Memphis Grizzlies

Trail Blazers move into summer league championship game

Trail Blazers move into summer league championship game

LAS VEGAS --  The Portland Trail Blazer summer-league team will play for the tournament championship Monday night at 7 o'clock in Thomas & Mack Center.

And how unlikely is that?

The Portland entry opened pool play by losing two of its first three games and lost Pat Connaughton and Zach Collins to injury. Yet the team has rallied around Jake Layman, Caleb Swanigan and three free agents and found a new lease on life.

VIDEO: Coach Moran proud to be apart of this team

Sunday night the Blazers knocked off previously undefeated Memphis, recovering from a 19-point, second-quarter deficit.

The Trail Blazers trailed almost from the opening tip and faced a 23-15 deficit after the first quarter, as the Grizzlies shot 47.4 percent from the field while Portland made just 6 of 15 shots. But the summer version of the Trail Blazers is a gritty bunch and they didn't quit.

Portland narrowed the lead to three points early in the third quarter and then finally took a 54-53 lead with 5:50 to play in the third period. The Blazers led by as many as four in the quarter but were down 63-61 heading into the final quarter.

VIDEO: Blazer players excited to play for Championship

Swanigan had his double-double by then with 13 points and 10 rebounds. The Trail Blazers grabbed the lead back in the final quarter and led by eight with three minutes left and coasted home.

Free agent big man Jarnell Stokes continued his solid play, standing tall with 22 points and 15 rebounds. Guards Nick Johnson and RJ Hunter continued their solid play.

VIDEO: Stokes - Swanigan is my best friend

Chandler Parsons starts Twitter war with Blazers

Chandler Parsons starts Twitter war with Blazers

Well, that escalated quickly. Following the Blazers 112-109 win over his Grizzlies, Memphis forward Chandler Parsons took the time to jump on Twitter and take a shot at the Trail Blazers. It didn’t sit kindly with a certain Portland star.

It all started with a innocent, yet funny tweet from the Trail Blazers. A simple gif of Chandler Parsons air balling a three, with the words “To be fair, the NBA 3-point line is really, really far away from the basket.”

Even the greatest NBA player has the occasional air ball. It happens. What doesn’t always happen is what followed on Twitter after the game. Parson caught wind of the Blazers tweet, and took a shot. Unlike his air ball, this one hit its target.

Boom. The shot heard round the world, and heard very loudly in the ear of one CJ McCollum. The Blazers’ star guard wasted little time firing back at Parsons, and ended the argument rather quickly.

Mic. Dropped.

For those who don’t remember, just last summer the Blazers reportedly offered Parsons a 4-year max deal, which Parsons turned down in favor of signing with the Memphis Grizzlies. Parson’s has dealt with injuries all season long, and has appeared in just 19 games for the Grizzlies.

Well, we thought the mic was dropped. Despite all his injuries, Parsons' thumbs seem to working just fine. Just when you thought it was over Parsons sent the ball right back into McCollum’s court.

This is where the fun started, as some other Blazers decided to chime in.

Needless to say, fans blew up the Twitter world:

Too bad this was the final meeting of the year between these two teams. Here's to hoping they meet in the playoffs. 

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

Damian Lillard comes up big late, leads Blazers over Memphis

The Trail Blazers have their first three-game winning streak in almost two months thanks to a big fourth quarter from Damian Lillard and a wild and wacky finish.

Lillard scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter, and in the final 10 seconds the Blazers survived a turnover at halfcourt and giving up a key offensive rebound to hold off Memphis 112-109 at Moda Center.

It was the third straight win for the Blazers (21-27), tying their season-long streak, and they did it with a big exhale after Memphis had a couple of golden opportunities to apply a dagger.

The first came after Vince Carter missed a driving layin with about 12 seconds left and the Grizzlies trailing 112-109, despite coach David Fizdale signaling for a timeout from the sideline. As the Blazers brought the ball back upcourt, Lillard lost the ball while trying to pass, and Tony Allen scooped up the loose ball and was fouled while trying to score.

But Allen missed both free throws with 7.5 seconds left, and even though Marc Gasol rebounded, Mike Conley missed a three in the final seconds, preserving Portland’s second in the three-game season series with Memphis.

Gasol led Memphis (27-21) with 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists while Conley didn’t shoot well (5-for-16) but finished with 10 assists and 17 points.

Lillard’s big fourth quarter included a span where he scored 13 consecutive points – which included 3-pointers on three straight possessions –  that gave the Blazers a 106-101 lead with 3:45 left.

The win improved the Blazers’ record over teams with winning records to 7-16 and moved them within a half-game of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

Memphis was within 85-84 entering the fourth quarter after the Blazers didn’t score the final 2:07 of the quarter and the Grizzlies got a three pointer from Andrew Harrison, a three-point play from Harrison and a running layin from Conley.

The Blazers led 62-56 at halftime, but had to be kicking themselves after leading by as many as 18 in the second quarter. Crabbe provided much of the firepower that built the lead, hitting 5-of-7 shots in the second and scoring 14 points and Memphis was able to get back in it behind the play of 40-year-old reserve Vince Carter, who came off the bench to score 11 in the second.

Mason Plumlee recorded his team-leading 12th double-double for the Blazers with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Notes: Ed Davis (left wrist) missed his third straight game and fourth in past five games and Maurice Harkless (left calf) sat out his second straight game.

Next up: Golden State at Blazers, 6 p.m. Sunday (KGW).

 

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

Could that be the low point for the Trail Blazers this season?

I can't remember a more disappointing and, at the same time, surprising performance by the Trail Blazers this season. That 88-86 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies was grizzly, all right. Grim.

Let's start with the fact that Memphis was without Mike Conley, Vince Carter, James Ennis, Chandler Parsons and Brandan Wright. The Grizzlies were basically Marc Gasol and Tony Allen against the world. The Trail Blazers dominated the Grizzlies nearly the whole game but could never put them away.

The Portland lead was 77-64 with 7:13 to play in this very slow-paced game and 79-68 wth 5:11 left. But Gasol got wide open for a three-point field goal and Troy Daniels drilled one that was officially called a 30-footer with 1:35 to play that gave Memphis a one-point lead. Then Toney Douglas, signed off his couch at home Dec. 5, hammered home a jumper and two free throws for another one-point lead. After Mason Plumlee tied the game for the final time with a free-throw, Douglas hit two more foul shots to win it for the Grizzlies.

You can talk about the foul call on Damian Lillard that sent Douglas to the line, but in a game like this it's absurd to bring the officiating into the conversation. Officials had nothing to do with the outcome of this contest. With the game on the line, Portland made just four of 19 shots in the fourth quarter, 21.1 percent. For the game, the Trail Blazers shot just 30.5 percent from the field -- their worst in a decade! -- and only 25 percent from three-point range.

This game was a total mess, as ugly as you'll ever see the NBA get. If you want to look at individual Portland shooting totals you can find the official league box score here -- but be ready to cover your eyes. Yes, Memphis shot poorly, too. But mostly that was players who normally wouldn't be on the floor at key times of an NBA game. Gasol was the one player Portland needed to defend and that never got done.

The Trail Blazers missed plenty of shots in the paint and too many from three-point range. I had a thought at one point about the team's three-point shooting that I should pass along, too.

Perhaps the reason that players shoot better from three in Portland than in other places is that they get open ones with the Trail Blazers that they didn't get elsewhere. The system is tried and true for three-point shooters. And, too, players are encouraged to shoot them here like they were nowhere else. Over and over, we've heard about Coach Terry Stotts chastising his players for passing up open shots -- not for gunning them up. Certainly, showing confidence in players is a key part of getting them to play their best.

But. BUT. When a player is going through a tough time making threes -- and isn't really a great three-point shooter in the first place -- I think it's important to have that shooter be a little more judicious with his shots. And I'm talking about Al-Farouq Aminu.

He's shooting 20.5 percent from three-point range and most of the time, he's not even close. Sure,  I know all about shooters shooting their way out of slumps. I'm just not sure he's much of a shooter in the first place, in spite of his relative success last season. And at least for now, in the midst of tight games, I think he should be restrained a bit.

But that's just a nitpick right now. While the defense seems to be better, the offense now has gotten inconsistent.

There's a positive sign after that game at Memphis, though: There is nowhere to go but up.