Who are those guys? Blazers stun San Antonio behind Lillard, Nurkic and McCollum

Who are those guys? Blazers stun San Antonio behind Lillard, Nurkic and McCollum

SAN ANTONIO – The hard-to-figure out Trail Blazers added to their unpredictable mystique on Wednesday when they followed up a 23-point blowout loss in New Orleans with a 110-106 win over at San Antonio.

The win didn’t come without its faults. The Blazers missed two free throws and threw away an inbounds pass in the final minute, allowing San Antonio to cut a 104-97 lead to 104-102 with 53 seconds left.

But in the end, it was the brilliance of Damian Lillard, a career-night from Noah Vonleh and some clutch fourth quarter play from Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum that allowed the Blazers to beat the team with the NBA’s second best record.

Lillard finished with 36 points and four assists on 12-of-22 shooting.  On this crucial late-season, five-game trip, the Blazers’ captain in the first three games has been at his best, averaging 34.7 points and 2.7 assists while shooting 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from three point range.

It was Lillard’s foul shots with 5.2 seconds left that gave the Blazers at 108-105 lead. San Antonio was fouled on its last possession with 2.5 seconds left after a wild scramble for the inbound, and Manu Ginobili missed the first and made the second while trying to miss.

Lillard then iced it with two free throws with 1.7 seconds left.

The win pushed the Blazers to 30-37 and within two games of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with 15 games remaining.

The Blazers went almost exclusively to Nurkic down the stretch, and the big man had mixed results. He scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth, but he missed two free throws with 1:02 left and had two of his five turnovers in the final minutes. He did add nine rebounds and three assists, his last rebound a key chase down of a Lillard miss with 19.1 seconds left.

McCollum was also big in the fourth, when he scored nine of his 26 points, and Vonleh tied his season high with 26 minutes, during which he had 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

San Antonio (52-15) fell one game behind Golden State for the NBA’s best record despite getting the return of star LaMarcus Aldridge, who missed the last two games with a heart ailment. Aldridge had 19 points and seven rebounds but struggled through a 9-for-24 shooting night.

It was a nip-and-tuck game throughout, with each team never holding a lead larger than seven.

Lillard was especially brilliant in the third quarter, scoring 16 points and pushing the Blazers to an 82-80 lead heading into the fourth.

It was the type of unpredictability that has come to define this Portland team, as it followed its lowest scoring and worst shooting night of the season – and arguably one of its most disappointing performances – with perhaps the win of the season.

Next up: Blazers at Atlanta, 3 p.m. Saturday (CSN)

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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!

 

Maybe Kerr should have let the players coach...

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USATI

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

Rapid Reaction:

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

The curious case of Jusuf Nurkic

It seems that suddenly Nurkic Fever has turned into Nurkic Flu. And it's spreading like wildfire.

Once the darling of Portland fans, Portland center Jusuf Nurkic has become a Twitter punching bag and a controversial figure. This seems to be sparked by his absence from both the Portland lineup and his recent media availabilities. And of course there is a growing wave of discontent based on Nurkic's recent play, too. His lack of consistency has been maddening and it seems to have finally worn out the patience of fans, coaches and media. Probably even his teammates.

Let's make a few things clear right off the bat. Nurkic is averaging 14 points, 8 rebounds and nearly 2 assists per game. That's not bad and I'm not sure where else the Trail Blazers could find a center who could chalk up those statistics. And oh yes, he's still just 23 years old.

But there is more, of course. He is shooting only .479 from the field this season, pretty terrible for a man who takes most of his shots in the paint. And he's at an incredibly terrible .442 within three feet of the basket -- a career low. The Trail Blazers often take great pains to go to him early in games in an effort to get him off to a good start but he often responds as he did against Utah Sunday -- by missing his first four shots, three of them virtual layups. That's a discouraging situation for Nurkic and his team.

Why is this happening? I don't think anyone knows. My guess is that his coaches are at wit's end trying to unlock the secret to finding the whereabouts of the Nurkic who looked so promising through 20 games last season. After a summer in which he lost weight and came back promising to be tougher and more effective he only rarely reaches the level of play we saw so briefly last season. He appears tentative and contact averse.

He often seems to be taking a casual approach to his game, not finishing easy shots and avoiding contact. There are times when he just doesn't seem to be into the whole thing.

He is listed as "questionable" for tonight's game in Moda Center against the Golden State Warriors and there couldn't be a more fitting description of him right now. He's become questionable on a lot of levels.

But if he's hurt, he's hurt. It's careless to question that. But he does seem to get injured frequently, which has led to many questioning his toughness. I must say, as the guy who was screaming "Nurkic Fever" so frequently last season, I've fallen into that category. He's also appeared pouty, which was his reputation in Denver.

Could nagging injuries be a part of his disappointing season? I have no idea. But I do know this, for a player heading into free agency -- even restricted free agency -- he's not doing himself a lot of good. In a summer when it appears the free-agent money pool will be shallow, next season he may not end up earning anywhere close to what he probably anticipated.

Who is Jusuf Nurkic? Right now, I don't think many people have a clue.

And he's running out of games this season to show us.

Greg Oden making a comeback...

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USA Today Images

Greg Oden making a comeback...

The BIG3 announced today that former Trail Blazer Greg Oden will be participating in the BIG3 Draft Combine.

Oden has agreed to join the BIG3 draft pool with the league getting set to enter its second season this summer.

The BIG3 league is a 3-on-3 pro basketball league that was founded by Ice Cube in January 2017 featuring All-Stars, Hall of Famers and a few World Champions.  The league currently features eight teams who travel from city to city with all eight teams facing off in tournament style play through the summer months.   

CBS Sports reporter Colin Ward-Henninger is reporting that Baron Davis, Metta World Peace, Nate Robinson and Carlos Boozer are among a few other players that have signed up for the 2018 season.