Blazers' late-game execution overshadows poor shooting night in loss to Wizards

Blazers' late-game execution overshadows poor shooting night in loss to Wizards

CJ McCollum missed 20 shots. Damian Lillard missed 14.

The Portland Trail Blazers couldn’t buy a basket in Monday night’s 125-124 overtime loss to the Washington Wizards.

But before the Blazers made their way out of the Moda Center, they weren’t talking about their pile of bricks. Instead they were lamenting late-game execution, the crunch time miscues that let the Wizards steal a win.

“Just how many times we shot ourselves in the foot,” Lillard said when asked what stuck with him after the loss. “Offensive rebounds, giving up open threes, turning the ball over – even our opportunities, we had two chances to win it at the buzzer.

“For me obviously, I looked right back at those two plays. I think the kind of effort that we had, we put ourselves in position to win the game, just didn’t execute on the defensive end or the offensive end as good as we needed to to win it, so I mean, that’s frustrating.”

Lillard had a potential game-winning layup blocked at the end of regulation and another swatted in the closing seconds of overtime. But just to get to the point where Lillard was driving headfirst into the teeth of a waiting defense, the Blazers had to botch a few things.

After Nik Stauskas buried a three-pointer to put the Blazers up three 111-108 with 12.4 seconds left, Portland conceded a game-tying three-point to Bradley Beal, allowing a wide open jumper on a possession in which they intended to commit an intentional foul.

“We were going to foul, they passed it quickly and we weren’t in a position to foul,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “They threw it in bounds quickly to Beal. We overreacted to that, we overreacted to the next pass … so yeah, we wanted to foul in that situation.”

In overtime, the Blazers had an impossible time figuring out the John Wall-Markieff Morris two-man game, which resulted in wide open three-pointers for Morris. When Portland finally decided to switch the screen and send Jusuf Nurkic onto Wall, the Wizards point guard banked in an ugly 17-footer. Bad defense followed by bad luck is a tough combination to overcome.

“It was a tough action to deal with but I think we should’ve just switched it from the jump,” Lillard said.

Morris was equally surprised by the Blazers’ defensive choice: “...After the second [three-pointer], I was like ‘Do you really want to keep letting me shoot the ball?’ but I guess, I mean, I work on them every day.”

Outside of the defensive issues, the Blazers also had a crucial turnover with under 90 seconds left in the overtime when McCollum bowled over Beal and was called for a charge with the game tied at 117.

The Wizards had their own share of shooting woes, but they did just enough to survive, propped up by Morris’ career-best long range shooting night and playing the entire fourth quarter and overtime without committing a turnover.

The big things were the missed shots, and Portland had plenty of those to lament on a night where the offense failed to cash in with any consistency. But it was the smaller details, slow and overreactions on defense and a crucial turnover, that finally decided the game.

“It was an ugly game,” McCollum said. “They didn’t shoot well from the field tonight but (we) just gotta execute a little bit better; take care of the ball, offensive rebounds, turnovers. Those little things are what you can control to ultimately change the outcome of the game.”

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Trail Blazers hope to exceed expectations

Trail Blazers hope to exceed expectations

The Blazers are coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals last season, and with it the expectations are high.

While some experts and fans are sleeping on the Blazers, the team isn't sleeping on itself. Portland has championship aspirations, and it will take an entire team effort to achieve them. 

When you think of the Blazers, you think of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but it will take more than a dynamic duo to get out of the West. 

The Blazers will have to rely on their depth and their young bucks to step up to get the job done. With new acquisitions like Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, Kent Bazemore, and Pau Gasol, the road might be bumpy out of the gate. Still, it will be these veteran additions that will be the difference between a trip to the NBA Finals or a trip to the Draft Lottery. 

Of course, we can't forget about the young guys. With players like Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard having been traded, Portland will expect Anfernee Simons and Zach Collins to make big jumps in their production to fill the void. 

As you can see, the success of this team requires a lot more than just Dame and CJ. 

Jamie Hudson breaks it all down in the video above. 

Blazers have high expectations, why has everyone else forgotten about them?

Blazers have high expectations, why has everyone else forgotten about them?

At Trail Blazers Media Day this year, veteran Anthony Tolliver said this squad is capable of competing for a championship, while Damian Lillard discussed on Media Day that the focus is to win it all.

Whether it’s the Las Vegas odds or the national media, the Blazers have been counted out yet again.

When you talk with the players about how they are predicted to be the eighth seed in the West or in some cases they are predicted to not make the playoffs, many of the guys on the team just smirk and say, ‘okay, we’ve heard that before.’

During Tuesday’s MyTeams NBA Preview Show, NBC Sports NBA analysts and reporters from all over the country discussed how the Western Conference is stacked with so many talented duos.

[RELATED]: Dwight Jaynes' annual forecast of the Trail Blazers' season, win total

A lot of chatter during Tuesday’s livestream was about the Clippers, Lakers, and Rockets being powerhouses this season.

And rightfully so, those are the teams that should be talked about, and of course, a lot of NBA fans are excited to watch them this season.

But, why aren’t the Blazers in the conversation of the top teams out West?

From the outside looking in, it is as though Portland blew up its roster that got them to the Western Conference Finals.

However, as the team, the fans and local media see it here in Portland, the Trail Blazers addressed their needs on the perimeter to get better shooters and ball handlers.

The country can talk all they want about the duos of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, LeBron James and Anthony Davis, along with James Harden and Russell Westbrook, but you would think at some point people would learn not to count out the Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

They have still have a lot to learn.

Countdown to tip-off: Blazers make it 17 home opener wins in a row

Countdown to tip-off: Blazers make it 17 home opener wins in a row

We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-2020 NBA season by looking back at each of the victories in the 18-game home opener win streak. Here is a look at what happened back in 2017 when the Portland Trail Blazers faced the New Orleans Pelicans in the home-opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2017? Sure you can, but let’s paint the picture anyway:

  • Russell Westbrook was the reigning MVP
  • Westbrook was also the league's leading scorer
  • The Golden State Warriors were the defending champions
  • Malcolm Brogdon had just won Rookie of the Year
  • Markelle Fultz was the No.1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft
  • The Blazers used the No.15 and No.20 picks on Justin Jackson and Harry Giles. They would ship them to Sacramento on draft night for the rights to the Kings' No.10 overall pick, Zach Collins
  • The Blazers would also use the No.26 pick on Caleb Swanigan
  • The Detroit Pistons were playing their first season in the new Little Caesars Arena.


As for the Blazers home opener...

The Blazers opened up their home schedule of the 2017-18 season by welcoming the New Orleans Pelicans to Moda Center. Pelicans star Anthony Davis played just 5:01 of action, injuring himself early in the first quarter. Even without their top star, the Pelicans had the 73-71 lead at the start of the fourth quarter. But then the Blazers flipped the switch. Portland outscored New Orleans 32-20 in the final frame, including an 11-0 run midway through the quarter. Final score, Portland 103 - New Orleans 93. 

Notable stats: 

New Orleans -

DeMarcus Cousins – 39 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists

Jrue Holiday– 14 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists

Portland –

CJ McCollum - 23 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists

Damian Lillard - 13 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists

Jusuf Nurkic - 12 points, 7 rebounds

Evan Turner - 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

The Blazers would finish the season 49-33, good for the third-best record in the Western Conference. Portland would face New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs, losing in four games. 

When was the last time the Trail Blazers lost a home opener?

When was the last time the Trail Blazers lost a home opener?

The last time the Trail Blazers lost a home opener, a relatively unknown guy at the time by the name of Mike D’Antoni was one of their assistant coaches and their roster featured the likes of Shawn Kemp, Rod Strickland, Rasheed Wallace, Scottie Pippen, Damon Stoudamire, Stacey Augmon, Will Perdue and Arvydas Sabonis. Mike Dunleavy coached the group and it won 50 games, good enough that year for only seventh in the Western Conference.

That 2000-2001 Trail Blazer team lost its home opener to the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal Los Angeles Lakers 96-86 and it was nothing to be embarrassed about. Those Lakers lost only one playoff game en route to the championship that season, including a sweep of Portland in the first round.

But that, obviously, was a long time ago.

When the Blazers take the floor Wednesday night in Moda Center with their 18-game win streak in home openers on the line, it may prove to be one of their toughest battles since that night when it squared off with those talented Lakers.

The Denver Nuggets, who took Portland to seven games in the Western Conference playoffs last spring, are back with a talented young team bolstered by the addition of two very good bench players, Starting guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray are talented and improving. Power forward Paul Millsap has been a Blazer killer for years and center Nikola Jokic is a superstar in the making. Ex-Trail Blazer scoring machine Will Barton comes off the bench and the Nuggets have added smooth three-point shooter Jerami Grant and highly touted second-year forward Michael Porter Jr., who sat out his rookie season with an injury.

The Nuggets are talented, deep and hungry after earning the No. 2 seed in the West last season and being bounced out of the playoffs by Portland, which won the series on Denver’s court.

“They’re a really good team,” said Damian Lillard. “They were a two seed last year. Jokic, Murray, Millsap. Will, Gary Harris – they’re deep and they’ve got everything you need on a team. They’ve got good shooters, good bigs, their bigs can score on the block, their bigs can score from the perimeter, they pass the ball well, they have good guard play, good defenders, good size.

“What else you want?”

Meanwhile, the Blazers embark on season No. 50 with perhaps the best guard combo in the league of Lillard and CJ McCollum and a probable starting frontline that makes its regular-season debut as a group. Hassan Whiteside will be the center, between Rodney Hood and Zach Collins.

Mike D’Antoni is not expected to be there.


Dwight Jaynes' annual forecast of the Trail Blazers' season, win total

Dwight Jaynes' annual forecast of the Trail Blazers' season, win total

By now, you’ve probably seen all the dire predictions for the Trail Blazers this season.

Even though Portland made the Western Conference finals last season, most of the “experts” are forecasting it to finish in the bottom half of the conference or even out of the playoffs entirely.

Yes, the Trail Blazers are underrated almost every season. The rest of the country has trouble keeping up with what’s going on out here, apparently.

But let me say briefly what I think – and over the last few seasons I’ve been a pretty accurate forecaster of Portland success. And by now, most locals know I'm anything but a homer.

The changes the team made in the offseason didn’t involve superstars or big names. But they were changes that will have an impact on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Portland’s best players. Instead of having forwards who cannot be counted on to consistently make three-point field goals, the Blazer guards are going to have an open floor to navigate because the corner shooters must now be defended. Hassan Whiteside will be a more-than-adequate fill-in for injured Jusuf Nurkic at center and the bench is going to be better. In addition, I expect Zach Collins to hit the usual third-season boost in development this team has experienced under Terry Stotts and his staff.

And I also expect the two starting guards to make another jump this season. This is a modern-day version of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and we will see that this season.

I don’t think there is any team in the league that Portland should or will fear. And I expect this team to win 52 games, at least.

A championship? Certainly they will be in the running. But injuries will have the biggest impact on that. The healthiest team in the West has the best chance of winning and I’m not ready to start predicting injuries.

And the one unfortunate thing for the West winner is that by the time it runs the gauntlet of its own conference playoffs, it may turn out to be too burned out to beat the East.

Is the love for Anfernee Simons similar to a love for the backup quarterback?

Is the love for Anfernee Simons similar to a love for the backup quarterback?

A big Trail Blazers storyline this summer was the rise of Anfernee Simons. The Blazers as an organization expressed on numerous occasions their high expectations of the second year shooting guard.

Is it the hype from Blazers GM Neil Olshey or Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard that has Blazer fans so excited about what Simons could potentially bring to the team this season?


Is it a backup quarterback situation?

Justin Myers, the host of The Bridge, posed this very question on Monday night during a special Blazers roundtable discussion on The Bridge.

“Everybody loves the backup quarterback. Everybody’s backup quarterback is great, and you’re always worried when you lose one… The reason everybody loves backup quarterbacks is because nobody has ever seen him fail,” Myers said.

With Simons’ 37-point performance in the regular season finale against the Kings last season, which all of Rip City remembers fondly, Myers wonders, “is this a little bit of the backup quarterback love affair” with Simons right now?

Or, should fans be all in and be excited about Simons?

Mike Richman believes, one -- fans are already very excited, “it’s too late.” But two -- There is plenty of Simons’ game that translates at the next level.

However, there are still some concerns.

“He can score in the NBA right now," Richman said. "The other side of the ball is a question mark. The workload might be a question mark. He’s a 20-year-old. He played like a hundred and fifty NBA minutes last year. He’s probably gonna past that in the first month. There are some question marks, but he has a skill that translates – He can go get a bucket. If you can only be good at one thing, that’s the best thing to be good at."

Overall, Richman says go ahead and be excited about ‘Ant,’ Rip City.

[RELATED]: How to watch the NBC Sports 2019 NBA Season Tipoff Show

After talking with Simons this week ahead of the regular season, it sounds like instead of adding extra pressure with all the hype surrounding him, it has more so helped Simons’ confidence.

He’s always on social media. He sees what’s being talked about and written about him.

There’s a chance Simons will see this article too. So, Ant – what do you think about the backup QB syndrome?
Soon enough we will all know if there is any truth to this Simons’ backup QB situation.

Zach Collins didn't just add weight this year, he's added some nice sarcasm

Zach Collins didn't just add weight this year, he's added some nice sarcasm

Zach Collins Monday stood tall and looked questioners in the eye as he always does during his interview session. “What about having to open the season against Denver?” he was asked, a team his Trail Blazers met twice in the preseason and in an epic seven-game playoff series near the end of last season.

“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “We rarely play them. It’s tough to know their sets when you don’t play a team a lot.”

There was hesitation among the media as reporters looked at each other, trying to figure out what Collins was trying to say.

But after a moment, he smiled and said, “Sarcasm. No one’s laughing. We play them all the time.”

It’s really not that easy to get over on the media, but nobody seemed to expect the little bite of sarcasm from Collins. But maybe that tells you a little bit about a man going into this third season as a Trail Blazer. He’s more at ease, more confident – more sure of himself as a person and a player.

And he better be. This team is counting on him to fill the starting power forward position and play well at both ends of the floor. And this from a player who averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season.

Collins has physically matured, though, and he’s listed at 250 pounds on his 7-foot frame this season, up from 235 when he opened last season. He averaged 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in the preseason, shooting .509 from the field.

Is he ready for the added responsibility this season will bring?

“I definitely feel ready,” he said. “The preseason was big for me. Especially being back from that ankle injury (a strain during a summer workout), getting my rhythm back. Playing five on five, knowing who I’m going to be on the court with all the time, I’m ready.”

A problem he’s dealt with in the past is excessive fouls, which limited his playing time in some games.

“Something I’ve got to address this year and I’ve got to get better at,” Collins said. “I think I’ve taken the right steps to address that. Watching film, knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive, getting better at that, also. I think I’ve always said this -- if I get six fouls at the rim, it’s something I’ve got to live with, but the fouls I can cut down on: 20-25 feet away from the basket, reaching, being lazy, I can cut down on that.”

Damian Lillard sees good things ahead for Collins.

“I think around here the third year has been the big year for guys and I hope the trend continues,” Lillard said. “(But it’s) to be determined. He has a history of fouling.  With more minutes. hopefully he’ll understand there are certain plays he can make. But I think he’s ready. He’s going to have a good season.”

How to watch the NBC Sports 2019 NBA Season Tipoff Show


How to watch the NBC Sports 2019 NBA Season Tipoff Show

Join us today at 1pm for a special NBC Sports NBA Season Tipoff Show, streaming on desktop and on the MyTeams app!

Jamie Hudson will join other NBA reporters from around the country to get you ready for the season. 

Trail Blazer topics that will be of discussion on the show include:

- What is the one key that will help the Blazers become a 'surprise' team again?

- Who are the key X-factors for Portland to help out Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum this season?

- With such high expectations from the team, how is it that the national media is already overlooking the Blazers? 

That Anfernee Simons confidence wasn’t always there

That Anfernee Simons confidence wasn’t always there

The Trail Blazers 24th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft is ready to become a household name.

And as Anfernee Simons enters his second season in the league, he has shown no fear in the preseason.

Simons has been looked at as a potential breakout star this upcoming season. Local media and Blazers fans have discussed on social media that this is a kid who plays with an unbelievable amount of confidence.

But for ‘Ant,’ it wasn’t always like that.

“I’ve honestly never been the most confident player,” Simons said after Saturday's practice.

It wasn’t until he was nearly 18 years old, which keep in mind, was just two years ago, that the quiet kid from Orlando, Florida really came into his own. 

“In the beginning of high school I wasn’t that confident in my game. I knew I could shoot the ball, but I wasn’t like thinking that I could do everything to where I could score the ball well until I probably got to be almost a senior [in high school].”

Simons also gives a lot of credit to his teammates and Blazers coaching staff in his newfound ability to have faith in himself.

“Last year against the older guys and being able to score against them, do different things against them, that kind of helped gain my confidence, Simons added. “And then the coaches saw that, and they were telling me to be aggressive and stuff like that, that gained my confidence as well.”

[RELATED]: All eyes on Trail Blazers Anfernee Simons and he's here for it

Simons has had time to evaluate his preseason play and he feels overall the last few weeks went “pretty well.”

“It’s a learning process. So, I have to be able to learn on the fly and kind of get going quick. I think I’ll be all right when the season starts. I think I learned a lot from the preseason, being put in different situations,” Simons said.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with Simons in his new role of fully being inserted into the rotation, and with a few of the new additions during the preseason.

“You watch our games, I think – Anfernee, Mario [Hezonja], and Kent [Bazemore] I think they’ve all really assimilated well to what we’re doing,” Stotts said.

At the end of September, the Blazers exercised their third-year option on Simons and fourth-year option on Zach Collins to solidify their future in Portland.  

Simons took to his twitter account after the news broke, to show his appreciation.

[RELATED]: Anfernee Simons is one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets – and Neil Olshey likes it that way

The relationship between Simons and Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard has been strong since Simons was drafted to Portland.  
Lillard was just voted the Best Leader in the league in the most recent GMs survey on, and it’s easy to see his leadership shine through in Simons.

Lillard’s current advice to Ant:  

“He just tells me to be who I am,” Simons said. “ He knows I can score the ball at a high level. He wants me to go out there and be aggressive at all times. Not just trying to shoot the ball, but creating for others as well.”

The second-year player admits it’s hard to ignore all the hype that’s been written and talked about in regards to his upcoming season.

“I’m on social media a lot and a lot of people tag me in stuff, so I see it. It’s good people notice my game and stuff, but I want to prove those people right, so I use that as motivation,” Simons said.

[REALTED]: Trail Blazers very high on Anfernee Simons

Simons also realizes that he and Collins are going to be two key factors to this season’s success.

That’s why his bond with Collins is starting to grow even more this year.  

“We kind of have to gain a certain type of relationship and trust. We’ve got to push each other to be great, and also keep us leveled headed, and keep us calm throughout everything that’s going on around us, all the hype going around us,” Simons said.

There might still be question marks surrounding Simons’ game, but Blazer fans are sure ready to see all the hype come to fruition.