What should we expect from the Blazers' young bigs without Jusuf Nurkic?

What should we expect from the Blazers' young bigs without Jusuf Nurkic?

Next season won't start out with much clarity for the Portland Trail Blazers. We don't know when Jusuf Nurkic will return to the court, as his broken leg carries a wide array of potential recovery times. It’s been posited that Nurkic might not return until the All-Star break in 2020. 

That means the Blazers will have to make do with the big man rotation they have on hand. We don't know whether Enes Kanter will return to Rip City, although his strong play throughout his time in Oregon suggests he will be too expensive.

That leaves the Blazers with both Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard under contract and presumably opening the season in Multnomah county, barring any trades.

Last season was the best value over replacement player year in Leonard's career, and he saw little upticks that increased his effectiveness. Leonard had a monster year from 3-point range, shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc. He got to the free-throw line more, and had his best-ever assist percentage. Leonard's increased production came with a decreased usage rate, meaning he got better despite touching the ball less. If you’ve paid attention to his career, you know that’s a leap for the big man from Illinois.

Leonard is in the 99th percentile in terms of 3-point shooting for big men, but it's not all come from behind the arc. Leonard also shot 76 percent at the rim this season according to Cleaning the Glass, putting him in the 92nd percentile. His eFG% was through the roof, and his assist percentage was excellent for his position.

The complaint Blazers fans may have at this point is Leonard's defense. But Leonard doesn’t defend the rim all that often based on where he’s at on the floor. In fact, for bench players over 6-foot-10 who logged at least 55 games, Leonard defended the rim the third-least according to NBA.com. He was only behind Jonas Jerebko and Davis Bertans, which is an example of how and where he’s used on the basketball court. It’s just not that important for Leonard to be a shot-blocking rim stopper despite the conventional attachment to that role given his size.

Most importantly, Leonard was a shooter at the forward position when Portland needed it. Leonard’s 3-point acumen was a cup of water in a desert, particularly in the playoffs. Terry Stotts’ rotation shortened, and wing minutes concentrated between Moe Harkless, Evan Turner, and Al-Farouq Aminu. All three had poor shooting postseasons, and Leonard's ability to stretch the floor helped the Blazers.

So where does that slot him next season? 

Leonard has remained with Portland because Neil Olshey has made a specific gamble on value in terms of shooting. The Blazers can’t easily add a two-way wing player who can shoot the basketball. Make no bones about it — they are definitely looking — but Portland has been searching for that player for several years. In the meantime, it seems the front office has decided the most available option is to continue to round Leonard into shape. It makes sense: he's already on the roster, and his contract isn’t in question.

Collins has supercharged his already accelerated schedule. He played heavy minutes in his first year, then intermittently over the course of last season. He saw more action after Nurkic's injury in March, and was particularly useful as Kanter’s shoulder bothered him during the playoffs.

Although a thumb injury bothered him and started to affect his shooting in the postseason, Collins was one of the best defenders for his size and role. The second-year big man had an excellent block percentage, and performed well as a bench player over 6-foot-10 in defending the rim. He had the sixth-best defensive field goal percentage inside of six feet this season. That was critical as Collins was one of the NBA’s most-used bench bigs in defending the painted area this season.

As was expected for a player of his age and at his position, Collins struggled with both turnovers and fouling at various points over the year. His foul rate was poor, and he ranked in the 18th percentile in turnover percentage for players at his position. 

In opposition to Leonard, the biggest problem for Collins was his offense. His monthly splits fluctuated, in one month shooting 50 percent from 3-point range and another 20%. He didn't make a single 3-pointer in 82 minutes played in the month of February. Collins’ confidence seemed to leave him from week-to-week, and his 3-point attempt rate was indicative of that. He shot 39% of his attempts as threes last season, but that dipped to 30 percent this year. 

When Collins was given steady playing time in the playoffs, he looked like a more confident shooter. He hit about the same rate of long buckets (probably because of his thumb) but his gravity shifted opposing defenses and allowed the Blazers more chances to roam.

Both Collins and Leonard represent different challenges for Stotts' rotation next season. Leonard is a more rounded out player, but is less impactful depending on the defensive matchup. Still, we don't know who will return to the Blazers next season and whether the team will be able to fix their fatal flaw in wing 3-point shooting. As long as that remains, Leonard has a place on this team.

Collins is on a normal arc for an NBA big man. He has struggled... looked lost… and dominated in ways that have surprised fans in Rip City. 

Earlier in the year, I did a video on Collins’ sudden drop in defensive usefulness. My conclusion, oddly, was that there was a shift in the benefit NBA referees were giving him on defense. As players become more established in this league, they often get called for fewer fouls if they are known as defensive stoppers. That seems like the path that Collins is heading down, so I expect to see him be even more effective next year.

The Blazers will have a hard time filling the role of Jusuf Nurkic. He's an excellent defender, and his position as a passer in the high post was a real treat to watch last season. It opened up Portland's offense, which has grown slightly stale. Both Leonard and Collins can add more shooting to this Blazers roster, but they won't be able to make up for everything Nurkic provides. 

It's easy to get lost in the fact that Portland still needs help on the wing. But the Blazers big men are coming along, and this season’s effort should mean some guarantee of production in 2019-20.

ET and Moe take on Paris

USA Today

ET and Moe take on Paris

The Blazers offseason is in full swing and thanks to social media we have a great idea of what our favorite players are doing all summer long. 

Meyers Leonard is taking his talents to YouTube, Evan Turner and Maurice Harkless are taking over Paris, while CJ McCollum is in China. 

Here is a quick look back at some of the Blazers best social media posts of the last week. 

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Maurice Harkless (@moe_harkless) on

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Mercí, Paris

A post shared by evan turner (@evanturner) on

Damian Lillard wasn't hitting the vacation road, but he did stop on Instagram to take the time to say goodbye to assistant coach David Vanterpool. Vanterpool is leaving the organization to become an assistant coach in Minnesota, and Lillard had some parting words for this friend and mentor. 

Meyers Leonard joining FaZe Clan

USA Today

Meyers Leonard joining FaZe Clan

Remember when you were growing up and your parents always yelled at you for playing video games? "Video games won't pay the bills" they would say. Oh, how wrong they were.

In 2019 eSports is a billion dollar industry that attracts celebrities and pro athletes to its corner of video game world. 

On Wednesday, Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard announced that he is taking his love for video games to the next level, by joining professional eSports organization, FaZe Clan.

Leonard has been streaming on Twitch all season long, and has become a must watch for those that are both fans of the Blazers and the gaming community. 

For those who don't what Twitch is, it's a streaming service where people can go to watch other people play video games, not just to watch, but to learn and enjoy the social aspects of the community. 

You can watch Leonard here. 

We know when we will see Leonard on the court repping the Blazers again, but when we will see him in the eSports arena repping Faze Clan?


Elle Leonard's trick shots keep breaking the internet


Elle Leonard's trick shots keep breaking the internet

Here is a life lesson that all basketball fans should write down and keep in their back pocket, just in case they forget: NEVER challenge Elle Leonard to a game of H.O.R.S.E.

Leonard loves to work on her basketball game and has been posting videos to social media all season long. She hits them left-handed. She hits them right-handed. She hits them underhanded. Heck, she's even hit them over her shoulder with her back to the basket. 

Now she's stepping her game it up. Her latest trick shot - going with a ball in each hand and shooting them at the same time. The result, as you would expect - Nothing be net.

Oh, I forgot to mention these weren't just normal shots. Leonard took the balls from the rack, dribbled both of them to the corner, and shot both of them all in one fluid motion. I can't explain it well enough, so watch the video below for yourself.


Breaking down how Meyers Leonard scored a career-high 30 points in Game 4 vs. the Warriors

Breaking down how Meyers Leonard scored a career-high 30 points in Game 4 vs. the Warriors

The Portland Trail Blazers are out of the playoffs but they did get to the Western Conference Finals, and one of the reasons they were so competitive and Games 3 and 4 against the Golden State Warriors was Meyers Leonard. He pretty much could not be stopped in the first half, and Leonard finished with 30 points and 12 rebounds, smashing home five 3-pointers.

Leonard got it going early thanks to the Blazers offense sharing the ball and making the right read. Cutters reacted to help defenders properly, and hockey assists put Leonard on the board early.

It helped that Leonard wasn’t shy about pulling the trigger, which is always a question of concern for him. Golden State dared Moe Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu to shoot all series long, but when they did the same thing against Leonard, it backfired on them.

Leonard petered out in the second half, partly due to his defenders staying higher and tighter on him and partly because Portland’s wing players made poorer decisions with the ball when he was open.

When Leonard was above the 3-point line in the second half, his defender no longer sagged into the lane, instead staying tight on him so he couldn’t get any space for 3-point buckets. 

Eventually the Warriors began to fully switch the 1-5 pick-and-roll with Leonard and Damian Lillard, putting Kevon Looney onto the Blazers PG and Klay Thompson on Leonard. That stalled his progress a little bit as well.

Leonard's Game 4 might not be remembered the way it would have had Portland won, but it's an example of what he can bring to the table and why management has been willing to stick with him for so long.

Watch the full video breakdown above to re-live the best game of Meyers Leonard's career.

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Olshey: "Everyone who comes through here has gotten better"

Olshey: "Everyone who comes through here has gotten better"

It was exit-interview day for the Portland Trail Blazers, the final chance for the media to interview the key players, coach and management of one of the most surprising teams in the franchise’s 49-year history.

There weren’t a lot of shocking happenings – other than President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey announcing that the team has extended the contract of head coach Terry Stotts. But that wasn’t much of a surprise, either, since Stotts had just engineered a run to the Western Conference finals for a team predicted before the season to win 42 games and miss the playoffs.

The pertinent video is on this website and I invite you to peruse it, but in the interest of time, let me hit a few of the highlights for you, in order of the players’ appearance:

CJ McCollum: “It was an incredible season based on what we went through. Expectations weren’t that high. It was a pretty incredible year.”

Meyers Leonard: “The last two games were what I know in my heart I can do. Heading into this offseason I feel very confident in what I’ve done. I’m happy to know I feel I gave the staff and the organization confidence in me. I’m going to come back next year ready for a more definite role.”

Evan Turner: “It was dope. We did a lot of great things this season. We went from being a playoff-caliber team to a potential championship-caliber team. We’re legit.”

Al-Farouq Aminu: “I’ve been here four years now. It’s the longest I’ve ever been at one organization. I don’t think you heard me complain too much.”

Damian Lillard: “People who might not have believed before, people who thought I was crazy for thinking we could push that far, now I’m sure a lot of people believe it more than they did before. We were coming off a sweep in the first round (last season). It’s a great feeling just to know, OK, we had a 15-plus lead in three of the four games. We know that we were capable of winning those games. And if those things go our way, we’re looking at going to the Finals.”

Maurice Harkless: “Overall, we have a lot to be proud of this season. We would have liked a better outcome. But that’s a huge accomplishment by us as a team.”

Enes Kanter: “It’s been an amazing experience. This team made me a better person and a better player. It was the best thing that ever happened in my career.”

Rodney Hood: “I’m not sure (about his free-agency). Obviously, we know it’s a business. We’ll see how everything works out this summer. I’m on the record with how much I love it here and I want to be back. I want to be embraced. That’s a big word that means a lot to me. Whether that equals to a dollar amount,  that’s what I’m looking for.”

Zach Collins: “(On whether he’d like to be a starter next season) Yeah, absolutely. I think this playoff run, not only for myself but for the team, it was a great experience. And now we’ve been there and we know what to expect. For me personally, going through that and being able to play a big role and help our team win a lot of games the playoffs, I’ve already learned so much, just in the last month in the playoffs.”

Anfernee Simons: “(The last game of the regular season) obviously gave me a lot of confidence. It was a good kick-start for the summer. (And in the summer league) I want to prove myself. I am young but I’m still able to play with the best of them. I can’t wait.”

Neil Olshey: “(On Stotts’ contract extension) We win every year. It’s year No. 7 – six straight playoff appearances. Two division titles. A trip to the conference finals. And we still have one of the youngest rosters in the league. But it goes beyond wins and losses. It’s alignment, partnership, Our young players develop. It’s a commitment to a longer-term view. One of the things I’m most proud of is everyone who comes through here has gotten better.”

Terry Stotts: “(On where he ranks on the list of Trail Blazer coaches) Doctor Jack (Ramsay)  is a Hall of Famer and Rick Adelman will be. I’m not going to touch those guys. They are idols of mine. I don’t even presume to be in that category. There have been a lot of great coaches here.”

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

It was a great season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you anything different.

It doesn’t really matter that the Golden State Warriors completed the sweep of the Trail Blazers with a 119-117 overtime win Monday night in the Moda Center.

In the big picture, it’s meaningless, really. The Blazers weren't going to win the championship, anyway. The Warriors were always going to be too much for them and perhaps everyone else in the league.

The Trail Blazers accomplished too much this season to allow the outcome of this series to spoil what they did.

This was a team that Las Vegas figured might win 42 games. It was a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs and, after the devastating injury to Jusuf Nurkic certainly wasn’t expected to win many playoff games, let alone a series.

But the Blazers won enough to capture the third seed in the Western Conference, then knocked off Oklahoma City in five games and won a seventh game on the road to decide their series with the Denver Nuggets.

This was a big step for this team, which can now go into next season knowing they were in the NBA’s Final Four and played the defending champions tough in three of the four games.

“I think it’s more than just the playoff run,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “I think the fact that we had a very good regular season, the fact that we were able to win two series, we were competitive in this series, even though it was a sweep – we played competitively.

“But I think (next season) is a long way away from now. I think when that time comes, we’ll be able to reflect. I think it’s a little too early to look at how this series helps us right now. Right now, it kind of stings.”

Damian Lillard, the captain, was not at all reluctant to put this accomplishment in perspective.
“It’s the Western Conference finals,” he said. “The other night after our game, I was looking for another game on TV and I was like, there’s two series going on right now and we’re one of them. For me, we’ve shown what we’re capable of. We can get it done. And our route here was as hard as anybody’s.
“We played the Thunder, great team. We played Denver, great team. So it wasn’t like we just eased our way in. We earned this. We got here. I think we showed this is who we are.

“This is what we’ve capable of. It’s not like some random thing. We’re in the playoffs every year. We bounce back every year regardless of how it ends. And this year we pushed it even further. So I think we showed we have it in us.

“So now we take this experience and move forward again. Obviously, you don’t want to go out with a sweep. We could have easily won every game. We just didn’t. Just got to keep going.

“We’ve shown that what we’ve been believing in and what we hang our hats on, works. That has taken time. We’ve invested a lot in our culture and our togetherness and that stuff. We’ve proven that works.

“We just ran up on a high-powered team and we still played well enough to beat them, but it was just those small lapses, those stretches when you give a game away against a team like that.”

Monday’s Game 4 was a lot like the previous two games, Portland frittered away a 17-point lead in the face of a Warrior charge and missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Lillard’s right-handed hook shot trickled over the rim and then had another game-winner at the end of overtime when his three-pointer from the right corner missed.

What separated this game from all the others in the series, though, was the emergence of Meyers Leonard, not only in the starting lineup for the second straight game, but as a major factor in the game.

Leonard played 40:11, scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead his team in both categories. He was 10-12 from the field in the first half with 25 points but got only four shots in the second half.

But for a man whom Stotts had buried on the Blazer bench for a good portion of his seven seasons with the team, it was a big coming-out party.

And it left serious questions about why he hasn’t been used more frequently by a team that often hungers for another outside shooter. Leonard hit 5 of his 8 three-point shots in the game.

“Again, he, the first half was outstanding,” Stotts said. “Twenty-five points and he was playing with a lot of confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3. And again, he played well and I’m happy for him.”

I would say Leonard was outstanding for more than the first half, he just didn’t get the ball much after intermission and that wasn’t his fault. Stotts normally throws compliments Leonard’s way about as frequently as it snows here in July.

But Golden State Coach Steve Kerr was willing.

“Meyers Leonard was fantastic,” Kerr said. “I thought the game softened up when Meyers Leonard started making threes. We had to make some adjustments and as soon as we did that, Damian’s eyes lit up. He started to see single coverage and he got going.”

The Warriors got their usual triple-double from Draymond Green, and it included a big three-pointer in overtime. Steph Curry also chalked up a triple-double that included 37 points and 13 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers have exit interviews scheduled for Tuesday and there will be full written and video coverage on this website.

And with that, a season that could almost qualify as magical, comes to an end.

Meyers Leonard’s special moment came in Western Conference Finals

Meyers Leonard’s special moment came in Western Conference Finals


That is one word that comes to mind when reflecting on the Portland Trail Blazers 2018-19 season.

This year’s Trail Blazers squad has been through a lot. From owner Paul Allen passing away just three days before the regular season started, to losing Jusuf Nurkic to a season-ending leg injury with nine games remaining in the regular season.

The Trail Blazers have overcome a lot this season, but Portland was not able to overcome the willpower of the reigning champs, the Golden State Warriors, on Monday night. The Warriors took Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, 119-117 in overtime.

Portland did not go away quietly though.  

As the Trail Blazers captain Damian Lillard put it immediately following Game 4; guys stepped up throughout all the adversity. 

“We lose our owner [Paul Allen]. We dealt with injuries, CJ [McCollum] missed a lot of games at a crucial stretch in the season, and we just kept answering the call, and that takes a group of guys to maybe go from not playing minutes, stepping up, giving us good minutes, trusting each other, leaning on each other. It takes a real group to be able to come together in those hard times on more than one occasion, and I thought we did that,” Lillard said.

On Monday night, Trail Blazers center Meyers Leonard stepped up in a big way for the second straight game after starting for the second consecutive game.

Leonard injected much-needed energy into the team, and into the Moda Center crowd.

“I just went out there and played confident,” Leonard said.

Playing with confidence is something Leonard has not always done. He will be the first to admit, it has been difficult for him to be self-assured on the court throughout his career.

For anyone who has not followed Leonard’s seven-year NBA career, it may be difficult to fathom that there have been times over the past few seasons that Trail Blazers fans have booed Leonard.

But, chants of “Meyers Leonard” erupted midway through second quarter of Game 4 after Leonard had already scored 20 points on the night.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was happy for his big man.

“Again, he, in the first half, was outstanding, 25 points,” Stotts said. “And, he was playing with confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3, and again we needed him and he played well and I’m happy for him.”

Leonard had 25 points at the break and ended up finishing with a new playoff and regular season career-high 30 points. ‘The Hammer’ also pulled down 12 rebounds.

Monday night marked Leonard’s second double-double of his postseason career.

Another role player who had stepped up for the Blazers various times throughout the season and playoffs was Seth Curry.

Curry has preached all season long how his teammates know their roles and he continued to do so after the Blazers season had come to and end.

“Everybody worked hard, everybody did their job, everybody played their roles… Everybody in this locker room should be proud,” Curry said postgame.  

Curry also gave a lot of credit to Leonard.

“Meyers was great. He was great this whole series. He played with confidence. When he was left open, he knocked the shots down,” Curry said. 

“For a guy who didn’t play at times through the playoffs, to get his number called in the Western Conference Finals and show up like that says a lot about who he is,” Curry said.   

Leonard played a total of 61 regular season games this past season and played in 10 of the Blazers’ 16 postseason games.

But to quote Lillard, "it’s special" that Leonard was given his biggest opportunity in the Western Conference Finals.

“I think tonight was special.  I just remember in the first half, I looked up and in my mind, I remembered him just making a bunch of shots, and then I looked up and I was like, this dude got 25 points and I was like, he really killing right now,” Lillard chuckled.

“I think that just goes into what I said earlier, all season long, we have had things happen and guys have had to step up, and he’s a prime example of that,” Lillard said. “Not just this year, but over the last seven years, a lot of people have had a lot to say about him and what he doesn’t do and all those things… They get online and they say things and they don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors. They say things without knowing...knowing, but without taking into consideration that we’re people… They just beat you down, beat you down, beat you down, and I think he’s been through that.”

There’s no question, this Blazers team has a special bond and Leonard made sure to mention that postgame.

“Unfortunately our season is over, this is a very special team, guys that really care about each other and come to work every single day, ready to go,” Leonard said.

On the night the boos turned into ‘Meyers Leonard’ chants, the 2018-19 season’s playoff run came to an end. Yet, don’t forget the a confident Meyers Leonard could be the Blazers starting center for 2019-20 season with Nurkic not back from injury and Enes Kanter likely not on the roster.

Rip City might be chanting a lot more for Meyers next season.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 4

PORTLAND -- Facing elimination on Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers did not roll over in front of their homecourt. Portland came out with energy on both ends, and got a nice scoring punch from its starting center.  

The Blazers biggest lead on the night was 17 points in Game 4.

After sustaining a 12-0 Warriors run late in the third and early into the fourth quarter, Golden State tied the game at the 4:34 mark of the final period.

With under a minute to go, the game was all tied up at 111, and that’s where it stayed at the end of the regulation.

In overtime, it was back-and-forth until Draymond Green hit a dagger three-pointer with 39.6 seconds remaining in OT. The Warriors complete the sweep and beat the Trail Blazer 119-117.

Final Box Score: Warriors 119, Trail Blazers 117

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 4 loss:

1.  Blazers went away from the pick-and-roll early

The pick-and-roll had been the Blazers’ bread and butter all season long when center Jusuf Nurkic was healthy.

The Trail Blazers continued to play through the pick-and-roll with Enes Kanter, but it hasn’t been nearly as effective.

Portland started Meyers Leonard at center for the second straight game on Monday night. But even though Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned that his team would not make many more adjustments while addressing the media pregame, Damian Lillard played more off the ball and it was rare to see Lillard and a Blazers big run the pick-and-roll to start the game.

The Warriors have defended Lillard extremely well all series. With less pick-and-rolls, Lillard was able to get free more often on offense. In turn, he had a good shooting night, but it wasn’t enough against the back-to-back champs.

2. Warriors missed Iguodala on both ends

Andre Iguodala did not play for the Warriors after suffering a left calf strain in Game 3. Iguodala was initially listed as questionable for Game 4. 

Alfonzo McKinnie started in place of the injured Iguodala. The young McKinnie hesitated to shoot after not shooting so well to start the game. It was obvious that Warriors missed Iguodala’s presence on both ends.    

Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko also got more minutes.

With no Kevin Durant, and no DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors lack of depth showed on Monday night. However, Golden State showed its experience in overtime and was able to complete the sweep.  

3. The Leonard effect

Chants of “Meyers Leonard” erupted in the second quarter after Leonard had already scored 20 points on the night. It wasn’t just his scoring though that was getting the Blazers crowd amped up, Leonard took an offensive charge and got a steal within a couple of minutes of each other in the third quarter. He also posted a double-double. 

Leonard was bringing the energy into the team and the crowd. The Warriors were just able to outlast the Blazers. 

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Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

For Meyers Leonard, it was a special opportunity Saturday night, a rare chance to start a playoff game.  And for Leonard, there haven’t been a lot of chances to start ANY games.

He didn’t get off the bench at all in 21 Portland games this season and was in the starting lineup only twice – with one of those being that final contest of the year when the Trail Blazers rested the starters and turned the game over to their young players, other than the 27-year-old Leonard.

He did not play in 10 of his team’s final 16 games of the regular season and then sat out five of the Trail Blazers’ last seven playoff games before going the entire fourth quarter of Game 2 against Golden State.

And it’s not as if he hasn’t been a solid playoff contributor during his career. In 24 playoff games, he’s shot 50.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range.

In 2014-15, as a 22-year-old, second-year player. Leonard hit 10 of 13 three-point field goals over a five-game playoff series vs. Memphis.

In the spotlight of a must-win game Saturday night, Leonard knocked down half of his 12 shots from the floor, three of seven from long distance and scored 16 points in a very consistent performance at both ends of the floor.

“I thought Meyers played great,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “Meyers had a great game.”

No matter how infrequent his appearances, Leonard always keeps himself ready.

He wasn’t anxious to talk about the frustration and disappointment he has suffered during a career that has seen him spend more time on the bench than on the court. He doesn’t criticize his coaching staff or cause dissension over his situation, even though, at various times, his production has appeared to merit more minutes on the floor and Trail Blazer fans have demeaned him on the talk shows and social media because of his salary.

“What I'll say is, I'm thankful that Coach Stotts and the staff and my teammates, for that matter, had the belief in me and know that I can play,” he said Sunday prior to his team’s practice. “It's been up and down, and I approach every day the same as if I'm going to play.

“I try to prepare as best I can, and I used this quote last night, it's one that I really like. It's what the (Navy) Seals talk about: You don't really rise to the occasion, you fall back on training.

“I put a lot of work in, and I feel that I'm very dedicated to myself and to my team to improving and being ready to play when my number is called.  So, although the minutes have been up and down and it's, I guess, not consistent, my goal is to remain consistent when I'm counted on.

“In a pretty big game, obviously, it's been, whatever, 19 years since the Blazers have been in the Western Conference finals, I feel that I did a pretty darned good job being ready to play and trying to help us win.”

And, as always, Leonard is resolute about what his team must do to keep from making this series a 4-0 Warriors’ sweep Monday night.

“Have pride,” he said. “Simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, well, we're down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer?

“That's not who we are. That's not, certainly not our mindset. And we have a group of guys that really care and love to win, and so we're going to come out tomorrow night and we're going to fight and we're going to give them a really good effort.”

Something Leonard always does.

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