Even Stephen Curry watched in awe of Damian Lillard

Even Stephen Curry watched in awe of Damian Lillard

DAMIAN. FREAKING. LILLARD.

Career-high 61 points, check. Most points by a player this season, check. An MLK Day record, check. Career-high and franchise record 11 three pointers, beating his own record, check. 

We all watched on in awe as Damian Lillard went off. 

So, too, did Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who remains sidelined with a broken hand. 

Curry is known to pour in buckets at a high clip in the past, but he's never scored 60+ points. His career-high is 54. 

So, as Curry watched helplessly from the Warriors bench, at least he can reslish in the fact that was able to get a front row seat to watch Lillard's greatness.

Presenting, the many faces of Steph Curry.

Same, Steph... same.

Damian Lillard did not travel with the Trail Blazers to Indiana

Damian Lillard did not travel with the Trail Blazers to Indiana

Hours after Jason Quick of The Athletic reported that Damian Lillard would "make the 3-game trip to Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando but is expected to miss 'a couple more games' with right groin strain," the franchise guard did not travel with the team, according to Casey Holdahl of Trailblazers.com. 

Holdahl followed up by saying it's possible Lillard is traveling separately for the trip, but it was unlikely he'd play either of the first two games. 

In his postgame press conference after Portland's 118-106 loss to Boston, head coach Terry Stotts said he was uncertain if Lillard would travel with the team.

At the team's first practice following the All-Star break, Lillard was asked how many games he expected to miss. "If I had to guess I would say at least 3-4 games. Maybe five games," said Lillard. 

Lillard has already missed three games following his comments. But, he can't play if he doesn't travel with the team, obviously. 

The Blazers play the Indiana Pacers Thursday at 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest. 

Damian Lillard's ‘bad shot’ and wave still has Thunder fans salty

Damian Lillard's ‘bad shot’ and wave still has Thunder fans salty

Dear Oklahoma City Thunder fans,

It’s been nearly a year and we know you are still upset.

We would be, too, if Damian Lillard launched as cold-blooded of a game-winning shot as he did on that fateful day in the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

For those who don’t remember what went down, we will quickly recap:

Tied at 115-all in Game 5 of the opening-round playoff series, Lillard dribbled down the clock before launching a 40-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer over then Defensive Player of the Year Paul George.

You know what happened next, the shot went in and then Dame in all of his glory, waved goodbye to the Thunder bench. It was one of the most savage series game-winners you’ll ever see and obviously the stuff of legends.

Moving on, the Trail Blazers are 26-33 so far this season and are on the fringes of the final playoff spot in the West, while the Thunder is 36-22 and 10.5 games ahead of Portland in the standings.

Portland has been back-and-forth with Lillard sidelined with a groin injury suffered before All-Star break. On Wednesday, the Blazers succumbed to the Boston Celtics in a 118-106 loss.

Enter Thunder troll:

Dame shot back with a poised response of his own:

Dame’s right. Thunder fans are still hurting. But they do not want Dame coming for them in the playoffs again this season. With 23 games left to play, don’t count the Blazers out of the playoff picture. 

Lillard is expected to return in a few games and will travel with the team during their upcoming three-game road trip to Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando. The Trail Blazers have not set a date for Jusuf Nurkic’s return following a season-ending leg injury in 2019, but he recently teased out his imminent return with a post on Twitter, which showed two loading icons. Heck, there's even a chance Zach Collins could make it back if he's healthy and risk-free. 

As for the wave, it will live forever. The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is probably constructing a LillardTime wing as we speak. Let it burn Thunder fans, but also appreciate the greatness that's upon you. It's a moment in history, a moment in time, the basketball world won't soon forget. 

Damian Lillard's wave still sticks with Enes Kanter

Damian Lillard's wave still sticks with Enes Kanter

Besides Seth Curry, big man Enes Kanter is the only recent former Trail Blazer who has returned to Portland healthy enough to play this season.

That night came Tuesday at Moda Center, where Kanter came off the bench for the Boston Celtics. This season, the former Blazers big man is averaging 8.8 points and 8.0 rebounds in 18.1 minutes of action.

Kanter got a well received ovation in his return at the 5:01 mark of the first quarter. Blazers fans greeted him with loud cheers. 

As Rip City often does, both fans in Moda Center and on social media welcomed Kanter back with open arms, even though he played in just 39 total games for Portland.

There are a lot of reasons why it may seem like Kanter was a Trail Blazer for longer than he actually was last season. Maybe it was witnessing him step up late in the year, particular in the postseason after Jusuf Nurkic went down, or watching him play through shoulder pain in the playoffs, or the fact that he really seemed to embrace Portland.

Kanter had a big smile on his face thinking about how the Rip City faithful showered him with love as if he had been a longtime Blazer.

“I was only here for like maybe a half year, right? But, I feel like I’d been here for like whatever years… I give credit to the fans because the fans just always been amazing, cheering for me, supporting me,” Kanter said.

The Trail Blazers signed Kanter as a free agent in mid-February last season, but for Kanter, it doesn’t matter how much time he spent with the Blazers, he will always hold Portland in high regards.

“It was just good to be back,” Kanter said postgame. “Just seeing all this crowd, because this is the craziest crowd in the NBA, one of the craziest crowds. It was just fun to come back and see this atmosphere and to see my old teammates.”

Following the Celtics win, Kanter headed over towards the Blazers bench to talk with his former teammates and former coaching staff. Zach Collins was one of the first to embrace Kanter after Tuesday’s game.

As for catching up with his former teammates and coaches, Kanter said, “it was amazing.”  

The 9-year vet feels like he really went to battle with his Blazer teammates last season before falling to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.

“Obviously, I went to the playoffs last year with them and it was like a war, and you never forget your friends when you’re in the war with them. It was nice to see them,” Kanter said.

But, it was Portland’s first round match-up against the Oklahoma City Thunder that Kanter will truly never forget.

In fact, it was the first memory that popped into his head when he walked into the quiet, still Moda Center.

Yep, that Damian Lillard game-winning shot over Paul George.

That unforgettable shot is something Kanter was extremely happy to be a part of.

This morning, the first time I came to [Moda Center] for practice, I [thought about] the Dame shot against OKC. I was like, ‘man, I was here for that shot. So, for me, it was just amazing to just be in that moment with those guys, that’s the first thing I remembered. -- Celtics center Enes Kanter reminiscing about his time in Portland  

That Game Five was even more memorable for Kanter, because well before Lillard swished the 37-foot game winner to give the Blazers a 118-115 victory and end the series, Kanter separated his left shoulder during a collision with Steven Adams.

Still to this day, Kanter has shoulder pain, but he wouldn’t change a thing about playing through the pain in the Blazers-Nuggets and Blazers-Warriors series.

“I was at the hotel today and thinking about my shoulder and it’s been almost one year, I still feel it a little bit. But, you know what -- it was just, I don’t regret it. It was just -- we’re deep into the playoffs and, for me; it was just go out there and fight for my teammates.”

As Portland continues to play through so many injuries this season, Kanter has been encouraged by what the Blazers have been able to accomplish.

“It’s always tough, man, because I feel like the most important thing for a team is staying healthy, but now, they’ve got so many people hurt, but I think, you know, they’ve been still doing an amazing job, giving a fight out there.”

A glimmer of playoff hope in pregame shooting routine

A glimmer of playoff hope in pregame shooting routine

The most important scene inside the Moda Center on Tuesday night happened well before the actual game.

Before Jayson Tatum dismantled the Trail Blazers defense, before CJ McCollum took multiple shots to the head from Boston Celtics defenders, and before Portland lost for the fourth time in its past five games, there was a brief glimmer of hope.

More than 90 minutes before tip-off Damian Lillard took the court to go through a pregame shooting routine. Assistant coach Dale Osbourne fed him basketballs as he went worked through a series of shots, starting in the mid-range and working out, hitting each spot around the arc and then stepping further back to cash in a few 35-footers.

Donning a sleeveless hooded sweatshirt and a bright yellow pair of his own signature sneakers, Lillard, who has missed three straight games with a right groin strain, went through his typical pregame routine at maybe 70 percent speed. Ironically, he couldn’t go through his normal post-up routine with video coordinator Jon Yim because Yim is dealing with a sore back. No one is completely healthy this time of year in the NBA.

While Lillard going through something that approximates a normal warm-up was a welcomed sign. He wasn’t alone on the court. While Lillard circled the arc from the deep left corner working back towards the right side, he had to navigate Zach Collins who was going through his own workout with assistant coach Jim Moran.

Collins, who hasn’t played since Oct. 26 after undergoing surgery to repair the labrum in his left shoulder, was going through a decidedly more strenuous routine than Lillard. He worked through dribble handoffs, pick and pops, and spot up shooting with Moran, closing the routine with 20 three-pointers, five free throws and sealing it with a reverse dunk.

By the end of the night, as the Blazers trudged out of the arena following a never-in-doubt loss to a superior opponent, it was easy to look past the pregame routines of two guys that ended up watching the game in suits. The team the Blazers trotted out against the Celtics is not a playoff caliber group, but if there is hope for Portland to mount a serious push for the final playoff spot in the West, it was getting jumpers up at 5:30 on Tuesday night.

Lillard will travel with the team on their upcoming three-game trip to Indiana, Atlanta and Orlando. He is likely to return in the relatively near future, either at the end of the road trip or soon thereafter. The Blazers desperately need him back in the lineup, but they will be cautious in rushing their franchise leader back onto the court.

“Health is the first priority. That’s pretty easy,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. “Dame knows his body. I don’t think we would put him out there if we didn’t feel like he was healthy. But his health is the first priority, regardless.”

Collins’ return isn’t as imminent. He says that he meets with the team’s medical staff daily as they monitor his rehabilitation process, and he insists that returning in mid-to-late March is “very realistic.”

As long as we’re peddling hope, add Jusuf Nurkic to the list. The Blazers center, who fractured his left leg last March and has missed the entire, will make the trip east with the team this week as well. While the Blazers are being extremely coy, if not downright secretive about what Nurkic is doing on the court, Stotts said that Nurkic will go through some type of on-court workout even if he doesn’t formally join the team’s practice during the road trip.

Help might be on the horizon, some of it will even be on the team plane, but there is still waiting and uncertainty before it joins the rest of the Blazers back on the court.

With the current available roster, the Blazers’ playoff hopes are thin. They trail the Memphis Grizzlies by three games for eighth seed with 23 games left in the regular season. But Portland is also just a game and a half ahead of 13th place Phoenix with Sacramento, San Antonio and New Orleans sandwiched between them in a suddenly very tight postseason scramble.

The pregame scene delivered a moment of hope in a season that desperately needs some. The most important figures in the Blazers playoff dreams didn’t wear jerseys on Tuesday night although there is reason to believe they will soon. Once the game started and the Blazers were handed another loss that hope dissipated quickly. The mood in the locker room was a sober acceptance of the team’s difficult position.

“It’s our reality,” CJ McCollum said. “So we’ve got to figure out how to get as many wins as possible starting in Indiana and progressing forward. I don’t know how many we’ve got … 20 games left, 21 games left? 23 ... so we’ve go to win the majority of them to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs.”

Celtics' hot 3-point shooting too much for short-handed Trail Blazers to overcome

Celtics' hot 3-point shooting too much for short-handed Trail Blazers to overcome

A lot of games in the NBA these days turn out just the way Portland’s 118-106 loss to Boston Tuesday night did.

“We look at the box score, we outscored them in the paint, outscored them in second-chance points, outscored them on the fast break, outscored them from the three-throw line and still lost by 12,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said.

The difference in the game? The same as so many other games in the league -- the three-point line.

The Celtics went 19-39 (48.7 percent) from three while the Trail Blazers were 13-31. You not only need to shoot a fairly good percentage from long range, you often need to do it in high volume.

And Boston made them from all over the floor, many of them backbreakers to stall Trail Blazer comebacks.

“They made the open ones, they made the contested ones, they made a lot of them tonight,” said CJ McCollum, who once again led his team with 28 points and 10 assists. “They are a good team. We have to be better than we played tonight against teams like the Celtics to win.

“I think that was the difference. They played better than us. They’re a deep team. They made shots, they got stops. They ran on our turnovers and they played like a playoff team.”

And with Damian Lillard out with a groin injury, the Trail Blazers do not have enough healthy NBA players right now to play like a playoff team. And until they get healthier, there is little chance of looking at all like a playoff team.

Portland shot a respectable 44.7 percent from the field and played one of its better games of late. But 17 turnovers turned into 19 Boston points and that three-point shooting was lethal.

“Boston’s a really good team,” Stotts said. “Even without Kimba (Walker) out there, their experience, they are talented offensively. “They’re well-coached, so hats off to them. Jayson Tatum got in a groove in the second half, he’s just in a heck of a rhythm with his shot.

“I liked the way our guys competed. We didn’t take advantage of some of our opportunities, but other than that, I thought we gave a good effort.”

Lillard’s availability is still in question and Stotts said he wasn’t sure if his star guard would be making the upcoming three-game road trip that starts Thursday night against the Pacers in Indianapolis.

“At this point, I’m not sure,” Stotts said. “I think we’re discussing that.”

That doesn’t make it sound as if his return is imminent.

Report: Damian Lillard to travel with team, could return during upcoming road trip

Report: Damian Lillard to travel with team, could return during upcoming road trip

The Portland Trail Blazers hit the road for a three-game trip starting on Thursday in Indiana, and they may be one step closer to full strength by the time they get home.

According to reports, Damian Lillard, who has missed the Blazers' last three games with a right groin strain, plans to travel with the team. 

As noted by Jason Quick of The Athletic, Lillard could miss "a couple more games."

At the team's first practice following the All-Star break, Lillard was asked how many games he expected to miss. "If I had to guess I would say at least 3-4 games. Maybe five games," said Lillard. 

That window for return could open on this road trip. 

Missing five games, as he expected, would put his return to the court on Monday against the Orlando Magic. 

That could be a good thing for the Blazers and a bad thing for the Magic. 

It was just last season that a heckler in Orlando fired Lillard up and led to the Blazers guard torching the Magic. 

Lillard dropped 34 points in the second half that night, quieting the crowd the only way he knows how. 

The point is, there may be a sliver of hope that Lillard gets to silence his favorite heckler once again. 

But health is first. Silencing the crowd is fun, having a healthy Lillard is better. 

If he doesn't make his return until the team comes back home, no one will blame him... plus returns from injury are always a little more fun in front of a raucous home court.

When Lillard is able, Moda Center will be ready! 

Carmelo Anthony and 'little brother' Jayson Tatum share mutual admiration

Carmelo Anthony and 'little brother' Jayson Tatum share mutual admiration

Postgame jersey swaps have become very popular in the NBA world over that past couple of seasons. 

The ritual actual dates back to 1931 in the soccer wold.  

But, fast forward to 2020 and more often than not there is an exchange of uniforms at midcourt at any given NBA game. 

Earlier this season, Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard made a comment about how he always checks with Portland’s Equipment Manager Eric Hallman to verify that there are extra uniforms on hand before he does a jersey swap with another player.

After Tuesday night's game vs. the Boston Celtics, the Trail Blazers will now need to make sure there are additional red Carmelo Anthony uniforms.

Despite a dominating performance vs. Portland, Boston’s rising star Jayson Tatum had one thing on his mind postgame.     

“He asked me for my jersey, so I gave it to him,” Melo said with a smile. “He’s like a little brother to me.”

The 21-year-old Tatum led the Celtics to a 118-106 victory over the Blazers, finishing with 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including an efficient 8-of-12 from behind the arc.

Tatum left Moda Center with a big smile on his face knowing he’s going home with a jersey from one of his all-time favorite players.

“Oh man, Melo is, besides Kobe, probably one of my top 3 favorite players. I studied him so much growing up and I’m one of his biggest fans. I got to spend some time with him this summer with Jordan Brand. I really looked up to him,” Tatum said postgame.

In just his third season, Tatum has made leaps and bounds. He’s averaging 22.9 points, 7.0 rebound, and 2.9 assists. Before Tuesday’s game, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned how we are all watching Tatum grow up before our eyes.

Melo has been able to see first-hand how his 'little brother' is growing up. The two spent a lot of time together this past summer. And from the sounds of it, Anthony is a big fan of Tatum as well. 

“I love him,” Melo said. “He’s a guy that’s establishing himself, as we’re all witnessing, all watching. I mean, I love his game, I love watching him play. I was able to have some one-on-one time with him, get a chance to know him better as a person first, but his game speaks for itself and it’ll continue to blossom.”

With Tatum talking about how much he has looked up to the 35-year-old, those comments go a long way for Melo.

“It makes me kind of appreciate what I do, what I’ve been able to do throughout my career. Just being able to go out there and play the game the way that I’ve played it, the right way, the way that I continue to play it. For guys to acknowledge that and see that and watch that and want to learn from that, for me, that’s what it’s all about - when you can pass that knowledge down to the younger generation,” Anthony said.

Despite Melo not giving up any of his specific advice that he has shared with Tatum, he did explain how he enjoys guiding young players in the league.

“I like to lead by example...Communicate with guys, just talking, kind of seeing what they think, because a lot of times I’ve never been in some of those guys’ positions before. I try to put myself in their shoes, but also give them advice on how they can maneuver, how they can do it. I never tell anybody what to do. I just give them my experiences and I can only explain the things that I’ve been through.”

As Melo continues to experience more and more with the Blazers this season, the next step will be grinding out the rest of the schedule to help guide Portland to the Playoffs for the seventh straight season.  

Anthony's mentoring skills will need to come into play now more than ever for the Trail Blazers. 

Instant Analysis: Jayson Tatum, Celtics too much for Trail Blazers

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USA Today Images

Instant Analysis: Jayson Tatum, Celtics too much for Trail Blazers

Tuesday night Portland's shots were falling early and often; however, the Trail Blazers have started off hot in the first quarter and then cooled off in recent games. That trend continued Tuesday night when the Blazers welcomed in the Boston Celtics.

Even though the Blazers outscored the Celtics 10-3 to start the game, it was Portland’s defense that stood out early. The Blazers were getting out in the passing lanes and disrupting shots down low.  

Boston held a 56-48 lead at halftime.

The Trail Blazers started off the third quarter, hitting three threes that began with Portland’s starting center Hassan Whiteside hitting from long distance. The problem for Portland: Boston was also hot from three.

In the third quarter, the Celtics went up by as many as 17 points and then never really looked back.

FINAL BOX SCORE: CELTICS 118, TRAIL BLAZERS 106

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday’s loss:

1. Stotts changes up rotation

It’s no secret that the Trail Blazers haven’t been able to get much production from their second unit, especially with all the injuries that have forced Blazers head coach Terry Stotts to go deep into his bench. Tuesday night, Stotts subbed out his starters earlier than normal and made sure to keep two starters on the court at all times until the game started to get away from the Blazers late in the third quarter.

2. McCollum still running the show

Tuesday’s game was the third straight game that Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard has missed with a right groin strain. In the previous two games with no Lillard, CJ McCollum was averaging 34.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 11.0 assists. Against the Celtics, McCollum was still getting good looks from three. After three quarters, McCollum was 5-of-10 from deep with 22 points and seven assists. Unlike the previous two games though, McCollum didn’t rack up the assists in the first quarter, but as the game went along he dished out more dimes. Hassan Whiteside was the beneficiary of those passes. Yet, McCollum struggled from the floor and from the free throw line in the final period.  

3. Cs splash in the 3s

At the break, Boston was shooting over 50 percent from behind the arc. The Celtics were led by shooting guard Jaylen Brown with his five-first-half three-pointers as Boston went 11-of-22 from deep for the first half. The Cs' efficient three-point shooting continued in the second half when Jayson Tatum got going from three. Tatum finished with 36 points on 14-of-22 shooting, including 8-for-12 from distance. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Indiana Pacers Thursday night as Portland embarks on a three-game road trip. The Blazers and Pacers tip-off at 5:00pm PT on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

Be sure to check back throughout the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Is there concern of Blazer starters playing too many minutes?

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Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Is there concern of Blazer starters playing too many minutes?

Before the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics tip-off at 7:00p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'MyTeams' App, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was asked if he was concerned about the Blazers veterans playing too many minutes following Sunday’s game when CJ McCollum played the entire second half against the Pistons.

“I don’t like playing players over 40 minutes. I think that’s the bar that I try to stay under most of the season. I didn’t necessarily like playing CJ the whole second half against Detroit, but I felt like that was necessary. But, I think NBA players are capable of playing 35 to 37 minutes. I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” Coach Stotts said pregame.  

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

 

BLAZERS INJURY REPORT:

Damian Lillard (right groin strain), Rodney Hood (left ruptured Achilles tendon), Zach Collins (left shoulder dislocation), and Jusuf Nurkic (left leg fracture) are out for Tuesday's game vs. Boston. 

CELTICS INJURY REPORT:

Robert Williams III (left hip bone edema), Kemba Walker (left knee soreness), Tremont Waters (Two-way) and Tacko Fall (Two-way) are out.

STANDOUT GAME NOTES:

-- Tuesday's meeting will be the first of two games between the Trail Blazers and Celtics during the 2019-20 season.

-- LAST SEASON: Portland swept the 2018-19 season series with Boston, 2-0.

-- Portland's starters have averaged 86.4 points per game this season (second in the NBA) while Boston's starters have averaged 85.3 points per game (third in the NBA).

-- The Trail Blazers rank eighth in the NBA in scoring (113.3) while the Celtics are ninth (113.3).

-- CJ McCollum averaged 14.0 points (35.3% FG, 14.3% 3-PT, 66.7% FT), 3.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists in two games against the Celtics last season. McCollum has scored at least 20 points in four of his last six games against Boston.

-- Hassan Whiteside averaged 9.0 points (60.7% FG, 22.2% FT), 10.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.00 block in four games against Boston with Miami last season. He has pulled down double-digit rebounds in seven of his last nine games opposite the Celtics.

-- Trevor Ariza averaged 8.5 points (29.4% FG, 25.0% 3-PT, 100% FT), 7.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in two games against Boston with both Washington and Phoenix last season. Ariza has scored in double-figures in seven of his last eight games versus the Celtics.

-- Kemba Walker averaged 18.0 points (25.0% FG, 33.3% 3-PT, 90.9% FT), 1.5 rebounds and 7.5 assists in two games against the Trail Blazers with the Hornets last season. Over Walker's 15 career games against Portland, he has failed to reach double-figures in scoring just twice.

-- Jayson Tatum averaged 20.5 points (51.7% FG, 45.5% 3-PT, 100% FT), 6.0 rebounds and 1.00 block in two games against Portland last season. Tatum has scored in double-figures in each of his four career games against the Trail Blazers, including a 27-point performance on Nov. 11 last season.