Dwight Jaynes

Damian Lillard comes up short late in a game -- twice -- how often does that happen?

Damian Lillard comes up short late in a game -- twice -- how often does that happen?

Damian Lillard tried all day to get to the foul line. He took 20 shots without getting a free throw. But then, when he had two of them with 18.6 seconds to play, his team down by a point and the game on the line, he missed them both.

That was unbelievable. 

As was the idea that the Trail Blazers were even in that spot. Portland led by five with 1:36 to go and the Clippers were playing with just one starter on the floor.

Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell didn’t even suit up. Paul George and Lou Williams did not take the floor down the stretch.

In the midst of a fight for the Nos. 8 and 9 spots in the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers were handed a gift.

And declined it, losing to Los Angeles 122-117.

Nobody could quite believe Lillard missed both free throws.

“Very surprised,” CJ McCollum said. “But just like I told him, it shouldn’t even have come down to that. We’ve got to do a better job of executing and putting them away earlier. Especially, going against most of their second-unit guys -- we’ve got to do a better job.”

The Trail Blazers have fallen into a pattern in these seeding games of relying on a spectacular offense that has covered for a leaky defense. But in the late going of this game, Portland didn’t run its offense efficiently, got poor shots as a result, and didn’t get stops or committed fouls at the defensive end.

“I was disappointed with both ends in the last few minutes,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Defensively, we didn’t move around. Offensively, we didn’t get the shots we wanted, didn’t move the ball as well as we needed to and the shots we did get, we didn’t make.”

Lillard had given Portland a two-point lead with 41.2 seconds to go with a layup but the Clippers hijacked it at 26.1 with a three by Rodney McGruder -- a 27 percent three-point shooter for the season.

That set up Lillard’s empty trip to the free-throw line.

“They made the plays that we didn’t make,” Lillard said. “Every breakdown on the defensive end, they made us pay for it. They made shots, got rebounds and they got second and third opportunities.

“And then at our offensive end, we just didn’t execute very well. Once I got to the line, down one, I felt good about that, I said, ‘OK, we’re going to be up one.’ Come down, get a stop and then it’s a free-throw game.

“Left the first one short. And then left another one short. Sometimes, I guess that has to happen. Particularly at the end of the game, I always feel like I’m going to come up big. I’ve experienced so many of those moments. I guess sometimes you come up short.

“I left two free throws short. We lost a game we really needed to win and we’ve got another one tomorrow (against the Philadelphia 76ers).”

Both Beverley and George taunted Lillard at the end of the game.

“I didn’t see it, but I heard about it,” Lillard said. “That just shows what they expect from me down the stretch. They know what I do. (Beverley) saw it first hand when I was a second-year player and he was at Houston. I’m sure he has a great memory of that.

“PG had to wave, because he also was surprised because of what he experienced at the end of a game last year. Let me just say this, for one -- I know what happened. I expect myself to make those free throws. And I didn’t. The team needed it, which was a failure for me that I can accept.

“Asking me about Patrick Beverley, who I sent him home before at the end of a game, Paul George got sent home by me at the end of the playoffs. So they know their reaction is a sign of respect for me from what they expect from me at the end of a game.
“It just shows what I’ve done at a high clip more times than not. If anything, it should tell you how much it hurt them to know what I put them through in those situations.”

And don’t expect this to impact Lillard’s confidence level in similar situations.

“I’ve had some moments in my career when I was expected to do something at the end of the game and I didn’t,” he said “I don’t see myself as somebody who is going to hold onto it. I’m a shooter. I’ve been in these situations a lot and had some success. I’m in this situation all the time. It isn’t going to discourage me or make me any less confident. If anything, I’m looking at it like the next time, it’s going to go the other way,

“It bothers me. It hurts, because it was a game we would have loved to have. But as far as being on the floor and doing what I do, it won’t affect me at all.”

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a known commodity, one of the best backcourts in basketball. Even Jusuf Nurkic, an underrated player for sure, has a following.

But Gary Trent Jr.? Where has he come from?

And why was the most Bubblicious player during the NBA restart so far, not taken until the second round of the 2019 NBA draft?

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, the man who engineered a trade to grab Trent with the seventh pick in the second round of that draft, tried to explain it Friday.

“People forget, he was one of the top 10 players in America in his class coming out of high school, which was an elite class,” Olshey said. “He’s a guy that for systemic reasons, where people catch inertia -- either positive or negative -- around the draft, slipped way beyond what people would have thought his draft status would have been, given the hype and reputation and body of work that he entered Duke with.

“If you look at the Duke team, they were loaded. They came into the season with five guys projected to go in the first round. I think Gary had been on the radar for so long and such a high profile guy, that even though he was only a freshman, so much was expected of him, and I think he had a really good year -- i think he averaged 15 a game and shot 40 from three -- but i think he underwhelmed relative to expectations.”

It happens frequently. And it’s because there are so many metrics out there now with which to judge players. So many ways to judge them, that it's almost easier to find reasons not to draft someone as to draft him.

“So many things that factor in,” Olshey said. “Height, weight, measurements that have nothing to do with playing basketball. The combine isn’t reflective of NBA basketball.  Workouts down to 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. Guys lose sight of what they liked about a player when they were actually watching him play five-on-five, real competitive basketball. And they start using inconsequential data points. It’s paralysis by analysis.”

Olshey wanted to take Anfernee Simons in the first round because he knew there were several teams behind the Blazers who would snatch him up. But then there was a chance Trent would last into the second round.

“With Gary there was this kind of reverse heat, Olshey said. “There was an overcorrection accruing on Gary.  We felt if we could get back into the 30s, we would have a chance to get him.

“And with the exception of Will Barton, a lot of our second-round picks have been guys we bought into or traded to get. Allen Crabbe, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman.

“We weren’t looking to get into the second round, but once he started falling, we got very aggressive. And you know (late owner) Paul Allen on draft night -- more is always better. Two future seconds and cash to get him (from Sacramento). We valued him as a first-round pick. We signed him to a full, three-year contract right out of the gate. We immediately gave him what we thought the value of a first-round pick would be.”

So Trent arrived in Portland as the guy who was selected after Anfernee Simons, who got most of the attention from the media as a kid who didn’t even attend college. Trent had a ways to go, just to get on the floor.

“What he needed to do is find his identity,” Olshey said. “He was a lot stronger than guys in high school and he was able to bully his way to the rim. What it resulted in for us was a lot of inefficiency. He was taking a lot of long twos. He was getting himself in trouble with a lot of over-penetrating into the lane and i think what he’s done is listen to all of us and he’s simplified his style of play to fit into what we need out on the court. Which is defensive energy, toughness, three-point shooting, moving without the ball, getting to the rim with opportunity for free throws.

“The scope of his game has narrowed and it has simplified things for him to where he can really just excel at what we need him to do to balance the floor when he’s out there with either Dame and CJ or in place of one of them.”

But did the Trail Blazers envision Trent turning into a shooter of this magnitude? Especially this quickly?

“You know what I saw,” Olshey said. “Right now, he’s on fire and I hope it continues. But I knew he was a really good shooter. What I had confidence in, was that he was a really good game shooter.

“You put him in a gym and there are four or five guys on our team who will outshoot him on the shooting gun. He’s a gamer. That’s the one thing Gary always did when we tracked him from high school. I saw him play seven times at Duke, he played great in the combine had a great workout with us and the one thing about Gary is, when the lights come on, he’s fearless.

“A lot of it has to do with his pedigree and the success he’s had at those different levels. But what I knew he could do is make game shots.

“So what’s interesting with him is, he needed an opportunity to get on the court. Because when you watch him just in drills and at practice, he’s not as dynamic a shooter as he is, once he gets into the flow of the game. All those psychological intangibles start coming into play when you get into that make-or-miss kind of format.”

And defense, which a general manager from a team that passed on Trent told me is what made teams hesitate about drafting him. "We didn't see a commitment there," the GM said,

Trent said this week that "100 percent" his defense is what got him on the floor for this team.

"First and foremost, it was his commitment to getting better defensively," Coach Terry Stotts said. "He didn't get to play much his rookie season but he really committed to being a better defender and getting a few minutes on the court that way. He's always been a scorer, but defensively, finding out what you can get away with, learning NBA defense, learning NBA personnel, locking in on game plans, learning from the guys who are playing, in a year that you don't play, you really have to utilize that time to get better, knowing the NBA game. I think he's improved in all those areas."

And up above, you have to believe Paul Allen is smiling.

“It was very hard for Paul to get excited about the obvious,” Olshey said. “He literally created the tech sector. He was always about discovering something nobody else saw. He loved the narrative around Nurk. He loved the surprises. He loved the unknowns. He loved young players and seeing them grow.”

And he would have loved the Gary Trent Jr. Story.

Damian Lillard carries Trail Blazers past Nuggets and closer to No. 8 seed

Damian Lillard carries Trail Blazers past Nuggets and closer to No. 8 seed

Damian Lillard wasn’t quite all the Trail Blazers needed Thursday night to beat the Denver Nuggets 125-115. But the Blazers most certainly needed all of what Damian Lillard gave them.

And that was a lot.

Lillard scored 45 points, had 12 assists, four rebounds and three steals -- and took on his team’s most difficult defensive assignment in the second half.

And the Trail Blazers, who came to the Orlando Bubble to try to claim the No. 9 spot in the Western Conference in order to earn a play-in series against the Memphis Grizzlies, moved within a half-game of the Grizzlies for the eighth position.

This was a big game for the Trail Blazers and Lillard knew that Denver -- even with four starters sitting out this game -- was going to be dangerous and he had to take the game seriously from the start.

Which he did, with 14 points in the first quarter. The Portland guard had made only 10 of his 30 three-point shots in the first three games in Orlando but knocked down 11 of 18 in this game, tying his own franchise record for most made threes in a game.

Lillard wasn’t going to let his teammates look past this game or take a win for granted because the Nuggets were short-handed. 

“We’re here to just get it done,” Lillard said. “Teams have lost those games. Tonight, I just wanted to come out and set the tone.

“They had guys out and you can’t come out and think you’re going to win. You have to come out and be present. I don’t care who is out there, we have to come out and play like everybody’s out there because it means more to us than it means to them. And that was my mentality.”

And after Michael Porter Jr. burned the Trail Blazers early, Lillard volunteered to take on the task of guarding the 6-10 power forward. Sometimes on defense, a big heart is as valuable as a big body.

“We’ve got eight games to try to get into the playoffs,” Lillard said. “It’s not like we’re looking at a full 82 game season. I told (Coach Terry Stotts), 'Let me guard him.' He made a few shots, was comfortable for a little bit and i just wanted to make him a little bit uncomfortable.

“I was physical. I made him work for it and I thought I did a pretty solid job of that.”

Lillard was Deep Dame for most of this game, launching long-range shots quick and accurately

“In the first two games, the ball was coming off my hands really well,” Lillard said. "I just wasn’t making it. It was just timing. We hadn’t played too many games.

“It felt good, I knew eventually it would click -- the ball would just go in and it would feel great.”

And when it clicks for Lillard, there’s a good chance it will click for others. When the Blazer star catches fire, he draws more attention and it opens shots for his teammates.

Down the stretch of the game, everybody was contributing to the offense as the defense focused on Lillard. Gary Trent and Jusuf Nurkic were the beneficiaries and Portland scored 15 of the game’s final 22 points.

But this doesn't get any easier.

After a day of rest Friday, Portland plays the Los Angeles Clippers Saturday and Philadelphia 76ers Sunday in its only back-to-back on the Orlando schedule.

And the Blazers are likely to again need all they can get from Damian Lillard.

Winning formula: How the Trail Blazers controlled James Harden and pace of the game

Winning formula: How the Trail Blazers controlled James Harden and pace of the game

A quick look back at an impressive Portland win in the Orlando Bubble:

The Trail Blazers have struggled on defense for a good part of this season, but in their last three games against the Houston Rockets -- all wins -- there isn’t much evidence of that.

Portland has been able to keep the Rockets, and their superstar scorer James Harden, under control and Tuesday night’s 110-103 win was another example of a defensive game plan working to near perfection.

For the Trail Blazers, stopping Harden has been Job One. Portland has double-teamed him, trapped him and used multiple defenders on him. The result has been that Harden has not had a lot of opportunities to get into his cat-and-mouse, one-on-one show, putting defenders on ice skates with his step backs, rip-throughs and side steps.

Harden is averaging 22.5 shot attempts per game for the season, but in the last three contests vs. Portland he’s managed to get only 12, 18 and 17 shots. He is 15 for 47. He averages 12.5 three-point attempts per game and in these last three vs. the Blazers he’s taken only 6, 8 and 8.

And Portland isn’t fouling him, either. Harden is a magician at getting to the line, but he’s managed just 8, 6 and 7 attempts in those three games, while averaging 11.9 for the season.

Averaging 34.3 points per game this year, Harden has scored 13, 18 and 23 in those last three Portland games.

“It is difficult for him to get a rhythm,” Houston Coach Mike D’Antoni said following Tuesday night’s loss.

But D’Antoni pointed to another thing the Trail Blazers are doing that is affecting the Rockets. Portland is slowing Houston down.

“We didn’t play at our pace,” said the Rockets’ coach. “And if we don’t play at our pace, we just kind of play into them. Then they’re going to beat us up a little bit. And they did that, especially in the first half.

“I think our biggest problem with the whole game, first of all, we didn’t come out with a lot of energy. It was pretty soft at the start. We never pushed, we never really got the big push to move the ball, so we gave them a chance to double him every time.

“OK, you all double us, pass, we’ll get a shot. We got a lot of open shots, but we have to play faster, and we have to go before the double team gets to James… That’s where we made a mistake.”

Harden was also burdened with foul trouble, including a controversial fifth foul that Harden didn’t like. D’Antoni was asked why he didn’t ask for video review of the play and his answer was refreshingly honest.

“It was a foul,” he said. “I looked at it and thought it was a foul. I didn’t want to challenge it at that point.”

Portland went big throughout the game, but the Rockets, who have had great success playing small ball, did not exploit a perceived edge in quickness.

“We just kind of got into their kind of game,” D’Antoni said. “We weren’t running. They were big, a little bit slower than us, and we played just the way they played.

“It was a lack of energy, third game, heavy legs -- i don’t know. We just couldn’t get over the hump.

“Their bigs are good. Nurkic is a load.”

Harden didn’t talk much about the Portland defense.

“You know, I think we had a lot of opportunities we missed,” he said. “Defensively, we played hard. They made shots down the stretch and we didn’t.

“I couldn’t get as aggressive as I wanted. Mainly foul trouble. Like I said, we had a lot of open shots that, if we make those, it’s a different ballgame. Even myself, I had some good shot opportunities late in the fourth quarter that just didn’t go in.”

Damian Lillard said,'We wanted them to adjust to us' and the Rockets never did

Damian Lillard said,'We wanted them to adjust to us' and the Rockets never did

The Trail Blazers Tuesday night played most of their game against Houston the old-school way. You know, get the ball down low to the big man, if he has a matchup advantage, lock down on the other team’s best players and rebound the basketball.

So many teams have surrendered to the Rockets’ small-ball lineup, deciding they better go small and try to beat them at their own game, And they have usually failed. Portland didn’t give in. The Blazers stayed big all night and made the Rockets pay in an impressive 110-102 win that brought Portland’s bubble record to 2-1.

“We wanted them to adjust to us instead of us coming out and switching up everything we do,” said Portland’s Damian Lillard, who led his team with 21 points. “Since we’ve been here, we’ve been challenging our bigs to be ready to step up and switch and chase guys on the perimeter and also protect the paint.

“And our bigs have done a great job. Nurk, Hassan, Zach -- they’ve all done a great job. And tonight was no different on the defensive end. They were having to close out to guys and (the Rockets) made some threes but we said we’re going to make them pay on the glass and beat guys inside to try to take advantage of that and we’re going to see who gets the better of who at playing their game.

“And I believe it showed we were able to win that battle.”

And they are one of the few teams in the league who have pulled that off. But it was Portland’s third win in four tries against the Rockets. And a lot of that is due to a mixed bag of Trail Blazer defensive tactics, which features all sorts of different looks on Houston high-scorer James Harden. Portland held him under 20 points in its two previous wins over the Rockets and he got only 23 Tuesday night. Russell Westbrook had just 15. The duo combined to hit just 12 of its 31 shots.

Portland focuses much of its defense on Harden, using double-teams, different players one-on-one and traps against him and it has been effective.

The Blazers got a heaping helping of clutch play from Carmelo Anthony down the stretch, when the game turned into a three-point contest -- which you aren’t supposed to be able to win against the Rockets.

But with the score tied at 100 and under three minutes to play, the veteran Hall of Famer-to-be showed why he has been such a big addition to the roster. He’s battle tested and comfortable in tight spots.

Melo blocked a three-point shot by P.J. Tucker that led to a Gary Trent three-point goal that boosted Portland into the lead.

Then, after Harden missed a three and with the Trail Blazers nursing a two-point lead, Anthony calmly knocked down a 27-foot triple to boost his team into a five-point edge with 54.6 seconds to play. The Rockets missed three more shots from behind the arc after that and Portland marched out of the arena with a very big win.

Melo has made a career of hitting game-winners and big shots in the clutch. And at the beginning of a career or near the end of one, he doesn’t believe you lose that rare ability to step up and make a shot with a game on the line.

“Honestly, I don’t think you lose that, right?” he said. “You have it. It’s something that you have to want to do. You have to be willing to put yourself in those situations -- enjoy those moments and take those shots and believe you can make those shots.

“Making those shots, not in an arrogant way, I’ve always enjoyed those moments.  And I still do enjoy that moment.  My teammates believe in me, to be able to get me the ball in those moments and all I have to do is deliver.

“And I’ve been doing that.”

Portland led most of the game, thanks to its size advantage inside. And even though the Trail Blazers went just 22-for-49 in the paint, their massive 64-39 rebound advantage and solid defensive job on Harden and Westbrook carried them to victory.

And at least for one NBA game, size mattered.

Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

Gary Trent Jr. was relaxing in the Florida sunshine when we caught up with him Tuesday afternoon. Well, he admitted he was sweating a little, too.
But we had a lot of fun talking with him about his shooting prowess, his background as a player, his brief football career, his father’s influence and even a crazy statistic that he couldn’t believe we came up with.
(Hint: It ranked him alongside Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum and Klay Thompson).
I really enjoyed talking to the Trail Blazers’ emerging young talent, and I think you will have a good time listening to him in the videoes linked below.

Gary Trent is the 3-and-D player the Blazers have longed for

Gary Trent Jr. is about to join some very elite company

Gary Trent Jr. is a physical defender, and he learned it on the gridiron

Trent stepping up wherever the Blazers need him

Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

 

 

Trail Blazers could have done a lot of other things with 6.8 seconds left Sunday

Trail Blazers could have done a lot of other things with 6.8 seconds left Sunday

Just one more look back at that Trail Blazer possession with 6.8 seconds to play Sunday and no timeouts left.

But keep in mind, even if Portland would have somehow managed to hit a three-pointer there, it would just merely have tied the game and still left the Celtics a chance to win it. And the Trail Blazers weren't getting many defensive stops when they needed them. But I firmly believe that getting a three there was a must. Without a timeout, getting the ball back, advancing it up the court and then scoring is too difficult.

But a few things to point out:

  • Damian Lillard could have taken more time before unloading the ball. I realize there was concern about being fouled before taking a three, but you have to live with that. It didn't appear Boston had any interest in doing so or they would have gotten him immediately.

  • I understand Jusuf Nurkic is now shooting threes with some degree of accuracy, but I’m not sure I would have had him on the floor in that situation. Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons, who has yet to play a minute in Orlando, might have been more of a threat from distance.

  • That said, if Nurkic had just stayed behind the three-point line, he’d have had a wide-open shot at a three, or Gordon Hayward would have had to leave Gary Trent open to contest Nurkic’s shot. Which would have meant Trent -- probably the team's best three-point shooter these days -- would have had an open look.

  • It didn’t seem as if the Trail Blazers had a play ready after Hayward made his two foul shots to push the Boston lead back to three. There were still three seconds left, which should have been enough time to get off a decent shot. Three seconds usually means two dribbles and a shot, so it wasn’t necessary to throw a pass the length of the court. Hitting Lillard (or Trent or CJ McCollum) somewhere near halfcourt and giving one of them a long three would have been cool.

But, of course, they don’t give you do-overs. What happened, happened. And getting a stop or not having so many scoreless possessions late in the game would have helped, too.

The big thing now is to not let that game cost them the next one. There were big minutes played by key players and in a loss, that seems to have a bigger impact than in a win.

The schedule doesn’t get easier, either, with Houston up next.

In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t going to be easy.

Trail Blazers' spectacular second-half offense betrayed by their defense

Trail Blazers' spectacular second-half offense betrayed by their defense

All that energy expended making a comeback from a 24-point deficit Sunday in Orlando was wasted.

In the end, the Trail Blazers’ defense undermined a terrific offensive performance in the second half and Portland dropped a 128-124 decision to the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics came out on fire, hitting 11 of their 18 threes, many of them wide open, and just about ran the Trail Blazers out of the building.

"We dug ourselves a really deep hole in the first half,” Damian Lillard said. “The reason we came up short was we had to work so hard to get back in it.”

But Boston was solid on offense all game, finishing up at 54.5 percent from the field and a crazy 60 percent from three. That sort of Portland defensive disaster just isn’t going to beat many teams without a heroic effort from the Blazer offense. And that almost happened.

Portland put together a big-time, second-half show at the offensive end -- 38 points in each of the final two quarters, fueled by a 13-23 effort from three-point range -- and took the game down to the final seconds.

At that point, a couple of bad things happened to the Trail Blazers, who had a four-point lead with four minutes to play. Portland allowed the Celts 10 free throws in the final four minutes and they made nine of them. And then there was that crucial decision with 6.8 seconds to play, Portland trailing by three and out of timeouts.

Coach Terry Stotts made it clear after the game that with no timeouts left, his team was looking for a three-point field goal. But the ball was inbounded to Lillard, who had carried his team through much of the second half. And Boston swarmed him.

Lillard had plenty of time and could have probably dribbled out of trouble and gotten off a three-point shot, but he saw Jusuf Nurkic flash wide open in the lane. He passed to Nurkic, who hit a layup, but there were just 3.4 seconds to play and the Blazers, with no timeout left, still trailing by a point.

Boston’s Gordon Hayward hit two free throws and Nurkic’s halfcourt heave in the general direction of Lillard went untouched out of bounds.

It seemed, after a comeback win over Memphis Friday, the Blazers were headed for another exhilarating triumph. But it didn’t happen. The Blazers just couldn't get stops when needed.

There were heroes aplenty for Portland: Lillard had 30 points and 16 assists. Nurkic had 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Gary Trent was huge with 21 points and a 7-11 effort from three.

And again, Stotts used just eight players and rode his two guards hard. Lillard played 44:02 and McCollum 41:08.

And the Houston Rockets, three-point gunners of the highest order, await Tuesday.

''If anything, we'll take away (that) we played extremely well in the second half against a really good team,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ''We know what’s at stake. We don't have any time to have a hangover after a loss.''

Hangovers are a problem. But so is that Portland defense -- as it has been all season. And if it doesn’t get better, the Trail Blazers are going to have to do what they often did during the season’s first segment:

Just hope the other team has a poor shooting night.

Will the Trail Blazers have enough gas in the tank for Boston Sunday afternoon?

Will the Trail Blazers have enough gas in the tank for Boston Sunday afternoon?

The Trail Blazers’ next opponent, the Boston Celtics, will most likely be fresher and better rested than Portland, when they meet Sunday afternoon.

The Celtics lost their opener Friday night, a controversial 119-112 defeat at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks.

No Celtic played more minutes than Gordon Hayward’s 34 and Boston used 10 players in the game. Portland, on the other hand, used just eight players in its overtime win over Memphis and needed CJ McCollum for 46 minutes and Damian Lillard for 45.

The fewest minutes any of the five Trail Blazer starters played was 33, by Jusuf Nurkic.

Boston gave the Eastern Conference leaders a good go and had the game tied at 107 with 1:28 left when Giannis Antetokounmpo drove down the lane for a layup, but was called for a charging foul -- his sixth.

But the call was reviewed and reversed, with the Celtics’ Marcus Smart being called for a block. That meant that instead of Antetokounmpo being out of the game with six fouls and the score tied, he was still on the floor, his shot counted and the Bucks had a two-point lead.

As you might imagine, Smart was not very pleased with the call:

''Quite frankly, I think we know all what that was all about. Giannis' sixth foul and they didn't want to get him out,'' Smart said.

In the teams’ only previous meeting this season, Feb. 25 in Portland, the Celtics coasted to a 118-106 win behind 30 points from Jayson Tatum.

Tatum had a miserable shooting game Friday against the Bucks, making just 2 of his 18 shots, 1 of 2 free throws and scoring 5 points.

The Celtics made just 11 of 37 from three-point range vs. Milwaukee.

Portland, which did not schedule a practice Saturday, and Boston meet Sunday at 12:30, with coverage starting with Blazer Warm-Up at 11:30, on the exclusive home of the Trail Blazers, NBC Sports Northwest.

Damian Lillard after win: 'We just let our experience take over down the stretch'

Damian Lillard after win: 'We just let our experience take over down the stretch'

The Trail Blazer’ first game of the NBA restart was only fitting for Disney World. It was a rollercoaster ride but for Portland fans, it had an ending worthy of the Magic Kingdom.

The Trail Blazers overcame foul trouble and spotty defense to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies 140-135 in overtime.

“All in all, I thought it was a good game,” said CJ McCollum, who hit 14 of his 21 shots to lead his team with 33 points. “Especially for our first time playing together.”

This was a big win for the Trail Blazers, given the fact that it pulled them within two and a half games of the Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff race. And the Portland players and coaching staff did not shy away from the idea that this was pretty close to a must-win game for them.

“In that situation, everybody knew how important this game was,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “To try to sugarcoat it and say, ‘We don’t need this’ -- this is playoff basketball for us. And you need that pressure. And the pressure is going to continue. So you can’t shy away from it.”

The Grizzlies shot 30 free throws in the first half and 50 for the game, which would undermine any defense. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic fouled out and Carmelo Anthony finished with five fouls, 

“We kind of fought foul trouble throughout the game,” Stotts said. “We kind of slowed down in the third quarter, where we were turning the ball over, kind of forcing some things and gave them momentum.

“Give them a lot of credit. They are a really active young team. I was pleased with the way we kept competing. We made some big shots. We didn’t necessarily play with the lead real well in overtime, but it was nice to have an 11-point lead in overtime.

“We finally made some shots. I thought we made some good passes. Spread the court a little bit.

“But to get through that game with Hassan and Nurk and Zach all in foul trouble, Melo had a little foul trouble but we were still able to keep making plays. I thought Dame and CJ, late in the game, obviously made a lot of good plays. Not just scoring the ball but making good reads.”

Portland jumped to a 13-point lead in the second quarter, led by eight at halftime and then fell behind by 11 in the third period. The Blazers still trailed 108-101 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.

But the Trail Blazers sent it into overtime with a couple of clutch corner threes from Anthony inside the final 1:23.

Portland then rattled off the first 11 points of overtime and held off a late run by the Grizzlies to record the win.

It was a taxing night for the Portland guards. Damian Lillard played 45 minutes and scored 29 points and McCollum played 46 to get his 33 points.

Lillard was stretching his legs on the sidelines frequently and was fighting off pain most of the game.

“At the beginning of every season, I always have a little bit of issues and soreness with not my groin, but right above it, where the muscle that attaches my pelvic bone to my abs,” Lillard said. “In the first quarter, I kind of exploded and got around somebody and he bumped me and I kind of caught my balance and I jumped to let a ball in. I think I just overextended, so it was just irritating from the first quarter on.”

And the pain didn’t go away.

“It was pretty much the same the whole time,” Lillard said. “On the sideline, I was doing stretches and riding a bike to try to keep it as loose as possible. If I had just sat in my seat I think it would have tightened up a little too much. I wasn’t going to sit out.”

But he was satisfied with how his team played, especially with the game on the line.

“We all knew coming in it was going to be a battle,” he said. “They are really a high energy young team that plays fast. They play hard.

“We just let our experience take over down the stretch and kept trusting each other. We kept our minds in it. And once it came down to it, I think we were the team that wanted it more.”