Oregon Ducks

Darron Thomas leaving AFL, teams up with Chris Miller in MLFB

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Darron Thomas leaving AFL, teams up with Chris Miller in MLFB

A pair of former Duck QBs have teamed up to take the Major League Football League by storm. 

Before getting into the meat of the article, let’s address the elephant in the room: Just what is the MLFB, exactly? 

Well, quite simply, it’s a spring league that is designed to fill the void in the professional sports landscape to complement other American sports leagues. It’s football for when you wish you could watch football during the spring months.

Wednesday, the MLFB announced Darron Thomas as one of the league eight franchise players. He’ll be coached by former Oregon QB Chris Miller, who currently serves as head coach of the West Linn Lions. 

"Being a part of MLFB from the ground floor is very exciting,” Miller told CSNNW.com. "I enjoy the challenge of building something new and helping make it successful.”

The announcement of Darron Thomas selection as a franchise player in the MLFB spells the end of Thomas’ run in the AFL. 

Originally signed by the Portland Thunder in 2013, Thomas became the cornerstone of the newly created AFL team’s marketing campaign. Thomas struggled at first, though found his stride last season as both a QB and receiver before he went down with a season ending lower leg injury.

On January 6, the AFL took over "ownership and operational control" of the Portland Thunder from owner Terry Emmert "to provide financial and operational support.” After a series of league takeovers and other franchise dissolutions, the AFL has contracted down to just eight teams, according to their official website.

The MLFB, meanwhile, has been building up for a while. While the details surrounding the franchise cities and the schedule still remains up in the air, the MLFB announced last month that it has reached the final stage of negotiations with 14 potential host cities and venues for their inaugural Spring 2016 football season.

Last year the MLFB targeted Eugene, Oregon and Autzen Stadium as a possible location for one of their teams to play.

“It’s something that’s going to happen, former NFL Pro Bowl WR Wes Chandler, President of Major League Football, told John Canzano on 750 The Game last year. "Of course we have to go in and negotiate the stadium lease but yeah we hope that being able to have a franchise there in Eugene is a great place for the simple fact there’s great football played in that region.”

The lease at Autzen Stadium is still in the process of being negotiated. 

Two weeks ago, the league announced a Two-Year Television contract with American Sports Network (“ASN”), a division of Sinclair Networks Group, which is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group. The deal includes broadcasting all regular season and post season games in both 2016 and 2017.

Here are the eight coaches along with their franchise players:

1

Dave Campo

Joe Adams

WR

Arkansas

2

Charlie Collins

Chris Bonner

QB

CSU-Pueblo

3

Ted Cottrell

Taylor Belsterling

WR

Huntingdon

4

Robert Ford

Casey Pachall

QB

Texas Christian

5

Wayne Geis

Emmanuel Stephens

DE

Mississippi

6

Galen Hall

Stephen Garcia

QB

South Carolina

7

Larry Kirksey

Dan LeFevour

QB

Central Michigan

8

Chris Miller

Darron Thomas

QB

Oregon

Thomas, a Houston native, completed his career at Oregon with a 24-3 record, with two consecutive Pac-12 titles, and a win in the 2012 Rose Bowl and an appearance at the BCS National Championship Game. In two years as the Ducks full-time quarterback, Thomas threw for over 5,000 yards and 63 touchdowns. He opted for the NFL Draft, though went undrafted. Since then, Thomas has played in the CFL, CPI and the AFL and even participated in the NFL’s first ever Veterans’ Combine. The MLFB will be his next challenge. 

His coach, Chris Miller, is a two-time first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback from the University of Oregon and drafted 13th overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 1987. He played ten seasons in the NFL before he began coaching. Coaching both at South Eugene High School (twice) and West Linn High School, where he currently coaches, Miller also spent four seasons as the quarterbacks coach of the Arizona Cardinals. In 2005, Miller was inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.  

"Darron Thomas seems like a fine young man,” Miller wrote via text message to CSN. "He had a terrific college career. Now I want to see if I can him translate it to professional football...I'm excited to reunite with a former Duck great!"

 

UPDATE: 


Chris Miller selected former Ducks Mark Asper (OL) in the second round of the MLFB Draft, as well as wide receiver Rahsaan Vaughn in the 3rd round. 

Other locals: Beavers WR Micah Hatfield was selected in the 10th round and Vikings receiver Casey Kloss was taken in the 11th round, all by Miller. 

Oregon Ducks look to fly high over conference-leading Washington Huskies

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Oregon Ducks look to fly high over conference-leading Washington Huskies

The Oregon Ducks men's basketball team came away from the Arizona desert with one win over the Wildcats in their first road trip of Pac-12 Conference play.

While the Ducks looked like a team who could dance in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament on Thursday, the team we saw Saturday against the Arizona State Sun Devils had us wondering if the losses of Bol Bol and Abu Kigab have spoiled the Ducks’ chances of a successful season.

UO will have another tough test Thursday, as they welcome the unscathed Washington Huskies, who are 5-0 for the first time since 1983-84 when it opened Pac-10 play 6-0.

Let’s preview Oregon and Washington.

Records: Oregon (11-3, 2-3), Washington (14-4, 5-0)

Wounded Ducks: Oregon now has nine healthy scholarship players with the return of Kenny Wooten, who previously missed four games with a broken jaw injury. Bol Bol (season-ending injury) and Abu Kigab (transfer) are out. Paul White missed practice this week after suffering a right ankle injury last week against Arizona State. He is not expected to miss any time this week. 

Record Watch: Just one week after Payton Pritchard joined Oregon’s 1000 point club, the junior guard is on record watch again. Pritchard, who has 393 assists, is just seven assists shy of becoming the sixth player in program history with 1000 points and 400 career assists.

Fun Fact: Oregon's current streak of six consecutive victories against Washington is the Ducks' longest in 80 years.

King, climbing up the Pac-12: Freshman Louis King continues to climb up in the Pac-12 standings, as he’s currently ranked No. 5 in scoring and No. 4 in rebounding in conference games.

Huskies to watch: Matisse Thybulle is one of the players named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watchlist. He is the only player averaging 2.72 steals per game and 2.33 blocks per game on a national level. Jaylen Nowell has recorded six 20-point games this season with three coming in the last five games. UW has had six different players lead the team in scoring though 18 games.

How and where to watch

Time: Thursday, January 24, 6 p.m.

Where: Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, Oregon

TV: ESPN2

Back to basics for Oregon State with the Washington schools coming to town

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Back to basics for Oregon State with the Washington schools coming to town

The Oregon State men’s basketball team was a perfect 3-0 in Pac-12 conference play before running into a wall that was Arizona and Arizona State. After back-to-back losses in the desert, the Beavers return home to face their rivals up north in Washington State and Washington. 

On Tuesday, head coach Wayne Tinkle addressed the media regarding the struggles Oregon State encountered in Arizona: “We didn’t defend very well and didn’t rebound. That’s simple, but it’s what it came down to…”

“I don’t know if anyone has had a tougher go at the first five games,” says Tinkle of their start to conference play. “At Oregon, at Arizona’s, vs. L.A.’s at home. We weren’t happy with how we played, but knowing where we stand right now with five out of the next seven at home, we’re in a good spot. Just got to get back to doing the things we’re supposed to.” 

Let’s preview Washington State and Washington:

Records: Oregon State (11-6, 3-2 Pac-12); Washington State (8-10, 1-4 Pac-12); Washington (14-4, 5-0 Pac-12)

Game times: WSU @ OSU: 8 PM (PT) tipoff on Thursday, Jan. 24; UW @ OSU: 1 PM (PT) tipoff on Saturday, Jan. 26.

Players to watch for (Washington State Cougars):

This is Robert Franks’ team. The senior forward has stuck with head coach Ernie Kent’s program through think and thin. This season, Franks is averaging 21.5 points per game and 7.8 rebounds, but has missed several games due to injury. He returned last week vs. California and Stanford. 

His counterpart is junior Carter Skaggs, who has the 6’5” 215 lbs frame of a brick wall with a killer jump shot. Alongside Skaggs is shifty CJ Elleby, who in his freshman season is averaging 15.8 points per game and 7.0 rebounds per game, which is huge from the guard position. 

Matchup to watch: Elleby/Franks vs. Thompson Jr./Tinkle. In order to slow down Elleby and Franks, the key is to make them uncomfortable by matching their physicality and pace.

Note: WSU head coach Ernie Kent is 20-12 all-time against Oregon State as a head coach, including his 13 years at Oregon. 

 

Players to watch for (Washington Huskies): 

The Huskies love to play a typical 2-3 defensive zone, and why would they do anything else when you’ve got 6’5” guard Matisse Thybulle with his 7’ wingspan. Thybulle is leading the conference in steals per game (2.7), and blocks per game (2.3). 

On the offensive side of the ball, you have to shadow sophomore guard Jaylen Nowell, who is the fifth leading scorer in the conference (16.7 ppg) and is very, very good at creating a shot for himself. Alongside Nowell is senior guard David Crisp, who has started every game since his sophomore season. HIs game experience and basketball I.Q. is a huge asset to this young Huskies team. 

Senior forward Noah Dickerson has played in 30+ games for the Huskies since his freshman season (2015-2016). Now, as a senior, he is still dominating under the basket. He may not be the leading scorer or grab as many rebounds as someone of his size should, however, he is the emotional leader of this team.

Matchup to watch: Dickerson vs. Kylor Kelley. Recently named to the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year midseason watchlist and with good reason: he leads the Pac-12 conference in blocks per game (3.9). One advantage Dickerson has over Kelley though is a big one, quite literally: Dickerson is 30 pounds heavier. Kelley must match Dickerson’s aggression.

The Huskies do not score a lot of points. In fact, they are currently 10th in the conference at ppg (72.6). It is their defense powered by that zone that make them difficult. If the Beavers can find their rhythm from behind the arc as well as rebound the ball and get second chance opportunities, Oregon State may run away with this one. 

Note: Early tipoff. The scheduled 1 PM (PT) tipoff is the earliest game that the Beavers have played so far during the regular season. It will be vitally important to start quickly especially against the Huskies. 

Evan Turner rocks the cradle again...right back to Portland

Evan Turner rocks the cradle again...right back to Portland

Evan Turner has a message for Russell Westbrook: Nobody puts baby in the corner.

After scoring on Westbrook in the second quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Turner celebrated by creating his own version of Westbrook’s iconic “rock the baby” celebration, and oh, it was glorious. 

Apparently, Turner’s move didn’t sit well with Westbrook, who clapped back at the Blazers' guard/forward following the game.

“I didn’t even see it,” Westbrook said. “He can rock it right back to Portland.”

Turner took to social media on Wednesday to defend his celebration, saying that he had no regrets throwing it down on the seven-time NBA All-Star, who finished with yet another triple-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.

“Stop outing me for the rock the cradle joint,” Turner said. “I thought it was funny, always wanted to do it. Does Russ not do it? He does. Did he do it to two of my teammates? Correct.”

He continued: “Russ is amazing at a lot of things, triple double, all that stuff. But I posted him up. I scored on him…But did I know if he posted up a smaller defender what that means? Yeah I did, and that’s what happened. So, deal with it.”

Turner wasn’t the only player Westbrook had issues with on Tuesday. He trash-talked Damian Lillard while shooting free throws in the fourth quarter, then exchanged fake laughs with Jusuf Nurkic after having a jumper blocked by the Bosnian Beast.

The distaste for Nurkic carried on following the game, when Westbrook seemingly mumbled “I ain’t talking about this clown,” when asked about fighting through screens from Nurkic. 

Nurkic clowned Westbrook on social media after the video was released, sharing a tweet with Westbrook’s signature shoe catchphrase.

“'Why Not' Westbrick,” Nurkic said with crying emojis.

The two teams definitely have some beef to sort out. The Blazers and Thunder next square up on Feb. 11 in Oklahoma City. 

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers fell to the Thunder

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed as the Blazers fell to the Thunder

On the second night of a back-to-back, the Portland Trail Blazers had their hands full with Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Like Monday’s night against the Utah Jazz, Portland struggled from three-point range, finishing only 9-31 from behind the arc. But a late-game surge from CJ McCollum kept the Blazers within two possessions with 42.8 seconds left.

Portland put itself in position to win, but two missed shots from McCollum and Damian Lillard and a buzzer-beater miss from Al-Farouq Aminu left the Blazers shy of a comeback.

Here’s a look at everything you might have missed as the Blazers loss to the Thunder 123-114.

Despite Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum scoring a combined 65 points, and Jusuf Nurkic dropping 22 points and 15 rebounds, the Blazers seemed one player short on Tuesday night.

Portland’s starting forwards Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu were a combined 1-11 from the floor, which is simply not enough to put the Blazers in position to win.

Dwight Jaynes noted Portland’s scoring needs at the forward position: Trail Blazers have a Big 3 -- but still need one more piece up front

With the loss in Oklahoma City, the Blazers are now 9-13 on the road and 29-20 overall, but the third quarter streak is still alive. When the Blazers are trailing in the fourth quarter, Portland is 0-20. But when they lead heading into the fourth, that’s right, the Blazers are 29-0.

Jamie Hudson shared some thoughts on the streaking Blazers: CJ McCollum rises up in the third quarter, but the streak lives on

Dwight Jaynes, Jamie Hudson and Chris Burkhardt shared some quick thoughts from the scene immediately after the game: Rapid Reaction: Quick takeaways from the Blazers loss to the Thunder

Trail Blazers have a Big 3 -- but still need one more piece up front

Trail Blazers have a Big 3 -- but still need one more piece up front

OKLAHOMA CITY – Now that the Trail Blazers have their Big Three, on some nights against the better teams, they still seem to be one player short.

Damian Lillard scored 34 points on 12-24 shooting and CJ McCollum had 31 on 11-23 shooting. But the Trail Blazers, in spite of getting 22 points and 15 rebounds from Jusuf Nurkic, came up way short at the forward positions and dropped a 123-114 game to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Portland’s starting forwards combined for four points on 1-11 shooting. And by the way, the OKC starting forwards went for 47 points on 14-29 shooting, including 5-8 from three-point range.

That, of course, included Paul George’s big game – 36 points, eight rebounds, four assists and five steals.

When asked afterward why he went with the starting forwards – Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu – down the stretch, Portland Coach Terry Stotts said simply, “Because Paul George is a really good offensive player and I liked that defensive matchup.”

How did that work out? Weren’t those the same guys George scored a lot of his points off of?

“Paul George is a great player and the last time we played them he had two points in the fourth quarter and that’s the matchup we went with," Stotts said.

OK, not trying to be argumentative here, but George was pretty much getting what he wanted all night long, regardless of who was guarding him. And that’s no slight toward the Portland defenders – in today’s NBA game the great offensive players are usually stopped only by themselves.

At some point, I think coaches need to surrender to that and make the call to go with their best offensive players to try to keep pace.

I don’t know how many more points George would have gotten off of Jake Layman or  anyone else the Blazers could have thrown at him. Portland did try just about everyone and nobody could stop him. But I also know that some of the other players would have countered those George baskets with some of their own.

So why not go with a player who could get you some of those points back at your offensive end?

Layman is starting to come into his own as an offensive player and we have no idea what his ceiling is, right? We do know what Harkless and Aminu can do because we’ve seen it for the last few seasons – and they aren’t difference makers. As a team that needs to make a stride upward to get where it wants to go, why not try something new?

And really, there are others who might help.

Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins all had decent offensive games off the bench. Leonard, in particular, can shoot. Turner can score at the post and make plays.

Why not surrender one of those starting forward positions to somebody else and see what happens? It’s pretty obvious by now there is no major trade possibility of filling that hole. Why not give a developing player a golden opportunity to grow into a valuable contributor?

One scout during this road trip told me that with Nurkic playing the way he is, he thought Portland was only one wing player away from being a factor in the West.

And don’t we know already that neither of the starting forwards is that player?

Harkless went 0-4 from the floor and at least three of the misses were layups. Aminu was 1-7 (0-5 from three) and his basket was meaningless, the last one of the game.

It is not clear how the Trail Blazers are going to make any progress in the Western Conference until they come up with a forward who can score, or at least fool the defense into thinking he can, so that the floor can be spread.

Layman, Collins or Leonard are all worth a try but Layman’s recent auditions make him the first in line.

The Blazers were battling uphill all night long and got the solid game from Jusuf Nurkic – but a whopping 19 turnovers crept in to kill any comeback attempts.

“It’s always frustrating anytime you lose,” Lillard said “But I thought we competed hard. A lot of stuff we did hurt ourselves. We know they steal the ball.

“Down the stretch we needed to do a much better job of valuing those possessions and getting up a shot.”

CJ McCollum rises up in the third quarter, but the streak lives on

CJ McCollum rises up in the third quarter, but the streak lives on

At times there were mirror images from what happened in the Blazers-Jazz game on Monday night to what happened in the Blazers-Thunder game on Tuesday night.

Number one, the Trail Blazers struggled to shoot from three once again, particularly in the first half. Secondly, a Trail Blazer player caught fire in the third quarter once again.

On Monday night it was Jusuf Nurkic.

On Tuesday night it was CJ McCollum.

The biggest difference, though, between Monday’s Western Conference showdown and Tuesday’s was that the Blazers were not victorious on Tuesday. Oklahoma City beat Portland, 123-114.

The Trail Blazers now fall to 9-13 on the road and 29-20 overall.

THE STREAK LIVES ON

It’s no secret that the third quarters have been critical for this Blazers team this season. Portland now goes to 0-20 when trailing heading into the fourth quarter.

It looked as though the Blazers were going to have that all-important lead with the way McCollum was shooting from three.

McCollum scored 21 of his 31 points in the third quarter and for the game he tied a career high seven made three-pointers after going 7-of-12.

“I just tried to be aggressive, tried to take advantage of pin downs, flares, read the defense and really take advantage of some movement with the ball. They did a good job setting screens. Dame did a good job of recognizing some of the movement sets that put me in a position to have an advantage,” McCollum told reporters after the game.

“Just good to see the ball go in,” McCollum added. 

McCollum was one of the only Blazers to get going from three and rise up against the illustrious Thunder defense. Portland was down, 99-87 after three quarters.  

“They’re a long, active team, so some shots aren’t gonna be there, so when you get a three-pointer or you get an advantage in some of those pin downs or flares, you’ve got to rise up – and that’s what I did,” McCollum said.

As a team, the Blazers shot 27.8% from deep.

TURNOVERS = RUNS

OKC was doing what they’ve done all season-- force turnovers.

According to Blazers head coach Terry Stotts that was the number one reason for the loss:

“I think the biggest difference in the game was are turnovers that they created. They got out in transition. The two quarters that we lost, we had six turnovers in each of those quarters and that just fueled their runs, I felt,” Stotts said postgame.

Portland committed 19 turnovers for the game and Oklahoma City cashed in on those TOs with 29 points. With the Thunder getting 16 steals on the night that lead to 28 fastbreak points in comparison the Blazers’ six fastbreak points. OKC is number one in the NBA in steals per game with 10.4.

The Thunder were also able to cash in from behind the arc. OKC went 11-of-23 from three as opposed to the Blazers shooting 10-of-36 from long distance.

Despite being happy to see his three-point shot fall once again, McCollum knew that his third quarter flurry didn’t matter with too many turnovers on the night.

“Turnovers hurt us, I had about four tonight and that led directly to baskets for them, easy baskets. Playing in a back-to-back you’ve got to really take care of the ball… Giving yourself a chance to score is important and I think that far too often tonight, we turned it over,” McCollum said.

The Thunder currently ranked third in the league in defensive rating at 104.4.

Oklahoma City is also the top team in the association when it comes to making the most off their opponents’ turnovers. The Thunder are averaging 20.8 points off turnovers this season.  

“They’re a good defensive team. They’re long, they’re active, they play the passing lanes, their bigs are up and aggressive. They contest at the rim as well. They’re a good team,” McCollum said.

Tuesday night was an active and aggressive night all around, not just from the Thunder’s defense. From start to finish it was a physical game.

There’s no doubt, Portland wishes they could have this one back, but to split the current back-to-back against two defensive minded teams, who are above .500, and in the extremely tough Northwest Division, I think most Blazer fans are accepting of this 1-1 record.

Plus, the Blazers still have two more chances against the Thunder, with the most recent one just around the corner. Portland and OKC square off again in Oklahoma City on February 11th.

Mark it down for another aggressive game.  

Rapid Reaction: Quick takeaways from the Blazers loss to the Thunder

Rapid Reaction: Quick takeaways from the Blazers loss to the Thunder

Dame and CJ's effort wasn't enough to eclipse Russell Westbrook, Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Box Score: Thunder 123, Blazers 114

Dwight Jaynes (Trail Blazers Insider in Oklahoma City): 

Chris Burkhardt (producer in Oklahoma City): Defense was an issue all night for the Blazers. Seven different players scored for the Thunder. That's not the problem. The problem is that six of those seven scored in double figures. To top if off, Paul George just couldn't be stopped. We can say it's ok because it was the second game of a back-to-back, but it was also second game of a back-to-back for OKC. Both teams had their ups and downs, and OKC just had the better night. On to the next.

Jamie Hudson (Trail Blazers reporter): The Blazers continued to struggle from three-point range in the first half vs. the Thunder, just as they did on Monday night against the Jazz. However, CJ McCollum started heating up from long distance in the third to help keep the Blazers close. The problem for Portland was that the Thunder always had an answer when McCollum and the Blazers would go on a run in the third. With the Blazers trailing heading into the fourth quarter, it looked as though Damian Lillard was determined to break that streak of losing every game after trailing after three quarters. Lillard's defense was impressive throughout the game and he turned it up even more in the 4th. He also took it upon himself to get to the basket in the final quarter. This was a very physical game, but in the end, OKC proved to be too much for Portland and the Blazers can't end that third quarter losing streak... Not yet.

---

Check back later for videos and analysis from the locker room.

Oregon football expected to hire Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson

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Oregon football expected to hire Washington State linebackers coach Ken Wilson

There just may be a new linebackers coach heading to town and his name is Ken Wilson. Rumored on Tuesdat this week, Mario Cristobal is expected to hire Wilson from Washington State University to fill the void former Oregon outside linebackers coach Cort Dennison (now to Louisville) left behind. 

Bruce Feldman was the first to report. 

If Cristobal was looking for somebody with experience, boy will he get it. Wilson spent 19 years of his coaching career with the University of Nevada before making his way north to Pullman, WA where he spent the last six seasons with the Cougars on Mike Leach’s staff. He also has experience coaching the defensive line and secondary. 

In the 2018 season, the Cougars lead the Pac-12 conference in sacks (38), yards lost on sacks (270), and fumbles recovered (11). Wilson coached redshirt-freshman Jahad Woods who was recognized by SB Nation on the Pac-12 All-Freshman First Team while redshirt-freshman Justus Rogers was a second-team selection, according to his bio on the team’s website. 

Wilson would be the third coach that the Ducks have hired away from Washington State: defensive line coach Joe Salave’a in 2017 and running backs coach Jim Mastro in 2018.

Current Oregon linebacker roster:

One of the biggest keys during any coaching transition is the current roster. Inside linebacker Troy Dye is returning for his senior year and alongside him stands junior outside linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr.. Two (now) seniors that have lots of familiarity playing with one another should make for a smoother transition for Wilson as well as inside linebackers coach Jim Leavitt. 

Along with Winston Jr., the Ducks’ depth at outside linebacker consists of sophomore D.J. Johnson, sophomore Keith Simms, freshmen Andrew Johnson Jr., Anthony Booker, and bringing in four-star recruit Mase Funa.  

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

Tonight is the second of four meetings between Portland and Oklahoma City this season. The Thunder took the first matchup, 111-109, back on January 4th at Moda Center. In that loss, Damian Lillard missed a potential go-ahead three-pointer with 1.5 seconds to go in the game.

As both teams get set to play in the second night of a back-to-back, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan addressed the media prior to tonight’s game.

Coach Donovan discussed what his team needs to do defend the Trail Blazers trio of Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic.

“The guys on the ball can’t worry about the pocket passes (from Nurkic). Nurkic is a great passer. You look at their assist numbers and how they’ve really risen since the last time we played against them, I think a lot of that has to do with Nurkic’s passing ability. So, you’ve got to be up in coverage,” Donovan said.

Donovan really emphasized both individual and team defense in what will be a key to tonight’s game and to their future success.  

Hear from Coach Donovan:

Coach Stotts talked about how his team is able to respond in the second night of a back-to-back, especially since this game is so important with the Blazers and Thunder neck-and-neck in the Western Conference standings. 

Maurice Harkless is not listed on the Blazers injury report today despite it being a back-to-back. Coach Stotts views that as progress with Harkless dealing with left knee soreness throughout the season.

“He only played 18 minutes last night and the way we approach it is… hopefully he’s able to play every game, and if he’s not, he’s not,” Stotts said.

It wasn’t as if Harkless was on an 18-minute restriction last night, it was more that Coach Stotts wanted to stick with Jake Layman in the rotation with Layman playing so well against the Jazz in the Blazers win on Monday night.  

Hear from Coach Stotts right here: