Beal sets scoring record and hands Blazers their third home loss in a row

usatsi_10462796_147386290_lowres.jpg

Beal sets scoring record and hands Blazers their third home loss in a row

Bradley Beal set a visiting team scoring record against the Blazers Tuesday night as he dropped 51 points on them at Moda Center. It is the most points scored by any visiting player playing against the Blazers including games at the Memorial Coliseum and Moda Center/Rose Garden. 

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

Box Score: Washington 106, Portland 92

Quick Hits:

 

As least today's NBA refs aren't out to get somebody every night

As least today's NBA refs aren't out to get somebody every night

You’ve probably heard about it by now – NBA referees have announced they are going to live tweet with fans during games every week, explaining calls and answering questions.

This can’t possible end well, can it?

A Twitter exchange with the referees trying to explain why James Harden gets that extra step on his step-back jumper would take more time and bandwidth than Twitter can afford.

And I would hope somebody would ask why the referees are now made to put up with so much guff from players compared to what they used to have to hear. Draymond Green is allowed to go bonkers on those guys every night and seldom even gets a technical foul.

I’m sure Rasheed Wallace would like to know why that’s allowed to happen.

But seriously, if I’m one of the refs tasked with operating the Twitter account during a game when one of my counterparts makes a very bad call, I’m not sure I want to have to call him out on it.

And I certainly don’t want to be the referee sitting in that Twitter chair when the trolls come out, spewing all kinds of nasty stuff that doesn’t merit a response but sometimes can drive you over the edge and into some sort of crazy debate you can’t win.

I feel for the men with the whistles in the NBA. They are analyzed and critiqued to death by the league these days – much more than ever before. But it’s impossible to do their job and any criticism of these people must start with that.

And what I see from the on-court officials these days is an effort to get the call correct and not nearly as much bias as I saw a few decades ago.

When I started covering the league in the 1980s, I can tell you there were nights when the bias of some of the old-school referees was obvious.

There was bias against certain players, coaches and teams. And I saw a lot of it. There were people out there dispensing their own brand of justice as they pleased, with apparently no oversight. They carried grudges, friendships, prejudices and arguments onto the court every night -- setting themselves up on some nights as the most powerful people in the sport.

They got away with way too much.

I don’t see it often these days. And that has nothing to do with anything that’s going to be discussed on Twitter.

 

Can the Trail Blazers find success on the road?

Can the Trail Blazers find success on the road?

The Trail Blazers coaching staff gathered in Terry Stotts’ office on Friday night, cracked open a bottle Dom Perignon and toasted the 128-112 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was a solid win over a tough opponent and, more importantly, Stotts’ 300th victory with the Blazers. There was plenty of reason to celebrate inside the Moda Center.

“300 here in Portland is pretty special,” said Stotts, who is second on the franchise’s all-time wins list behind Jack Ramsey’s 453.

The champagne popping 300th win was an important milestone, but the win the Blazers are truly searching for is No. 9, as in their ninth road victory of the season.

Portland is 8-12 away from home, the second worst road winning percentage of any of the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

The Blazers have one road win in January -- albeit in just three tries -- and have a decidedly road heavy schedule to close out the season with 21 of their final 35 games on the road. After the All-Star break in February, the Blazers end the year with 17 road games compared to just nine inside the Moda Center.

Even sitting in third place on Saturday morning, the Blazers are closer to tenth than they are to the top spot in the West. Finding ways to win away from home will be imperative for maintaining playoff positioning.

“We need to do better on the road,” Stotts said earlier this week following road losses at Denver and Sacramento. “I think the goal in any season, if you’re a good team, is to be over .500 on the road. The good thing is that the games we’ve lost recently both have been very competitive games against good teams. But we need to start winning some more on the road, for sure.”

The tough road tests are looming. On Monday in Salt Lake City, the Blazers face the Utah Jazz, who have won six straight and have crushed Portland by an average of 25.5 points in two games this season. That’s followed by a quick turnaround at Oklahoma City on Tuesday before a Thursday game at Phoenix.

No one in the Blazers locker room wanted to speculate too far ahead about the challenging schedule to close the season. Whether ingrained cliche or authentic focus, Blazers players insisted they were taking things ‘one game at a time’, but there was some tempered optimism that can they find success outside of their own building.

“Just because we’ve done it before,” Damian Lillard said when asked why he thinks the Blazers can find their rhythm on the road. “Last year when we had our best stretch we did it at home and on the road. We just kinda stuck to what was working for us. And with this (season) even though we dropped a game in Denver we had a little bit of it in that game; Sacramento we just had moments. I think we’re capable of doing it when we leave (Portland), too.”

The Blazers have played the fewest road games in the Western Conference, they have fattened up on a home heavy schedule and that has inspired some deserved confidence. On some nights inside the Moda Center they look like they’re playing their best basketball in years.

Friday night’s win over the Pelicans was as entertaining as any Blazers victory this season. Jake Layman was electric, Moe Harkless resurfaced and was effective and Portland’s balanced attack held off a late charge from New Orleans.

The question remains, does that show go on the road?

With ongoing issues, Maurice Harkless is keeping the faith despite all the frustration

With ongoing issues, Maurice Harkless is keeping the faith despite all the frustration

For the past two weeks the Trail Blazers have been dominating at home, struggling on the road, and wondering when will Maurice Harkless be healthy enough to play.

Friday night at Moda Center, Portland continued its season-long winning streak at home to six games with a 128-112 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Blazers also got Harkless back on the court after he was initially listed as questionable.

All season long Harkless has been dealing with left knee soreness. The 25 year-old small forward had missed the previous five games with knee soreness, but this was a different kind of soreness than earlier in the season.

“We got a MRI and it was something different. It wasn’t really anything major. It was just a little inflammation in my knee… It feels a lot better now,” Harkless said.

Harkless had the MRI the day after the Blazers hosted the Knicks on January 7th. In the game, Harkless played just nine minutes. 

The good news though…

“No structural damage,” Harkless said.

In 21 minutes of action in his return Friday, Harkless finished with 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting to go along with two rebounds and one block.

For Harkless, though, he was happier with just being back on the court and is looking to put this all behind him. 

“It’s been frustrating, but you know, this time was a little different. It’s kind of one of those things that I had to let it heal… Like I said it was a little different than what I was dealing with before, so I’m pretty sure, I’m hopeful that this will be the last time that I have to deal with this, but it’s been pretty frustrating,” Harkless said.

Even with all the frustration, Harkless is still trying to stay positive.

“I know it’s a process. I’m just sticking with it,” Harkless said.

After the game, CJ McCollum felt that Harkless did not miss a beat.

“He played well, played with energy, used his size, athleticism really well. He shot the ball with confidence and he gave us something,” McCollum said.

Evan Turner was impressed with Harkless, since ET did not think Harkless had played in a game or even scrimmaged in the last couple of weeks. 

“He was definitely efficient… I don’t really remember him going live or playing or anything – he comes out and scores 10 or 12 easy. He went off the dribble a couple of times. He looked healthy. He looked great,” Turner said.

Harkless credited his team for allowing him to get right back into the flow of the game.

“They did a great job of just making it easy for me to just fit back in,” Harkless said

It is the fifth times this season that Harkless has scored in double figures.. His season-high in points is 13, which he has reached two different times this season.

Harkless will take time to get some rest and stay off the court on Saturday “to take care of his body” and then back to work at Sunday’s practice. 

Maurice Harkless vs. Jake Layman: No debate, no rift

Maurice Harkless vs. Jake Layman: No debate, no rift

Maurice Harkless found himself healthy enough to play and back in the starting lineup Friday night vs. the Pelicans. This meant Jake Layman headed back to the bench. Then, Layman exploded for 20 points in the second quarter

Which begs the on-going question: Which of the two should be in the starting lineup?

While debated heavily on social media among fans and written about in the media, there really has not been any discussion internally with the team of Harkless coming off the bench this season even when he is coming back from injury. But with the emergence of Jake Layman, some are still wondering who should start at small forward. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts explained the decision to put Harkless back in the starting lineup after missing the last five games.

“Just from a rotation standpoint, I think we all feel like Moe and the starters is good. I think Jake provides some energy, like he did tonight off the bench,” Stotts said.

“The way Jake was going I had every intention of brining him back at the end of the second quarter, but Jake had it rolling, but I thought, that’s the best I’ve seen [Harkless] play in a long time. The way he started the game, made some dynamic plays. We really needed his minutes in the second half with foul trouble. Played him at the four. But, I thought he looked really good,” Stotts added.

It could be easy to think that Harkless and Layman are competing for the same role and that could bring some rift between the two.

That could not be further from the truth.

Harkless embraced Layman with a hug and was one of Layman’s biggest cheerleaders from the sideline after Layman went on the flurry and ended up scoring 20 points in the second quarter.

“I love watching Jake when he gets like that, man. He gets like that, it’s just like nothing nobody could do. We see it all the time in practice and just for him to be able to be out there, do it in front of everyone, it’s pretty cool and I’m happy for him,” Harkless said postgame.

Layman had joked how his teammates kept encouraging him to shoot once they saw he was in the groove in the second quarter.

“He looked a little tired out there, but we were getting on him like ‘you’ve got to shoot’… That second quarter was a whole lot of fun to watch,” Harkless said.

The Blazers realize it’s not about competing with each other for a spot on the team, it’s about competing together as a team to win.

“At the end of the day it’s about who can give us the best chance to win. When Moe’s healthy, he helps us a lot and then when he’s not, Jake has to be prepared to play more minutes and step up and I think that he’s done a great job staying ready all season, being in and out of the rotation, different roles, he’s been ready to play regardless,” McCollum said.

Whether you are for Harkless starting or Layman starting, just know, these two forwards are starting to really help the Blazers make a big push in the standings as we all start thinking about the postseason. 

It was Jake Layman's world and New Orleans couldn't do much about it

It was Jake Layman's world and New Orleans couldn't do much about it

For 12 minutes on the game clock – the entire second quarter -- Friday night in Moda Center, it was Jake Layman’s world and we were all fortunate just to live in it.

Layman, who lost his spot in the Portland starting lineup to Maurice Harkless Friday, didn’t get off the Trail Blazer bench in the first quarter. But he set the Moda Center on fire in the second quarter and built a foundation for a 128-112 Portland win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Layman made 8 of his 11 shots, including 4 of 7 from three-point range, showing off an offensive array that included dunks, a finger roll and mid-range jumpers on the way to a 20-point quarter. By the end of the period, the crowd was ready to buy stock in whatever he was selling, on its feet and going nuts.

“When a player – any player -- gets on a roll like that, it’s fun to watch,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “You could see the enthusiasm in his eyes. He was scoring in different ways, the crowd getting behind him – those things are special. You love that about the NBA.

“I was really happy for him. It was 20 points in the quarter. That was pretty special.

“He’s going to let it fly, so he’s going to give himself the opportunity to have those quarters. “But honestly, I like the way he hit a mid-range, he hit some threes, dunks obviously, and provided a lot of energy. It was just the combination of how he was scoring and actually the threes came late. He was doing the other stuff early, then the threes came late.”

Layman is one of the most explosive players on the roster – an aggressive shooter and big jumper.

“I just got hot,” Layman said, “The guys recognized it and started calling plays for me. They set some great screens and got me open.

“It feels great that they trust me to do that in that situation. And the crowd was great.”

Layman is normally a quiet person who goes about his business without calling attention to himself. But he shows his joy on the court as much as anyone on the team.

Throughout the season, whether starting or coming off the bench – or even not playing at all – he’s continued to work hard and not complained.

“I just try to remain aggressive,” he said.

Meyers Leonard said, “He’s hungry. And he wants to play well. He’s been in and out of the rotation but he doesn’t let it affect him.

“When he gets the opportunity, he brings a very high level of energy. And he’s super-athletic. But at the same time, he plays within himself.”

It took more than Layman to beat the Pelicans, of course. All five Portland starters were in double figures, led by Damian Lillard, who had 24 points and eight assists.

And it was Lillard who made sure that Layman was getting the ball during his hot zone.

“It’s fun to see,” said Al-Farouq Aminu, who chipped in 15 points, eight rebounds and a full night chasing Anthony Davis around the court. “And I’m glad we just kept on going to him. He’s young and active and he brings a spark to us.

“I thought Dame, being the facilitator, did a very good job of making sure we were all aware of it. I have to tip my hat to Dame for being a point guard, recognizing that this guy is hot and making sure he gets his touches.”

He’ll likely continue to get his touches on the second unit, though. Stotts made that pretty clear.

“I think we all feel like Moe and the starters is good and I think Jake provides energy like he did tonight off the bench,” Stiotts said. “I think that kind of puts them both in their best situations.”

 

Rapid Reaction: Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Pelicans

usatsi_12021092.jpg
USA Today

Rapid Reaction: Quick Takeaways from the Blazers win over the Pelicans

It's Jake Layman's world and we are all just living in it. The Blazers small forward went off in the first half scoring 20 points. Moe Harkless also made is return to the lineup and put up 12 points. It was a good game all around for the Blazers. 

Here are some quick thoughts from our reporters on the scene...

Final Box Score: Blazers 128 - Pelicans 112

Dwight Jaynes, Trail Blazers' Insider:  Second quarter was Layman time. And it was memorable. Blazers double teamed Davis when he dribbled and it worked well for the most part. Big difference in the game was on the boards and the Blazers keeping their turnovers down.

Jamie Hudson, Trail Blazers' Reporter: When Jake Layman starts hitting whether it's three-pointers or monster dunks, it is fun to see him light up the scoreboard. The Moda Center crowd was going nuts in the second quarter when he couldn't miss! Besides Layman's play, the Blazers were crashing the boards and shooting well as a team. Also, with Maurice Harkless back in the starting lineup since missing five games it was good to see he didn't have any rust to shake off. The Blazers biggest lead was 21. Once again, the third quarter streak continues. The Blazers were leading after three quarters and they remain undefeated as Portland was able to hold off New Orleans despite the Pelicans cutting the lead to nine midway through the fourth.

Mike Richman, Trail Blazers' Reporter: It was a good night to be a Blazers small forward. Jake Layman went nuts for a 20 point second quarter, Moe Harkless came back from a five-game absence to finish with 12 points in 21 minutes and Evan Turner quietly had a very solid line with seven points, 11 rebounds and five assists. The big question is whether the Blazers can have this type of balance and firepower on the road next week.***Be sure to check back here throughout tonight for locker room videos with Coach Stotts and the players, plus locker room reports from Jamie Hudson and Dwight Jaynes***

NEXT UP: The Blazers hit the road to take on the Utah Jazz on Monday, January 21st. Tip-off is set for 6:00pm with coverage beginning at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New Orleans Pelicans

usatsi_10799414.jpg
USA Today Images

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New Orleans Pelicans

This is the second of three meetings between Portland and New Orleans this season.

 

Before tonight’s Western Conference showdown Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry addressed the media.

 

Blazers Injury Update: Maurice Harkless (left knee) and Caleb Swanigan (right knee) were listed as questionable for tonight’s game vs. New Orleans. Coach Stotts said Harkless was “to be determined” while Swanigan will be inactive tonight.

 

***About a half hour before tip-off, the Blazers announced Harkless is available for tonight’s game.  

 

Coach Stotts also discussed the challenges that a healthy Anthony Davis brings to the Blazers’ defense.

 

“They’re a really good offensive team… They’re a top three offense. [Davis] is having a great year, single-handedly, but the team around him his really playing well. He’s a challenge to guard individually and as a team,” Stotts said.

 

In his last nine games, Davis is averaging 33.3 points per game to go along with 15.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.

 

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

 

Pelicans Injury Update: Earlier this month, Nikola Mirotic returned from a month-long absence due to an ankle injury. Coach Gentry says Mirotic will not play 38 minutes tonight, but he won’t be restricted to 25 minutes either.

 

Coach Gentry praised the Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, talking about how both Lillard and McCollum are great at creating their own shots in such a variety of ways and in so many different situations. 

 

Hear from Coach Gentry right here:

Sharing the Lillard Love: Is Dame a lock for All-Star?

usatsi_8386016.jpg
USA Today Images

Sharing the Lillard Love: Is Dame a lock for All-Star?

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard currently sits sixth among Western Conference guards in the NBA All-Star Game fan vote.

While Lillard will likely be counting on Western Conference coaches to vote him in as a reserve, Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz from ESPN say Lillard deserves to make the All-Star roster once again. 

Both ESPN writers named Portland’s star a "lock" for the All-Star Game, as referenced on The Lowe Post podcast. Arnovitz noted that out of the 20 most efficient pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA with 125 sets together, Lillard’s has four of the top 20 with Zach Collins, Jusuf Nurkic, Meyers Leonard and Al-Farouq Aminu.

“This is a pick-and-roll era in the NBA being a point guard. This guy is so skilled as a half-court floor general. Lillard is just so good…and I just wanted to kind of put out some Lillard love because the quality of tactician at that position is unreal and I just still love watching him play.”

Lowe also mentioned Lillard’s “unbelievable” play and called Portland one of the “under the radar” teams in the West. He said to keep your eyes on the Blazers to make a move before the NBA trade deadline. 

“I could see them being a more aggressive buyer at the deadline then people might expect. I think their going to put their pick in play and I think they’re going to try to get someone who really moves the needle, whoever that is, with Dame and CJ.”

Lowe and Arnovitz say the Blazers could still be on the mend from last year's sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans, and they'll be looking to prove themselves in the playoffs. 

“You mentioned the sweep hangover. Everyone there knows, including Dame, that people are going to wait to see it in the playoffs. I don’t think that’s necessarily fair because they had that one series against the Rockets where he hit that all-time shot to win the series. Then they had Warriors, Warriors, and then last year was obviously a debacle."

To hear more on the Lillard's All-Star candidacy and the Blazers so far this season, you can listen to the full podcast here

The Natural vs. Lillard Time: Who you got?

usatsi_4630273.jpg
NBCS Northwest

The Natural vs. Lillard Time: Who you got?

When you ask Trail Blazers fans who some of their favorite Portland players are of the last decade, the names Brandon Roy and Damian Lillard frequently come up. 

Lillard and Roy share a number of similarities: Both are 3x NBA All-Stars, both were named NBA Rookie of the Year, as well as NBA All-Rookie First Team, and both players were named to the All-NBA Second Team and All-NBA Third Team in their first few seasons. Undeniably what makes them difficult to compare is the fact both Portland stars are known for their clutch shots in crunch time (or should we say Lillard Time). 

Houston, on several occasions, has become the victim of Roy and Lillard's complete destruction. In 2008 and 2009, Roy, AKA The Natural, gave us chills with game winners over the Rockets, while just years later in 2014, Lillard hit debatably the biggest shot in Portland history: a legendary 0.9 shot that propelled the Blazers over the Rockets in Game 6 of the NBA Playoffs. 

Unlike Lillard, who is possibly on his way to a fourth All-Star appearance, Roy's career ended too soon. His playing days came to a halt in 2011, when he retired from professional basketball after years of pain in his degenerative knees. 

Roy changed the game in Portland, and the gap Roy left empty, Lillard filled. 

While it's hard to fathom what it would be like if the two Blazers played against one another, a Blazer Gang tweet on Friday left Portland fans wondering what it'd be like if the two faced off in a 1-on-1 game in real life. While the answer seemed easy for Dame to answer, we're not quite convinced Lillard Time wouldn't take the cake. 

Who ya got, Rip City?