Blazer bench puts aside worries -- knocks out Warriors in 4th

Blazer bench puts aside worries -- knocks out Warriors in 4th

The Portland Trail Blazers’ crowded bench has had a lot to think about over the last 10 days. Two players have been added and neither is expected to be a starter, barring an injury.

There is uncertainty about the future.

But that group put aside worries about playing time and went out Wednesday night and earned playing time – by knocking out the Golden State Warriors with a 35-12 fourth quarter that led to a 129-107 win.

It marked the first time in 23 tries the Trail Blazers have won a game when trailing heading into the fourth quarter. And the second season in a row when Portland has captured two wins over the defending NBA champs.

But they had to fight to get this one. Almost literally. Golden State doesn’t go down easy.

But trailing by a point to begin the final period, Coach Terry Stotts sent out an all-bench group of Evan Turner, Rodney Hood, Jake Layman, Zach Collins and Seth Curry.

Each of them had their moment during the fourth-quarter surge that put the game away.

The biggest imprint was made by Zach Collins, who had a monster blocked shot that saw him race the length of the court to block a Damion Lee layup at the rim – a true momentum-changing play.

“I was looking at it from the bench and I didn’t even see Zach coming,” Damian Lillard said. “So for him to make that play and then back it up with another defensive play, instead of patting himself on the back, that was huge for him but that’s huge for our team.

“I think it kind of turned the game completely in our favor.”

The follow-up play Lillard was talking about was drawing an offensive foul from Klay Thompson just a few seconds later.

That led to a faceoff between Collins and Thompson at the other end of the court that finished with each getting called for a technical foul.

By then, the Blazers were off and running, with Layman entering into another of his rampages where he’s popping up all over the court. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter – was a plus-23 in the 12 minutes – while making five of six shots. All 17 of his points came in the second half.

He is on a terrific run and was asked after the game if his recent play surprised even himself.

“No,” he said. “I’ve always known I could play. I know what I can do.”

The game broke wide open when Draymond Green was called for a flagrant foul on Collins with 4:16 to play and Portland holding a seven-point lead.

That prompted two quick technical fouls on Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, who fired a clipboard in disgust, followed by his ejection.

Lillard made the two technical foul free throws, then another one when Green was hit for yet another technical.

Collins then stepped to the line and canned two more foul shots. A few seconds later, Layman knocked down a three-point field goal, followed by a three-pointer from Lillard that came from somewhere near the Lloyd Center and Portland had a 23-point lead.

Game over.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” said Kerr, whose team played without resting DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Igoudala and Shaun Livingston. “They battled like crazy, you know really tough schedule with the back-to-back. There’s three guys out and I thought our guys really fought. It’s one of the reasons I was really frustrated …”

Stotts was pleased, quite obviously, with what he saw.

“Really proud of our team,” he said. “Obviously, the guys that came off the bench really played well in the second  -- well, the first half and the second half.”

Stotts was asked about staying with his bench, other than insertion of Lillard for Turner, in the fourth quarter.

“It’s going to be a transition,” he said. “But we’ve got a lot of good players who are able to contribute to winning. Obviously, the bench guys played well.

“You know, with five or six minutes to go in the game, I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do to finish the game. But the guys on the floor answered it for me.”

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win against the Kings

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win against the Kings

CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside set a few career records against the Kings, but not in the categories you would expect. 

McCollum was the defensive force in the paint, tallying a career-best four blocks, while Whitside had a career-high seven assists to help keep the offense running. 

Four of the Blazers starters scored 20 or more points, led by 33 points from CJ McCollum. For McCollum, it was the 10th straight game scoring 20 or more points, another career-best.

Damian Lillard had a 24 point, 10 assist double-double, while Whiteside joined him in double-double land with 22 points and 16 rebounds. As for Carmelo Anthony, he dropped an easy 20 on the Kings. 

A night after a tough loss, the Blazers bounced back in a big way. 

Final score in this one: Blazers 127 - Kings 116

QUOTABLES:

Damian Lillard on Hassan Whiteside's passing : 

I thought it was pretty good. He had a few backdoors. He was catching it in the pocket under control, finding the weak side and that led to some quality shots. He could have had ten if he didn’t get too anxious on some of them and some of them got tipped, but he passed the ball really well tonight

Coach Stotts on Bazemore having his best game:

Arguably one of his better games of the season, defensively he was locked in, it was good to see him making shots, he’s been a good three-point shooter, and I thought he kind of played within himself and took the shots that were there

Damian Lillard on CJ McCollum's blocks:

Early in the game, I just kept seeing him getting his hands on guys’ shots. I think part of it was them just not expecting him to contest them so strong. But he was active. He came out with a lot of energy on the defensive end and on the offensive end

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Trail Blazers share the wealth in win over Kings, looking to continue balanced scoring

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Trail Blazers share the wealth in win over Kings, looking to continue balanced scoring

The Trail Blazers earned their third consecutive win at Moda Center on Wednesday night, and their 12th straight home victory over the Kings as the Blazers made sure to not let one slip away.

Portland wasn’t able to put Sacramento away until the final minutes of the fourth quarter on Wednesday. The Blazers attributed that to their poor defense, but felt they had one of their better offensive nights.

After finishing with his fourth double-double of the season with 24 points and 10 assists, Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard emphasized how important it was to bounce back after Tuesday’s loss to the Clippers.

“It was a big deal,” Lillard said. “When you go on the road, a road-home back-to-back, it’s tough. You’ve got to play against a really good team like the Clippers, get on a plane, get up to play the next day against a really good team, a young team that’s really competing right now. So I was proud of the way we responded. You don’t want to let one loss or the game the night before affect the next night and I thought we handled it well.”

A lot of the Blazers success on the offensive end was thanks to their ball movement.

I thought we moved the ball well, we got quality shots. I thought offensively, it was a complete game. It was a really good game for us.

In Wednesday’s win, the Blazers finished with 28 assists. In Tuesday’s loss they finished 20 assists. But it didn’t even feel like a 20-assist game vs. the Clippers after watching the Trail Blazers’ stagnant offense.  

The man who led the Blazers on offense in the win over the Kings, CJ McCollum, believes the ball movement is coming along while the team continues to incorporate Caremelo Anthony and familiarize Melo into the playbook a little more.

I think we are continuing to figure out spacing, that’s the biggest thing – spacing, ball movement, what sets we can run… We’re just trying to build that’s the biggest thing and play good basketball. – CJ McCollum postgame

McCollum, who tied his career-high with 10 straight 20+ scoring nights, led all scorers on Wednesday with 33 points on 14-of-22 shooting. Five Blazer players scored in double-figures.

Lillard discussed what a night like that with balanced scoring means to this Blazers team:

“It’s really important. When we can get that type of performance of one, two, three, four guys, you’re going to have a chance.”

“It’s something we want to continue," Lillard added. "When it’s a lot of attention on the ball like it was tonight, especially they just kept sending two guys to the ball – we get it out and once we do that, they’re up against it. We’ve got numbers basically outside of the trap so when we can make the right plays and take advantage of it, get quality shots, I think it can be a night like tonight.”

Now with the Trail Blazers playing nine of their next 12 games at home this month, Blazers Coach Terry Stotts knows the favorable home schedule can't be overlooked.

“We can’t take it for granted, there aren’t any easy ones. It is nice to be home, we did have a lot of road games, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. It is certainly better than the alternative.”

Bizarro world?: Hassan Whiteside with 7 assists, CJ McCollum with 4 blocks

Bizarro world?: Hassan Whiteside with 7 assists, CJ McCollum with 4 blocks

It was a trip into bizarro world Wednesday night for the Portland Trail Blazers. You know – everything is backwards.

CJ McCollum had a career-high four blocked shots, Hassan Whiteside had a career-high seven assists and the normally slow-paced Trail Blazers had a season-high 28 fast-break points.

What’s next, Terry Stotts doing an hour of standup at Helium Comedy Club?

The Blazers pulled away from the Sacramento Kings in the fourth quarter in Moda Center and ran to a 127-116 win. Portland shot 56 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three-point range and got 20-plus points from four starters. Whiteside finished three assists shy of a triple double after getting 22 points and 16 rebounds.

And he had a couple of nifty backdoor passes that led to baskets off double-teams on the Portland guards.

“I love that backdoor pass, I should have gone to Princeton,” he said with a smile. “I don’t mind passing. I’m going to get better. I’m going to get better at making decisions. I’m new to this system and new to these guys and I’m going to keep working.

“I was impressed with (CJ’s) shotblocking. I was going to ask him for some tips.”

McCollum was hitting bulls-eyes all night. He was 14-22 from the floor, including 5-10 from long range, for 33 points. Damian Lillard chipped in with 24 points and 10 assists and knocked down a couple of big threes late in the game.

“What was more bizarre, his seven assists or my blocked shots?” McCollum asked. “I told him if would have wanted to get 10 assists he could have gotten 10 assists. Credit to him, he’s making the right plays and he’s learning.

“I’ll be at the rim every now and then, being a rim protector and helping people’s fantasy teams.”

The Trail Blazers, with Carmelo Anthony installed at power forward, are showing signs of becoming a very good offensive team.

“We’re just trying to build,” McCollum said. “We’re a top five or top 10 offensive team historically, but with him, we’re top five. We just have to figure out how to use all of our pieces. I think that’s the biggest thing. And then get that cohesiveness."

The defensive side of things is still a work in progress. And it’s going to take some progress.

The Kings, playing shorthanded, shot 46.3 percent overall.

“Obviously, to start the game, the first three quarters, (the Kings) played comfortable,” Lillard said. “We just didn’t do a good job in that stretch of the game and I think it showed because it was obvious toward the end of the game when we stepped it up and tightened it up at the end, we got separation because of it. The fourth quarter, we stepped it up and that was when we won the game.”

The Blazers will play host to the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night in Moda Center.

 

Listen to this week’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast here: