Evan Turner helps lock down Devin Booker, then praises Suns' rising star

Evan Turner helps lock down Devin Booker, then praises Suns' rising star

PHOENIX – If the Phoenix Suns were “embarrassed” Wednesday by the Trail Blazers, as coach Earl Watson suggested after the 124-76 defeat, Evan Turner says they can take solace in something: the will of Devin Booker.

It was a big night for Turner, who earned the spot start in place of the suspended CJ McCollum, an assignment that pitted him against Booker, of the NBA’s most promising offensive stars. The marquee defensive assignment was what Turner wanted, and it was a spotlight start to his quest to become All-NBA Defense this season.

“I think I did great,’’ Turner said matter-of-factly after Booker was held to 6-of-17 shooting and 12 points – more than 10 points below his season average last season.

But Turner wasn’t boasting. In fact, he wanted to talk more about Booker than himself.

What stood out to Turner was the way Booker kept fighting on a night that was frustrating both on a personal level and a team level. The Blazers led by as many as 58 and Booker could never get anything going, constantly running into the swarming arms of Turner, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu, or the mobility of big man Jusuf Nurkic.

“Sometimes when you have young kids who don’t win ever, it seems like they become content with it,’’ Turner said. “But I think he has a next level, where he wants to win.’’

Turner could sense the frustration of the 20-year-old throughout the night, and it impressed him.

“He cares. I think that’s what I respect about him the most,’’ Turner said. “You go up against certain young guys in the league and they are … they get (an) NBA (attitude) … but I think that kid genuinely cares.’’

Turner said before the season he wanted to publicize his NBA All-Defense aspirations, much like Draymond Green did, in order to draw attention to his work on that side of the ball.

“I think it would be cool, and it’s an attainable goal,’’ Turner said. “Obviously, you have to put it out there first so the masses can get the idea to watch you play defense. You saw Draymond lobby for Defensive Player of the Year for four years, and he just finally got it.

“But sometimes, when it comes down to it, I think I’m an underrated defender. I will slide from guarding a 5-foot-9 guy to a 6-9 guy. So, I don’t know what it takes to be called elite, but I think I can be an elite defender in this league,’’ Turner said.

Wednesday against Booker and the Suns was a nice addition to his defensive portfolio, but Turner wanted to make sure his satisfaction with his defense wasn’t taken as a slight on Booker.

“I mean, not to knock the kid … he is super talented, super good - everything people think,’’ Turner said. “And he has a bright future because he can score in several different ways, and I think he is going to get even better. I just hope they are able to turn the corner. He has to understand there are going to be nights like this, where nothing clicks. That’s just how it goes. But I definitely respect the skillset he has as well as his knowledge of the game. You don’t see that much.’’

Trail Blazers get the bounce back win over Sacramento

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Trail Blazers get the bounce back win over Sacramento

It was the second of a back to back against the Sacramento Kings and the Blazers righted the ship from last night's loss and took the second game of the series.

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

Box Score: Portland 102, Sacramento 90

Quick Hits

 

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard defends coach Terry Stotts

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard defends coach Terry Stotts

Trail Blazers’ star Damian Lillard on Saturday went to the internet to defend coach Terry Stotts after fans showed frustration and offered criticism on the team’s Instagram account.

“I saw the Instagram post, and the most recent comment was about Coach Stotts, and I disagreed,’’ Lillard said Saturday before the Blazers played Sacramento.

Stotts has made several bold moves in the last week, ranging from benching starting center Jusuf Nurkic for all but 53 seconds of the fourth quarter of a loss to Brooklyn, to implementing a three-point guard lineup in that fueled a win over Orlando and Friday night inserting little-used Jake Layman and Meyers Leonard into the rotation in the first quarter of what turned out to be a loss in Sacramento.

The Blazers’ are 8-7 in what is considered a favorable early-season schedule, and have lost several close games, causing some fans to grow restless.

“People are going to talk; it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last,’’ Lillard said before Saturday’s game. “But the coaches don’t turn the ball over at the end of the game. The coaches don’t miss shots. The coaches don’t miss free throws. Coaches don’t forget and blow defensive assignments.

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

“Now, If we was getting beat by 25 every night and not in position to win, then maybe you need a change,’’ Lillard said. “When a team isn’t competing or a team isn’t behind the coach, then that’s when you need a change. But when everybody is on board and everybody respects him, and we in position to win games. At that point that becomes a weak statement.

“That’s why we do what we do and people are spectators,’’ Lillard said .”Because they are so quick to give up and so quick point the finger, and that ain’t fair. This game ain’t fair but I wasn’t going to sit there and look at the comment and not say nothing because sometimes people can talk stuff into existence when there really isn’t much behind what they are saying.’’

Blazers enter new, uncharted territory in latest offensive woes

Blazers enter new, uncharted territory in latest offensive woes

SACRAMENTO -- Of all the things that could have gone wrong for the Trail Blazers this season, few -- if any -- thought it would be what ails the team today: a sputtering, below-average offense.

The Blazers’ disappointing 8-7 start has been largely defined by an offense that can’t run, can’t shoot, and is having the damndest time taking care of the ball.

 “Still a little slow,’’ point guard Damian Lillard acknowledged while trying to come up with a reason why. “I’m not sure … I’m really not sure. This is new. We haven’t had a good rhythm or flow to our offense.’’

Once the hallmark of a Terry Stotts team, where the combination of movement, unselfishness and freedom formed a beautiful, flowing brand of basketball, the Blazers’ offense this season has for large stretches been hard to watch.

If it’s not late game turnovers, it has been botched close-range shots, and if it hasn’t been questionable shot selection, it’s been too much 1-on-1.

And the Blazers’ fast break? Ha! … Let’s just say they have earned the distinction of the NBA’s worst – which was further cemented Friday in Sacramento, when the Blazers had zero fast break points for the second time this season.

 “I guess that’s part of our identity: we are not a fast-break team,’’ coach Terry Stotts lamented. “As much as we try and push it, for whatever reason, those fast break points are not there.’’

 Coming into the season, the Blazers’ top concern was with their defense, which spent much of last season as the NBA’s worst. The offense, a Top 10 fixture in Stotts’ first five seasons, would be there the players and coaches assured, as reliable as Oregon’s November rain.

 But the opposite has happened. The defense has been solid, if not impressive, whole the problems on offense have been widespread. Jusuf Nurkic has been off, Maurice Harkless has been anonymous and Evan Turner erratic. And while Lillard is scoring, he is shooting just 40 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.

 “It’s different things on different nights,’’ Stotts said after the 82-point game in Sacramento. “We didn’t execute when we needed to … we didn’t set screens – too many turnovers, misreads or whatever … again, a combination. Missed some easy ones at the rim …”

 It has left the Blazers in the most unexpected territory – ranked last in the NBA in assists, last in fast break points, 26th out of 30 in shooting and in the bottom half in turnovers and points. Overall, that almost certain Top 10 offense has slipped to 19th … all against what is considered a favorable schedule.

 Whether the offense is broken, or just in a slump will likely be revealed over the next two weeks, when the Blazers hit the road and start to face tougher competition.

 The captain, for one, is confident.

 “It might sound crazy, but I’m not concerned,’’ Lillard said. “Because we’ve always beee a good offensive team. I just have faith the offense is going to come around.’’

Trail Blazers lucky that loss to Kings was by only four points

Trail Blazers lucky that loss to Kings was by only four points

My first thought Friday night after watching the Trail Blazers' latest debacle, that 86-82 loss at Sacramento, was that Portland had lost a game it should have won. But I must correct that appraisal ever so slightly. The Blazers lost to a team they should have beaten -- but they certainly deserved to lose the game.

In fact, it's difficult to figure out how they kept it so close. Check it out:

  • The Blazers shot 37 percent against a team not known for its defense.
  • The Blazers allowed one of the worst rebounding teams in the league to get a 44-44 draw on the boards.
  • The Blazers got only 12 points out of their starting front court.
  • The Blazers made only 7 of their 25 three-point shots.
  • The Blazers got only 22 points off their bench.
  • The Blazers turned the ball over 18 times.
  • The Blazers got only four points to go with four turnovers from Jusuf Nurkic.
  • The Blazers had ZERO (0) fastbreak points. Again.
  • The Blazers got only 28 points in the paint and made just 14 of their 38 shots in that area.

Just how in the world could you expect Portland to beat even one of the worst teams in the league with stuff like that going on?

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

And I haven't even mentioned that wacky lineup Coach Terry Stotts put on the floor in the second quarter that featured no starters along with Jake Layman and Meyers Leonard. I have no problem with either of those guys playing, by the way -- but just not together and not without a couple of starters out there helping them get their shots. Leonard and Layman came into the game having played a total of just 17 minutes apiece for the ENTIRE SEASON. Not that I think either of those players can't help this team -- they can at least make shots, as can Pat Connaughton, a career .404 shooter from three-point range who isn't getting enough looks right now.

Within a week, the local squad has lost to Brooklyn and Sacramento. But at least they got those losses the old-fashioned way -- they deserved them.

So here we are, headed into a Saturday night rematch with the Kings. Portland should win, of course. But the Blazers better make sure they deserve to win.

How to stream Blazers vs. Kings

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How to stream Blazers vs. Kings

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 (8-7) get right back at it against the Sacramento Kings (4-11) on Saturday night after another inconsistent offensive night for the Blazers on Friday in Sacramento.  The Kings ended up beating the Blazers, 86-82 after only two Blazer players reached double figures.   

In the loss, Damian Lillard finished with 29 points and four assists, while CJ McCollum added 19 points, three assists, three rebounds, as well as three steals.  As a team, Portland shot just 37 percent from the field and finished with a 28 percent mark from deep.

Jusuf Nurkic, got into early foul trouble vs. the Kings and went 2-of-7 of the floor to score just four points. 

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

Friday’s win meant  that the Kings snapped a three-game losing streak.  Off the bench, Willie Cauley-Stein led the way for Sacramento with 22 points and 10 rebounds.  George Hill added 14 points and five rebounds.

The Blazers get a quick turnaround on the rematch as they host the Kings Saturday night in a home and away back-to-back series.

Looking at the recent history between these two teams, Sacramento has lost eight straight games in Portland.

For the Blazers, Al-Farouq Aminu (right ankle) will not play on Saturday night. Harry Giles (bi-lateral knee rehabilitation) and Vince Carter (kidney stone) are both out once again for the Kings.

Our Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams will help set the stage for Saturday’s Blazers and Kings game with a special hour-long Rip City Live on NBC Sports Northwest starting at 5:30pm.

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

 


Quick Links:

Blazers offensive woes end in loss to Kings

From the shadows to the spotlight: Shabazz Napiers and his sudden ascent

 

Video:  Blazers uncrowned by the Kings

Video:  Blazers played down to their opponent

Video:  From the shadows to the spotlight: Shabazz Napiers and his sudden ascent

 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

Tip-off: 7:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (5:30pm), 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

Blazers offensive woes results in loss to Kings

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USATI

Blazers offensive woes results in loss to Kings

It was a struggle all night offensively for both teams, though it was the Sacramento Kings who edged out a win over the Trail Blazers 86-82 Friday night at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. 

It is Sacramento's 4th win of the season, snapping Portland's three game winning streak.

The Trail Blazers got 29 points from Damian Lillard on 9-24 shooting. CJ McCollum added 19. The rest of the team scored just 34 points. 

BOX SCORE: BLAZERS 82, KINGS 86

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

QUICK HITS: 

From the shadows to the spotlight: Shabazz Napier and his sudden ascent

From the shadows to the spotlight: Shabazz Napier and his sudden ascent

In a Trail Blazers’ season filled with ups and downs, the latest ascent has been propelled by an unlikely source: point guard Shabazz Napier.

With dead-eye shooting, nearly mistake-free ball management, and pesky defense, Napier has in the last week evolved from spot duty to bonafide rotation player quicker than you can say “Shabazzle Dazzle.”

The surprise is not in his ability – teammates like Damian Lillard have called him a “handful” in practice – the surprise rather, is in his ability to carve out a niche in what was an already crowded backcourt.

With a two-time All-Star (Lillard), a future All-Star (McCollum) and an $18 million play-maker (Turner), Napier faced the most formidable of roadblocks with the Blazers.

But Napier this week said he has leaned on a quote by his mom, instilled in him from his youth: “The easiest thing to do in life,” his mother told him “is to quit.’’

This fall, knowing he faced a roster loaded with obstacles and after missing all of training camp with a hamstring injury, Napier worked.

And now, his coach is finding he can’t quit Napier.

It was the fourth straight game Napier has played 15 or more minutes, and against the Magic his playing time created one of the most intriguing lineups of the season – Lillard, McCollum and Napier at the same time.

From a defensive standpoint, it seems unlikely Stotts will feel comfortable playing the three point guards together for long stretches. And with Napier forging his way into the conversation, the rotation now sits at a robust 10, with injured starter Al-Farouq Aminu scheduled to return by the end of the month.

So what happens next?

Does the three-point-guard lineup become a thing?

Does Napier eventually go back to spot duty that has defined his first three NBA seasons?

Or does he fade into the considerable shadow cast by Lillard and McCollum?

It will be one reason to tune in Friday when the Blazers play in Sacramento in their quest for three consecutive wins.

And it will be one more reason for Napier to remember his mom’s quote. After all, as Napier says: “I’ve never been a quitter.’’

Where and how to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Kings

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Where and how to watch the game: Trail Blazers at Kings

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 (8-6)  hit the road for a quick road and home game against the Sacramento Kings (3-11).

Friday night will be the first night of the back-to-back between the Blazers and Kings.  Portland is coming off a 99-94 win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.

Damian Lillard finished with 26 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in Wednesday’s win, while Shabazz Napier was a bright spot off the bench adding a season-high 19 points to go along with three steals.

The Trail Blazers finished their six-game homestand going 4-2.

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

The new-look Kings have lost three straight and have only won three games on the season so far.  Sacramento lost to the Atlanta Hawks, 126-80 on Wednesday night. Zach Randolph scored 16 points and George Hill added 12 points in the loss.  As a team, the Kings shot just 35 percent from the floor.

As for the injury reports, the Blazers have listed Al-Farouq Aminu (right ankle) as out for Friday’s contest. The Kings have listed Harry Giles (bi-lateral knee rehabilitation) and Vince Carter (kidney stone) as both out vs. the Blazers.

Our Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams will help set the stage for Friday’s Blazers and Kings game with Rip City Live on NBC Sports Northwest starting at 6:00pm.

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

 


Quick Links:

Napier sparks Blazers, Dame and CJ combine for 50

Trail Blazers No 3. In defensive rating – can they sustain that?

 

Video:  Napier showing us what his teammates have known all along

Video:  CJ know Shabazz can hoop!

Video:  The magic of the 3-guard lineup helps Portland beat Orlando

Video:  Double header, double the (Shabazzle) Dazzle


 

Game Details:

Where:  Golden 1 Center, Sacramento CA

Tip-off: 7:00pm

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

Trail Blazers No. 3 in defensive rating -- can they sustain that?

Trail Blazers No. 3 in defensive rating -- can they sustain that?

Last night on Talkin' Ball, Dan Sheldon asked me if I was buying into the Portland Trail Blazers' defense at this point. Great question, difficult answer.

I checked defensive ratings this morning and the Trail Blazers still rank No. 3 in the NBA in defensive rating. Given this team's defensive shortcomings in the past, this is a pretty amazing rank, especially since Portland has been without its best defender, Al-Farouq Aminu, for the last six games.

Pretty incredible improvement, I'd say.

There is no question that all the work Terry Sttots, the Portland coaching staff and players have put in shoring up the defense has paid dividends. Some nights I cannot believe what I'm seeing. There is major improvement in defensive aggressiveness and physicality. The Blazers suddenly mean business at the defensive end. There has been more attention paid to contesting shots and sealing off the lane. Good shots are not coming as easy against the Trail Blazers this season. Deflections, steals and blocks -- we're seeing everything.

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

So yes, I'm buying into Portland's defensive improvement. But the real question is, is this sustainable? That's where I'm a little more cautious.

Being one of the best defensive teams in the league is an exhaustive job. There is physical and mental fatigue associated with playing consistent defense. The offenses are so good that many nights you still can't stop them. You have to accept that and move on. And you have to find motivation and energy to put in the effort every game. Usually, that motivation comes from seeing positive results. So far, the Trail Blazers probably haven't been rewarded as well as they should have for their quality defense.

After the win Wednesday night vs. Orlando, Portland was 8-6 for the season, after having lost a couple of very winnable home games. Contrast that with the best defensive team in the league, the Boston Celtics, who are 13-2. The Celtics are seeing plenty of reason to continue their efforts at the defensive end. But sometimes such things take time. Sample size must increase. The second-best defensive team in the league, the Oklahoma City Thunder, is 7-7 and the fourth best defensive team, the Los Angeles Lakers (believe it or not) are 6-9.

But when you look down that list of defensive ratings, you also find the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors in the top six. Obviously, good teams play good defense.We all know that.

Can the Trail Blazers sustain this high-quality defense? I'm still not sure. The schedule will get tougher, there will be more road games and more talented offensive teams to play. But I know this, if the Blazers can stay inside the top three -- or even the top six -- their record will eventually reflect their hard work and improvement.

And they will likely be one of the best teams in the league.