Blazers look to bounce back in Utah

Blazers look to bounce back in Utah

It was a tough night in Minnesota. The Trail Blazers (38-39) lost to the Timberwolves (31-45), 110-109, but they get a quick chance to bounce back tonight against the Utah Jazz (47-30). With five games remaining Portland’s magic number remains at a four. Four wins over there final five games and the Blazers will eliminate the Denver Nuggets (36-40) from the playoffs and clinch the eighth and final playoff spot out west.

To grab the win in Utah the Blazers will need to drastically improve their interior defense. The Timberwolves exposed the Blazers on Monday, giving Portland a harsh taste of reality of life without Jusuf Nurkić. Without the big-bodied Nurkić available to defend Karl-Anthony Towns, the T’Wolves’ big man had a field day. Towns scored 34 points on 15 of 25 shooting, and pulled down 12 rebounds. He took it right at Meyers Leonard, scoring with ease, and left the Blazers perplexed as to how to defend him. To be fair it was an off night for Blazers, yet they nearly won the game on a last second shot from Damian Lillard. As the great Vince Lombardi would say- the Blazers didn’t lose the game, they just ran out of time.

The Blazers had contributions from just about everybody on the floor. Six players scored in double-figures, led by Damian Lillard with 25, and Al-Farouq Aminu also had one of his better games of the season putting up a stat line of 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three blocks. The only player that failed to make much of on impact was Leonard. While the team put together a decent game, they will need far more from Nurkić’s replacement if they want to grab a win in Utah.

Leonard, starting his second game in place of the injured Nurkić, failed to score a point and finished with just two rebounds and two assists. Leonard is averaging just 3.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists in his past two games. The Blazers will need far more from him in these final five games, especially on the defensive end where it seems they miss Nurkić the most. The Blazers still control their own destiny, but letting a game like the one in Minnesota slip away makes it that much harder to secure that final playoff spot.

Getting back on the right track won’t be very easy in Utah. The Blazers have split the season series with the Jazz, losing the last matchup 111-88 on the road. In those two games Jazz center Rudy Gobert is averaging 12.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks. Star forward Gordon Hayward missed the first matchup due to injury, but had 22 points, six rebounds, and seven assists in the second matchup. Both he and Gorbert will be key factors in whether or not the Blazers grab a victory.

We will help set the stage for tonight’s game with an all-new Rip City Live starting at 5:00pm only on CSN.   

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out The Scoop Pregame Show streaming live on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW.

Quick Links:

Trail Blazers' six-game winning streak snapped after they can't stop Towns inside

Video:  Quick: Blazers running out of time in playoff race

Video: What lies ahead for Blazers for remaining schedule?

Video: Leonard: "Trying to find a way to get into a rhythm"

Game Details:

Where: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City UT

Television: CSN, 6:00pm

CSN Programming:  Rip City Live (5:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming: Watch an authenticated stream of the game at CSNNW.com/BlazersStream or on the NBC Sports App! Plus the Scoop Pregame Show streams at 5:00pm at Facebook.com/CSNNW. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/CSNNW

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

 

Hot of out the gate: Blazers play a complete game en route to a route

Hot of out the gate: Blazers play a complete game en route to a route

The Trail Blazers were able to withstand the runs from Utah Friday night to hold off the Jazz, snapping their 11-game win streak.

The Blazers backcourt dazzled once again. CJ McCollum led the way with 26 points on 11 of 21 shooting, while Damian Lillard dropped 24 points on 7 of 18 shooting. 

Maurice Harkless led the way defensively, recording 6 steals as the Blazers shut down the Jazz. 

From home court advantage to going home: The final 24 games

From home court advantage to going home: The final 24 games

The theoretical beginning of the second half of the NBA season begins tonight for the Portland Trail Blazers in Utah as they take on the Jazz, although 70% of games have already been played. Nevertheless, the match-up against these two Western Conference teams will be a crucial game for each team as it relates to playoff-seeding and potential tie-breakers. 

In fact, every game will seemingly have that implication as just 2.5 games separate a team from having home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs to being out of the them altogether. 

Currently, the 10th place Jazz, winners of 11 straight before the All-Star break, are just 4 games behind the Minnesota Timberwolves from hosting a playoff series. The 6th place Trail Blazers are just two games from holding home court and just 1 game from being out of the playoffs.

"I can't remember a race this tight, this late into the season," Terry Stotts said as the Trail Blazers began their preparations for Utah Friday night at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. "It's a sprint... every game has a little more importance, a little more magnitude to it."

And while the remaining games are about the same for each team, with Memphis and Philadelphia having the most (26) left to play, Golden State (.460), Utah (.484) and Minnesota (.507) have the the easiest schedules among Western Conference playoff teams based on teams' opponents' combined win percentage. San Antonio (.551), Oklahoma City (.526) and the LA Clippers (.522) have the hardest. 

The Trail Blazers have the 4th toughest schedule in the Western Conference among teams vying for a playoff spot, according to tankathon, with their remaining opponents combining for a 52.0 win percentage.

So, it begs the question, with so much at stake: How will the Trail Blazers do down this stretch run? And what are reasonable expectations for Portland? 

Will they sprint to the finish and do well enough to host a playoff series, are they going to be set-up to face Golden State or Houston in the first round and likely see an early exit or find themselves out of the playoffs entirely?

Dan and Nigel broke down the Trail Blazers remaining schedule and are of two different minds.

Dan sees the Blazers as a 48-win team, going 16-8 in the final 24 games. 

Nigel is not as optimistic, saying Portland will go 12-12 and will finish 44-42.

Here's how they predict it game by game: Who do you agree with?

Feb. 23- Trail Blazers at Utah

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

Feb. 24- Trail Blazers at Phoenix

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

Feb. 27- Trail Blazers vs. Sacramento

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 1- Trail Blazers vs. Minnesota

Dan: Win

Nigel: Loss

March 3- Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Win

March 5- Trail Blazers at LA Lakers

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 6- Trail Blazers vs. New York Knicks

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 9- Trail Blazers vs. Golden State

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

March 12- Trail Blazers vs. Miami

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 15- Trail Blazers vs. Cleveland 

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

March 17- Trail Blazers vs. Detroit

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 18- Trail Blazers at LA Clippers

Dan: Win

Nigel: Loss

March 20- Trail Blazers vs. Houston

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

March 23- Trail Blazers vs. Boston

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

March 25- Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

March 27- Trail Blazers at New Orleans

Dan: Win

Nigel: Loss

March 28- Trail Blazers at Memphis

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

March 30- Trail Blazers vs. Clippers

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

April 1- Trail Blazers vs. Memphis

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

April 3- Trail Blazers at Dallas

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

April 5- Trail Blazers at Houston

Dan: Loss

Nigel: Loss

April 7- Trail Blazers at San Antonio

Dan: Win

Nigel: Loss

April 9- Trail Blazers at Denver

Dan: Win

Nigel: Loss

April 11- Trail Blazers vs. Utah

Dan: Win

Nigel: Win

 

Who do you agree with more?

Trail Blazers make Brandon Rush deal official

Trail Blazers make Brandon Rush deal official

The Portland Trail Blazers have signed guard/forward Brandon Rush to a 10-day contract, it was announced today by president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.  

A nine-year NBA veteran, Rush (6-6, 220) holds career averages of 6.8 points (42.6% FG, 40.2% 3-PT, 70.6% FT), 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 481 games (163 starts) playing for Indiana, Golden State, Utah and Minnesota. Rush played 47 games (33 starts) for the Timberwolves during the 2016-17 season, averaging 4.2 points (37.4% FG, 38.6% 3-PT, 72.2% FT), 2.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 21.9 minutes.

Rush was originally selected by the Trail Blazers with the 13th pick of the 2008 NBA draft before being traded to the Indiana Pacers.

He will wear No. 21 for the Trail Blazers.

Woj: Trail Blazers sign Brandon Rush to 10 day contract

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USATI

Woj: Trail Blazers sign Brandon Rush to 10 day contract

A minor move for the Trail Blazers is being reported tonight from Adrian Wojnarowski:

 

Damian Lillard: 'I'm as good as any point guard in this league'

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USATI

Damian Lillard: 'I'm as good as any point guard in this league'

Posted today on ESPN's YouTube channel is a Rachel Nichols sitdown with Damian Lillard. From the YouTube description:
"Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard sits down with Rachel Nichols, saying "I'm as good as any point guard in this league," addressing his return to the NBA All-Star Game, and talking about meeting with team owner Paul Allen to talk about becoming a title contender."

Enjoy: 

 

Damian Lillard represents well in All-Star Game

Damian Lillard represents well in All-Star Game

Damian Lillard got some early run in the 2018 All-Star game, logging nine minutes of playing time for Team Steph in the first half where he put up seven points, grabbed two boards and dished out an assists. Lillard's lone made three pointer in the first half was a deep one from the logo.

In the second half, Lillard turned it up another notch including two more three pointers and a nice fadaway jumper. Lillard was taken out of the game with about six minutes to go and finished with 21 points on 9 of 14 shooting with three rebounds and two assists. His 20 minutes of playing time was a solid contribution and when he exited the game, his 21 points was tied for the game high with LeBron James. Team LeBron made a big come back late in the fourth quarter (when teams actually started playing defense)  and ended up with the 148-145 win. 

For a complete recap on Damian's All-Star journey, be sure to check out The Bridge (live 6pm) and Trail Blazers Outsiders (live 7pm) on Monday night!

 

Maybe Kerr should have let the players coach...

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USATI

Maybe Kerr should have let the players coach...

The Blazers head into the All-Star break with a huge win over the Golden State Warriors at Moda Center! Damian Lillard led the way 44 points as the Blazers came out hot in the 1st quarter and hung on for the win. 

Box Score: Portland 123, Golden State 117

Rapid Reaction:

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

It seems that suddenly Nurkic Fever has turned into Nurkic Flu. And it's spreading like wildfire.

Once the darling of Portland fans, Portland center Jusuf Nurkic has become a Twitter punching bag and a controversial figure. This seems to be sparked by his absence from both the Portland lineup and his recent media availabilities. And of course there is a growing wave of discontent based on Nurkic's recent play, too. His lack of consistency has been maddening and it seems to have finally worn out the patience of fans, coaches and media. Probably even his teammates.

Let's make a few things clear right off the bat. Nurkic is averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 2 assists per game. That's not bad and I'm not sure where else the Trail Blazers could find a center who could chalk up those statistics. And oh yes, he's still just 23 years old.

But there is more, of course. He is shooting only .479 from the field this season, pretty terrible for a man who takes most of his shots in the paint. And he's at an incredibly terrible .442 within three feet of the basket -- a career low. The Trail Blazers often take great pains to go to him early in games in an effort to get him off to a good start but he often responds as he did against Utah Sunday -- by missing his first four shots, three of them virtual layups. That's a discouraging situation for Nurkic and his team.

Why is this happening? I don't think anyone knows. My guess is that his coaches are at wit's end trying to unlock the secret to finding the whereabouts of the Nurkic who looked so promising through 20 games last season. After a summer in which he lost weight and came back promising to be tougher and more effective he only rarely reaches the level of play we saw so briefly last season. He appears tentative and contact averse.

He often seems to be taking a casual approach to his game, not finishing easy shots and avoiding contact. There are times when he just doesn't seem to be into the whole thing.

He is listed as "questionable" for tonight's game in Moda Center against the Golden State Warriors and there couldn't be a more fitting description of him right now. He's become questionable on a lot of levels.

But if he's hurt, he's hurt. It's careless to question that. But he does seem to get injured frequently, which has led to many questioning his toughness. I must say, as the guy who was screaming "Nurkic Fever" so frequently last season, I've fallen into that category. He's also appeared pouty, which was his reputation in Denver.

Could nagging injuries be a part of his disappointing season? I have no idea. But I do know this, for a player heading into free agency -- even restricted free agency -- he's not doing himself a lot of good. In a summer when it appears the free-agent money pool will be shallow, next season he may not end up earning anywhere close to what he probably anticipated.

Who is Jusuf Nurkic? Right now, I don't think many people have a clue.

And he's running out of games this season to show us.