Everything you need to know from pregame as the Trail Blazers prep for Game 1 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder

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Everything you need to know from pregame as the Trail Blazers prep for Game 1 vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s playoff time! The Blazers and Thunder are ready to tip-off Game 1 from Moda Center and after having two full days to prepare for each other, the two are eager to get their first-round series underway.

Before Game 1 tipped off, the media got a chance to pick the brains of Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts and Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan.

The Blazers are preparing as if Paul George is going to play, despite George being listed as questionable. Coach Stotts says, “questionable doesn’t mean much these days.”

Stotts also discussed the back-and-forth between Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard and how the two go at each other.

“If I’m not mistaken, Russ kinda gets into it with a lot of people. It’s not unusual,” Stotts joked.

“They’re both very competitive -- it’ll probably be heightened in the playoffs, but when you have two great players going at it, who are very competitive, they both take a lot of pride in what they do… I don’t think it’s necessarily anything out of the ordinary other than two very strong-willed, competitive people going at it,” Stotts added.

Hear from coach Stotts right here:

Thunder Injury Update: After initially being listed as questionable, Coach Donovan said Paul George (right shoulder) will go through warm-ups and be a game-time decision.

Coach Donovan also addressed the battles between Lillard and Westbrook:

“I think it’s just really two competitive guys. Both guys individually have worked hard and both guys want to win. Both guys are leaders of their team. Both guys are point guards. I think both guys take their job very, very seriously. So, I think it probably speaks to the competitive nature of both of them,” Donovan said.

Hear from coach Donovan right here:

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4

PORTLAND -- Facing elimination on Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers did not roll over in front of their homecourt. Portland came out with energy on both ends, and got a nice scoring punch from its starting center.  

The Blazers biggest lead on the night was 17 points in Game 4.

After sustaining a 12-0 Warriors run late in the third and early into the fourth quarter, Golden State tied the game at the 4:34 mark of the final period.

With under a minute to go, the game was all tied up at 111, and that’s where it stayed at the end of the regulation.

In overtime, it was back-and-forth until Draymond Green hit a dagger three-pointer with 39.6 seconds remaining in OT. The Warriors complete the sweep and beat the Trail Blazer 119-117.

Final Box Score: Warriors 119, Trail Blazers 117

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 4 loss:

1.  Blazers went away from the pick-and-roll early

The pick-and-roll had been the Blazers’ bread and butter all season long when center Jusuf Nurkic was healthy.

The Trail Blazers continued to play through the pick-and-roll with Enes Kanter, but it hasn’t been nearly as effective.

Portland started Meyers Leonard at center for the second straight game on Monday night. But even though Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned that his team would not make many more adjustments while addressing the media pregame, Damian Lillard played more off the ball and it was rare to see Lillard and a Blazers big run the pick-and-roll to start the game.

The Warriors have defended Lillard extremely well all series. With less pick-and-rolls, Lillard was able to get free more often on offense. In turn, he had a good shooting night, but it wasn’t enough against the back-to-back champs.

2. Warriors missed Iguodala on both ends

Andre Iguodala did not play for the Warriors after suffering a left calf strain in Game 3. Iguodala was initially listed as questionable for Game 4. 

Alfonzo McKinnie started in place of the injured Iguodala. The young McKinnie hesitated to shoot after not shooting so well to start the game. It was obvious that Warriors missed Iguodala’s presence on both ends.    

Quinn Cook and Jonas Jerebko also got more minutes.

With no Kevin Durant, and no DeMarcus Cousins, the Warriors lack of depth showed on Monday night. However, Golden State showed its experience in overtime and was able to complete the sweep.  

3. The Leonard effect

Chants of “Meyers Leonard” erupted in the second quarter after Leonard had already scored 20 points on the night. It wasn’t just his scoring though that was getting the Blazers crowd amped up, Leonard took an offensive charge and got a steal within a couple of minutes of each other in the third quarter. He also posted a double-double. 

Leonard was bringing the energy into the team and the crowd. The Warriors were just able to outlast the Blazers. 

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 4

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 4

PORTLAND – It all comes down to this. Portland now faces elimination as the Trail Blazers get set for Game 4 vs. the Golden State Warriors tonight. The Blazers are looking to avoid the sweep and have said they are playing for pride.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media before tonight’s game got underway.

Coach Stotts discussed how he believes the Warriors deep playoff experience has helped them in this series.

“I think their experience certainly has shown, there’s no question; how they ramped it up in the third quarter in Game 2 and to come back from an eight-point deficit with four-and-a-half [to play], I think they showed the mettle that helped them win their championship.

Tonight facing elimination, Stotts thinks it all comes down to the mental part of the game.

“We have made some changes that have been effective… I think understanding the mentality coming out of halftime, whatever it is, approaching this as a Game 7… I think it’s a much more a mental disposition than it is Xs and Os and strategies right now. 

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

Warriors Injury Update: Coach Kerr confirmed Andre Iguodala (left calf) will not play tonight. Iguodala was initially listed as questionable.  

Kerr also mentioned Alfonzo McKinnie, Quinn Cook, and Jonas Jerebko will all most likely see more minutes with Iguodala out.

Hear from Coach Kerr right here:

Former Oregon Ducks star and Parkrose High School hero Keanon Lowe also talked to the media prior to Game 4.

Lowe tackled an armed student at Parkrose on Friday afternoon.

“I’ve grown to love that place,” Lowe said after coaching football at Parkrose for only a year.

“We were in the headlines and it wasn’t a tragedy. I’m thankful for that,” Lowe said.

Hear the entire Lowe interview right here:

 

Report: Memphis receives permission to interview Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts for head coaching job 

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Report: Memphis receives permission to interview Portland assistant Nate Tibbetts for head coaching job 

The Memphis Grizzlies next head coach may be in Portland. 

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies have received permission to interview Portland Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for the franchise’s vacant head coaching gig. 

 
Tibbetts, who has been on Terry Stotts' staff since the 2013-14 season, last interviewed with the Cavaliers back in April. The Grizzlies have also been linked to former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov and Utah Jazz assistant Alex Jensen for the head coach vacancy. 

What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

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What They’re Saying ahead of Game 4: There’s no quit in Damian Lillard

The Portland Trail Blazers are down 0-3 to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. No team has overcome such a deficit, but the Blazers aren’t out of the NBA Playoffs just yet. 

Portland will look to keep its season alive on Monday night, as they face off against the Warriors on home court in Game 4. Here’s a look at What They’re Saying ahead of the Blazers must-win game. 

Damian Lillard knows the odds of an 0-3 comeback aren't in Portland’s favor, but the Trail Blazers guard told Benjamin Hoffman of the New York Times he’s not giving up.

“You know, you look at the numbers and there’s a slim chance of you winning the series like that, but we’ve got a lot to play for. Obviously you never know when the first time it’s going to happen. We could be the first team to do it.”

On Skip and Shannon: UNDISPUTED, former NBA player Kendrick Perkins told moderator Jenny Taft that he felt the Blazers have overachieved in the NBA Playoffs, while the Warriors are focused on making a point.

“Portland has overachieved. They good where they at, making it to the Western Conference Finals. I think we’ve seen that after Game 7, Dame getting emotional…I think that this is more about Golden State proving to the world that they can win without Kevin Durant.”

If the Blazers do get swept on Monday night, there’s a lot basketball fans can still be thankful for in this series. The Curry brothers’ rivalry is on the list. For the Win’s Charles Curtis shared a thank you note to the Curry bros.

“There was that trash talk between Steph and Seth. There have been moments when they’ve stolen basketballs from each other or splashed a three in each other’s faces. But there’s also been the entertainment from their parents Dell and Sonya, who have worn half-Blazers and half-Warriors jerseys to root on both their kids.”

Shaun Powell of NBA.com says that while Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are further in the postseason than they’ve been in 19 years, Lillard and McCollum will have to pull off a jaw-dropping performance to extend their season. 

“So what’s left of the Blazers? Unless there’s a premium performance coming from Lillard and McCollum in Game 4, their season is likely done after Monday night. With Green and Stephen Curry looking nostalgic, the Warriors have that 2015 feeling when they won a title without Durant. The Warriors also know they’ll get nine days’ rest with a sweep, as if they need any further motivation.

At this point, all the Blazers have is their pride, with none bigger than Lillard’s.”

Game 4 tips off on Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the Moda Center in Portland. 

Trail Blazers’ center Enes Kanter sleeps with a bedside-table panic button and his teammates had no idea

Trail Blazers’ center Enes Kanter sleeps with a bedside-table panic button and his teammates had no idea

While Enes Kanter and the Portland Trail Blazers are fighting to keep their season alive against the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, the Trail Blazers center is fighting for something else behind the scenes.

Kanter has been a fierce critic of president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Turkey’s descent into authoritarianism. Because of his outspoken beliefs of the Turkish government, the 27-year-old player has been the target of death threats and fears for his life.

Kanter has said the Turkish government has requested an INTERPOL “red notice,” which essentially is a request to locate and arrest an individual pending extradition. While a search of INTERPOL’s red notice database did not reveal any current notices against Kanter, it’s important to note not all notices are disseminated publicly.

[RELATED: Enes Kanter remains in USA on "Red Notice"... but what does that mean? ]

While the 6-foot-11 center is focused on helping his team win a championship for the first time in 42 years, Kanter sat down with ESPN’s Tim Keown to talk about the death threats he’s received, why he’ll keep voicing his opinion and what it's like to have the support from Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.

Kanter revealed that upon joining the Blazers in February, he spoke with local FBI agents, who suggested he install a panic button within arm's reach next to his bed. 

“So Enes Kanter goes to sleep every night and wakes up every morning with tangible proof of his own mortality -- and others' possible designs on it -- less than an arm's length away. This, too, Kanter relays dispassionately, as if a bedside-table panic button connected to law enforcement is simply one more modern amenity, like a high-tech thermostat. He has learned to accept the absurd as normal.”

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden explains why he and Kanter have become friends, and why he recently wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking Canada to ensure Kanter’s safe passage in and out of the country.

"Sen. Ron Wyden, a 6-foot-4 former basketball player at UC Santa Barbara, wrote a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking for Canada to ensure Kanter's safe passage in and out of the country. Since he joined the Blazers, Kanter and Wyden have become friends; Wyden took Kanter's case not only to Trudeau but to the floor of the Senate, where he warned Erdogan, through the vast but underwatched reach of C-SPAN, that America was paying attention to the "show trial" planned in April for Kanter's father."

Despite the threats Kanter receives every day, his teammate Jake Layman says it’s something he rarely talks about.

"He tries to keep that to a minimum. I've heard it's not pretty, and I've heard that it's serious stuff. I think the way he's handled it has been amazing. Fighting for his country every chance he gets -- it's very inspiring to see how much he goes through to fight for what he believes in."

Kanter doesn’t have any plans to stop his outspoken defiance against Erdogan anytime soon.

"I will never stop talking. I understand my mother and father and sister are in Turkey, but if I stop talking, who is going to speak for the thousands and thousands of innocent people in jail? People are getting tortured and killed, so I have to talk about these issues. I'm not a journalist or a politician, so this is my platform."

Read the full article here from ESPN. 

Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

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Skal Labissiere learning from Trail Blazers' bench in NBA playoff run

With the clock winding down, Damian Lillard measured Paul George and stepped into a 37-foot game winner to push the Portland Trail Blazers into the second round of the NBA playoffs.

It was bedlam. In a single moment, Lillard transformed from All-Star to something more. A superstar? Maybe. A legend in Portland? For sure.

As his teammates stormed the court, a photo was taken which captured a deadpanned Lillard staring into the lens as his teammates piled on.  

“That was the craziest shot I’ve ever seen in person,” Skal Labissiere told NBC Sports California. “It was great, just the atmosphere and the moment, the magnitude of the moment. It was the last game of the series and being against OKC. It was just a great shot.”

Labissiere’s huge smile lights up the picture. He’s in the upper right hand corner embracing his star guard.

One of the biggest moments of the 2018-19 playoffs and somehow Skal Labissiere makes the picture? This is the NBA life. One moment you can be wasting away on the Sacramento Kings' bench preparing for a 13th straight year without a postseason appearance and the next thing you know, you are in the Western Conference finals.

The 7-footer was dealt at the trade deadline from Sacramento to Portland in a swap for Caleb Swanigan. While he hasn’t found a spot in the rotation quite yet, the Haitian-born big was in desperate need of a career reboot.

Selected by Sacramento with the 28th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Labissiere played 106 games in a Kings uniform before the trade. With the focus shifting to young players like Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles, the 23-year-old center was a spare piece.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Labissiere said of the trade. “Since I’ve been here I’ve been learning a lot from all the veterans here and the coaches. I’ve been learning a lot - the culture, the game, the guys here, they welcomed me with open arms. I’ve gotten a lot better since I’ve been here.”

Labissiere played in just nine games for the Blazers as they fought for playoff positioning down the stretch. In the season finale against his former team, the smooth shooting big dropped in 29 points and 15 rebounds in 41 minutes, reminding the Kings what could have been.

While things didn’t go as planned for Labissiere in Sacramento, he has no ill-will towards the franchise. If anything, he was gracious for the experience.

“Thank you for everything,” Labissiere said of his two-plus years in Sacramento. “Thank you to Vlade (Divac), Vivek (Ranadivé) for taking a chance on me on draft night. Even coach Joerger, giving me a chance to play in my rookie year and after the (DeMarcus Cousins) trade and in my second year in the league, just believing in me and cheering for me.”

Even when he wasn’t playing major minutes, Labissiere said he appreciated the cheers he received from the fans. He’s starting over in Portland with the hopes that he can find a permanent spot in the league.

He’s also getting an incredible experience of playing deep into the playoffs. He’s made three appearances in the postseason so far, but he’s taking it all in and trying to absorb as much as he can from the opportunity.

“This is a first time for everything, so I’m very excited to be here, just getting to experience this, even though I’m not playing a whole lot,” Labissiere said. “I’m still watching and learning how the guys approach every game and just supporting. Hopefully at some point I’ll get out there and be able to help the team, but as of right now, I’m satisfied with just learning and watching from afar.”

There’s a lot you can learn about the game of basketball by sitting back and watching. There is also a lot you can learn by walking into a new environment.

“I could tell when I first got here just the closeness of this group,” Labissiere said. “Everybody is for each other. They all care about winning, no matter what it takes. Whatever they have to do, sacrifice, as far as their roles, they’ll do it just for the betterment of the team.”

[RELATED: Damian Lillard playing through pain, team playing with pride]

Labissiere has a guaranteed contract next season in Portland and a summer to show that he can fit into the system and be part of the Blazers' family. For now, he’s trying to take it all in and enjoy the ride.

He isn't the only former Kings player still alive in the postseason. Seth Curry, George Hill, Eric Moreland and DeMarcus Cousins are all still playing as the playoffs inch towards the Finals.

How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

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How Chris Mullin sees 'huge difference' in Warriors, Blazers backcourts

Damian Lillard is having a tough go at it, and it's not about to get any easier.

Lillard reportedly has a separated rib, and he and the Portland Trail Blazers now face an extremely steep uphill battle to dig themselves out of a three-games-to-none series deficit against the Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Game 4 is Monday night, and if Lillard and his backcourt mate CJ McCollum don't find a way to be more efficient scorers -- they've combined for 35.2 percent shooting from the field thus far -- it could mean the end of Portland's season.

Of course, Lillard and McCollum aren't shooting in a vacuum. They're going up against a talented Warriros defense that's employing a strategy designed to make them uncomfortable.

"Steve Kerr’s defensive strategy coming in, I think was great," Hall of Famer Chris Mullin said after the Blazers Game 3 loss Saturday. "Looks to me [the Warriors] all bought into it, and they love it. They’re really thriving in it. They’re getting the ball out of CJ McCollum’s hands, Damian Lillard’s hands, and that’s frustrating them. They want the ball back."

Mullin knows Lillard and McCollum are more than capable of catching fire at any moment. But unfortunately for Portland, that's not exclusive to the Blazers in this series.

“They’re great players, they really, really are," Mullin said of Lillard and McCollum. "They can really score the ball. They’re two of the best guards -- probably the second-best backcourt in the league.

“There’s a huge difference between No. 1 and No. 2.”

The No. 1 backcourt being referred to, of course, is that of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The Splash Brothers are having a far more proficient series, compared to the Blazers' backcourt, and Mullin believes that's partly because they're more difficult to strategize against.

"What Steve Kerr’s done, he knows what [Lillard and McCollum] don’t like to do, and he’s making them do it," Mullin explained. "So when they give the ball up, that’s wearing on them, I think, mentally and physically. When you see Steph give it up, he almost gets more energized, because he loves running off screens. Same with Klay. 

"I think it’s had a negative effect on [Lillard and McCollum's] energy," Mullin continued, "because that’s not what they want to do. They’re not as comfortable without the ball. I think it’s had an effect across the board, so I give credit to the strategy that Steve has come into the series with, and then a lot of credit to the players for executing it."

Given that the Warriors have prevailed in each of the first three games of the series while employing that same strategy, it's unlikely they'll go away from what has proven to be effective when they take the floor for Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night. If Golden State can continue making Lillard and McCollum uncomfortable, Portland's season could be on borrowed time.

Based on what he's seen, Mullin isn't expecting a potential Game 5 to be necessary.

"Get the brooms out," he said.

Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

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Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

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No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win in the NBA Playoffs.  

As the Trail Blazers prepared for Golden State ahead of Game 4, Portland discussed how they are approaching being down 3-0 before Sunday’s practice. It’s all about playing with pride.

“We’ve put so much into the success that we’ve had this season that everybody cares,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “It means something to everybody. So on top of all those things, having pride and not wanting to be swept, we’re not ready to stop playing. So it’s as simple as that.”

Meyers Leonard added that the team’s mindset is to, “have pride-- simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, ‘well, we’re down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer.’ That’s not who we are. That’s not, certainly our mindset… We have a group of guys that really care.”

While CJ McCollum mentioned his mindset is to, “play hard. That’s the biggest thing. Go out there, play hard, have fun, try to execute the game plan, and that should be enough.”


GAME DETAILS

Where to Watch: ESPN

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Golden State -3.5

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (5:30 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio
 

INJURY UPDATES

For the Trail Blazers,  Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out for Tuesday’s Game 4 vs. Golden State.

For the Warriors,  DeMarcus Cousins (left quad) and Kevin Durant (right calf) are out. Andre Iguodala (left calf) is questionable.


QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers? 

Jamie Hudson: Meyers Leonard felt "bittersweet" after Game 3

Mike Richman: 'Wrecking ball' Draymond Green is demolishing the Trail Blazers

VIDEO: Blazers two tasks: Stop Warriors in 3Q, make history

VIDEO: Damian Lillard updates us on his rib injury

VIDEO: Any vindication for Meyers Leonard?



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Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

Meyers Leonard on Game 4: "Have pride. Simple as that"

For Meyers Leonard, it was a special opportunity Saturday night, a rare chance to start a playoff game.  And for Leonard, there haven’t been a lot of chances to start ANY games.

He didn’t get off the bench at all in 21 Portland games this season and was in the starting lineup only twice – with one of those being that final contest of the year when the Trail Blazers rested the starters and turned the game over to their young players, other than the 27-year-old Leonard.

He did not play in 10 of his team’s final 16 games of the regular season and then sat out five of the Trail Blazers’ last seven playoff games before going the entire fourth quarter of Game 2 against Golden State.

And it’s not as if he hasn’t been a solid playoff contributor during his career. In 24 playoff games, he’s shot 50.6 percent from the field and 45.2 percent from three-point range.

In 2014-15, as a 22-year-old, second-year player. Leonard hit 10 of 13 three-point field goals over a five-game playoff series vs. Memphis.

In the spotlight of a must-win game Saturday night, Leonard knocked down half of his 12 shots from the floor, three of seven from long distance and scored 16 points in a very consistent performance at both ends of the floor.

“I thought Meyers played great,” Damian Lillard said Sunday. “Meyers had a great game.”

No matter how infrequent his appearances, Leonard always keeps himself ready.

He wasn’t anxious to talk about the frustration and disappointment he has suffered during a career that has seen him spend more time on the bench than on the court. He doesn’t criticize his coaching staff or cause dissension over his situation, even though, at various times, his production has appeared to merit more minutes on the floor and Trail Blazer fans have demeaned him on the talk shows and social media because of his salary.

“What I'll say is, I'm thankful that Coach Stotts and the staff and my teammates, for that matter, had the belief in me and know that I can play,” he said Sunday prior to his team’s practice. “It's been up and down, and I approach every day the same as if I'm going to play.

“I try to prepare as best I can, and I used this quote last night, it's one that I really like. It's what the (Navy) Seals talk about: You don't really rise to the occasion, you fall back on training.

“I put a lot of work in, and I feel that I'm very dedicated to myself and to my team to improving and being ready to play when my number is called.  So, although the minutes have been up and down and it's, I guess, not consistent, my goal is to remain consistent when I'm counted on.

“In a pretty big game, obviously, it's been, whatever, 19 years since the Blazers have been in the Western Conference finals, I feel that I did a pretty darned good job being ready to play and trying to help us win.”

And, as always, Leonard is resolute about what his team must do to keep from making this series a 4-0 Warriors’ sweep Monday night.

“Have pride,” he said. “Simple as that. You know, we can easily just say, well, we're down 0-3, no one else has ever done it, why not just get to the summer?

“That's not who we are. That's not, certainly not our mindset. And we have a group of guys that really care and love to win, and so we're going to come out tomorrow night and we're going to fight and we're going to give them a really good effort.”

Something Leonard always does.

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