Trail Blazers lose game, and Zach Collins, Pat Connaughton to injury

Trail Blazers lose game, and Zach Collins, Pat Connaughton to injury

LAS VEGAS – The good news for the Trail Blazers: Caleb Swanigan continues to impress at the Las Vegas Summer League.

The bad news: Both Zach Collins (right quadriceps contusion) and Pat Connaughton (left hamstring strain) were injured Tuesday after playing only 11 minutes in the Blazers’ 99-85 loss to San Antonio.

Swanigan, whose relentless effort has been eye-catching throughout Portland’s first three games, has been the standout player for the Blazers in Las Vegas, his effort and activity as impressive as his statistics.

On Tuesday, the 26th overall pick had 19 points and 13 rebounds while hitting 8-of-13 shots. His offensive arsenal on Tuesday included a three-pointer, an offensive rebound putback, a mid-range jumper and a layin in transition, and he continued to be active and agile on the defensive end.

Swanigan, who has had double-doubles in two of the three games, is averaging 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds at Summer League. 

How would Swanigan describe his mentality when he steps on the floor?

"Just balls to the wall, that’s my biggest thing … pardon my French, but play hard, man,'' he said.

Summer League hasn’t been as memorable for Collins, Connaughton or Jake Layman, the four players who will be, or are in contention to stick, with the NBA club.

Collins came up lame in the second quarter and went to the bench, where he slammed a towel to the ground in frustration. At halftime he limped to the locker room, then was the last to return to the court, where he didn’t take part in warmups. Shortly after, the team announced he would miss the rest of the game with a bruise to his upper right leg.

Collins finished with four points and four rebounds while making two of three shots. In three Summer League games, the No. 10 overall pick  averaged 6.3 points and 5.7 rebounds while hitting 6-of-23 shots.

"I don’t know if I got hit, or pulled something,  or what,'' Collins said. "I just know it hurts"

Collins said he was feeling discomfort in the leg after Sunday's game, and said that same discomfort "flared up" on Tuesday.

"Which kind of sucks because I felt like I was getting into a little but of a rhythm offensively, fianlly,'' Collins said. "Then, my leg gave out.'' 

Connaughton, who is trying to show the Blazers he deserves a $1.4 million contract before the July 25 deadline outlined in his contract, had his best game shortened when he pulled up lame in the second quarter. Connaughton had seven points, two rebounds and three assists in 11 minutes, hitting 3-of-6 shots, including 1-of-3 from three-point range.

The Blazers (1-2) did not say how long Collins or Connaughton would be out, but Collins said his hope is to return at some point in Vegas.

"If I'm good to to go, I'm going to play,'' Collins said.

Meanwhile, Layman continued to struggle with his shot on Tuesday. After going 1-for-13 on Sunday against Boston, Layman went 1-for-9 against the Spurs, finishing with three points and three rebounds. Layman in three games has made only 6-of-30 shots.

San Antonio (2-1) was led by guard Bryn Forbes who had 35 points on 11-of-26 shooting.

A night when Damian Lillard flipped a switch most players were never given

A night when Damian Lillard flipped a switch most players were never given

Damian Lillard has made so many big-time plays for the Portland Trail Blazers. So many clutch shots, he's performed so many late-game heroics. And yes, so many imaginary wristwatch taps walking off the floor after a win.

But Saturday night's show was just a little different. Just a little better, in fact.

The Lillard performance in Portland's 106-104 win at Phoenix was superb. It wasn't just star quality, it was superstar quality. The Trail Blazers trailed 93-78 with 7:26 to go in the game and were struggling to make shots. At one point, they were 3-26 from three-point range. Lillard himself had been battling shooting woes, too. But this was a game that had to be won and Lillard took it upon himself to take care of business. By now, you know what he accomplished and if you didn't see it live I'd advise you to catch the game as it's replayed on NBC Sports Northwest in the next couple of days.

At some point in the fourth quarter, Lillard flipped a switch most players have never owned. This wasn't just a great game, it was a rescue mission.

He made 8 of his 12 fourth-quarter shots, two of four three-pointers in the period and had five rebounds. He turned two of his offensive rebounds into spectacular baskets, one on a tip-dunk when he came from beyond the three-point arc to flush a Shabazz Napier miss and then a tip-in of an Al-Farouq Aminu shot on which he was fouled with 2:38 left. He made the free throw to tie the game.

And you've undoubtedly seen his game-winner with .9 left in the game -- a driving layup on which he was fouled (no call) and still managed to find a way to slip the shot between a tangle of long arms, off the backboard and into the basket. The shot capped a 19-point fourth quarter.

Lillard was flawless over the final four minutes. You often hear of NBA players "taking over the game," but Lillard grabbed this one by the throat and just wouldn't let go until it was his. It was the sort of game that gathers Most Valuable Player votes. No, he's not going to win that award -- but it was the kind of game that vaults him even higher up in the hierarchy of NBA players.

And I don't want to hear any of that "Oh, it was a lousy team... consider the opposition... they should have won by 20" garbage. Yes, the Suns are one of the worst teams in the league. But anybody can beat anybody in the NBA and stuff happens, especially on back-to-back road games.

I'm not sure, given Portland's race to claim a high playoff seed, that this wasn't his best game-closing performance as a pro -- and that covers a lot of ground.

He was amazing.

 

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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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!