0 0-0 3 0 0 0 1 2
R. Price 10 0-3 0-1 0-0 0 0 1 0 1 0
W. Barton 3 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Pavlovic 17 1-2 0-0 0-0 3 1 3 0 0 2
TEAM   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
42-89 10-22 15-19 37 23 14 5 15 109
    47.2% 45.5% 78.9%  

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Blazers Outshot, Out-hustled in 114-91 Loss to Mavericks

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DALLAS – Athletes always seem to shine on their birthdays, and O.J. Mayo was no exception on Monday night as he used a 32-point performance to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 114-91 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Dallas, his second straight 30-point game.

Chris Kaman came off the bench for Dallas for 16 points and six rebounds, and Darren Collison added a double-double with 14 points and 13 assists. Meanwhile for the Blazers, the starters carried the load once again. Four of the five starters scored double figures, led by Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge with 20 points each. Rookie Damian Lillard added 13 points.

The Blazers got off to a slow start, trailing by nine with less than two minutes to go in the first. Portland was able to chip at the Mavericks’ lead and trailed by four going into the second. With 3:39 left in the half, a 13-foot jumper from Ronnie Price gave the Blazers their first lead of the game, but Dallas would go into the locker room with a two point lead.

In the third, back-to-back three-pointers from Mayo propelled the Mavericks to a 65-57 lead to begin the half. After a timeout, the Blazers were once again able to chip at the lead and whittle it down to just one point, and trailed by four going into the final quarter. The Blazers did their part for three quarters of the game as they trailed by only two with 10:17 remaining in the game. Kaman hit a mid-range jumper that sparked a 28-9 run from the Mavericks to put the game away.

Portland was outmatched in many statistical categories leading to the loss. While the Blazers shot just 38.7% from the field, the Mavericks shot 61.5%, including 50% from beyond the arc compared to 22.7% for Portland. Dallas also controlled the tempo of the game, outscoring the Blazers 24-2 on the fast break. The Mavericks have shot at least 60% from the field in consecutive games for the first time in team history thanks to what Mayo calls “organized street ball.”

Despite shooting 8-8 from the free-throw line, Lillard struggled shooting during the night going 2-13 from the field, including 1-8 from three-point range.

“It was a tough night. I got some good looks, didn’t make shots,” Lillard said.

Looking ahead, the Blazers return home for six of their next eight games, a chance to rack up some early November wins that could help them in the long run. Thursday night the Blazers welcome Blake Griffin and the Clippers to the Rose Garden. Los Angeles is coming off close losses to the Warriors and Cavaliers, and look to get back in the win column.

Upcoming Opponents 

11/8 – vs. LA Clippers

11/10 – vs. San Antonio Spurs

11/12 – vs. Atlanta Hawks

11/13 – @ Sacramento Kings

11/16 – vs. Houston Rockets

BLAZERS                    
  MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
L. Aldridge 32 9-19 0-1 2-3 7 2 1 1 0 20
N. Batum 36 6-13 0-5 2-2 5 3 1 1 1 14
J.J. Hickson 25 3-10 0-0 1-2 11 0 1 0 2 7
D. Lillard 33 2-13 1-8 8-8 3 5 1 0 1 13
W. Matthews 36 8-15 3-4 1-3 3 0 1 0 5 20
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
J. Freeland 9 1-2 0-0 0-0 4 0 0 0 1 2
J. Jeffries 7 1-3 0-0 0-0 2 0 0 0 0 2
M. Leonard 23 3-7 0-0 0-0 9 1 0 1 1 6
N. Smith 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 1 0
R. Price 18 2-4 0-1 0-0 2 1 0 0 1 4
W. Barton 2 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
S. Pavolich 18 1-5 1-3 0-0 2 1 0 0 0 3
TOTALS   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
    36-93 5-22 14-18 25 13 5 3 13 91
    38.7% 22.7% 77.8%            
                     
MAVERICKS                    
  MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
E. Brand 24 4-7 0-0 0-0 5 2 1 0 1 8
S. Marrion 24 4-6 0-0 0-0 7 3 1 2 1 8
B. Wright 25 5-7 0-0 0-0 4 2 1 1 0 10
D. Collison 34 5-8 0-0 4-5 1 13 1 0 1 14
O.J. Mayo 39 12-18 6-8 2-2 2 1 2 1 3 32
BENCH MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
T. Murphy 16 1-4 0-3 1-2 5 1 0 0 0 3
J. Crowder 14 3-5 2-3 1-2 2 0 1 0 0 9
B. James 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0
C. Kaman 24 8-10 0-0 0-0 6 0 0 0 2 16
V. Carter 22 3-9 2-5 0-0 3 0 2 1 0 8
D. Jones 14 3-4 0-1 0-2 1 6 3 0 1 6
J. Cunningham 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 0 0 0
D. Jones 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 1 0 0 0 0 0
TOTALS   FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A REB AST STL BLK TO PTS
    48-78 10-20 8-13 37 29 12 5 9 114
    61.5% 50.0% 61.5%            

Lost in Oregon Football Madness Was a 95-85 Blazers OT Victory

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Blazers coach Terry Stotts (right) talks to star point guard Damian Lillard (left) during the win over the Houston Rockets (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

HOUSTON – The Portland TrailBlazers (2-1) bounced back nicely from a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night en route to a 95-85 win on the road over the Houston Rockets (2-1).

Rookie point guard Damian Lillard has been as good as advertised with another 20+ point performance, and was one assist away from another double-down. Lillard finished the game with 20 points, nine assists, and six rebounds to just three turnovers.

The star of the game, however, was big man LaMarcus Aldridge who put up a a game-high and season-high 27 points while also collecting 11 rebounds and six assists.

“(Aldridge) had it rolling, he was dominating the game offensively, and I just wanted to make sure I was in the position to knock the shots down,” Lillard said after the game. “(Aldridge) got going and I was able to get easier shots.”

All of the Blazers’ starters scored in double-digits expect for center J.J. Hickson who finished with nine points and 12 rebounds.

While it is still early in the season, buzz in the state of Oregon has to be about how much potential there is in Portland. The Blazers are in a six-way tie for third place, but have played three more than likely title contenders in the Lakers, Thunder and now the Rockets. In their three performances, Portland has played elite level basketball with the exception being a poor second half against Oklahoma City.

Is it too early to start looking at the Blazers as being the NBA’s Cinderella team? Probably. But heck, let’s do it anyways.

Portland’s difficult opening schedule will show fans, analysts players and coaches just where this Blazers teams stands in the big picture of the NBA. The Blazers’ next three opponents (Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio Spurs) have a combined 7-2 record and are three of the NBA’s elite franchises over the last three seasons.

If Lillard, Aldridge and the rest of the Blazers can continue to dominate, then it will be time start buying into the Terry Stott’s regime. Portland has already shown signs of rejuvenation since the departure of coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers are utilizing all-star forward Aldridge’s ability to work with a competent point guard, something that has been missing since Brandon Roy.

It’s not necessarily the fault of McMillan that Portland was unable to give Aldridge a star guard for the past few seasons. When nearly 20 million of your salary has no knees, you’re put in a crappy situation. Portland was unable to snag a star guard with the caliber of a Derron Williams or Chris Paul in free agency, but at least it appears they’ve now found their man for the future.

If Lillard can bring the spark that left the Rose Garden with Roy, this team could turn a few heads before this season is all said and done. With the collapse of last season, having a little hope is all Blazers fans can lean on. While this may be something magical, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are another 79 games on the schedule that mean a lot. But pay especially close attention over the next week. Big things are in the works in the Rose City.

EDN will bring you Blazers coverage throughout the 2012-13 season. Make sure to like us on FaceBook and follow us on Twitter @EDN_Sports.

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