Breakfast with the Blazers: Halfway through preseason, defense 'solid'

Breakfast with the Blazers: Halfway through preseason, defense 'solid'

SACRAMENTO – The Trail Blazers are halfway through their preseason schedule and are nine days away from the season opener at Phoenix.

Here is a primer to catch you up on the top developments and storylines:

An improved defense?

The Blazers will go only as far as their defense takes them this season, and like always, it was a preseason goal to improve.

After three games: So far, so good.

The Clippers – playing without starters Austin Rivers and Danilo Gallinari – shot 40.2 percent and Toronto, which played without DeMar DeRozan, shot 40 percent from the field. And in the first game against Phoenix, the Suns shot 40.7 percent through the first three quarters before recording a 41-point fourth quarter during which they made 15-of-22 shots against the end of the Blazers’ bench.

Now, it’s preseason and there were key offensive players resting and different lineups being used, so you have to take the statistics with a grain of salt. But there were a couple of developments that coach Terry Stotts liked.

Against Toronto, there were moments when Stotts deviated from his conservative approach by having the big “show”  (make an effort to impede the ball handler) on pick-and-roll, while also showing traps on All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. It flustered Lowry into five turnovers, and the Raptors overall into 20.

Then on Sunday at the Clippers, Stotts called a first-quarter timeout with the Blazers trailing 15-3. If the Clippers weren’t lobbing for dunks, they were hitting wide-open threes as the Blazers scrambled to close out. He pointed out to the team that the bigs were playing too high, allowing DeAndre Jordan to run behind for lobs, and the weakside wasn’t tight enough to contest kickout passes to the three-point line.

After the timeout, the Clippers still got two more lob dunks by Willie Reed, but overall the wide open three’s became contested and the interior was better protected.

“The weakside defense got over a lot better,’’ Maurice Harkless said. “We made an adjustment and pretty much cut (the lobs and dunks) out for the rest of the game.’’

Stotts described the Blazers’ preseason defense as “solid.”

“The first game, our transition defense was poor, but we have gotten better at that,’’ Stotts said. “We’ve improved each game … on the whole it has been pretty solid.’’

ET at ease

Evan Turner looks much more comfortable and dangerous offensively this season, which was probably best on display Sunday against the Clippers when he had eight assists.

Turner spent much of last season playing in fits and starts, and it just looked like everything was a struggle as he tried to understand the offense and his new teammates. This season, he looks like he is just playing, and that freedom is revealing his vision and smarts.

Through the first three games, Stotts has been able to get Turner into lineups that expose the defense by forcing them to place a smaller guard on Turner. That allows Turner – at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds – to post up and go to work, either shooting over the guard or forcing teams to double him, where he then finds an open teammate.

Against Phoenix, he bullied and scored on Eric Bledsoe inside, then against Toronto he shot over Kyle Lowry. On Sunday at the Clippers, whenever he backed down Lou Williams or guard Juwan Evans, Turner surveyed the court and found the right man. Twice he found Ed Davis for dunks, and he located Harkless on the perimeter for a three-pointer while also passing out to Jusuf Nurkic for open mid-range jumpers.

“Evan sees the floor tremendously well, always,’’ Harkless said. “And being able to get him in the post, especially against smaller guys, they have to double team and that opens up everything else. He’s constantly looking for people. His IQ is really high.’’

Turner shrugs off the notion that he is more comfortable, I think mostly because he doesn’t like the idea that he was uncomfortable last season.

“I think my comfort level comes from calling plays, seeing things,’’ Turner said. “It’s just natural reads, natural basketball. It’s the way I grew up playing the game.’’

If Turner can’t see a change in his comfort level, his teammates do. His shot selection, his patience in finding the open man, his aggressive ball-handling … it all adds up to a valuable asset.

“It’s really important, really important because it shows his comfort level,’’ Lillard said. “He was patient as guys cut on weakside … he made them pay for it. It’s another option for us when things aren’t going well.”

Lillard on alert

Nobody on the Blazers sets a tone like Lillard, and it has been clear this preseason that the team captain is not going to be tolerating another slow start this season.

Lillard has been aggressive on both sides of the ball, and was scorching on Sunday on his way to 35 points in 26 minutes.

“Honestly man, I didn’t know how bad it was until the end of the third quarter and I looked up and I was like, 35?’’ Harkless said. “That shows you how easy it comes for him.’’

 Tonight, the Blazers play in Sacramento on the back end of a back-to-back and Stotts said he plans to play Lillard and McCollum upwards of 30 minutes. McCollum said he is welcoming a format where he plays longer minutes with more set lineups.

“I think (Monday) we will treat it more like a regular season game,’’ McCollum said.

Today's Blazers links:

I wrote about Lillard wanting to set the proper tone in preseason.

Ian Karmel stopped by for some hijinks after the Clippers game.

I talked about Caleb Swanigan and answered questions in this podcast.

Casey Holdahl of the Blazers recaps Sunday's game.

How to stream Blazers vs. Timberwolves

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How to stream Blazers vs. Timberwolves

If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, you can now stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  Or, you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

The Portland Trail Blazers (16-13) conclude its five game road trip on Monday night as the Blazers face the Minnesota Timberwolves (17-13) and look to go 4-1 on this trip with a victory.

Portland defeated the Charlotte Hornets 93-91 on Saturday night behind CJ McCollum’s 25 points and Damian Lillard’s 18 points and 11 assists.

It has been the Blazers’ defense that has come up big during Portland’s three-game winning streak.  The Trail Blazers have held their last three opponents to 95 points or fewer.

Portland is now 9-5 away from the Moda Center this season.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 14-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Minnesota is coming off of a 108-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night at home.  As a team, the T-Wolves shot 42 percent from the field in the loss to the Suns.

Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists on Saturday.

Minnesota holds a 10-6 record at home this season.

This is the first of four meetings between the Blazers and Timberwolves this season as both teams are currently battling for the fourth spot in the Western Conference standings.

Portland took the season series vs. Minnesota last season with a 3-1 record.

The Blazers are not reporting any injuries for Monday’s game and as for the Timberwolves, Minnesota will be without forward Nemanja Bjelica, who has missed the last 12 games with a sprained left foot.  The T-Wolves could be without Jimmy Butler on Monday night after Butler injured his back in Saturday’s game vs. Phonies.  

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Timberwolves game with Rip City Live at 4:00pm on Monday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our live streaming pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 4:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

Blazers breathe sigh of relief

Video:   That Aminu block on Kemba tho! The Blazers hold off Hornets

Video:   Only 1 Basket: Blazers lock it down in crunch time

Video:   Lillard gave us a scare and Aminu saved the day

 

Game Details:

Where:  Target Center, Minneapolis MN  

Tip-off: 5:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (4:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.

Live streaming coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 4:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Blazers breathe sigh of relief

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Blazers breathe sigh of relief

Breathe, Rip city. Breathe! Blazers fans had to hold their breath in the final seconds, but in the end the Blazers were able to leave Charlotte with win. The Blazers missed some clutch free throws to leave to the door open for the Hornets, but it wasn’t enough room for the Hornets to get through. It took a lot of effort, and little bit of luck, but the Blazers have now won three in a row. Next stop, Minnesota.

Final Score: Blazers 93 – Hornets 91

How to stream Blazers vs. Hornets

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How to stream Blazers vs. Hornets

If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, you can now stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  Or, you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

There are two games remaining on the Portland Trail Blazers (15-13) five-game road trip and on Saturday night the Blazers face the Charlotte Hornets (10-18) in the second night of a back-to-back for both Portland and Charlotte.

On Friday night, the Trail Blazers held off the Orlando Magic and ended up with a 95-88 victory. Jusuf Nurkic returned to the lineup on Friday after missing four straight games with a right ankle sprain.  Nurkic was on a minutes restriction and struggled to get back into the flow of the game right away.  He finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and also pulled down 11 rebounds.

Damian Lillard had a game-high 21 points, while CJ McCollum chipped in with 20 points.  Al-Farouq Aminu scored 15 points for the second straight game.

Aminu is now shooting 58% from three-point range in his last five games.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 14-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

As for Charlotte, the Hornets are also going to be playing in the second leg of a back-to-back after hosting the Miami Heat on Friday night.  With Friday’s 104-98 loss to the Heat, the Hornets have now lost five of their last six games.

Outside of Kemba Walker, who is averaging 22.1 points per game, and Dwight Howard, who is averaging 16.4 points, the Hornets have not found a consistent third scoring option.

Former Trail Blazer forward Nicolas Batum returned to action this season in mid November after coming back earlier than expected from an elbow injury that he suffered in early October.  In 14 games played this season, Batum is averaging 10 points per contest.

Charlotte is 8-7 at home this season.

The Blazers are currently not reporting any injuries, while the Hornets, will be without Cody Zeller (left knee surgery) vs. the Blazers. 

Saturday's meeting is the first of two between Portland and Charlotte this season.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Hornets game with Rip City Live at 3:00pm on Saturday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our live streaming pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

Blazers find their own brand of Magic in Orlando

 

Video:  Aminu with the hot hand yet again as Blazers hold off Magic

Video:  All is fair in hazing and free throws

Video:  Damian Lillard cheats on his diet just like you  

Video:  “I call him Yoda.” Are the Trail Blazers Star Wars buffs?


 

Game Details:

Where:  Spectrum Center, Charlotte NC

Tip-off: 4:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.

Live streaming coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Blazers find their own brand of magic in Orlando

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Blazers find their own brand of magic in Orlando

Make that two wins in a row for the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland went to Orlando and dominated the Magic from start to finish. The Magic put together a run in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Blazers. The Blazers used the hot shooting of Al-Farouq Aminu (15pts, 3-5 from deep) to improve to 2-1 on this 5-game road trip. Not only did the Blazers grab another win, they also saw the return of Jusuf Nurkic from a right ankle sprain. The Blazers look to make it three wins in a row on Saturday when they travel to Charlotte to take on the Hornets.

Final Score in Orlando: Blazers 95 – Magic 88

How to stream Blazers vs. Magic

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How to stream Blazers vs. Magic

If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, you can now stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  Or, you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.

The Portland Trail Blazers (14-13) will look to make it two straight wins when Portland visits the Orlando Magic (11-18) on Friday.

Portland overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Heat 102-95 in Miami on Wednesday night which snapped a five-game losing streak for the Trail Blazers.  CJ McCollum led the charge with 28 points and Al-Farouq Aminu added 15 points and 13 rebounds in the win.

Ed Davis finishied with 11 points and five rebounds.  Davis played a season-high 26 minutes. 

Center Jusuf Nurkic (sprained right ankle) missed his third consecutive game and backup center Meyers Leonard (illness) also did not play. 

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 14-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

After winning six of its first eight game, Orlando’s season is not looking as promising as the start to the season.  The Magic have lost three in a row and 14 of their last 17 overall.

The most recent loss for the Magic came at home on Wednesday night when the Clippers beat Orlando 106-95.

In the loss, Jonathon Simmons had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds, while  Nikola Vucevic added 14 points, 12 rebounds and four steals.  

As for the injury reports, the Blazers have listed Nurkic (sprained right ankle) as questionable, while the Magic have listed Arron Afflalo (back spasms) and Aaron Gordon (concussion) as questionable.  Plus, Evan Fournier (sprained right ankle), Jonathan Isaac (sprained right ankle) and Terrence Ross (sprained right MCL/non-displaced fracture of right tibial plateau) are all listed as out vs. the Blazers.

Friday’s contest is the last of two meetings between the Trail Blazers and Magic this season.  Portland defeated Orlando 99-94 back on November 15th at the Moda Center.

Looking at the recent history between the Blazers and Magic, Orlando has won five of the last seven meetings against Portland at home in the Amway Center.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Magic contest with Rip City Live at 3:00pm on Wednesday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our live streaming pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

The losing streak is no more!

 

Video:   Lillard—We had to get this one

Video:   Blazers can finally exhale

Video:   Blazers needed this win in the worst way

Video:  Wednesday night Lillard showed us, sometimes, steps don’t count

 

Game Details:

Where:  Amway Center, Orlando FL

Tip-off: 4:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (3:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.

Live streaming coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 3:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

The losing streak is no more!

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The losing streak is no more!

It's about Dame time! The Blazers came into Miami losers of five straight, and for much of the game it looked like they would drop number six. However, Lillard and Co. flipped the switch in the fourth quarter to bring home the 102-95 win. The Blazers, led by Lillard down the stretch, outscored the Heat 32-16 in the fourth quarter. The Blazers now have a new streak: A one game winning streak! Can they keep it going on Friday in Orlando?

Finall Score: Blazers 102 - Heat 95

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

Blazer rotations continue to change but the losing streak reaches 5

It wasn't surprising that the Trail Blazers lost another game Monday night. The fifth straight defeat came in Oakland to the Golden State Warriors, a team that has beaten Portland like a snare drum recently.

Yes, the Warriors were without all-stars Steph Curry, Draymond Green and others -- but they still had enough to handle the Blazers with relative ease.

Portland staged a fourth-quarter comeback, mainly due to Damian Lillard's heroics. Lillard was playing with yet another new lineup combination down the stretch, this one consisting of Jake Layman, Zach Collins, Noah Vonleh and Pat Connaughton. Later, CJ McCollum came on for Layman, but this was the group that played most of the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, starters Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard, who helped stake their team to a lead after the first quarter, didn't appear in the final period. Just as Shabazz Napier -- who had put together a nice run of off-the-bench performances -- rode the bench for the entire game. Napier has not played in the last two games and has seen just eight minutes of action in the last three. This after Napier had played at least 14 minutes in all of the previous 14 games. Leonard's playing time has been odd, too -- he went four straight games without playing, then in his last 12 games has played a streak of 4, 22. 17, 4, 0, 0, 0, 8, 16, 3, 20 and 18 minutes.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Injuries have complicated Coach Terry Stotts' rotations recently, but Portland hasn't been crippled by injuries the way some other teams have. Stotts has said previously that he is more comfortable when he finds a set rotation but so far this season, it just hasn't been there.

I think it's become a problem for this team because players -- in any sport -- usually need a consistent role in order to perform consistently. Players need to know what's going to be expected of them every game.

But Stotts' job isn't easy. He has too many players who bring similar skills, too many who defend well but can't shoot and a roster that's unbalanced. His best two players -- McCollum and Lillard -- basically play the same position and he doesn't have any consistent scoring on the wings. In the middle, he has a center who hasn't played anywhere near what we saw from him during his sneak preview last season.

I don't know the answer to all this but I know the roster isn't going to change much. It's locked in. I think at some point the coach is going to have to make rotation choices and stick with them. I think, too, he may need to define who his shooters are and make sure they get more shots than the ones who can't make shots.

And hope that his team stays together long enough to get things straightened out.

Blazers can't keep pace with Warriors in 111-104 loss

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Blazers can't keep pace with Warriors in 111-104 loss

Even without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, the Warriors were just too much for the Trail Blazers. Portland fell to Golden State, 111-104, dropping the first game of a five-game road trip, and losing their fifth game in a row. The Blazers now look to right the ship on Wednesday in Miami.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Final Score: Warriors 111 – Blazers 104

Postgame Videos:
Damian Lillard
CJ McCollum

How to stream Blazers vs. Warriors

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How to stream Blazers vs. Warriors

In addition to our normal game streaming for NBCS Northwest customers via the NBC Sports App, if you don't get NBCS Northwest but live in the Trail Blazer territory you can now sign up for our NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” a 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy.

The Portland Trail Blazers (13-12) now hit the road for matchup on Monday night against the Golden State Warriors  (21-6).

Portland dropped its fourth straight game on Saturday night, 124-117 at the Moda Center to the Houston Rockets.  The Blazers were without Jusuf Nurkic (right ankle) and Maurice Harkless (left quad) for Saturday’s contest.

In the loss, Damian Lillard finished with 35 points, six assists and four rebounds.  Lillard also made a franchise-record-tying nine three-pointers on the night. CJ McCollum added 28 points and four assists.

Monday’s game marks the start of a five-game raod trip for the Blazers.

[If you already get NBCS Northwest on your TV at home, but you are not able to be home during a Trail Blazers game, you can now stream the game live at the NBC Sports App.  You can download the NBC Sports App at www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile.  Or, you can stream the game online at our live stream page, NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream.]

As for Golden State, the Warriors defeated the Detroit Pistons 102-98 on Friday night on the road. Kevin Durant finished with a double-double of 36 points and 10 rebounds.  He also dished out seven assists and five blocks. Kevin Thompson had 21 points in Friday’s victory.

The Trail Blazers have listed Maurice Harakless (left quad) as questionable for Monday's contest, while Jusuf Nurkic is out vs. the Warriors.  Draymond Green (right shoulder) is listed as probable, Zaza Pachulia (left shoulder) is doubtful, and Steph Curry (sprained right ankle) is out.

You can catch our pregame coverage of the Blazers and Warriors contest with a special hour-long Rip City Live at 6:00pm on Monday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

And if you can’t get to a TV, you can check out our live streaming pregame coverage with The Scoop Pregame Show streaming on your mobile phone, tablet, or computer at 6:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

40 in the 4th for 4th loss

Rockets dictated Portland’s 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

 

Video:   Is this the lineup for against the Warriors?

Video:   The Blazers fought hard, but maybe not hard enough

Video:   Meyers Leonard – The Enforcer

Video:   Blazers show life, but can’t ground Rockets


 

Game Details:

Where:  Oracle Arena, Oakland CA

Tip-off: 7:30pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (6:00pm), Talkin' Ball  (Immediately after the Blazers postgame show)

Live streaming of the game: Watch the game on your phone on the NBC Sports App.  Download the  app at http://www.nbcsports.com/sports-mobile .  Or check out NBCSportsNorthwest.com/BlazersStream online.

Live streaming coverage on Facebook: The Scoop Pregame Show streams at 6:30pm at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620