Trail Blazers' defense to get biggest test to date tonight against Pacers

Trail Blazers' defense to get biggest test to date tonight against Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS – So is this Trail Blazers’ defense for real, or what?

Portland on Friday night will get its best answer to date whether its defense is indeed new-and-improved when it plays at Indiana, which is coming off a 140-131 win over Brooklyn on opening night.

The Blazers’ defense looked great during the preseason, but Toronto played without DeMar DeRozan, the Clippers without Danilo Gallinari and Austin Rivers, and the Kings without four of five starters.

Then in the season opener, a 124-76 win at Phoenix, the Suns looked like a team that will vie for the worst record in the league.

It’s why coach Terry Stotts and the players have taken a cautiously optimistic approach when it comes to crowning the Blazers’ D as rehabilitated from last year’s disaster.

“It’s one game,’’ Damian Lillard cautioned after the Suns win. “I was happy to see it carry over. From camp, to preseason, then come the first road game, we did it again. We showed what we can do if we are committed to the defensive end.’’

While the Pacers figure to be a middle-of-the-road team in the East, they will be a better test than the rebuilding Suns. Plus, behind guards Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo and Corey Joseph, the Pacers are emphasizing a fast-paced approach under coach Nate McMillan.

“Nate has done an unbelievable job of letting us take the onus as point guards, and kind of let us run the show,’’ Collison told the Indy Star. “He was a point guard himself. He knows what it’s like to let us see the game, instead of micromanaging every single play. If we can play like that, call a guard game, play with one another, we will be all right.’’

The Pacers’ 140 points was the franchise’s opening night record, and if there has been a soft spot in the Blazers’ defense during the preseason and the opener, it has been in transition.

But the Blazers have been as active and connected as we’ve seen since the days when Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez vaulted Portland into the Top 10 in defense.

Stotts has repeatedly referred to this defense as “alert” and “focused” and on Wednesday in Phoenix the trio of Evan Turner, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu on the perimeter was as imposing collection of arms and length as I can remember from a Blazers team.

So another game, another test to see whether the Blazers really are ready to defend. Should be interesting. NBC Sports Northwest will carry the game at 4 p.m. with Rip City Live pregame show starting at 3 p.m.

Today's Blazers' links:

I wrote about Evan Turner and his defensive job on Devin Booker.

The Indy Star previewed tonight's game.

It's an Indiana homecoming for Pat Connaughton and Caleb Swanigan.

 

How to stream Blazers vs. Timberwolves

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How to stream Blazers vs. Timberwolves

Don't have our network? You can LIVE STREAM WEDNESDAY’S GAME! Catch the game live on Blazers Pass.

The Portland Trail Blazers (25-22) are back home to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (31-18) on Wednesday night after Portland had its three-game winning streak snapped with Monday night’s 104-101 loss to the Denver Nuggets.

In the loss, Damian Lillard had a team-high 25 points to go along with eight assists.  And, in his return to Denver for the first since being traded, Jusuf Nurkic had 19 points and 12 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers are now 13-10 at home this season, while riding a six-game winning streak.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 11-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99! Including WEDNESDAY’S Blazers vs. Timberwolves game – click to learn more and buy]

Minnesota has won two in a row after holding off the L.A. Clippers, 126-118, on Monday night.

In the win, Andrew Wiggins scored 40 points, while Jeff Teague scored 30.  It was a double-double night for Karl-Anthony Towns with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

The Timberwolves have been without Jimmy Butler (right knee soreness) and Jamal Crawford (sprained left great toe) for the past two games.

Butler and Crawford are both listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game vs. the Blazers.  Portland is not reporting any injuries for Wednesday.

This will be a rematch for the Trail Blazers and T-Wovles.  It’s the third of four meetings between the two this season.  Minnesota leads the season series, 2-0 after the Timberwolves won the first game in their house on December 18th with a close victory of 108-107.  And, in the second meeting, the T-Wolves took it to Portland,120-103.  That was just last week on January 14th.

Our coverage of the Blazers and Timberwolves rematch starts with Rip City Live at 6:00pm on Wednesday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

You can catch all the postgame reaction and interviews from the Trail Blazers locker room live on Talkin' Ball immediately after the game on NBCSportsNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

Damian Lillard on his All-Star selection: ‘This one is different’

Nurkic’s return to Denver spoiled by Nuggets

Damian Lillard weighs in on meeting with Trail Blazes owner Paul Allen

 

Video:  After further review: The timeout Blazers wish they had back

Video:  Orlando knows what may be causing McCollum’s shooting woes

Video:  After further review: Nuggets win

Video:  Nurkic blocks the soul out of Jokic  


 

Game Details:

Where:  Moda Center, Portland OR

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.  *** And, if you don't have our network you can live stream this game on Blazers Pass.***

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

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Damian Lillard named Western Conference All-Star

Damian Lillard named Western Conference All-Star

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been named an NBA Western Conference All-Star reserve by a vote of NBA head coaches, it was announced today by the league.  

Lillard, who was named NBA Western Conference Player of the Week for Week 14, is averaging 25.2 points (43.6% FG, 36.4% 3-PT, 91.7% FT), 4.8 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.03 steals.

Lillard is one of four NBA players averaging at least 25.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists this season (Curry, Harden, James). He is the only player in the NBA who has totaled at least 1,000 points, 190 rebounds, 260 assists and 110 three-pointers this season.

Despite missing seven games to injury, Lillard ranks in the top 15 in total points (1,007), total assists (265), three-pointers made (117) and free throws made (232). Among league qualifiers, Lillard is one of just four NBA players to rank in the top 10 in both points and assists per game.

An NBA All-Star in 2014 and 2015, Lillard is one of six players in franchise history to become a three-time All-Star.

The five starters in the Western Conference, decided by player, media and fan balloting, consist of DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans), Stephen Curry (Golden State), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Kevin Durant (Golden State) and James Harden (Houston). Rounding out the West’s reserves are LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Jimmy Butler (Minnesota), Draymond Green (Golden State), Klay Thompson (Golden State), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).As respective ballot winners from each conference, Curry will join Cleveland’s LeBron James as the captains charged with drafting each team under the NBA’s new All-Star format. They will choose from a player pool that includes the eight other starters, with no regard to conference designation, and 14 reserves (seven from each conference), chosen by NBA head coaches. Team rosters will be revealed on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. (Pacific) on TNT.

The 2018 NBA All-Star Game will tip-off at 5 p.m. (Pacific) on Sunday, Feb. 18, in Los Angeles. The game will air live on TNT.

Damian Lillard on his All-Star selection: 'This one is different'

Damian Lillard on his All-Star selection: 'This one is different'

This one, Damian Lillard said, was different.

The Trail Blazers guard was chosen to his third All-Star team on Tuesday, and Lillard said this selection has a different feel than those in 2014 and 2015.

"It's different because it came after the beginning years,'' Lillard said. "(In 2014 and 2015) I was on a team with vets. This one is on a team I've been the leader of. Like, I had to really earn my spot more this time around. Feels like I've done three years of work for this one spot.''

Lillard was selected through a vote of coaches. He is averaging 25.2 points, 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds in 40 games. 

Lillard the past two seasons was bypassed as a reserve, perhaps because the Blazers had a subpar record, perhaps because coaches didn't value his defensive skills, or perhaps because he competed in a star-studded Western Conference.

But this season, with a marked improvement in his defense, and the Blazers at 25-22 and in 7th place in the Western Conference, Lillard made the cut over noted stars Chris Paul and Paul George and the breakout season of Lou Williams.

In his first All-Star appearance in 2014, Lillard played nine minutes and finished with nine points and one rebound while shooting 3-for-8. In 2015, he played 16 minutes and finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting. 

The All-Star Game is Feb. 18 in Los Angeles. 

The Western Conference will be represented by starters James Harden (Houston), Stephen Curry (Golden State), Kevin Durant (Golden State), Anthony Davis (New Orleans) and DeMarcus Cousins (New Orleans) and reserves Draymond Green (Golden State),  Klay Thompson (Golden State), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Jimmy Butler (Minnesota), Karl Anthony-Towns (Minnesota) and Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City).

The Eastern Conference will be represented by starters Kyrie Irving (Boston), DeMar DeRozan (Toronto), LeBron James (Cleveland), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia) and reserves Kevin Love (Cleveland), Bradley Beal (Washington), John Wall (Washington), Kristaps Porzingis (New York), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Al Horford (Boston) and Victor Oladipo (Indiana).

 

Damian Lillard weighs in on meeting with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen

Damian Lillard weighs in on meeting with Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen

Nearly three weeks ago, Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard was asked whether he had much communication with owner Paul Allen about the direction of the team, and specifically about the coaching staff and personnel.

“Me and Paul speak, but it has never been anything like that,’’ Lillard said on Jan. 5.

Last week, that changed.

Lillard on Tuesday confirmed an ESPN report that he met with Allen on Jan. 18 to discuss the future of the franchise.

The gist of the meeting?

“Very simple,’’ Lillard told NBC Sports Northwest. “What are our plans to get closer to becoming a contender?’’

Lillard on Tuesday said he would not reveal the details of his meeting with Allen, and he was vague in identifying what changed in those 13 days, when his interactions with the owner went from surface level, and then escalated to a private meeting. 

“Opening up the line of communication,’’ Lillard said. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with communication.’’

At first blush, the optics of the Lillard/Allen meeting painted a franchise at a crossroads. But on Tuesday, both Lillard and Neil Olshey -- the team’s president of basketball operations – said there was much ado about nothing.

Lillard said he didn’t view the meeting as doing anything behind anybody’s back.

“I’m not a secretive person,’’ Lillard said. “And I have a good relationship with everyone, so I didn’t feel that anyone would think I was going about it that way.’’

Olshey said he always encourages players to visit with Allen, and said the owner briefed him immediately after the meeting. The subject matter of the meeting, Olshey said, mirrored previous conversations he had with Lillard this season.

The ESPN report says Lillard questioned some of Olshey’s moves in the meeting, including the 2015 trade of Will Barton to Denver. But Lillard on Tuesday said that is not entirely accurate.

“The only thing I said about Will Barton is that he could be good on our current roster,’’ Lillard said. “Never once mentioned having an issue with the trade. That was three years ago.’’

It’s not the first time a Blazers star has met with Allen. LaMarcus Aldridge often expressed his view with the owner and Brandon Roy also gave input on occasion. Allen on Tuesday declined an interview request.

And now, with a Blazers team flirting with a .500 record for the third consecutive season, Lillard for the first time reached out to establish a line of communication with the longtime owner.

Allen on Monday was in Denver to watch the Blazers’ 104-101 loss to the Nuggets, which included the Blazers losing a late-game lead. Wearing a grey Blazers baseball cap and a blue Seahawks jacket, Allen after the game shuffled out of the arena with his head down, knowing that 1.5 games separated the Blazers from 5th place in the West, and from 9th place, and out of the playoffs.

How much of his conversation with Lillard was on the mind of Allen as he walked into the chilly mile-high air is unknown, but this much is certain: With the Feb. 8 trading deadline nearing, perhaps never before has there been more focus on Olshey, Allen, and the direction of this iteration of the Blazers.

Rip City Radio launches on NBCS NW Wednesday morning!

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Rip City Radio launches on NBCS NW Wednesday morning!

Join us tomorrow, Wednesday, January 24th for the official launch of our new radio partnership with Rip City Radio!

You'll get nine hours of live local sports programming on NBCS Northwest and on Rip City Radio 620am every week day.

It all starts with Rip City Mornings with Dan and Nigel from 6-9am.

Spend your lunch with Dwight Jaynes and Aaron Fentress from 12-3pm.

Then wrap up your day with Travis Demers and Chad Doing for Rip City Drive from 3-6pm. 

We'll have you covered all day, across all your favorite social media networks as well. 

Nurkić's return to Denver spoiled by Nuggets

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Nurkić's return to Denver spoiled by Nuggets

Nurkić's return to Denver was left sour by the Nuggets, as the Trail Blazers three game winning streak was snapped 104-101 Monday night at Pepsi Center. 

The Trail Blazers got four looks in the final 30 seconds to win or tie the game, but, in the end, Denver closed the game on an 18-8 run. 

The Nuggets were propelled to victory behind a career-high 38 points from Jamal Murray. Will Barton had a rough night against his former team, going 0 for 7 from the field. He did have two crucial free throws to put the Nuggets up by three points with 1.8 seconds remaining. 

BOX SCORE: Denver 104, Portland 101

Damian Lillard shot well from the floor for the second straight game, scoring 25 points on 10 of 18 shooting. 

Jusuf Nurkić tallied a double-double 19 points and 12 rebounds, including one soul-stealing block against Nikola Jokic in his return to Denver. 

Next up, the Blazers host the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday at the Moda Center.

How to stream Blazers vs. Nuggets

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How to stream Blazers vs. Nuggets

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 (25-21) are all set for a one-gamer on the road with a matchup against the Denver Nuggets (23-23) on Monday.

Portland is coming off a 117-108 home win over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.  That victory was the Blazers third straight win and sixth consecutive home victory.

Damian Lillard made his first nine shots vs. the Mavs. He finished with 31 points, nine assists and also had five rebounds. CJ McCollum added 26 points.

It was the 12th time this season that Lillard has scored at least 30 points.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 11-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

The Denver Nuggets have lost two in a row as well as six of its last eight overall games, but the Nuggets are 16-6 when playing at the Pepsi Center this season.  Denver’s most recent loss came on Friday night, when the Suns defeated the Nuggets 108-100.

In the loss, Jamal Murray had 30 points and five rebounds.  Murray had missed Wednesday night’s game vs. the L.A. Clippers because of concussion symptoms.

As for Monday’s injury reports, the Blazers are not reporting any injuries, while the Nuggets have listed Kenneth Faried (left ankle soreness) as questionable and Paul Millsap (left wrist ligament injury) is out.

Portland is 12-11 on the road this season.  The Blazers will look to get their fourth straight victory for the first time this season when they visit Denver.

Our coverage of the Trail Blazers and Nuggets showdown starts with Rip City Live at 5:00pm on Monday as Dan Sheldon, Dwight Jaynes, and Orlando Williams get you set for all of the action.

You can catch all the postgame reaction and interviews from the Trail Blazers locker room live on Talkin' Ball immediately after the game on NBCSportsNorthwest.

 


Quick Links:

Blazers’ Jusuf Nurkic receives timely lesson before return to Denver

Lilard en fuego from deep in Trail Blazers win

Top 5 moments in Blazers win over Mavs

 

Video:  Lillard put on an All-Star performance against the Mavs

Video:  Shabazz tries to play it cool after his first NBA dunk

Video:  Mejri threatned to come into Blazers locker room

Video:  LIllard- Don’t take the bait

 

Game Details:

Where:  Pepsi Center, Denver CO

Tip-off: 6:00pm

Television: NBCS Northwest

Live NBC Sports Northwest coverage:  Rip City Live (5:00pm), 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 noon at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. The Scoop Postgame Show will stream immediately after the game at Facebook.com/NBCSNorthwest. 

Radio: Rip City Radio 620

Blazers' Jusuf Nurkic receives timely lesson before return to Denver

Blazers' Jusuf Nurkic receives timely lesson before return to Denver

Jusuf Nurkic says he is “super excited” to make his first appearance in Denver as a Trail Blazer on Monday, so perhaps it was good timing Saturday that he received a stern message from his mentor, team captain Damian Lillard.

The message: Be smart. Don’t take the bait.

In the Blazers’ past two games, Nurkic has received a late-game technical after initiating confrontations with an opponent. On Saturday, Lillard quickly got in front of Nurkic and pushed him away from a dustup with Dallas center Sal Mejri.

As the referees reviewed the play, which would result in a Nurkic technical, Lillard sternly talked to Nurkic.

“You just have to be smart enough and sharp enough not to take the bait,’’ Lillard said. “If it happens two games in a row, it’s like, come on now. We don’t have to be tough with nobody; be smart.’’

The previous game, with the Blazers up eight over Indiana, Nurkic was given a technical with 2:02 left for talking trash after blocking Victor Oladipo, who was also given a technical by retaliating with a push to Nurkic’s chest.

On Saturday, the Blazers were up 10 over Dallas with 4:36 left when Nurkic and Mejri became entangled under the basket, which was punctuated by Nurkic pushing Mejri.

Lillard and Nurkic have formed a tight bond since Denver traded the 7-footer to Portland last February. Nurkic has said Lillard is the best thing that has happened to him in his life, and he nodded Saturday as Lillard scolded him.

“Do what we have to do to win the game,’’ Lillard said. “It just doesn’t make sense. I think if there is a two-point game, or three-point game, and it happens the way it happened tonight – they shot three free throws in row - that could cost you a game. So Its better to get that across and learn that lesson in a game like tonight where we have a cushion and you let people know  … you can’t take the bait.’’

It could be an apt discussion in preparation for Monday’s game at Denver, where Nurkic became disgruntled and outspoken about what became a diminished role. The Blazers and Nuggets have faced each other three times since the trade, but all three meetings have been in Portland, including one last season in which Nurkic wished the Nuggets a “happy summer” after leading the Blazers to a key victory that all but assured them a playoff spot over the Nuggets.

Monday’s matchup also figures to play heavily in the postseason conversation. Portland (25-21) is in sixth in the West, two games ahead of  Denver (23-23), which is one spot out of the playoff hunt.

“That’s a game I look forward to, definitely,’’ Nurkic said Saturday. “Super excited … looking for another win.’’

Nurkic, who is averaging 14.4 points and 8.0 rebounds,  smiled and shrugged when asked how he thought he would be received by the Pepsi Center crowd.

“I don’t care,’’ he said. “I had ups and downs there, but I still love it. I have friends and almost a family there. At the end of the day, it’s part of the job. It’s not going to distract me, whatever they do.’’

Lillard, for one, figures to be on high alert. He said after three encounters, Nurkic should be over the emotions of facing his former team. Still, in the grand scheme, Lillard said he hopes Nurkic, and the rest of the Blazers, understand the importance of keeping their heads as the playoffs become more in focus.

“I know all my teammates pretty well,  and I don’t think we have one soft person in here,’’ Lillard said. “I don’t think there is one person in here who has to back down from an altercation if it came down to it. But two games in a row we’ve had situations where we have a lead, we have to secure the game and put the game away, then something like this happens. We have to be smart.’’

Lillard en fuego from deep in Trail Blazer win

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Lillard en fuego from deep in Trail Blazer win

Damian Lillard lit it up from behind the arc tonight going 7 for 9 against the Mavs. Lillard finished with 31 points as the Trail Blazers home winning streak was extended to six games. Up next, the Blazers will travel to Denver for a Monday night game. 

Box Score: Portland 117, Dallas 108

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