NBA

Lillard's return can’t down the Rockets

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Lillard's return can’t down the Rockets

The Blazers fell victim to the dreaded second night of a back-to-back, and their tired legs couldn’t keep up with the Houston Rockets. The bright side was that Damain Lillard finally returned to the lineup, but it just wasn’t enough to beat the Harden-less Rockets. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon were unstoppable, combining for  67 points on the night. And in his return Lillard showed no signs of rust, scoring a team-high 29 points. Now it’s on to New Orleans to see if they can get back in the win column.

Final Score: Rockets 121 – Blazers 112

Road trippin' done right in OKC

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Road trippin' done right in OKC

The Blazers hit the road for a four-game road trip, and it started with a bang in Oklahoma City. The Blazers played well in the first half, taking a four-point lead into the locker room at halftime. But in the second half it went from good to great. The Blazers outscored the Thunder 34-26 in the third quarter, and pushed the lead to 20-plus in the fourth. It was a great way to start the road trip, and it may just be one of the Blazers best wins of the year.

Final Score: Blazers 117 – Thunder 106

Trail Blazers flip the script on Hawks for Moda Center win

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Trail Blazers flip the script on Hawks for Moda Center win

Portland got its revenge Friday, beating the Atlanta Hawks, 110-89. The Hawks upset the Blazers just a few games ago, and the Blazers were not willing to let it happen again. Portland led by as many as 14 early, before the Hawks clawed back to make it a one score game. In last week's loss Portland was done in by a huge second half from the Hawks. This time arund it was a big second half from the Blazers that delivered the knockout blow.  Portland started to pull away in the third quarter, and a 9-0 run to start the fourth quarter blew the doors open. Seven different Blazers scored in double figures, led by the 20-point night from CJ McCollum, and that was all she wrote 

Final Score: Blazer 110 – Hawks 89

Next up: The Blazers play host to the Spurs on Sunday. Coverage begins at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and on the NBC Sports App.

Blazers upset bid unravels in the fourth quarter

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Blazers upset bid unravels in the fourth quarter

The Blazers held tough through three quarters with the defending Eastern Conference champion, but it all unraveled in the fourth. The score was tied 91-91 with 11:22 remaining before the Cavs went on a 19-3 run to blow the doors open. Coach Stotts waved the white flag, subbing in the end of his bench with 5:49 remaining and the Blazers looking at an 18-point deficit. The return of Damian Lillard wasn't enough to grab a victory, but the Blazers still played one of their better games of the season (if only for three quarters). 

Final Score: Cavaliers 127 – Blazers 110

Blazers bounce back in Chicago

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Blazers bounce back in Chicago

It was -2 in Chicago on Monday night, but the Blazers caught fire inside United Center. Portland saw a 10-point lead vanish early in the game, but clawed back late. The Blazers couldn’t be stopped in the final minutes of regulation, and came up big on the defensive end to force overtime. In OT, it was all Portland. CJ McCollum hit two free throws to make it a 4-point game with just seconds to play, and helped the Blazers leave the Windy City with a win.

Final Score: Blazers 124 – Bulls 120

Next Up: The Blazers wrap up this raod trip when they play the second of a back-to-back, taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Coverage begins at 3:00PM on NBC Sports Northwest and on the NBC Sports App.

Blazers easy prey for the Hawks

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Blazers easy prey for the Hawks

The worst team in the NBA added a rare win to their record on Saturday, and it came at the expense of the Lillard-less Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard was a late scratch due to a lingering right hamstring injury, missing his fourth consecutive game.

Even without Lillard, the Blazers were favored to win this game. That was until the Hawks decided to catch fire. Atlanta shot 44.9% from the field including a scorching 14-30 (49.7%) from deep.

The Hawks made sure the Blazers left Atlanta with more questions than answers.

Final Score: Hawks 104 – Blazers 89

Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

Paul Allen to blame for Blazer woes? That's just silly

I'm not really sure where it's coming from, but lately I've been hearing a lot of blame for the Trail Blazers' early season struggles directed at the team's owner, Paul Allen.

I mean, seriously?

Let me ask you this: Without Allen as the owner, where would the Trail Blazers be right now? I'll answer that one for you -- in Seattle, that's where. Or Las Vegas. Or Vancouver, B.C. Because without Allen funding the construction of the Moda Center, this team would not have a new arena and would have moved out of town years ago as Memorial Coliseum decayed.

I've lived here all my life and I can tell you, there is no way this city would have ever paid for a new arena. There would have been no political will and no ballot measure. And if it ever got on the ballot, it would have failed. Miserably.

But Allen, unlike just about every other owner in pro sports, didn't come begging to the city for a new venue -- he built it himself. To the everlasting benefit of this city. Even if you have no interest whatsoever in basketball, you've probably enjoyed an experience of some sort in that arena. And the reality is, the Rose Quarter and its arena don't belong to Allen, they belong to the citizens of Portland.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest – $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

And you want to talk basketball? This city is very fortunate to have an owner who cares about his team. Cares enough to provide payrolls that have ranked the Trail Blazers very often among the top five in the NBA. This is a small market, folks. The TV and radio rights fees don't provide the kind of coin owners earn in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and many other larger markets.

Allen wants to win more than he wants to make money off his team. Think about that for a moment. How many other owners would even attempt to say that? Allen has proved it year after year and I would guess he's had very few seasons where this franchise has actually turned a profit. Allen wants a ring and is willing to pay for it.

But it's hard. I believe it's much more difficult to win a championship in the NBA than any other pro league. Championships are won by the same teams year after year -- even before this modern era of "superteams."

Yes, Allen is interested in the Trail Blazers. Interested enough that he wants in on decisions regarding drafts, trades and roster. For what he's spent on this franchise, is that not his right? Does he "meddle?" I have no idea. I do know that some of his general managers could have used a little more meddling. Has he made some wrong choices with GMs and coaches? I suppose. But who hasn't?

Allen does not live in Portland but you could make a case with all he and his franchise have done for this city, on the court and in the community, he's one of its most benevolent citizens.

And any assertion that he's been a negative influence on his franchise is just plain silly.

There is no holiday cheer in Moda, thanks to the Nuggets

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There is no holiday cheer in Moda, thanks to the Nuggets

The Nuggets came to Portland on Friday night and dismantled the Lillard-less Blazers, 102-85. Lillard was a scratch due to a right hamstring strain he suffered Wednesday against the Spurs, and boy did the Blazers miss him.

Portland struggled to find offense from anyone on Friday, even CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic struggled, combining for just 25 points. On the other side of the court, the Nuggets were unstoppable. Nikola Jokic scored 27, Wilson Chandler scored 21, and Gary Harris scored 17.

The Blazers have no time to dwell, as they play the Lakers Saturday at Staple center.

Final Score: Nuggets 102 – Blazers 95.

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's league would have a chance -- without LaVar Ball

LaVar Ball's latest attempt to keep his name in the news, the "Junior Basketball Association," is a total non-starter,

But that doesn't mean it's a totally bad idea. I think the concept is one that could work. I just don't think Ball is the one to make it happen. It would take a whole lot of sports-business sense and a ton of money to start this league and I don't think Mr. Ball has either one.

Can you imagine the startup cost of such a league? He wants to play in NBA arenas but I doubt he has any clue what it might cost to rent those venues. He's promising pretty healthy salaries for unproven players and he;s going to have to pay some of that money without a lot of revenue coming in. If he had Nike or Adidas or another major corporation sponsoring the league to help it get off the ground, it would certainly help -- but he's planning to fund the league with his own Big Baller Brand.

And I seriously doubt there's a lot of ready capital in that company right now.

I would say this, though -- there is a place in this country for a league for kids who want to play pro hoops but don't want to attend college. (I've always felt there's a place for such a football league, too.) Spending a few months in college should not be a requirement for playing in the NBA.

Oh, I know -- you can always head off to Europe and play there out of high school -- except most decent European teams aren't going to be taking a chance on spending a foreign-player slot on a high school kid. The run-of-the-mill player has no chance -- even LaBar Ball knows that, after having to place his two sons on a backwoods team in Lithuania where they probably won't even get to play much.

And I don't think the G-League is all that sold on using high-school players. And the G-League has always struggled to make it, even with NBA subsidy. But what a lot of people miss about that league is that it doesn't have big-name players who could put fannies in seats. A high-quality league full of big-time NBA prospects would have a better chance. If the G-League would actively recruit prep players who have no interest in college it would be a big boost to that league. But that's not going to happen.

A league of first-year players has a chance. Oh, it's not ever going to make huge money -- unless it lands a TV contract, which is possible if it can sign up the cream of the crop of NBA-bound players. I think the league actually could land some very good players if it's solidly funded. It makes sense to me for these players to at least have the opportunity to begin a pro career in what would amount to be basketball's version of baseball's rookie leagues.

Players would have no restriction on practice time, the way it is in college right now, and would have a legitimate opportunity to speed their development toward the NBA if the league could sign quality coaching staffs.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest – $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

And once a few good players head that way I think there would be a stampede. It would seriously injure college basketball as we know it, but so what? In that case, we could get back to college players who actually want to get a college education. That's not so bad.

But you need the right people (very wealthy ones) putting this together. As you may have noticed, new leagues in any sport have a terrible time succeeding in this country. And I'm pretty sure LaVar Ball isn't the right person to make this one work.

 

 

Blazers home woes continue. Is it the red jerseys?

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Blazers home woes continue. Is it the red jerseys?

CJ McCollum’s last second three bounced off the front rim and fell to the Moda Center floor on Wednesday night, and just like the shot the Blazers fell just short of beating the San Antonio Spurs.

The defeat dropped the Blazers to just one game above .500, at 16-15. To make matters worse, the Blazers are now just 7-9 at home. But if you ask fans on Twitter, they have an answer for the woes: The red statement jersey. The Blazers have yet to win a game when they wear them, dropping five-straight home games along the way.

In reality the jersey color is neither the culprit nor the answer to fix things. But it does make for good conversation. 

The Blazers will have a chance to bounce back, red jersey or not, on Friday night when they take on the Denver Nuggets. Coverage begins at 6PM on NBC Sports Northwest and the NBC Sports app. 

Final Score: Spurs 93 – Blazers 91