Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

Cal forward Ivan Rabb has unique connection to Trail Blazers' star Damian Lillard

CHICAGO – When Ivan Rabb was in his youth, his family moved to a new neighborhood in Oakland. As it turns out, living in the house directly across the street was a kid named Damian Lillard.

“I’ve been knowing him for a time,’’ Rabb said of the Trail Blazers’ star. “And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to know him a little more.’’

Rabb hopes that connection deepens next month by becoming Lillard’s teammate. Rabb, a 6-foot-10 power forward from Cal, could be on the radar of a Blazers’ team that is looking for depth at power forward and has three first round picks (15, 20, 26) in the June 22 NBA draft.

The Blazers, who are tentatively scheduled to start draft workouts around June 7, have yet to book Rabb for a trip to Portland according to agent Aaron Goodwin. But according to one source, it is likely Rabb will be on the Blazers’ workout schedule after agents finalize their clients’ travel agendas following Tuesday’s draft lottery.

One thing is certain: whichever teams Rabb works out for, they will likely see a hard worker.

Rabb said he is being trained by Chris Farr and Anthony Eggleton, the same coaches who put Lillard through his grueling predraft workouts before he was drafted sixth overall in 2012. Those workouts spawned the four-part YouTube mini-series “License to Lillard.”

“The main thing is his work ethic,’’ Rabb said of Lillard. “Coach Farr always talks about how hard he worked and (Coach Eggleton) talked about how he was focused and dedicated to everything they told him to do. So that’s something I’m trying to emulate. Why not? He’s doing great things and I want to be on his level one day.’’

Rabb feels his own level has elevated in the past year, when he elected to forego what many projected to be a lottery selection and instead stay at Cal for his sophomore season.

“I thought I needed it,’’ Rabb said. “I thought it was very mature for me to go back. The plan is to stick in the league for a long time, not get there as soon as possible, so I feel like I made the best decision for me. I feel like I got better.’’

After averaging 12.5 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman, Rabb this season averaged 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks while shooting 48 percent from the field.

While Rabb might have questions about the transition to the NBA regarding his experience or his his outside shot, he said he has no reservations about his top skill: Rebounding.

“I know at this point right now, what can translate is rebounding the ball,’’ Rabb said. “I know I can hit offensive glass really well … everybody has to have their niche coming into the league and rebounding is something I can hang my hat on. Coaches know if I’m coming into the game, I’m going for rebounds.’’

He said some of his offensive game was thwarted at Cal because he was often double-teamed in the post, and the right play was to pass to the open teammate. Sometimes, that meant the only way he could score was to attack rebounds.

“I just know I want the ball. Sometimes I wasn’t getting the ball inside so I was like, ‘Let me go find a way to score the ball’ … and I would go grab it,’’ Rabb said.

Since the season has ended, Rabb said he has been encouraged by his offensive growth. He says the range on his shot is expanding.

“I feel like I own everything inside the 3-point line and I’m shooting corner 3s really well,’’ said Rabb, who went 8-for-20 from the college three-point line last season.

Rabb said he doesn’t want to project himself as a three-point shooter yet, but it’s something he is working on.

“I feel like I’m on right track, but I’m not in a rush to get out there (and shoot threes) if it’s not my game,’’ he said. “I’m trying to master what I have first, and then build off that.’’

While Rabb says his game is becoming more polished by the day, one thing hasn’t changed: his confidence, which he says is rooted in his Oakland upbringing.

“I’m confident when I’m on the floor,’’ he said. “I feel like I carry myself differently. I don’t get rattled. I play with a chip on my shoulder and don’t let anybody punk me.’’

He says he molds himself after four players – Chris Bosh, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett – but he knows if he comes to Portland, there will be another guy who will go a long ways in shaping him.

It’s the same kid who lived across the street when he was in middle school: Lillard.

“I feel like him being there, he will push me to make sure I succeed,’’ Rabb said. “He would be a great mentor to have.’’

Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed from the Blazers win over the Nets

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Rip City Rewind: Everything you might have missed from the Blazers win over the Nets

Following All-Star Break, the Portland Trail Blazers took the road for the first game of a seven game road trip. Their first stop was in Brooklyn on Thursday night against some familiar faces.

Former Trail Blazers Ed Davis, Shabazz Napier and Allen Crabbe, who all now play for the Nets, put up a fight against Portland, but the trio couldn’t stop their former team and Portland’s new center tandem.

The Blazers dominated the Nets 113-99 in front of a sellout crowd at Barclays Center.

Here’s a look at everything you might have missed.

On a night where the three-ball wasn’t falling, the Blazers bigs caught fire.

Jusuf Nurkic went 10-of-15 from the field and grabbed 12 rebounds on Thursday night, while Kanter, who made his debut in a Blazers uniform, knocked down eight of his nine shorts, scoring 18 points in just 19 minutes. He also added nine rebounds for Portland.

Dwight Jaynes noted Portland going old-school on Brooklyn with its centers: 'Nurk and The Turk' haul Trail Blazers to an old-school win

Allen Crabbe finished with the most minutes of the former Trail Blazers trio. He came off the bench for 17 points on 7-13 shooting, while Davis added 15 points and 10 rebounds and Napier added seven points and 10 assists.=

Jamie Hudson caught up with them after the game to see how they’ve been adjusting to life in Brooklyn and what they thought of the new-look Blazers: Best of Quotes: Former Trail Blazers Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe talk after loss in Brooklyn

Jamie also shared her initial thoughts following the Blazers win: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Nets

'Nurk and The Turk' haul Trail Blazers to an old-school win

'Nurk and The Turk' haul Trail Blazers to an old-school win

The Trail Blazers went old school Thursday night in Brooklyn against the Nets.

Portland went inside to its centers. Over and over and over.

And over again.

Remember when having a low-post center who could score was a big deal? Well, the Trail Blazers turned back the clock Thursday night.

Two Blazer centers combined for 45 points and 21 rebounds as Jusuf Nurkic made 10 of his 15 shots and grabbed 12 rebounds and Enes Kanter, born in Turkey and making his Portland debut, hit eight of his nine shots, scored 18 points and hauled in nine rebounds in just a little under 20 minutes.

The Blazers finished with 66 points in the paint.

“He basically played the way we expected him to play,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said of Kanter. “I don’t know if you could have asked for a better first game from him.”

In a league dominated by three-point shooting, playing a power game with a big center is a real throwback. But high-percentage shots still have extreme value, particularly late in close games and when the shooters can also make free throws if fouled …

And, of course, on nights when the three-ball isn’t falling – like Thursday night for Portland.

“They are going to change the dynamic for a lot of teams in how they guard us,” CJ McCollum said. “They will be able to get a lot of attention, draw fouls and get us in the bonus a little bit earlier and present some different challenges for a lot of teams.”

The Trail Blazers made just 7 of 32 heaves from distance, with Damian Lillard and McCollum combining to hit only 3 of 15.

But Nurk and The Turk mopped up the mess, collecting a total of eight offensive rebounds.

“Obviously, our two big guys really dominated inside,” Stotts said. “They were a big part of our offense.

“We’ve been good, offensively, all season. And I think now we’re improved. Nurk has always been good on the pick-and-roll and Enes is good on the block.”

“Defensively, it’s going to be a challenge.”

Portland is stockpiling centers. Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard – who have each had good moments this season – did not get into the game and newcomer Skal Labissiere is plopped down at the end of the bench, where he is expected to stay with the four others ahead of him.

“He was tremendous,” Nurkic said of Kanter. ”If he can continue to play that way, it will be huge.”

McCollum said of Kanter: “He’s a monster, man. I’ve seen his work ethic the last few summers, living in New York and living in the same building.”

Kanter, who had been with the tanking Knicks prior to making his escape, was excited.

“The last time I got a win, I think it was two months,” he said. “First, it was amazing, man. I didn’t know any sets. We just went over them yesterday and it was like smoke coming out of my ears. I didn’t know any of them.

“But when you play with guys like Dame and CJ, they make the game so easy for themselves and for everybody else around them. That’s what made it so special.

“Winning is fun again. I hope it keeps getting better and better.”

Best of Quotes: Former Trail Blazers Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe talk after loss in Brooklyn

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Best of Quotes: Former Trail Blazers Ed Davis and Allen Crabbe talk after loss in Brooklyn

The start of the Trail Blazers road trip in Brooklyn brought some familiar faces to the court. Former Trail Blazers Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe and Shabazz Napier all now play for the Nets. 

Crabbe logged the most minutes of the trio, who all came off the bench. AC finished with 17 points on 7-of-13 shooting to go along with his four rebounds. Davis racked up a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Napier added seven points and ten assists. 

It was quite the night for the trio despite the loss to Portland. Here is what the former Trail Blazers had to say after the game...

Top quotes of the night from Ed Davis:

On what he sees different in playing against former teammate Jake Layman:

“Nothing – he’s just getting the opportunity. Everyone over there knows he can play. He’s an aggressive scorer, so for him it’s the opportunity to get more consistent minutes.”

On moving forward this season with an emphasis on rebounding:

“It’s huge. You know, they definitely killed us on the boards tonight. (Enes) Kanter and (Rodney) Hood and the rest of the guys. To win games you definitely need to get stops and get defensive rebounds. Those are key points.”

Davis finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds against the Blazers on Thursday night.

Top quotes of the night from Allen Crabbe:

On where the Blazers hurt the Nets most tonight:

“Offensive rebounds. They got a lot of second chance points, they got a lot of offensive rebounds. It's hard to beat a team when you give up that many offensive rebounds and they get that many looks, second chances aside, you've got to them credit. They outworked us tonight."

On if it feels like he’s hot right now from three:

“I’m just playing basketball confident. Teammates find me within the flow of the offense and like I said, when I went out before I got injured, I felt like I was finding my rhythm, and I told myself to just come back with the same mindset – just stay aggressive out there and good things will happen.”

Crabbe has played just in just 32 games all season after missing nearly two months with the knee injury. In his last 10 games he is averaging 15 points.

Jusuf Nurkic leads strong 1-2 punch in win over Nets

Jusuf Nurkic leads strong 1-2 punch in win over Nets

BROOKLYN – One thing is for sure… The Portland Trail Blazers are loaded with offensive weapons.

And, CJ McCollum said it best after the Blazers 113-99 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night:

“It’s a good problem to have.”

Unlike what fans have become accustom to for the past few seasons with Damian Lillard and McCollum leading the offensive charge, on Thursday night, it was all about Jusuf Nurkic and newly acquired backup Enes Kanter.

Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts knows it’s a luxury to have two big men who can finish around the rim.

“We’re going to spread the wealth, I guess,” Stotts said in regards to the Blazers’ rotations and who is going to get minutes. “We’ve been good offensively most of the season. I think we’re probably improved now with Enes Kanter... So offense is going to be fine. We’ll find ways to score.”

Nurkic finished with 27 points in the win, which ties a season-high, to along with his 12 rebounds after shooting an efficient 10-of-15 from the floor.

The Bosnian Beast bodied up the young Jarret Allen in Thursday night’s win as Nurkic notched his 27th double-double of the season.

Nurkic had it going early when the rest of the Blazers seemed to be shaking off that post All-Star break rust.

At the break, he was the only Trail Blazer in double figures with 10 points.

“Nurk was great. He changed the game, made them have to really double team down in the paint, he attracted a lot of attention, finished strong, was efficient, he helped us a lot,” McCollum said.

But when Nurkic got into foul trouble in the second half that meant more minutes for the newest Trail Blazer.

“It’s not a break for other teams. You come out with Nurk,who is huge, banging guys down low, getting the ball in the paint and then when Nurk’s out of the game you come in with Enes and he’s the same. He’s strong, he’s banging, he’s making those guys work… They’ve got their work cut out for them in the paint,” Lillard said.

Nurkic feels the Blazers offense could see a bit of a change for this second half of the season.

“I feel like with Enes we’re gonna play a little bit more in the post,” Nurkic added.

Kanter logged 20 minutes in his debut for the Trail Blazers. He made his first seven shots and ended the game with 18 points after going 8-of-9 from the floor. Kanter also had nine rebounds with four of those coming on the offensive end.

“I didn’t expect [Kanter] to just be that comfortable… But he played in exactly the way I knew he was capable of – on the offensive glass, scoring on the block. I think that type of game from him, I think that’s something that we can really use,” Lillard said.

Both Nurkic and Kanter realize that with their size there is a big possibility they will create mismatches.

“Somebody is gonna need to guard two big fellas out there,” Nurkic said with a smile.

“Jusuf is one of the biggest men in the league. He kind of plays like I do – physical game, rebounding, post-ups and face-up shots. I think we just want to get better from now,” Kanter said.

Lillard also mentioned how having Nurkic and Kanter both being so effective down low could open up more driving lanes for he and McCollum.

While McCollum pointed out that the Blazers could now be heading to the free throw line a little bit more because of Nurkic and Kanter’s play.

“They’re gonna change the dynamic for a lot of teams and how they guard us. Obviously they’re able to draw fouls, draw a lot of attention, get us in the bonus a little bit earlier and present some different challenges for a lot of teams,” McCollum said.

Nurkic and the rest of the Blazers will look to again take advantage of a smaller team with the Philadelphia 76ers playing without Joel Embiid when the Blazers visit Philly on Saturday.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Nets

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Nets

BROOKLYN -- It was a game that was going to set the tone for the Portland Trail Blazers seven-game road trip, according to Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and after shaking off the rust; Portland was able to take advantage of the young Nets team.

Both Jusuf Nurkic and Enes Kanter powered their way past Brooklyn to help the Blazers get a win to start the trip.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 113, Nets 99

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers win over the Nets:

 

1. Kanter imposing his will

Enes Kanter checked in as a Trail Blazer for the first time at the 3:14 mark of the first quarter. He quickly showed Blazers fans what he will bring to this team on the offensive end as Kanter muscled his way past Ed Davis for two back-to-back lay-ins.

The last two days, Kanter has preached that he will bring the energy and against the Nets he showed that energy on both ends. This is a game that Kanter matched up well again with a small frontcourt.

In his first stint as a Trail Blazer, Kanter went 3-for-3 with six points and four rebounds in nine minutes of work.  He made his first seven shots of the game.

2. Going up against Blazers East

Some of Rip City’s fan favorites are now with the Nets and you could tell the former players wanted to take it at their old team.
Midway through the 1st quarter all three former Trail Blazer players were on the court – Allen Crabbe, Shabazz Napier, and Ed Davis.

Shabazz and Davis showed their strong connection early with back-to-back successful pick and roll action. That was the first sign of the element of wanting to play well against your former team. Crabbe was also going hard at CJ McCollum one-on-one early.

Blazers fans should know—Nets fans seem to love/enjoy what all three former Blazers bring to their Nets team.

The second quarter Napier showed off some “Shabazzle Dazzle” with a between the legs pass to Crabbe who calmly knocked down the long three-pointer and the crowd went nuts. Which by the way, I felt like I was at a college game with section 114 chanting and standing for most of the game. It really was like having a student section going crazy for their team.  

Napier had a career-high in assists of a half with eight assists.

 

3. Strong third quarter despite foul trouble

It wasn’t until the second half started the Blazers looked like they were finding their groove on offense. Portland outscored Brooklyn 34-22 in the quarter and that was despite both CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic picking up four fouls each by the eight-minute mark of the third.

The triple-double watch for Damian Lillard started midway through the third as well. With just minutes left in the 3rd period, Lillard had 10poimts, 8 rebounds and 6 assists.

It was one of those off nights for Lillard, but he found different ways to help his team secure a victory.

The Nets made a run at the Blazers to make it a one-point game 7:25 mark in the final quarter after DeMarre Carroll knocked down a jumper, but Portland was able to take care of business down the stretch.

And, this ended up not being the triple-double game for Lillard, but we all know he always wants the win more than the triple-double feat.

NEXT UP: Portland continues its seven-game trip with a stop in Philadelphia for the second game of the road slate. Tip-off between the Blazers and 76ers is set for 10:00am PT with pregame coverage beginning at 9:00am 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 the Trail Blazers prep for Brooklyn Nets

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Everything you need to know from pregame as the Trail Blazers prep for Brooklyn Nets

BROOKLYN -- The Trail Blazers tip-off the second half of the 2018-19 NBA season with a brutal stretch in their schedule as Portland embarks on a seven-game, East Coast road trip starting with this matchup against the Brooklyn Nets.

Before tonight’s game tips off, the Trail Blazers players and coaching staff embraced and said their hellos to former teammates Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier while both teams were warming up.

Before the game Davis talked about what it was like getting to catch up with his former teammates, “I was there for three years. I developed a lot of lifelong relationships. It’s good to see old faces.”

Davis also had a message for Trail Blazers fans:

 

“We’ll be back in [Portland] at the end of next month. It’ll be good to be back. I appreciate all the support,” Davis said.

 

During his pregame media availability Blazers head coach Terry Stotts had plenty to say about what it was like to coach ‘Phys Ed’:

“He’s a pros, pro. He plays hard, he practices everyday, he’s a good teammate. He had good conversations with the players whether it was about basketball or about life. I think his teammates appreciated his willingness to do the dirty work and because of that he had the respect of his teammates and his coaches. I can’t say enough good things about Ed," Stotts said.

Hear more from Coach Stotts here:

 

 

I'm Not Crying, You're Crying: Meyers Leonard makes dreams come true

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I'm Not Crying, You're Crying: Meyers Leonard makes dreams come true

Meyers Leonard hasn’t had an easy life.

At only six years old, Leonard lost his father in a devastating bicycle accident and his mother’s debilitating back injury left the family with a home in foreclosure, little to no furniture and limited running water and electricity.

Leonard knows what it’s like to struggle, and now that he’s in a position to help those less fortunate, the Portland Trail Blazers center is giving back in a big way.

Each year, Blazer's Edge, the Trail Blazers SB Nation site, hosts a special night in March where they collect donations to send underprivileged fans to an NBA game.

This year, a request from a 5th grade teacher made an impression on Blazer's Edge editor Dave Deckard, who became worried they wouldn’t have enough tickets donated to fulfill the requests.

He penned a story “The Trail Blazers Request that Broke My Heart,” detailing the 5th grade teacher’s request to send her class to the game, in particular three students who share a passion for basketball.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“Basketball turned them from three lonely, isolated boys at the beginning of the year to their own little team. I can only imagine how my class, but especially those three would feel if I got to tell them they could see the Blazers play for real. I think on that day they’d walk away from school with their heads up. If it’s possible my dream is to get a picture of those three boys sitting together at a real game. It’s something I’d treasure for a lifetime.”

The letter apparently struck a chord with Leonard as well, who took to Twitter to share he and his wife Elle would help make the request a reality.

Following Leonard’s pledge, fans praised the Blazers big for supporting the students.

While these acts of kindness typically go unnoticed, Leonard definitely deserves some credit for the selfless gesture.

Giving kids the opportunity to go to an NBA game might be trivial for some, but you never know the impact it could have on those sitting in the audience.

In a post shared on Twitter Thursday, Blazer's Edge announced they had surpassed their goal of 2,000 donated tickets.

Shootaround Notebook: An update on Damian Lillard's ankle

Shootaround Notebook: An update on Damian Lillard's ankle

BROOKLYN – The Trail Blazers announced Thursday morning that both Damian Lillard (left ankle) and Rodney Hood (gastrointestinal) are available for Thursday night’s game at Brooklyn after Lillard was initially listed as questionable and Hood was probable.

Lillard did not go through Thursday’s shootaround because of the sore ankle, but he’s ready to go for the 7:30pm ET tip-off in Brooklyn.

“It’s a little sore right now. In our live contact yesterday I rolled it pretty good. I sat out of shootaround and just kind of watched from the side. We did a lot of treatment yesterday… It felt better this morning. It’s still real sore, but I’m obviously playing tonight,” Lillard said.   

Portland now starts its seven-games in 13 day road trip and for the Blazers team captain it’s all about your mindset for a trip this long.

“You gotta have your mind right now. I know for me a lot of times when I’m at my best is when I make my mind up about stuff and that’s getting rest, staying hydrated, just keeping my mind in the right place,” Lillard said.

The Blazers’ current road trip ranges from 2/21 - 3/5 with stops in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Charlotte, and Memphis.

Portland will play 16 of their final 25 remaining games on the road as the Blazers look to improve its 10-15 road record.

“For a long trip like this I know where I got to be mentally, whereas maybe in the middle of the trip I might be a little bit fatigued physically, a little warn out, ready to get home, I know where I need to be mentally, that’s a key,” Lillard said.

“For any trip, even if it’s a two-game trip it’s important how you start it off,” Lillard added.

CJ McCollum echoed those sentiments that Thursday’s game in Brooklyn is important to get the momentum going for the rest of the trip.

Thursday night not only marks the first game of the trip, but it will also be the debut of backup center Enes Kanter in a Blazers uniform.

Lillard has no doubt that Kanter can make a difference, “I’m expecting him to help us… He’s been on really good teams and he has been a starter on really good teams having a huge impact…  I’m expecting him to help us a lot.”

This will also be a chance for Blazers fans to see a few of the former Trail Blazers who are now with the Nets. Allen Crabbe, Shabazz Napier, and Ed Davis are all coming off the bench for Brooklyn.

Lillard said he still keeps in touch with all three former teammates and they are always texting each other.

He is ready for some friendly trash talking when the game tips off.

“I already know there’s gonna be some words being said out there, so that’s kind of what I’m expecting. There’s always love between us, but I’m expecting, you know, Bazz to have some stuff to say, not negative, and I know Ed will be out there talking,” Lillard said with a smile.         

Let the trash talking commence.

The Blazers and Nets tip-off at 4:30pm PT Thursday.

Blazers Outsiders: What to expect on his long road trip

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Blazers Outsiders: What to expect on his long road trip

The Blazers have the unenviable task of starting the "second half" of the season with a seven-game road trip. The trip will see them hit the road for two weeks, play games in two countries, and have tipoffs ranging from 1pm to 8pm. Needless to say, it's going to be an exhausting trip. 

The trip starts on Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets (30-29), then sees the Blazers take on the 76ers (37-21), Cavaliers (12-46), Celtics (37-21), Raptors (43-16), Hornets (27-30), and end with the Memphis Grizzlies (23-36). 

It may not seem like it, but this is a pivotal trip for Portland. The Blazers need to finish the season 16-9 to hit the magical 50 win mark. If the Blazers hit 50 they will almost be a lock to be the four seed in the west. 

Not only will 50 wins help them lock in the four seed, but it could even get them the three seed. Oklahoma City (37-20) needs to finish the season 13-12 to get to the 50 win mark. While that may sound easy for a team like the Thunder, consider that 19 of their final 25 games are against current playoff teams. One small slip up and the door is open for the Blazers. If that happens, the Blazers needs to jump right through. 

A winning record on this road trip will be a great start.

4-3 should be the goal for the Blazers. Anything better is great, anything worse is a step in the wrong direction. There are some tough teams on this trip, but they are all winnable. 4-3 may be the goal, but 5-2 is certainly achievable. 

The Nets, Cavs, Hornets, and Grizzlies should be wins, while the Celtics and Raptors look like losses on paper. The 76ers are a wildcard. Philly is a tough team, but without Joel Embiid in the lineup they are a lot easier to take down. The Trail Blazers can pick this up and go 5-2.

So much hinges on this trip. Finish above .500 and you continue to move closer to locking up a top seed. However, go below .500 and you could easily come back home as a sixth or seventh seed.

First things first, the Blazers need to set the tone with a win over the Nets on Thursday. Tipoff is set for 4:30pm, with coverage beginning at 3:30pm on NBC Sports Northwest.