Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers prepare for "big loss" with no Trevor Ariza

There’s no doubt that without starting small forward Trevor Ariza on the perimeter, that’s going to create some problems for the Trail Blazers as they head to Orlando for their eight regular-season games in the restart of the 2019-20 season.

We are now less than a month away from the season resuming. Wednesday, Damian Lillard and Coach Terry Stotts shared their thoughts on Ariza opting out of returning to play to instead commit to a one-month visitation window with his 12-year-old son.

“I have a great respect for the decision that he made,” Stotts said. “It wasn’t an easy one for him, but I’ve told him this -- the decision he made to be with his child, I thought was very commendable and totally respected that.”

But what about that gaping hole now at the three?

Lillard was straightforward when talking about losing Ariza.

The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard knows it won’t be easy to replace him.

It’s a big loss. I don’t think there’s any way around it. It’s not a situation where you just say, you know, ‘Somebody has to jump in and step up’ even though that’s the truth. It’s just a loss for us but I respect his opinion. If I was in his position I would have done the same thing.

I think this season we dealt with a lot of adversity. So I think we got to look at that as it’s a blow to our team, but we’re also getting [Jusuf Nurkic] and Zach [Collins] back, and that’s going to be a big help for us. Hopefully, we’re able to move forward and still get done what we want to get done. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

The Trail Blazers traded for Ariza on January 21 from the Sacramento Kings for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks. He was instilled as the team's starting small forward. Wenyan Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan were also involved in the deal.

In 21 games played with the Trail Blazers this season, Ariza averaged 11.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 assists. 

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

With Zach Collins now “100 percent cleared to play,” according to Stotts, having a healthy Collins back from shoulder surgery is definitely one big positive that came out of delaying the season.

Coach Stotts mentioned that he is exploring a big lineup of Carmelo Anthony at small forward and Collins at the four.

Plus, we can't forget about the other options for the Blazers at the three spot:

  • Gary Trent Jr.
  • Nassir Little  
  • Mario Hezonja

“It’ll be by committee,” Stotts explained. “The obvious thing is Carmelo will play some three. Gary Trent will play some three. Nas and Mario will have to make the most of their opportunities when they’re out there.”

Stotts is still optimistic that by adding a healthy Nurk and Collins, a void will be filled at the defensive end.

Not having Trevor, obviously, it’s gonna fill a hole. He’s our best perimeter defender. We’re going to have to make due… We’re going to lose his defense and his three-point shooting, but we gain Zach and Nurk, so hopefully we’ll be better defensively even though we lose Trevor.  -- Blazers coach Terry Stotts

Lillard; however, is still uncertain how things will shake out at the small forward spot.  

“I’m not sure," Lillard said. "I mean, Nas has gotten a lot of experience this season. GT has gotten a lot of experience this season. But, I could see Melo probably being the three. I could see Melo playing the three to start games. You know, I could see us having a pretty big lineup out there.”

But with three weeks of training camp after a more than three-month layoff, the Blazers are eager to get the resumption of play underway.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazers return to play schedule in Orlando released

The Trail Blazers currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference standings, 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies. Sacramento and New Orleans are also 3.5 games behind Memphis.

Stotts said the team will have to “hold serve” once the short slate of games tip-off.

But, it’s apparent the Trail Blazers are all-in for the return to play in Orlando.

The fact that we are approaching it like every game is a playoff game, the rotation will be a little bit shorter. -- Terry Stotts    

The goal from Stotts and Lillard is understood:

The Blazers are determined to fight for their playoff lives once they get to Orlando.

It’s basically an 8-game season and we’re starting behind. -- Damian Lillard

Lillard added he “feels good” about the Blazers chances to make the postseason.

Teams will travel to Orlando from July 7-9. Portland will tip-off its first of eight ‘regular-season’ games on July 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Lakers should fear the Portland Trail Blazers as the potential eight seed, and the world knows it

The Lakers should fear the Portland Trail Blazers as the potential eight seed, and the world knows it

Rip City and the Portland Trail Blazers knew Portland would be a problem down in the NBA bubble and now the rest of the league is getting a taste. 

On July 31, the Blazers began their pursuit of the Western Conference eight seed 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

Six games later, and Portland (4-2 in the bubble) has a very realistic shot in claiming that eight seed. Heading into the bubble, ESPN's BPI had Portland with only a 9% chance of getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That chance has more than tripled to 30.3%.

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

On Monday, The Herd host Colin Cowherd discussed his three biggest takeaways on Monday and to no surprise, Portland is on his list:

I want no part of Portland. If I am in the playoffs in the West, I got no interest playing Portland. — Colin Cowherd

Here are his reasons:

Damian Lillard is the best shooter and on most nights, the best player in the bubble. They’ve got three seven-footers, so they match up with teams like Milwaukee and Toronto and the Lakers who have size. Gary Trent Jr. - who was a nice player at Duke, always a good shooter - yikes. He looks like Steph Curry. Terry Stotts has been very good for years, very respected. Carmelo Anthony has added harmony and scoring from the wing. — Colin Cowherd

The Trail Blazers welcomed back two seven-footers to their roster and starting lineup for the NBA restart. Opposing teams didn’t have updated film on both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. The emergence of the ‘pitbull’ Gary Trent Jr. started late in the season before the NBA suspended the season back in March. GTJ is currently averaging 20.3 points per game while hitting 29 three pointers through six games. Carmelo Anthony has come up in the clutch and resulting in apology forms circulating on social media for all those who called the 17-year and 10x All-Star ‘washed.’

And of course, Dame Time.

So for fun, let’s fast forward and think about a potential Lakers-Blazers matchup in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Portland for me, they are going to be the greatest eight seed in the history of the NBA. Their backcourt could be a nightmare for the Lakers. -- Colin Cowherd

Damian Lillard consistently gives the Lakers trouble. Lillard recorded a near triple-double in their first meeting on Dec. 6, 2019 with 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. McCollum added 15 points.

Three weeks later, Lillard recorded 31 points and nine assists. McCollum added 18 points.

In their third and final meeting before the NBA suspension and the first game following Kobe Bryant’s tasing, Lillard erupted for 48 points and 10 assists and nine rebounds while hitting 7-for-12 from 3-PT range. McCollum added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers have had trouble in the past locking up Lillard and without Avery Bradley down in the bubble, expect more of the same.

Lillard’s 30th birthday wish, before games started down in the bubble, was “Let’s not waste our f****** time down here.” He and the Blazers are doing just that.

Watch more in the video below:

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker channels his inner Damian Lillard with logo shot

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker channels his inner Damian Lillard with logo shot

Damian Lillard is the king of launching shots from 30 feet and beyond. 

He’s been a leader of the deep-three revolution for years, earning the nickname "Logo Lillard" for his ability to drain long three-pointers without a single ounce of hesitation.

On Monday, as the Phoenix Suns took down the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 to remain undefeated in the NBA Bubble, Devin Booker decided to take a page out of Lillard’s book.

Real recognize real.

The Lillard-esque shot quickly gained traction on social media. The Suns even changed their Twitter handle name to “Logo Book.” 

Trail Blazers fans quickly noticed the name change and called out the Suns for trying to coin the nickname of their beloved Portland guard.

While Book’s miraculous shot is certainly worthy of praise, Lillard has been using deep threes in Dame Time to score against opponents for years. Hopefully these examples will jog your memory. 

If you’ll recall, Lillard advocated for Booker to join Team LeBron in this year’s All-Star Game after the Trail Blazers guard suffered a groin injury. 

“I thought he deserved to be here originally,” Lillard said. “So I am really happy for him to get his first one.” 

Lillard had nothing but respect for the 23-year-old, who he said was one of his favorite athletes to play against. 

Book is my favorite – my personal favorite – player to watch in the league. Every time I can catch a Suns game I watch. – Damian Lillard

The admiration that Booker has for Lillard is mutual. 

Just the approach that he brings to the game, the demeanor he brings to the game and the killer mindset. – Devin Booker

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

 

Are other NBA teams conspiring to get the Blazers into the playoffs?

Are other NBA teams conspiring to get the Blazers into the playoffs?

Conspiracy theories come in many shapes and sizes, as we all know.

Bigfoot, the moon landing, and many more I won’t get into because some are just plain ridiculous, honestly.

But since the NBA has been back and at full swing, one conspiracy theory has made its way and it involves Portland’s own Trail Blazers:

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

Are other western conference teams trying to help Portland become the eighth seed in the playoffs?

Well, are they?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been on a roll since the NBA restart. They currently are 4-2, with wins against Houston and Denver, and nearly beat Boston and Clippers.

Against the Clippers, Doc Rivers rested Kawhi Leonard, and then pulled his other star, Paul George, from the game with five minutes remaining and the Clippers trailing by three. 

Was this an attempt to throw the game to improve the chances the Lakers would have to see this tough team in the first round?

Well, no. Rivers said that George was on a minutes restriction, so let's not try to make this any bigger than what people think this is.

Then the coach was asked if he thought the Trail Blazers could beat the Lakers.

“I don’t get involved in that,” said Rivers, whose team beat Portland despite not having its stars in at the end. “I honestly don’t look at it. I heard our guys talking about it, I’m like, ‘Listen, that’s their business. Our business is who we’re playing.’ We need to focus on that.”

I don’t know if teams are trying to get the Blazers into the 8th seed, but it is an interesting conversation to have.

Once the seeding games end, the eighth and ninth teams in the West will participate in a play-in game.

If the eighth seed wins, it advances to the playoffs. If the ninth seed wins, the teams play an elimination game.

If Portland lands at the 8th spot and wins against the Lakers, will the Clippers be ready to face a well-oiled machine that will be the Blazers?

I'm not much of a conspiracy theory guy, myself. But I do know and understand that the Blazers, as of now, is on a roll and the Lakers could be having some trouble if they face each other in the playoffs.

The Blazers aren’t slowing down, and neither is Damian Lillard.

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

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

“Paul George is a star. And Patrick Beverley is one of my favorite players and favorite people in the world. Don’t mess with Dame,” said Stephen A. Smith on Monday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take.

Shall we recap what occurred over the weekend down in the NBA bubble?

The Portland Trail Blazers faced their first back-to-back of the NBA restart. On Saturday, Portland fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 122-117. It was a team loss, but Damian Lillard uncharacteristically missed two free throws down the wire which prompted in Los Angeles’ Patrick Beverley to tap his wrist, shout ‘Dame Time’, and wave goodbye to the Blazers as the teams headed to the locker rooms. 

After the game, Lillard responded to his antics in the most Lillard way, taking it as respect after sending home Beverley and the Houston Rockets with that 0.9 shot back in the 2014 playoffs and then against in the 2019 playoffs against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. PG13 fled to the Clippers after getting sent home by Dame.

24 hours later, Lillard followed this up by dropping 51 points on the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Portland needed the win in such a tight race for the Western Conference eight seed.

Let that be a fair warning to the rest of the NBA: don’t poke the Lillard bear.

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

Don’t mess with Dame. Don’t mess with Dame D.O.L.L.A. He’s not the one. He’s not the one. This brother on many, many occasions has stepped up in big moments and he has closed. This brother has carried this Portland Trail Blazers franchise and has been the face of the franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith’s comments come hours after Skip Bayless called out Lillard on Fox Sports’ Undisputed saying he’s not buying “Dame Time.”

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

We’d like to remind you that Lillard is averaging 29.3 points, 8.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. So yeah, Damian Lillard is ‘that guy.”

Lillard might be adding Bayless’ name to D.O.L.L.A.’s next diss track.

But let’s get back to Smith defending Lillard because it goes far beyond what he does on the court and with a ball in his hands. 

This is also a guy that doesn’t get enough credit for his community service, his philanthropy, the fact that he is a guy that is socially conscious, never gets in any kind of trouble or whatever. This dude is worthy of being the face of a franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Couldn’t be more true. 

Lucky for the Trail Blazers and Rip City, Lillard has stated time and time again his loyalty to Portland and his desire to bring the city of Portland another NBA Championship.

Watch the Stephen A. Smith clip below.

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

No one wants to be on the other end of a feud with Damian Lillard. 

Just ask Skip Bayless, who got dunked on by the Portland Trail Blazers star and pretty much all of Twitter, after he took jabs at Lillard on the “Undisputed.”

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name? -- Skip Bayless

When Lillard found out about the FS1 host’s rude remarks, he clapped back and called Bayless a joke. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect -- Damian Lillard

The roasting didn’t stop there. 

NBA Twitter feasted on the comments.












Haven’t people learned by now they can’t get in a war of words with Damian Lillard? Just ask Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Patrick Beverley how that turned out...

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

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

As we head into the final week of NBA seeding games, it’s time to take a break and reflect on what the league has been able to do with its plan to return to play.

Start off by noting that there are still no COVID-19 cases reported inside the league’s bubble. And while I don’t expect that to continue throughout the entire span of the playoffs, I think it’s an achievement.

Particularly in view of what’s happened in baseball and even PGA golf, where players have tested positive. And I would expect the NFL to be full of positive tests once its players gather for a while.

The bubble has been very efficient for the NBA. Everyone on that campus in Orlando should be praised for their cooperation and patience in a difficult situation.

I'm certain it's not an easy life.

But wasn’t it obvious from the start that if you can get the athletes and staff to buy into the science of quarantines, social distances, tests and masks, the concept is very workable?

Again, it’s not perfect. Somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to go off the ranch or contact someone from the outside and bring the virus onto the campus. But from what I’ve seen so far, the NBA will be ready to handle what comes of that.

COVID-19 doesn’t rain from the sky and it doesn’t spontaneously combust. If you are virus-free and build a fence around you or your group, you have a very good chance of never meeting up with it.

The idea of traveling from city to city and allowing players the freedom to navigate their communities without regulation or supervision, the plan that baseball is messing with, seems doomed. Are you paying attention, NFL?

The virus is extremely contagious and nothing to be playing around with. I congratulate the NBA, its players, coaches, support staff and front office officials for coming up with a plan that, so far, is keeping everyone safe and allowing the season to continue.

If only the rest of our country was as careful and sensible.

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

The Blazers will rest on Monday following a 124-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday that left Portland just half a game behind Memphis for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. 

Moving into the eight seed would be huge for the Blazers. Not only does it give them more separation from the ten seed to ensure Portland a chance to play its way into the postseason, but it would make it so the Blazers only need to win one play-in game rather than two.

Heading into the bubble, ESPN's BPI had Portland with only a 9% chance of getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That chance has more than tripled to 30.3%.

But, just because the Blazers aren't playing today doesn't mean the standings won't be affected. 

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

Here are the standings heading into Monday. UPDATED AFTER PHOENIX WIN OVER OKC. 

8. Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule: Boston, Milwaukee (Win Percentage: 0.465)

9. Portland Trail Blazers (0.5 games behind) Remaining schedule: Dallas, Brooklyn (Win Percentage: 0.458)

10. Phoenix Suns (1.0 games behind) Remaining schedule: Philadelphia, Dallas (Win Percentage: 0.451)

11. San Antonio Spurs (1.0 games behind) Remaining schedule: Houston, Utah (Win Percentage: 0.449)

Note: New Orleans and Sacramento were both eliminated from postseason contention Sunday. 

Notable Games August 10:

Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Who do we want to win? Oklahoma City.

Line: Phoenix -7.5 Phoenix won 128-101. 

With the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Spurs all on off days, the Suns are the only team in the playoff race for the eighth seed playing on Monday. However, it should be an easy win for Phoenix due to OKC resting many notable players such as Steven Adams, Danillo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous Alexander, and Nerlens Noel.  

If Phoenix wins: They move into a tie for the tenth seed with San Antonio and would stand just a half-game behind Portland with two games remaining for all teams.

If Phoenix loses: They will drop to a game and a half behind Portland for the ninth seed with two games remaining. The Suns would need Portland to lose out to have a chance to get the ninth seed. 

Notable Games August 11:

Portland Trail Blazers vs Dallas Mavericks (3:30 p.m PT):

Who do you want to win: Portland.

Incentives to rest? Dallas rested multiple starters including Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis against Utah on Monday which was one of the few teams the Mavericks could catch up to in the standings. They will be locked into the seven seed heading into their game versus Portland. 

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets (11:00 a.m. PT):

Who do you want to win: Houston.

Incentives to rest? The Rockets will be 1.5 games behind Denver for the third seed and may play for the chance to move up and play the Utah Jazz, who Houston has eliminated from the postseason two years running, in the first round rather than the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers (1:30 p.m. PT):

Who do we want to win? Philadelphia. 

Incentives to rest? Ben Simmons has already been ruled out indefinitely. Joel Embiid injured his left ankle against the Trail Blazers on Sunday and the Sixers have ruled him out for Tuesday's contest. However, Philadelphia is just one game back of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (who play each other Monday evening) for the fourth seed which would avoid Boston in the first round. The Sixers cannot fall to the seventh seed. 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Boston Celtics (2:00 p.m. PT):

Who do we want to win? Boston.

Incentives to rest? Boston is locked into the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but, head coach Brad Stevens said he doesn't plan to rest his starters for the remainder of seeding games.

“You obviously want to have great health, but conditioning is a great part of that, so we want all of our primary guys to play at least two more times out of three,” the Celtics coach said after Saturday’s practice per the Boston Herald. “All of our sports science people and everybody else feels a full week in between games is enough – certainly don’t want more than that. We play our guys, nothing is set in stone yet, that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”

Scenarios:

Portland Wins Eighth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis goes 1-1

-Portland goes 1-1, Memphis goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 1-1

Portland Wins Ninth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis 2-0

-Portland goes 1-1, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 1-1

-Portland goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 0-2, Phoenix goes 0-2,

Play-in games schedule:

Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT

Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT 

Next up: The Portland Trail Blazers will play the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 11 at 3:30 p.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest.

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard has a superstar profile and plenty of accolades to back it up. 

He’s a five-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection recipient, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year and is coming off a 2019 season where he led the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly two decades last season.

Heck, even NBA2K dubbed Lillard the king of point guards when they announced the Portland Trail Blazers guard as the first athlete on the cover of NBA2K21. 

But, Skip Bayless isn’t convinced Lillard has reached superstar level quite yet. On the 'Undisputed' Monday morning, he took jabs at Lillard, a 88.9 free throw shooter, for missing two free throws on Saturday as Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris Sr. taunted his misses. 

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name?

I don’t see it and I haven’t seen it when it really, really counted, and I don’t think the Clippers had seen it either. Because I gotta tell you, they laughed at your man. They clowned your man when he missed the two free throws, then missed the tying three late in that game. They’re over on the bench, their tapping their imaginary watches ‘it’s Dame Time,’ their waving goodbye to him just like the way he waved goodbye to Russell Westbrook and in the end Paul George, he was there, and their waving goodbye to him…

And the great irony of this is the Blazers are the team the Clippers are rooting for to play your team, the Lakers, because it’s obvious, it is painfully obvious, that the Portland Trail Blazers have the best chance, at least on paper, of at least giving your guys a tussle in the first round on the playoffs. -- Skip Bayless

Bayless continued to harp on what he perceives as Lillard’s failure to lead his team, referencing the Blazers star and his decision to uncharacteristically pass up a potentially game-tying 3 against the Boston Celtics. 

Instead, Lillard quickly threw a pass to a cutting Jusuf Nurkic, who laid it in with 3.4 seconds to play, pulling Portland within one. Boston hit a pair of free throws, a Nurk inbounds pass sailed out of bounds, and the Celtics walked away with a 128-124 victory. 

Damian Lillard disappeared down the stretch of that game... He missed the tying three with 53 seconds left in that game. It came early in the bubble, but the point is: they had em’ and then they didn’t, because that guy has to be that guy down the stretch of these games in the Bubble that are seed games. They should easily be 6-0. -- Skip Bayless

What Bayless failed to point out is that when the pressure fell on Lillard Sunday, as the Blazers took on the Philadelphia 76ers, he responded. 

When the Sixers took a 114-108 lead with 4:23 remaining, Portland shot back with 12 unanswered points, capped by seven-straight points from Lillard on the and-one 3-pointer and a pull-up triple on the next possession.

The Trail Blazers star followed the missed free throws game by exploding for 51 points as the Blazers took down the 76ers 124-121, putting Patrick Beverley and Paul George’s petty postgame drama in the rear-view mirror. 

Shannon Sharpe knows it’s not the bad plays or even the savage trash talk off-the-court that makes you a superstar, it’s how you respond, and Lillard did...just like he has time and time again.

“When you look at Dame, he’s a superstar,” Sharpe said. “I believe he’s a Top 10 player. He’s in my Top 10 for what it’s worth, because he’s big time. He can take and make big shots, he can get to the basket, he’s a great free throw shooter and I’m surprised like everybody else that he missed those two free throws.” 

Bayliss still isn't buying "Dame Time," but Lillard doesn't need to explain to him why he's truly an elite player. He'll never have Lillard's respect anyways. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect." -- Damian Lillard

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

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

The NBA’s restart has seen its fair share of close games and so have Portland Trail Blazers fans.

Sunday’s game once again came down to the final seconds, but this time it was against the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers

However, in this one, the Blazers made stops when they needed to, and they made clutch free throws.

For future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony, that ‘rush’ of feeling needed by a team late in games is “absolutely” still a feeling that comes over the 36-year-old.

Absolutely. That doesn’t go anywhere, when you put the work in and you believe that you should be out there at those moments and your comfortable in those moments, those are just normal moments for myself, being comfortable in those situations and those moments down the stretch, being able to have your teammates rely on you to make plays, they expect that... They expect me to make the plays that I make, make the shots that I make, and they have the confidence in me to do those things. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony    

Those 'moments down the stretch' from Melo were key on Sunday. 

Thanks to Melo’s corner three with 4:08 to go along with his big-time defensive rebounds late in the game, and his final defensive stop on Josh Richardson, Anthony showed his veteran leadership and mentality to never quit was just what the Blazers needed following Saturday’s loss.

The final 10.2 seconds of Sunday’s 124-121 win over Philadelphia were intense to say the least.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave credit to the Sixers role players postgame, saying that Josh Richardson “was outstanding.”

Coach Stotts also talked at length about how much Damian Lillard’s 'on a mission' mentality and his ability to deal with last-second pressure meant to the Blazers.

Lillard finished with 51 points and seven assists in the victory.

Even though the Blazers haven’t been getting many stops on the defensive end throughout the seeding games, Anthony came up with a huge stop in the final play of the game.

With the Blazers up 124-121, the Sixers had 10.2 seconds to tie up the game after taking a timeout, but, Josh Richardson missed a 25-foot three-pointer with Melo's swarming defense.

“I thought everybody was locked in. [Melo] was aggressive on Richardson, made it difficult for him, and made him take a tough shot," Stotts said. "I thought everybody was locked in. It wasn’t pretty, but they didn’t score."

Coach Stotts had plenty more to say about his wily veteran.

His experience – his communication – he’s been in these moments and he has good ideas and good suggestions for players and coaches, but he’s been at it a long time… I think having him in these moments, he's shown here in the bubble how important he is in those moments. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Melo’s fourth-quarter performance at both ends, along with him moving up to No. 15 on the all-time scoring list, earned him the game ball.  

Anthony finished with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep. 

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

Melo did come up limping after that stop on Richardson, but, not to worry, the 17-year veteran said he’s all good after the win.

“I’m bumped knees with Richardson. But, I’ll be alright,” Melo said.

Anthony and Lillard can't get all the credit for the Blazers’ success down the stretch (but most of the credit).

Let’s go back to the 10.2 second mark of the fourth.

Jusuf Nurkic calmly stepped up and hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put the Blazers up 124-121 after the Sixers were forced to foul Nurk near mid-court with time winding down.

“Nurk came through in the clutch with two key free throws,” Stotts said.

Nurkic also played through some aches and pains as well as foul trouble.

The Trail Blazers 7-footer most likely should've sat out of Sunday's game because, of course, most players who come back from a big injury do not play in both games of a back-to-back.

But, Nurk played because he knew his team needed him with Hassan Whiteside out due to a left hip strain.

“As much as I’ve been preparing myself for the last 14 plus months, I was not prepared for a back-to-back,” Nurkic said. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play, but… Whiteside was injured, so after that loss [Saturday], I couldn’t afford to not play… So tried to fight through and I’m glad we win this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses.”

Whatever it takes.

Nurkic knows that has to be the Blazers mindset, as does Portland's team captain, who is even more thankful to have his pick-and-roll partner in crime back on the court.

He’s extremely important and he’s coming off a major injury. He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty, and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk-through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I don't really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic

Lillard had nine straight points late in the fourth to go along with Nurkic icing the game with his free throws.

Throw in Melo’s ability to come up with a big play at either end and that’s a recipe the Blazers must use moving forward, especially if Portland is going to continue a trend of close games in the bubble during the home stretch of seeding games.

With Sunday’s win, the Blazers still have a shot at reaching the No. 8 seed depending on their own results and if the Grizzlies take care of business or not.

There's no doubt that these final moments of the seeding games is giving everyone that 'rush' feeling.