Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard wakes up to good news

Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard wakes up to good news

OKLAHOMA CITY – Good news greeted Damian Lillard when he awoke on Tuesday morning: His injured right calf felt markedly better.

“It felt better today than the first game that I came back,’’ Lillard said, noting the Jan. 2 game at Cleveland, when he returned from a right hamstring injury.

It was during that Cleveland game that Lillard felt a twinge in his right calf, which was later iagnosed as a strain. He played one more game – Jan. 5 against Atlanta – but unexpectedly sat out Sunday’s  game against San Antonio, then again is being held out Tuesday in Oklahoma City.

Lillard said he still considers himself “day-to-day” and wouldn’t speculate on his availability for the Blazers’ next game, Wednesday in Houston.

“I mean, I’m not going to say much about it because I don’t know,’’ he said. “I think it’s day by day. I felt really good today. I did a workout this morning, worked out (pregame) again, did some conditioning, and felt good.’’

On Friday, the usually optimistic Lillard was dejected and short in describing his health. He had a dramatically different outlook on Tuesday after going through his extensive pregame workout.

“It’s weird, usually when I get the most frustrated or discouraging coming back off an injury, that’s usually when (the pain) quits,’’ Lillard said. “When I had plantar fasciitis (two seasons ago), they cleared me to practice after I missed like five games, and I tried to run up the court, and I couldn’t do it.

“So the next two days, I was like ‘Damn.’ And I was pouting,’’ Lillard said. “Then a couple days later, it was right. That’s kind of how this felt … a couple days went by and I’m feeling like, damn, then I woke up today feeling better.’’

Shabazz Napier will continue to start in Lillard’s place. While filling in for Lillard, Napier is averaging 18.2 points, 5.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from 3-point range.

Lillard said Napier’s play has helped him not rush back to the court, but he admitted Tuesday that sitting out Tuesday’s game against the Thunder was killing him. The Blazers (21-18) and Thunder (22-18) are in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race.

“I live for this type of stuff. These matchups,’’ Lillard said. “It’s early but it’s a big game. Division game. We win this game, we are in 5th place and 2-0 against them.’’

Lillard this season is eighth in the NBA in scoring at 24.9 points and is averaging 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 33 games. 

Lillard takes over, caps it off with a game winner

Lillard takes over, caps it off with a game winner

Damian. Lillard... WOW. 

Down but never out, Damian Lillard willed the Trail Blazers to victory over the Phoenix Suns, answering every big shot with one that was even bigger. 

Scoring 40 points on 13 of 27 shooting, the Blazers franchise point guard scored the winning bucket with under one second to play in regulation. 

He added 10 rebounds and 5 assists to his stat line, when all was said and done, as well. 

CJ McCollum added 21 points for Portland, as the Blazers seemingly felt the affects of a back to back. Though, a win is a win. 

Jason Quick has your rapid reaction:

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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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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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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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

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