Damian Lillard sets the tone early in much-needed beatdown of Phoenix

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Damian Lillard sets the tone early in much-needed beatdown of Phoenix

The Trail Blazers have been searching for their rhythm everywhere lately, in long film sessions, whiteboard slapping from coaches, and identity challenging halftime speeches from players. The course correcting play they have been desperately looking for finally arrived on Thursday, coming in the form of the lowly Phoenix Suns and an All-Star point guard.

“I thought Dame set the tone with his leadership early,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after the Blazers throttled the Suns 108-86 at the Moda Center. “He set the tone for the game and managed the game after that.”

Lillard made his first six shots and finished the first quarter with 15 points, three rebounds and three assists. The slumping Blazers (14-11), who had lost six of seven coming in, desperately needed a win, and Lillard made sure the lowly Phoenix Suns (4-21) never had a chance.

He outscored Phoenix 15-9 in the first quarter, and had more assists in the opening frame than the entire Phoenix team. When Jake Layman got rolling in the first quarter, it was Lillard who assisted three of his first four buckets, tossing him an alley-oop and setting him up for two three-pointers. Portland’s point guard had a hand in every part of the first quarter drubbing, guiding the Blazers to 34-9 lead heading into the second while virtually deciding the game.

“I just wanted to come out and be aggressive,” Lillard said. “Obviously they’re struggling as a team and we’ve been struggling. (It’s) a game on our home floor that we expect to win, but crazier things have happened in my career so I just wanted to come out and be aggressive and try to take control of the game early.”

Lillard has a tendency to feel out games, reading defensive coverages and setting up teammates in the opening minutes before ramping up his aggression and looking for his own offense late. Without his running mate CJ McCollum, who sat out Thursday with a sprained left ankle, Lillard wasted no time asserting himself.

“I thought he managed the game really well, got people involved, was aggressive when he needed to be but didn’t force too much,” Stotts said. “I just thought his overall floor game was his leadership. It’s not like anything he said, I thought [it was] his demeanor on the court and general overall floor play.”

Make no mistake the Suns are a bad team, and they played without their two best players in Devin Booker and TJ Warren. The Blazers likely would have dispatched Phoenix without Lillard making an early impact. However for a team that has slogged through numerous slow starts during a disheartening two weeks, Lillard’s early aggression displayed his understanding of the moment.

Leadership on Thursday looked like 25 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes. Lillard didn’t need to challenge his teammates at halftime the same way he didn’t need to play in the fourth quarter. He had taken care of the game early.

Beating the NBA’s worst team wasn’t a cause for celebration. Although the Blazers did spend some of the postgame media session Thursday night joking about Layman’s new mustachioed look, there was a business-like tone following the blowout win.

Lillard knows that he won’t be judged by how easily he can score first quarter points on the Suns, and that his next test arrives quickly as the Minnesota Timberwolves come to the Moda Center on Saturday.

“We got the win, and did some good things,” Lillard said. “Now we gotta build on it going into a game against a team that’s playing really well. They played really well against us not too long ago on their floor, so it’ll be a good test for us to see if we can find ourselves going in the right direction.”

Zach Collins answering your Qs: Biggest bubble surprises, his pregame playlist & more

Zach Collins answering your Qs: Biggest bubble surprises, his pregame playlist & more

It’s time to check in with our Bubble Insider Trail Blazers big man Zach Collins as he answers your questions from the bubble.  

This week in ‘Big Z’s Bubble,’ Collins talks everything from what the Blazers did well against Memphis to the biggest surprises living in the bubble to what he was listening to before Tuesday’s game against the Rockets and what he’s always working on when it comes to improving his game.

Yep, there’s a lot to get to on this third installment of ‘Big Z’s Bubble!’

Collins explained why he gave himself a ‘B’ when grading his performance from last Friday in Portland's win Memphis after Rip City Sam on Twitter asked – “How did it feel getting back on the court and how would you grade your performance?”

As for bubble life, it’s hard to believe that the Blazers have been in Orlando for almost a month now after arriving in the NBA bubble on July 9

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon]. 


Caleb on Instagram wanted to know what has been the “most surprising part about the bubble so far?”

Collins gave props to the NBA with how well the setup feels and looks as far as the arenas and locker rooms go.

HOWEVER, there was one instance when the Blazers’ bathroom was nowhere near their locker room.

Trust me, you’ll want to hear Big Z tell the bathroom story and then realize how it really wasn’t that bad, but in the moment it was before and after the game!  

Plus, thanks to Scott on Facebook, we get Zach’s thoughts on what needs to happen in order for the Blazers to continue their success in the bubble and make the playoffs after Scott asked, “What do you think is the most important take-away from Friday's game vs. Memphis? Where can improvements be made to have the most success in these final games?”

Always having a sense of urgency is something the Blazers have discussed a lot over the first three seeding games.

And shout-out to Curly Girly on Instagram who wanted to know what songs are in Collins’ playlist before the game.

Tuesday’s pregame playlist consisted of a lot of rapper J. Cole.

Yep, Big Z prepared for the Rockets with some old and new J. Cole.

“I’m on a J. Cole binge right now,” Collins said. “I’ve been trying to listen to all of his old stuff because I hear his new stuff all the time.”

But, he added that his pregame music is “all over the place.”

A couple of other pregame favs for Big Z include:

  • 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Coolio
  • 'Hard to Forget' by Sam Hunt

Okay, yes, that's very all over the place, Zach and we love it!

[RELATED]: Big Z's Bubble Week 1 -- Zach Collins takes you on a tour of hotel's barbershop

To wrap-up this week’s mailbag, we go back to a basketball question...

Brad on Instagram wanted to know: 

What’s one part of your game you’re always working on?

Simple answer: Big Z is always working on his shot.

“Just always be ready to knock down threes is important for this team. So, [I’m] always [working on] shooting.”

[RELATED]: Big Z's Bubble Week 2 -- Is Zach Collins a good bowler? Well, we know -- he's eager to earn DPOY 

Check out the third installment of ‘Big Z’s Bubble Life’ right here where he answers all of the above questions and takes you on a tour of the hotel’s “food station.”  

Also, don’t forget to continue to send in your questions for Zach. He’ll be answering the top questions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram next week while the Blazers make a final push for the postseason.  

Catch Collins and the Trail Blazers Thursday when Portland faces Denver on the official network of the Blazers, NBC Sports Northwest! Coverage starts at 2:30p.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 4:00p.m. and  Blazers Pregame at 4:30p.m. The Blazers and Nuggets tip-off at 5:00p.m.

And then, wrap up a full Blazers Night with ‘Blazers Outsiders’ following the Trail Blazers Postgame Show. Don't miss a second of the action, download the MyTeams App and live stream the game.

Eye on the Eight: How Memphis and Spurs losses assist the Trail Blazers

Eye on the Eight: How Memphis and Spurs losses assist the Trail Blazers

After a huge 110-102 victory over Houston on Tuesday evening, the Portland Trail Blazers entered Wednesday with sole possession of the No. 9 seed in the Western Conference.  

No matter what happened during Wednesday's slate of games, the Blazers would be able to hold onto the No. 9 seed but to Portland's benefit, Wednesday could not have gone better.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

The Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the No. 8 seed in the West, lost to the Utah Jazz 124-115 to fall again in the standings. The Grizzlies entered the bubble with a 3.5-game lead for the eighth seed, but after losing their first four games in Orlando, only lead Portland by 1.0 game. 

The remaining schedule for Memphis includes games against OKC, Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee. Those last three teams may have playoff seeding secured by that time, however, and could elect to rest their starters against Memphis. 

Additionally, on Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs entered their game against Denver a 0.5 game behind Portland for the ninth seed. But a 132-126 loss to the Nuggets drops the Spurs to a full game (1.0) behind the Blazers in the standings. 

Note: Portland holds the tiebreaker against all teams fighting for the eighth seed due to having played more games before the season got suspended, therefore having a higher win percentage.

So, the standings are as follows:

8. Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule: OKC, Toronto, Boston, Milwaukee 

9. Portland Trail Blazers (1.0 game behind) Remaining schedule: Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Brooklyn

10. San Antonio Spurs (2.0 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Utah, New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio

11. New Orleans Pelicans (2.0 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Sacramento, Washington, San Antonio, Sacramento, Orlando

12. Phoenix Suns (2.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Indiana, Miami, OKC, Philadelphia, Dallas

13. Sacramento (3.0 games behind)  Remaining schedule: New Orleans, Brooklyn, Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers

One wrinkle to watch will be the health of Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons who left the Sixers game against Washington Wednesday afternoon and did not return.

Simmons has "no pain or swelling in left knee" according for ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Still, the Sixers may elect to rest Simmons for the postseason which will affect their chances in games against Portland and Phoenix down the stretch. 

[RELATED]: Ben Simmons forced to leave game vs. Wizards with injury

On Thursday, August 6, Portland will play the Denver Nuggets, who will be on the second of a back-to-back, at 5:00 p.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest.

A Blazers victory will give them a 1.5-game lead over San Antonio for the ninth seed and only a half-game behind Memphis for the eighth seed. 

Other games to watch on August 6: 

New Orleans vs Sacramento (10:30 a.m. PT)

Who do we want to win? Sacramento. 

Phoenix vs Indiana (1:00 p.m. PT)

Who do we want to win? Indiana.

Best Case Scenario: SAC, IND, POR all win. Portland 0.5 game behind Memphis and 1.5 games ahead of San Antonio and 2.0 ahead of New Orleans.

Worst Case Scenario: NOP, PHX win, and POR losses. POR and NOP tied for ninth, 1.5 games behind Memphis for eighth.  

Damian Lillard shows off new Dame 6 “Pride” kicks during game

Damian Lillard shows off new Dame 6 “Pride” kicks during game

The NBA restart has allowed players across the league to use their platforms to amplify their messages about social justice with the world watching them in the bubble.

Trail Blazers Damian Lillard does that by showing “How many more” on the back of his jersey, an apparent reference to the epidemic of unarmed Black men being killed by police.

He also shows more support on his custom Dame 6 collection.

Lillard wore the special Pride sneakers for the Portland Trail Blazers’ game Sunday against the Boston Celtics.

As of now, there are at least 23 models available for purchase through Adidas.

Going back to last Sunday, the Dame 6 Pride collection served him well. Lillard put up 30 points and dished out 16 assists in Portland’s four-point loss.

Back in 2017, Lillard was met with hackers that threw gay slurs outside of the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minn. 

He called the fans “disrespectful” at the time, and now Lillard is showing his support for the LGBT community with these great additions to the Dame 6 collection.

If you would like to purchase yourself a pair, the Pride shoes are available here and at other marketplaces.

[Listen to the latest Talking’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

Carmelo Anthony shows us all why he “deserves his damn flowers”

Carmelo Anthony shows us all why he “deserves his damn flowers”

Carmelo Anthony has been, for a lack of a better word, 'ballin' since the NBA restart for the Portland Trail Blazers.

Since the NBA restarted, Anthony has been averaging 18 points per game on 55 percent shooting, including 15-for-25 three-point shooting.

Last night against the Houston Rockets, he proved more to everyone why he still has juice left in the tank by hitting a triple with 54.6 seconds left that gave the Blazers a two-possession lead en route to a 110-102 victory with significant playoff implications.

Anthony finished with 15 points on 14 shots and 11 rebounds.

After last night's performance, people who, prior to being with the Blazers, had Anthony finished and never finding a team again after his playoff performance with the Thunder and not fitting well with the Rockets.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast as special guest Bill Walton joins hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]: 


But after last night’s game, Damian Lillard had to remind everyone in the post-game interview that Anthony, if you forgot, is a for sure Hall of Famer.

On First Things Things First, host Nick Wright also had to set the record straight and said Anthony absolutely “deserves his damn flowers” for what he has brought to the game since coming into the NBA.

A lot of people may be too lazy to do their own research to see why Anthony is a Hall of Famer, so I will help you out by throwing some of his many accomplishments:

Carmelo Anthony 

  • 10x All-Star
  • 6x All-NBA
  • NBA Scoring Champion (2013)
  • NCAA Championship (2003
  • Top Olympic scorer in U.S. history
  • USA Basketball’s first four-time men’s Olympian, the first four-time men’s medalist and the first men’s player to win three Olympic gold medals.

It is great to see Anthony finally getting some praise for what he has done now that he is showing how good he is with the Blazers right now.

Anthony will no doubt be in the Hall of Fame, and it's great to see everyone finally giving him his “flowers” he deserves.


Hey Max Kellerman, your ‘apology’ to Carmelo Anthony kind of sucks

Hey Max Kellerman, your ‘apology’ to Carmelo Anthony kind of sucks

Dear Max Kellerman,

Your ‘apology’ or rather lack of one to Carmelo Anthony sort of sucks.


Rip City.

The moment 36-year-old, 17-year and 10x NBA All-Star veteran Carmelo Anthony put on the black and red pinwheel jersey, he has been an important factor in Portland pursuit of a playoff run this season.

And after last night’s performance against the Houston Rockets, hitting a dagger three-pointer that sealed the win against his former team, many took to social media to call out all the Melo haters and doubters and demanding an apology.

One of those people called out was ESPN’s First Take Max Kellerman who had this to say of Melo back on May 1, 2018:

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon with special guest former Blazers legend Bill Walton].

On Wednesday, Kellerman was called out for his comments two years ago and if he had a change of heart on Melo. Not exactly…

Absolutely not. I do not owe Carmelo Anthony an apology and people need to stop with this foolishness. I tell the truth as I see it. Carmelo Anthony though he still was a super star when he was no longer, his ego took hits… If you needed a bucket in iso, could he get you a bucket? Yes he could. So I mentioned, he’s like a 15-minute player of someone’s bench…

What I will say is that Carmelo proved my prediction about him wrong. I certainly don’t owe him an apology. — Max Kellerman

What Kellerman doesn’t understand is that the apology needs to come from calling Melo ‘washed’ because that signifies that Melo will never be ‘Melo’ again. His time in the league had run its course and that he should have retired back in 2018. 

However, that could not be farther from the truth. 

Melo has rejuvenated with his opportunity in Portland and Rip City is loving it. 

Former Cleveland Cavaliers forward and NBA Champion Richard Jefferson called out Kellerman on the term ‘washed’ to which Kellerman said:

If I ever said he’s ‘washed’, for that I apologize because he’s not washed. — Max Kellerman

But, you did Max so thanks for the sort-of apology. It was the kind of apology that was along the lines of ‘I’m sorry your feelings are hurt but I’m not sorry I said it.”

Regardless of Kellerman’s comments, ‘Skinny Melo’ and the Blazers (2-1) picked up a huge win in their race for the eight seed in the Western Conference. With just five games to go and 1.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for that final spot, the Blazers will need more unapologetic Melo.

Zach Collins low-key trolls James Harden in social media post

Zach Collins low-key trolls James Harden in social media post

Zach Collins is a man not to be trifled with. 

While affable off the court, he is towering and imposing on the court. 

And he doesn’t take s*** from anybody. 

Big Z has made his triumphant return to the court after missing much of the season with a shoulder injury in October. 

Now, he’s back in the starting lineup and making a big impact for the Trail Blazers. 

Collins, along with the other Trail Blazers big men, Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside, used their size to overpower the Houston Rockets 110-102 Tuesday night in Orlando. 

The Rockets, not starting a player over 6’8”, were no match for the Trail Blazers, who now sit solely in 9th place just 1.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. 

After the win, Collins took to social media to commemorate the victory, featuring a photo of James Harden in a heap with a stern-faced Collins leaning against the stanchion. 

View this post on Instagram

Keep moving forward. On to the next🚶🏻‍♂️

A post shared by Zach Collins (@zachcollins_33) on

“Keep moving forward. On to the next,” the caption reads. Of all the photos to choose from... this is the one he chose.

The photo is a low-key troll at James Harden, who often oversells contact and complains constantly. It seems intentional. 

Harden was limited to 23 points Tuesday because of Portland’s defense, frustrating him into foul trouble. 

“U a savage 😂😂,” one commenter wrote.

“Beast😤,” wrote another.

“I fell in love with you last night,” one confessed. 

“I want this photo framed.” 

Yes, frame it! And until then, the Internet wins again. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast as special guest Bill Walton joins hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon]: 


Winning formula: How the Trail Blazers controlled James Harden and pace of the game

Winning formula: How the Trail Blazers controlled James Harden and pace of the game

A quick look back at an impressive Portland win in the Orlando Bubble:

The Trail Blazers have struggled on defense for a good part of this season, but in their last three games against the Houston Rockets -- all wins -- there isn’t much evidence of that.

Portland has been able to keep the Rockets, and their superstar scorer James Harden, under control and Tuesday night’s 110-103 win was another example of a defensive game plan working to near perfection.

For the Trail Blazers, stopping Harden has been Job One. Portland has double-teamed him, trapped him and used multiple defenders on him. The result has been that Harden has not had a lot of opportunities to get into his cat-and-mouse, one-on-one show, putting defenders on ice skates with his step backs, rip-throughs and side steps.

Harden is averaging 22.5 shot attempts per game for the season, but in the last three contests vs. Portland he’s managed to get only 12, 18 and 17 shots. He is 15 for 47. He averages 12.5 three-point attempts per game and in these last three vs. the Blazers he’s taken only 6, 8 and 8.

And Portland isn’t fouling him, either. Harden is a magician at getting to the line, but he’s managed just 8, 6 and 7 attempts in those three games, while averaging 11.9 for the season.

Averaging 34.3 points per game this year, Harden has scored 13, 18 and 23 in those last three Portland games.

“It is difficult for him to get a rhythm,” Houston Coach Mike D’Antoni said following Tuesday night’s loss.

But D’Antoni pointed to another thing the Trail Blazers are doing that is affecting the Rockets. Portland is slowing Houston down.

“We didn’t play at our pace,” said the Rockets’ coach. “And if we don’t play at our pace, we just kind of play into them. Then they’re going to beat us up a little bit. And they did that, especially in the first half.

“I think our biggest problem with the whole game, first of all, we didn’t come out with a lot of energy. It was pretty soft at the start. We never pushed, we never really got the big push to move the ball, so we gave them a chance to double him every time.

“OK, you all double us, pass, we’ll get a shot. We got a lot of open shots, but we have to play faster, and we have to go before the double team gets to James… That’s where we made a mistake.”

Harden was also burdened with foul trouble, including a controversial fifth foul that Harden didn’t like. D’Antoni was asked why he didn’t ask for video review of the play and his answer was refreshingly honest.

“It was a foul,” he said. “I looked at it and thought it was a foul. I didn’t want to challenge it at that point.”

Portland went big throughout the game, but the Rockets, who have had great success playing small ball, did not exploit a perceived edge in quickness.

“We just kind of got into their kind of game,” D’Antoni said. “We weren’t running. They were big, a little bit slower than us, and we played just the way they played.

“It was a lack of energy, third game, heavy legs -- i don’t know. We just couldn’t get over the hump.

“Their bigs are good. Nurkic is a load.”

Harden didn’t talk much about the Portland defense.

“You know, I think we had a lot of opportunities we missed,” he said. “Defensively, we played hard. They made shots down the stretch and we didn’t.

“I couldn’t get as aggressive as I wanted. Mainly foul trouble. Like I said, we had a lot of open shots that, if we make those, it’s a different ballgame. Even myself, I had some good shot opportunities late in the fourth quarter that just didn’t go in.”

Gary Trent Jr. isn't shy, and that's just what the Trail Blazers need

Gary Trent Jr. isn't shy, and that's just what the Trail Blazers need

There is an undeniable fearlessness to Gary Trent Jr. 

The Trail Blazers second year guard is confident enough to stroll into an empty arena in Orlando with a flame-adorned, black denim button-up fastened so it purposely exposes his bare navel as well as his high-end fanny pack. And since no outfit is complete without accessories, the script on his Supreme beanie matches the flames along the trim of his shirt. 

This is not an outfit for the meek. It’s more Guy Fieiri meets Paris Fashion Week. The Mayor of Flavortown on the Champs-Élysées.

“Ever since I can remember I've been stylish,” Trent Jr. says, explaining that his grandmother helped instill in him an appreciation for dressing nice at an early age.

His brazen sartorial choices off the court perfectly encapsulates his approach on the court.

Seconds after checking into the game in the first quarter on Tuesday night, Trent Jr. tracked down James Harden at the rim and blocked a would-be layup by the former MVP.

His game is not for the meek, either. Nothing about any of this is timid.

He plays with the confidence that has made him an invaluable part of the Trail Blazers rotation and earned him crunch time minutes during what amounts to an extended postseason run. He’s shown his full game in Orlando. There has been rugged defense and eagerness to try to lock up stars like Ja Morant, Jayson Tatum and James Harden. While constantly pestering and disrupting opponents, helping him rank eighth in the NBA in deflections per game since the restart.

That determined defense has been a perfect complement to a hotter than Central Florida in August shooting stroke. Through three games in Orlando, Trent Jr. is 15-for-25 from beyond the three-point line, tied for the most makes from deep of anyone in the NBA.

On Tuesday against the Rockets, the Blazers grinded out a crucial win to move within 1.5 games of the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the eighth seed in the West. Trent Jr. finished with 16 points and made 4 of 9 three-pointers in 35 minutes, coming up big with the game on the line. After Houston tied the score with under four minutes to go, Trent Jr. calmly drilled a spot-up three from the left wing to give Portland the lead for good. 

It was the third straight game where Trent Jr. has been on the floor at crunch time as he has grown into an essential contributor after beginning the year as a developmental piece at the end of the rotation. In Portland’s first game it was Trent Jr. who was tasked with slowing down Morant in overtime as the Blazers clawed out an all important win over the Grizzlies. Then against Boston, Trent Jr. shot an absurd 7-for-11 from beyond the arc to help the Blazers stay afloat before their late rally fell short.

The NBA restart has condensed the league down to only its most competitive teams, and the Blazers are in a mad scramble to make the playoffs. This eight game dash isn’t for the meek. Luckily, nothing about Trent Jr. fits that description.

Trail Blazers hilarious post-win recovery begins with A LOT of ice

Trail Blazers hilarious post-win recovery begins with A LOT of ice

How many pounds of ice does it take to cool off the Trail Blazers?

Well, a lot, actually. 

After the Trail Blazers 110-102 win over the Houston Rockets, Trail Blazers Performance Coach Todd Forcier documented the team’s recovery methods. 

The team loaded up an entire golf cart with ice and went back to their hotel. A whopping 520 pounds worth of ice, to be exact. Poolside, the team hopped in the mini pools filled with frigid water. 


1am cold tubs do the body good!

Social media was loving it, too!

Bubble life!

The Trail Blazers begin their recovery for Thursday night’s game vs. the Denver Nuggets at 5pm. 

[You can listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast here with special guest Bill Walton]: