San Antonio Spurs

Trail Blazers win again, move into Summer League "Final Four"

Trail Blazers win again, move into Summer League "Final Four"

LAS VEGAS -- "Final Four."

Let's just call it that for the Portland Trail Blazers, who defeated the San Antonio Spurs 94-87 Saturday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center to advance to the semifinals of the Summer League tournament. The semis will be played Sunday and the finals Monday night in the same venue.

VIDEO: Coach Moran all smiles after the win

The Blazers, who came into the tournament as the 16th seed, got 23 points from Jake Layman, who was 1-8 from the field in the first half, and 16 from Caleb Swanigan in a game when Portland dominated the rebounding department 48-31, which included a 21-6 edge on the offensive boards.

VIDEO: Coach Moran evaluates the Free Agents

Behind 14 first-half points from Swanigan, Portland led by seven at halftime and took a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter but couldn't hold onto it. Derrick White's three-point play late in the period left the sore tied at 65 going into the fourth quarter.Layman warmed up in the fourth quarter, however, and hit three three-point goals to give Portland an 84-74 lead with four and a half minutes left in the game.

VIDEO: Jake Layman on the free agents

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

Not many people picked the Houston Rockets to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in their second-round playoff matchup that began last night in San Antonio. But I did. So you would think I'd be feeling pretty good about the Rockets after their 126-99 thrashing of the Spurs Monday night.

And even though San Antonio appeared to be way overmatched in Game 1 of the series, I feel worse about my prediction than you might think. That's because I was in the old Boston Garden on May 27, 1985 for the first game of that season's Finals when the Celtics ran the Los Angeles Lakers out of the gym with a humiliating 148-114 defeat. They called it the Memorial Day Massacre.

I was one of many people after that game to write about how washed up the Lakers -- and 38-year-old center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- looked in that game. Abdul-Jabbar finished with 12 points and three rebounds and just didn't look as if he could keep up with Boston's talented front line. I thought the series was over right then and there.

And I was very wrong. The Lakers won four of the next five games and closed out the Celts in Boston in Game 6 -- behind Abdul-Jabbar, who won the MVP award for the series. It was the only time the Celtics ever lost an NBA championship in that arena.

So that whipping Houston put on San Antonio didn't make me feel all that much better about its chances. It was just one game and next one doesn't start with the Rockets holding a 27-point lead.

I'd say the series hinges on the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored just four points Monday night. When Aldridge left Portland for the Spurs, I'm sure he was satisfied with the salary he'd be making and the winning tradition of his new team. But I'm wondering now if he understood the sort of responsibility he'd be having to shoulder as the Spurs moved through the playoffs. Tim Duncan isn't going to be walking through that locker room door during this series.

There were times in Portland when I thought Aldridge wanted very much to be a superstar but didn't always respond like one. He had the talent... but did he have the heart?

He better find his way in a hurry for the Spurs because Kawhi Leonard can't be expected to carry that team by himself.

Kelsey Plum shows off rocket arm at Spurs game

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WNBA

Kelsey Plum shows off rocket arm at Spurs game

Kelsey Plum, the former Washington Huskies star guard and the number one overall pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft has quite the future… in the NFL(maybe).

Plum, who recently joined the San Antonio Stars of the WNBA, showed support for her new home when she showed up to a San Antonio Spurs playoff game. Now only did was she in attendance, but she help with the NBA arena ritual of throwing free t-shirts into the stands.

Anyone who has been to an NBA game knows two things: 1) Everyone wants one of those shirts. 2) Unless they are using the slingshot or a t-shirt cannon, the shirts probably aren’t getting past the first 10 rows.

Enter QB, we mean PG Plum. Plum did her best Uncle Rico impersonation and dang near threw the t-shirt over the mountains.

That is the definition of a rocket arm, a cannon, a bazooka, a rifle, or whatever other analogy you want to use to describe something that shoots a projectile really far, really fast.

Plum will most certainly set the WNBA on fire this season, she was the top pick for a reason, but if this basketball thing doesn’t work out there may be some other sports calling for her services.

With starters out, Blazers keep rolling as Noah Vonleh beats buzzer and Spurs

With starters out, Blazers keep rolling as Noah Vonleh beats buzzer and Spurs

With one eye on the upcoming playoffs, the Trail Blazers on Monday rested their stars, but that didn’t stop Portland's late-season momentum.

Noah Vonleh picked up a loose ball and scored the game-winning layin before the buzzer on a busted play, leading the Blazers to a stunning 99-98 victory over the San Antonio Spurs, giving the Blazers a chance at securing a winning season with a victory in their season finale on Wednesday. 

Behind a Damian Lillard-like performance from point guard Shabazz Napier, the shooting of center Meyers Leonard and the passing of Evan Turner, the Blazers beat one of the West's top teams without stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Napier had a career-high 32 points, Vonleh 12 points and 11 rebounds and Pat Connaughton had a career-high 15 for Portland (41-40) while Leonard hit his first five shots on the way to 13 points. Turner had 16 points and seven assists. 

The Blazers' final shot came after the Spurs threw away an inbounds pass with 6.0 seconds left. 

The Blazers rested stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, as well as starter Maurice Harkless and had Allen Crabbe (foot), Jusuf Nurkic (leg) and Ed Davis (shoulder) sidelined with injuries.

It was the season’s penultimate game and the first since the Blazers clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the West on Sunday.

“It was the time and the opportunity to do it,’’ Coach Terry Stotts said before the game of resting players.

Stotts started Napier at point guard, Pat Connaughton at shooting guard, Turner at small forward, Vonleh at power forward and Leonard at center while the Spurs started their regulars -  Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and Dewyane Dedmon. 

The biggest benefit of the night was supposed to be resting Lillard and McCollum. Lillard entered the game averaging 35.9 minutes (9th in the NBA) while McCollum averages 34.9 minutes (16th). But now, the victory has given the Blazers the chance to secure a winning season with a victory over New Orleans on Wednesday. 

Stotts and the team’s health and performance staff met with the starting backcourt in the morning to tell them they would like each to sit in order to rest for the upcoming playoffs.

Lillard said he intended on playing in the Blazers regular-season finale on Wednesday against New Orleans.

McCollum, who had played in every game leading up to Monday, said it wasn’t his choice to sit, but he said he understood after listening to the reasoning.

“It’s a chance to refresh, recharge,’’ McCollum said. “It works for the Spurs, so we might as well follow their blueprint.’’

McCollum and Lillard both engaged in a hard workout before the game, going against each other in pick-and-rolls and 1-on-1 scenarios, while also taking part in extended three-point shooting drills.

Lillard, who scored a franchise-record 59 points on Saturday, said he planned on playing Monday against the Spurs.

 “I was prepared for an encore,” Lillard said.

Lillard has always been a proponent of playing whenever he is able, but he knew what was coming when he was called in for a meeting and told to take a seat.

“They knew they would have to sit me down,’’ Lillard said with a smile. “But after hearing them, I know they are coming from a good place.’’

Without the big names, the Blazers got a look at some of their youngsters, and for the most part, they played well against the Spurs’ accomplished lineups.

The Blazers led 31-28 after the first quarter, thanks largely to Meyers Leonard’s 5-of-5 shooting, and 47-43 at halftime after both teams survived a dreadful second quarter. Both the Spurs and Blazers started the second quarter by missing their first 10 shots. 

The Spurs (61-20) have the West’s No. 2 seed locked up and have been resting players during April, but after their last game, coach Gregg Popovich was unhappy with their physicality and effort and declared that no players would rest for the remainder of the season.

Popovich played his starters for the first three quarters, which is how long they needed to establish a lead. Portland led from the early moments of the game until midway through the third, when Kawhi Leonard scored nine of his 18 points and Tony Parker had six of his 12 points.

Next up:  New Orleans at Blazers, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (KGW/ESPN)

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Trail Blazers: An exhilarating 48 minutes that ALSO defines a season

Trail Blazers: An exhilarating 48 minutes that ALSO defines a season

What happened Wednesday night in San Antonio was downright miraculous. A team that was completely embarrassed by hapless New Orleans Tuesday rose up to defeat powerful San Antonio on its home court.

Go figure.

The Trail Blazers' playoff push: You can't count them out, but you can't count them in, either.

There were a lot of things I liked about Wednesday's game, but here are the things I liked the most:

  • Focus. The Trail Blazers paid attention throughout. They were alert and aggressive. It was a complete turnaround from the previous night.
  • Passing. Yes, they found open teammates and got them the ball with a minimum of mistakes.
  • Shooting. Against a team that's usually one of the best in the league at defending the three-point shot, they hit 40.9 percent.
  • Free-throw shooting. It's been spotty of late but against the Spurs, Portland won the game at the foul line, hitting 25 of 28.
  • Spreading the ball around. It was almost as if something was said in the halftime locker room but after intermission, the Trail Blazer guards seemed more intent than ever at hitting the roll man -- usually Jusuf Nurkic -- on the pick-and-roll. And it made a very big difference.
  • Nurkic. He may have struggled inside the final minute but there's no question that age 22 he continues to show a skill level that Portland hasn't seen at center in a very long time.
  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. A combined 62 points that included a 17-for-17 night at the foul line and a lot of clutch shots and sharp passes. A sparkling performance.
  • Al-Farouq Aminu. Some outstanding defense, outside and inside.
  • Noah Vonleh. He made every shot he took and didn't have a turnover. You couldn't ask for much more.

There were other things, I'm sure. This was a big-time recovery for a team that looked down and out the previous night. And if there's ever a win that should be a catapult for more consistent performance it's this one.

BUT.

I wouldn't count on it. You just can't seem to expect much of anything but inconsistency. The overwhelming picture of this season is going to be of a very big roller-coaster ride.

 

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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Spurs catch fire in second half, overcome Trail Blazers

Spurs catch fire in second half, overcome Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO -- For a half, at least, the Trail Blazers on Friday looked like they were continuing a recent trend of improved defense and better overall basketball.

Then the second half arrived. 

Behind pinpoint ball movement and superb shooting, San Antonio scorched Portland in the second half, outscoring the Blazers 63-42 to coast to a 110-94 victory at the AT&T Center. 

The Blazers played one of their finer first halves of the season, building leads as large as 13, and took a 52-47 lead on the heels of holding the Kawhi-Leonard-less Spurs to 41.7 percent shooting. It continued a string of encouraging defensive performances against Toronto and Sacramento, when the Blazers' league-worst defense stiffened amid a shift to a more active and trapping defense. In addition to the low shooting percentage, San Antonio committed 14 first-half turnovers.

But in the second half, San Antonio (27-6) cut down on its turnovers (three) and shot a blistering 57 percent (24-of-42), a large part of the damage coming from the three-point line, where they made 11-of-22 attempts. 

The good news for Portland? A December to forget is finally over. 

The Blazers (14-21) went 4-11 in December and find themselves entering 2017 in a 10th place tie with  New Orleans, behind Denver and Sacramento in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting  and Maurice Harkless added 12 points while Allen Crabbe had 11. Tony Parker and Danny Green led the Spurs with 18 points apiece and Jonathan Simmons added 19 points off the bench. Former Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge had eight points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. 

It was the third straight game the Blazers played without leading scorer Damian Lillard, whose sprained left ankle is getting better, he said, but still not game ready. The Spurs played without leading scorer Kawhi Leonard, who missed his second straight game with an upset stomach. 

The Spurs took control in the third quarter, when they outscored Portland 33-21 while making 13-of-22 shots and took an 80-73 lead. 

The Blazers raced to a 32-22 lead in the first quarter, during which they had leads as large as 12. Portland shot 65 percent in the quarter, with McCollum and Harkless hitting all three of their shots. Shabazz Napier, seeing a surge in playing time with Lillard out,  was an offensive spark in the quarter, hitting  4-of-6 shots and scoring eight points while recording two assists in seven minutes. 

 

 

 

Next up: Blazers at Minnesota, 6 p.m. Sunday (CSN)

 

Spurs extend Blazers losing streak

Spurs extend Blazers losing streak

For the first time this season, the Trail Blazers are on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race.

The Blazers fell out of eighth place on Friday after they lost their fifth straight and ninth in 10 games in a methodical and thorough 110-90 beatdown by the San Antonio Spurs at the Moda Center. 

Portland (13-19) played the final 6:10 without star Damian Lillard, who rolled his left ankle fighting for a fourth quarter rebound. Lillard, who finished with 16 points and 10 assists, returned after rolling the ankle, but labored in his movement and returned to the bench after a couple of possessions. 

One game after their passion and effort were questioned by coach Terry Stotts, the Blazers were better Friday, but it wasn't good enough to beat the Spurs (24-6), who improved to 16-2 on the road thanks to Kawhi Leonard (33 points), LaMarcus Aldridge (18 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists) and Patty Mills (23 points).

Meyers Leonard scored a season-high 16 points to tie Lillard and CJ McCollum for the team lead in points.

The Spurs, who own the West's second best record behind Golden State, played without three key players as coach Gregg Popovich elected to rest point guard Tony Parker, guard Manu Ginobili and forward Pau Gasol. Portland fell into a ninth place tie with Denver, one game behind Sacramento for the eighth and final playoff spot.

San Antonio took a 57-45 lead at halftime, thanks in part to two free throws by Kawhi Leonard after he was fouled by Allen Crabbe just before the buzzer taking a 17-foot jumper. The Spurs outscored Portland 30-18 in the second quarter, much of the spurt coming from Mills, who had three three-pointers in the first half and five offensive rebounds from Aldridge. 

The Blazers struggled to 41 percent shooting in the first half as their two offensive stars -- Lillard and CJ McCollum -- both went 2-for-8 from the field. The shooting struggles never improved for the backcourt as McCollum finished 5-of-16 and Lillard 7-of-19.

Next up: Toronto at Blazers, 7 p.m. Monday (CSN).

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