Get to know your newest Trail Blazer, seven-year veteran Kent Bazemore

Get to know your newest Trail Blazer, seven-year veteran Kent Bazemore

The Portland Trail Blazers and Atlanta Hawks are swapping veteran wings Evan Turner and Kent Bazemore.

Turner had just finished his third season with Portland and is entering the last year of his four-year, $70 million deal.

Bazemore, a 6'5" guard, is set to make $19.3 million. This deal is essentially a swap of high-expiring contracts. Turner is set to make $18.6 million next season.

With this move, Portland adds more shooting depth on the perimeter especially with Al-Farouq Aminu and Rodney Hood hitting free agency. Bazemore has averaged at least 11 points in each of his last four years with the Hawks.

The 29-year-old should fit in nicely with Blazers head coach Terry Stotts’ system, while Portland will certainly benefit from adding another three-point shooter. Over his seven-year NBA career, Bazemore averages 41.9% shooting from the field and 35.2% from deep.

Last season with Atlanta, Bazemore averaged career highs in all three major categories with 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists.

He will also be a valuable two-way player. At Old Dominion, Bazemore earned First-team All-CAA in 2012 and was a 2X Defensive Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012. He also earned CAA All-Defensive Team three different times from 2010-12.

Bazemore went undrafted in 2012, but joined the Oklahoma City Thunder to play for OKC in the Orlando Summer League tournament. He then played for the Golden State Warriors in the Las Vegas Summer League. After his summer stint in Vegas, he signed with Golden State.

Bazemore has spent time with the Warriors, Lakers, and most recently with the Hawks from 2014-2019.

Check out the video above for more highlights from Bazemore's time in the NBA.

How to Watch & Stream Blazers vs. Clippers, coverage begins at 7:30am

How to Watch & Stream Blazers vs. Clippers, coverage begins at 7:30am

It’s time to wake up with the Trail Blazers!

In Portland’s first leg of a back-to-back this weekend, the Blazers will square off against the LA Clippers in Portland’s fifth seeding game Saturday.

The Blazers are coming off a 125-115 win over the Denver Nuggets Thursday. In the win, the Trail Blazers knocked down 23 three pointers, a franchise-high. Damian Lillard connected on 11 three pointers. Gary Trent, Jr. went 7-of-10 from beyond the arc as Portland improved its seeding games record to 3-1. 

As for the Clippers, LA is now 2-2 following Thursday’s 126-111 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Kawhi Leonard led the Clippers with 29 points.

Saturday will be a clash of opposites.  

The Trail Blazers lead the league in points per game over the last four contests in the bubble with 124.8, while the Clippers have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game over that span at 108.5.

You can catch Saturday’s Blazers-Clippers game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 10:00a.m. Our coverage starts at 7:30a.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 9:00a.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame Show’ at 9:30a.m.

And, don’t forget to wrap up your Trail Blazers-Saturday with ‘Blazers Outsiders’ for some postgame fun!

Or if you can’t get to a TV, stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

Plus, for full coverage of Portland’s fifth seeding game make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

Portland’s Remaining Seeding Games:

  • Saturday, Aug. 8 vs. LA Clippers  
  • Sunday, Aug. 9 vs. Philadelphia 76ers 
  • Tuesday, Aug. 11 vs. Dallas Mavericks 
  • Thursday, Aug. 13 vs. Brooklyn Nets   

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

  

Injury Reports:

The Clippers have listed Patrick Beverley (left calf; strain) and Montrezl Harrell (not with team) as out for Saturday's game. 

For the Blazers, Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) is listed as doubtful.

Quote of the Week:  

Following Thursday's win, Damian Lillard thought back to a conversation he had with Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes at the end of May when Lillard said he wouldn't play when the NBA returns unless Portland has a chance to compete for a playoff berth.

Four games in and now everyone sees why.

Months ago when I said, ‘if we don’t have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t want to play,’ because I knew that if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot it would look something like it looks right now because we’re a more healthy team, more rested, and I knew what our team was doing – guys was getting conditioning in and we stayed in contact. As soon as we opened our facility, guys were there every day. I knew that once we got here, we would be one of the teams that could take advantage of it. So far we have.  -- Damian Lillard said postgame Thursday

Top Game Notes:

  • All-Time: Trail Blazers lead, 147-80
     
  • Saturday's game will mark the third and final meeting between the Trail Blazers and the Clippers this season. The Clippers lead the season series, 2-0.
     
  • Last Meeting: The Clippers defeated the Trail Blazers at Staples Center on Dec. 3, 117-97. Montrezl Harrell led the Clippers with 26 points (11-13 FG, 4-12 FT), nine rebounds, one assist and one steal in 30 minutes off the bench while CJ McCollum had 20 points (9-17 FG, 2-6 3-PT), three rebounds, three assists and one block to lead Portland.
     
  • Damian Lillard has averaged 19.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.00 steals in two games against the Clippers this season. He has made at least three three-pointers in five of his last six games against the Clippers, shooting 38.5% from deep in that span.
     
  • CJ McCollum has averaged 21.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in two games against the Clippers this season. He has scored at least 20 points in each of his last four games against the Clippers.
     
  • In two games against the Clippers this season, Hassan Whiteside has averaged 17.5 points, 16.0 rebounds and 1.50 blocks.
     
  • Anfernee Simons had 17 points (5-13 FG, 3-8 3-PT, 4-6 FT), two rebounds and two assists against the Clippers on Nov. 7. He is averaging 14.0 points per game in two games against LA this season.
     
  • Paul George had 25 points (9-14 FG, 6-7 3-PT, 1-2 FT), four rebounds and three assists against Portland on Dec. 3. He missed the first game against the Trail Blazers this season with a shoulder injury.
     
  • In two games against the Trail Blazers this season, Kawhi Leonard has averaged 19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.50 steals and 1.00 blocks. He has scored at least 25 points in five of his last seven games against Portland. 

----

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard foreshadowed his 'hot hand' vs. Denver days earlier 

[RELATED]: Blazers shoot down shorthanded Nuggets: 'We did what we needed to do' 

[RELATED]: Gary Trent Jr. has been a star in the bubble

[RELATED]: Big Z’s Bubble Week 3 -- Zach Collins answering your Qs: Biggest bubble surprises, his pregame playlist & more

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard & the Blazers are proving why they deserved a shot at the playoffs 

[RELATED]: Jusuf Nurkic posterizes Bol Bol and social media goes nuts!

Richard Jefferson: Blazers - Lakers would be 'most anticipated 1st-round matchup' in years

Richard Jefferson: Blazers - Lakers would be 'most anticipated 1st-round matchup' in years

The NBA is approaching the beginning of the postseason in the coming weeks and one former NBA Champion wants to see the Portland Trail Blazers make it in. 

Richard Jefferson joined host Channing Frye on the Talkin' Blazers Podcast this week to discuss the Blazers' hot start in the bubble that has them trending towards becoming the favorites to earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

If Portland can get into the postseason, they will play LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round and Jefferson cannot wait.

If the Lakers and [Blazers] meet in the first round, that will be the most anticipated matchup that the NBA has seen in years. - Richard Jefferson

It's easy to see why.

Not only do the Blazers and Lakers franchises have history and bad blood due to many critical meetings in the postseason, but the teams, as constructed now, could create an epic series.

The Portland Trail Blazers are not a typical eight seed with the return of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins to the starting lineup. 

Last season before Nurkic fractured his left tibia, the Trail Blazers held a +11.3 net rating when he shared the floor with Damian Lillard. For reference, the 2016-17 Warriors in Kevin Durant's first season had a +11.4 net rating that year. 

On the Ringer NBA Show this week, Kevin O'Connor said that the Blazers should be viewed as a third or fourth seed caliber team heading into the postseason. The Blazers with a healthy Lillard, Nurkic, and CJ McCollum can put up a fight against anyone. 

Especially given the fact Damian Lillard has put together a career season as the best point guard in the NBA this season, even earning MVP votes despite the injury-riddled Blazers having a losing record. 

Here's what ESPN's Zach Lowe wrote about why he gave Lillard a fourth-place vote for MVP.

The word "valuable" nudges voters to consider roster context, and injuries decimated Portland; the Blazers played almost the entire season without their projected three-man starting frontcourt. Lillard within that MASH unit averaged 29 points and eight assists... The Blazers were roadkill without Lillard. These were his game-by-game scoring totals from one scintillating two-week stretch starting in mid-January: 34, 34, 61, 47, 50, 36, 48, 51... Availability matters. Lillard led the league in minutes per game. He is one of its steadfast cultural touchstones.

Now, that projected three-man starting frontcourt is healthy with Collins, Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony starting games inside the bubble. 

With Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic all feeling healed and rested ahead of the restart, they are confident in their chances of capturing the eight seed. Now, halfway through the seeding games, they have made up all but one game they trailed against the Grizzlies while defeating Memphis, Houston, and Denver. 

Additionally, who could forget the last matchup between the Lakers and Blazers? When Lillard exploded for 48 points on 17/30 from the field to lead the Trail Blazers to a 127-119 victory, despite the team not playing Carmelo Anthony who didn't travel with the team.

Add in that former Lakers starter and defensive stalwart Avery Bradley opted out of the bubble, who is going to guard Lillard in the postseason? Lillard could keep the Blazers in the series himself. 

"It would be a great matchup," added Jefferson.

Don't believe the Blazers could put up a fight? LeBron James himself who called Portland a dangerous team to face in the postseason.

You got a Dame Lillard who can go for 50, a CJ McCollum that can score 40, a Carmelo Anthony that if he gets hot, which we know in the postseason could go for 35/40 as well... When you have that type of experience with Portland, they can make things happen. - LeBron James

The respect given to Portland by LeBron aligns with what NBC Sports Northwest Portland Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes heard in February that the Lakers "don't want any part of Portland in the postseason," due to the size of Portland and the stellar play of Lillard.

The Blazers will continue their pursuit of the eighth seed on Saturday, August 8 against the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:00 a.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest. 

Damian Lillard: 'Our work is only beginning'

Damian Lillard: 'Our work is only beginning'

The Trail Blazer are now halfway through their eight seeding games and instead of the mindset of holding onto the ninth spot in the Western Conference standings, the Blazers have set their sights on climbing to the eighth seed and in turn only having to win one of the play-in games to secure their postseason spot.

Portland, who is now 3-1 in the NBA restart, has had a lot of success with their big lineup now that Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are both healthy.

[RELATED]: Eye on the Eight -- How Portland can grab the eight seed on their off day

Along with the Blazers’ rebounding margins, their hot shooting by Damian Lillard, and the emergence of second-year player Gary Trent Jr., Lillard feels the team is definitely trending in the right direction.  

And really, it can’t be overstated just how valuable a confident Gary Trent Jr. has been for the Blazers in the restart.  

Or as Lillard put it, “Facts a million.”

Those are some serious numbers that the young fella is putting up. Trent Jr. is averaging 62.9% from deep, which is the second-highest among those who have attempted at least 20 threes in the bubble.

[RELATED]: Gary Trent Jr. and the Blazers bubble numbers are insane

But just as Lillard as said he is extremely proud of Trent Jr.’s growth and the success the team has had thus far, Lillard also emphasized after Friday’s practice that the Blazers have their eyes set on one thing:  

We just came focused on being in that play-in game, and I think we started to realize that getting the eighth seed and having only to win one game in a play-in situation was more of a reality... But, our work is only beginning. It’s only four games in and four left and it’s still a really deep race. There’s a lot of teams competing for it, a lot of teams playing well. So, we’ve got to just continue to move onto the next game, handling business.  -- Trail Blazers five-time All-Star Damian Lillard

Just as a lot has been made about Trent Jr.’s play in the NBA restart, the Blazers aren’t overlooking what they’ve got in the new and improved Jusuf Nurkic, who hasn’t played in 16 months. Yet, looking at his conditioning and current physical state, nobody would guess that he had been out for more than a year rehabbing a broken left leg.

“He moves well for somebody to be that size," Lillard said. "Really light on his feet, quick, good touch, just a very unique guy of that size.”

Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts added that Nurk is playing at a level he’s never seen him play before.

I do think he’s playing better… He’s always had an appreciation for team play, obviously and his passing. You can tell the things that we missed -- we missed his passing, his screening, just that he’s a dynamic big man. His commitment to winning is important. I think his three-point shooting is going to be there -- it looks good. I think it’s just a matter of time before he starts that. I will say this, I think physically he looks really good. He’s not thin, he’s strong, he’s moving really well… I do think he’s playing at a level as well as he’s ever played for us.  -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

One of the things holding Nurkic back early in his career had been his limited minutes. Nurk's conditioning wasn't where it needed to be to play major minutes when he first arrived in Portland.    

But that’s not the case now.

Through the four games in the bubble, Nurkic is already averaging 32.3 minutes per game to go along with some stellar numbers. The Bosnian Beast is posting 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.0 blocks, and 1.5 steals per game.

Nurkic could even see increased minutes on Saturday with backup center Hassan Whiteside now listed as doubtful. Whiteside is dealing with a left hip strain.

The Trail Blazers work continues in a matinee contest Saturday. 

The Blazers and Clippers tip-off at 10:00a.m. on NBC Sports Northwest.

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

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at the Blazers race for the 8 seed

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at the Blazers race for the 8 seed

Halfway through the seeding games in Orlando, the Portland Trail Blazers are 3-1 and have made up significant ground on the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth seed. 

After entering the bubble 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies and facing the hardest seeding game schedule of the teams fighting for the eighth seed, the Blazers are now just a half-game behind Memphis. 

While the Blazers prepare to take on the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:00 a.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest Saturday morning, the Blazers can actually move ahead of Memphis today if one game goes the Blazers way.

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

But first, the standings are as follows. UPDATED AFTER WINS BY SAN ANTONIO, NEW ORLEANS AND MEMPHIS PLUS A SACRAMENTO LOSS.

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

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

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

11. New Orleans Pelicans (2.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: San Antonio, Sacramento, Orlando

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

13. Sacramento (3.5 games behind)  Remaining schedule: Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers (Eliminated from the eighth seed)

If Memphis loses to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, then the Blazers will tie the Grizzlies and will win the tiebreaker based on conference record. 

Moving into the eight seed would be huge for the Blazers. Not only does it give you more separation from the ten seed and gives 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. 

Notable games Friday, August 07.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Utah Jazz

San Antonio WON 119-111. 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Oklahoma City Thunder 

Who do you want to win? OKC. Memphis won 121-92.

Line: OKC -3

Sacramento Kings vs Brooklyn Nets

Who do you want to win? Brooklyn. Brooklyn won 119-106.

Line: SAC -4

New Orleans Pelicans vs Washington Wizards

Who do you want to win? Washington. New Orleans won 118-107.

Line: NOP -6

Note: Zion Williamson will not play due to rest. 

Best Case Scenario: MEM, SAC, NOP all lose. Portland enters the eight seed tied with Memphis, 1.0 game lead on San Antonio, 1.5 game lead on Phoenix, 2.5 game lead on Sacramento and New Orleans.

Worst Case Scenario: MEM, SAC, NOP all win. Portland remains in ninth, 1.0 games behind Memphis. 1.0 game lead on San Antonio, 1.5 game lead on Phoenix, Sacramento and New Orleans.

This will be updated throughout the day. 

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Gary Trent Jr., NBA's most 'Bubblicious' player, is fearless when lights go on

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are a known commodity, one of the best backcourts in basketball. Even Jusuf Nurkic, an underrated player for sure, has a following.

But Gary Trent Jr.? Where has he come from?

And why was the most Bubblicious player during the NBA restart so far, not taken until the second round of the 2019 NBA draft?

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, the man who engineered a trade to grab Trent with the seventh pick in the second round of that draft, tried to explain it Friday.

“People forget, he was one of the top 10 players in America in his class coming out of high school, which was an elite class,” Olshey said. “He’s a guy that for systemic reasons, where people catch inertia -- either positive or negative -- around the draft, slipped way beyond what people would have thought his draft status would have been, given the hype and reputation and body of work that he entered Duke with.

“If you look at the Duke team, they were loaded. They came into the season with five guys projected to go in the first round. I think Gary had been on the radar for so long and such a high profile guy, that even though he was only a freshman, so much was expected of him, and I think he had a really good year -- i think he averaged 15 a game and shot 40 from three -- but i think he underwhelmed relative to expectations.”

It happens frequently. And it’s because there are so many metrics out there now with which to judge players. So many ways to judge them, that it's almost easier to find reasons not to draft someone as to draft him.

“So many things that factor in,” Olshey said. “Height, weight, measurements that have nothing to do with playing basketball. The combine isn’t reflective of NBA basketball.  Workouts down to 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. Guys lose sight of what they liked about a player when they were actually watching him play five-on-five, real competitive basketball. And they start using inconsequential data points. It’s paralysis by analysis.”

Olshey wanted to take Anfernee Simons in the first round because he knew there were several teams behind the Blazers who would snatch him up. But then there was a chance Trent would last into the second round.

“With Gary there was this kind of reverse heat, Olshey said. “There was an overcorrection accruing on Gary.  We felt if we could get back into the 30s, we would have a chance to get him.

“And with the exception of Will Barton, a lot of our second-round picks have been guys we bought into or traded to get. Allen Crabbe, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman.

“We weren’t looking to get into the second round, but once he started falling, we got very aggressive. And you know (late owner) Paul Allen on draft night -- more is always better. Two future seconds and cash to get him (from Sacramento). We valued him as a first-round pick. We signed him to a full, three-year contract right out of the gate. We immediately gave him what we thought the value of a first-round pick would be.”

So Trent arrived in Portland as the guy who was selected after Anfernee Simons, who got most of the attention from the media as a kid who didn’t even attend college. Trent had a ways to go, just to get on the floor.

“What he needed to do is find his identity,” Olshey said. “He was a lot stronger than guys in high school and he was able to bully his way to the rim. What it resulted in for us was a lot of inefficiency. He was taking a lot of long twos. He was getting himself in trouble with a lot of over-penetrating into the lane and i think what he’s done is listen to all of us and he’s simplified his style of play to fit into what we need out on the court. Which is defensive energy, toughness, three-point shooting, moving without the ball, getting to the rim with opportunity for free throws.

“The scope of his game has narrowed and it has simplified things for him to where he can really just excel at what we need him to do to balance the floor when he’s out there with either Dame and CJ or in place of one of them.”

But did the Trail Blazers envision Trent turning into a shooter of this magnitude? Especially this quickly?

“You know what I saw,” Olshey said. “Right now, he’s on fire and I hope it continues. But I knew he was a really good shooter. What I had confidence in, was that he was a really good game shooter.

“You put him in a gym and there are four or five guys on our team who will outshoot him on the shooting gun. He’s a gamer. That’s the one thing Gary always did when we tracked him from high school. I saw him play seven times at Duke, he played great in the combine had a great workout with us and the one thing about Gary is, when the lights come on, he’s fearless.

“A lot of it has to do with his pedigree and the success he’s had at those different levels. But what I knew he could do is make game shots.

“So what’s interesting with him is, he needed an opportunity to get on the court. Because when you watch him just in drills and at practice, he’s not as dynamic a shooter as he is, once he gets into the flow of the game. All those psychological intangibles start coming into play when you get into that make-or-miss kind of format.”

And defense, which a general manager from a team that passed on Trent told me is what made teams hesitate about drafting him. "We didn't see a commitment there," the GM said,

Trent said this week that "100 percent" his defense is what got him on the floor for this team.

"First and foremost, it was his commitment to getting better defensively," Coach Terry Stotts said. "He didn't get to play much his rookie season but he really committed to being a better defender and getting a few minutes on the court that way. He's always been a scorer, but defensively, finding out what you can get away with, learning NBA defense, learning NBA personnel, locking in on game plans, learning from the guys who are playing, in a year that you don't play, you really have to utilize that time to get better, knowing the NBA game. I think he's improved in all those areas."

And up above, you have to believe Paul Allen is smiling.

“It was very hard for Paul to get excited about the obvious,” Olshey said. “He literally created the tech sector. He was always about discovering something nobody else saw. He loved the narrative around Nurk. He loved the surprises. He loved the unknowns. He loved young players and seeing them grow.”

And he would have loved the Gary Trent Jr. Story.

Trail Blazers Injury Update: Hassan Whiteside suffers left hip strain

Trail Blazers Injury Update: Hassan Whiteside suffers left hip strain

Trail Blazers backup center Hassan Whiteside is now listed as doubtful for Saturday's game vs. the LA Clippers.

Whiteside is dealing with a left hip strain. The Blazers big man started feeling pain in his left hip during Thursday's game against the Denver Nuggets. 

Portland's head coach Terry Stotts gave an update on Whiteside following Friday's practice: 

He started noticing it at the beginning of the game last night. I talked to him today, he really didn’t notice before the game but… early in his minutes last night it started bothering him. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

 

Whiteside played just 13 minutes in Thursday's contest, which is the fewest minutes he's played since the league's return to play. 

Whiteside has been adjusting to life coming off the bench for the Trail Blazers during the NBA restart now that Portland has a healthy Jusuf Nurkic back in the fold.

Through four games in the bubble, Whiteside has averaged 5.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 16 minutes per game.

This isn’t Whiteside’s first injury he has suffered since the restart either. The 7-footer missed the team’s first scrimmage with an Achilles strain.

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

You can catch Saturday’s Blazers-Clippers game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 10:00a.m. Our coverage starts at 7:30a.m. with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 9:00a.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame Show’ at 9:30a.m.

You can also stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, for full coverage of the scrimmage make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

Damian Lillard foreshadowed his 'hot hand' vs. Denver days earlier

Damian Lillard foreshadowed his 'hot hand' vs. Denver days earlier

Damian Lillard has been a man on a mission since the NBA restart for the Trail Blazers.

The Portland Trail Blazers moved to 3-1 after beating the Denver Nuggets 125-115 Thursday night.

Lillard led the team with 45 points, shooting 11-18 from three-point range. He also dished 12 assists to help move the Blazers to 0.5 games behind Memphis for the 8th spot in the Western Conference.

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

Thurday night's performance was Lillard’s 8th 40-point game of the season.

A man on a mission, indeed, coming from someone who has had a “hot hand” for most of the season.

The Trail Blazers point guard spoke with Philadelphia 76ers guard JJ Redick for the debut episode of ‘The Old Man & The Three’ podcast about being in the zone. 

"Being in the zone” is something all can recognize, but not everyone can achieve. Damian Lillard is one of those people who can achieve it and explains what that feeling is like.

I had a stretch this season where like, I was in the zone. I felt like I was scoring 50 points and it wasn’t hard at all… I’ve had games where I might hit five threes and I’m like ‘im not in the zone’, but in those games, I might hit eight and I'm just like every-time I shot it I was like ‘ it’s in’, and then it carried on into the next game. I definitely believe in that. That's a real thing.

That stretch that Lillard is talking about happened in late January where, for six games, he averaged 49 ppg, had three games over 50, a career-high 61 and drained 49 three-pointers.

Over the last four games since the NBA restart, Lillard is averaging 31.2 PPG, 11.2 APG, and 5 RPG and it seems like he has continued his hot hand streak since the start of the bubble.

The Trail Blazers play the Los Angeles Clippers tomorrow morning at 10am, and one can hope Lillard will continue to light up the stat sheet.

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

Blazers shoot down shorthanded Nuggets: 'We did what we needed to do'

Blazers shoot down shorthanded Nuggets: 'We did what we needed to do'

Jusuf Nurkic was dunking everything he possibly could, Gary Trent Jr. continued his torrid Orlando restart campaign and Damian Lillard had a career shooting night even by his own lofty standards.

And yet 45 minutes into the game, the Trail Blazers still hadn’t put away the shorthanded Denver Nuggets. Before tip-off the Nuggets had ruled out Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton and Paul Millsap, and in the fourth quarter Denver coach Mike Malone elected to keep All-Star Nikola Jokic on the bench and let the back half of the rotation get a chance at taking down the Blazers.

It nearly worked. Despite the 45 points and career-high tying 11 three-pointers from Damian Lillard, and Jusuf Nurkic throwing down six dunks, including a viral highlight over Bol Bol in the first half, the Blazers couldn’t ever quite pull away enough to get comfortable. 

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

Not until Gary Trent Jr., who finished with another absurd statline of 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including seven made three-pointers, drilled a shot from behind the arc with three minutes to go in the game.

We knew that they had a lot of their main guys out. But in the NBA, over my career I’ve learned that those are the most dangerous nights when you come out there thinking it’s going to be an easy game. — Damian Lillard

This didn’t look like an instance of the Blazers not taking an opponent seriously. The Nuggets still had talent on the floor in Jokic, who played three quarters and rookie Michael Porter Jr., who played deep into the fourth. More accurately, this is a reminder of how challenging the Blazers playoff push remains. Even on a night where they faced a team riddled with injuries that benched its best player down the stretch, the Blazers still needed a Herculean night from their star and a whole lot of offensive help from the supporting cast.

Portland looks better in Orlando than at any other point in the season. Probably better than a typical eighth seed, even if that’s the highest spot they can earn through four more seeding games. However, their flaws are obvious. They still aren’t a particularly good defensive group, even if they look sharper at times on that end. 

More importantly for them, they’re 3-1 and things outside of their control have broken their way for most part. Memphis is winless in four games in Orlando and lost starting power forward Jaren Jackson Jr. to a knee injury. Sacramento and New Orleans have sputtered in their restarts as well, leaving the Blazers alone in ninth place just a half game back of Memphis for the eighth seed and a 1.5 games clear of the surging Phoenix Suns.

The highlights were pretty, even if the scoreboard never really matched it. But the Blazers don’t need to earn style points for margin victory, that’s not what they’re after anyway.

“We did what we needed to do. Some people might say, ‘Aww they didn’t play anybody’,” Lillard said, anticipating the criticism from the above paragraphs before they hit the keyboard. “But for us we’re not going to apologize for a win. We’re here to just get it done. Teams have lost those games and I’m just happy we were able to pull ours out.”

Listen to the full Talkin' Blazers Podcast here.

Damian Lillard & the Blazers are proving why they deserved a shot at the playoffs

Damian Lillard & the Blazers are proving why they deserved a shot at the playoffs

It was another close game for the Trail Blazers Thursday night, but this time, Portland faced a short-handed Denver Nuggets team who was without three of their starters in Jamal Murray (left hamstring; tightness), Gary Harris (right hip; muscle strain) and oPaul Millsap (rest).

Troy Daniels (right hip; tightness), Will Barton (right knee; soreness), and Vlatko Cancar (left foot; fracture) didn’t suit up for the Nuggets, either, as Denver continues to deal with the injury bug.

After Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard caught fire in the first quarter, scoring 14 points in his first 12 minutes, it seemed like the Blazers were going to steamroll the young Nuggets.

That wasn’t the case.  

However, Lillard wasn’t ready to say sorry for ‘only’ beating Denver by 10.

Some people might say, ‘oh, they didn’t play anybody,’ but for us, we’re not going to apologize for a win. We’re here to just get it done and teams have lost those games and I’m just happy we was able to pull ours out. -- Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard

There was plenty to like about the Trail Blazers' offense in Thursday's 125-115 win.

Lillard was red-hot from three and from all over the court really, hitting a career-high 11 threes on the night. He finished with 45 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and three steals. 

The Trail Blazers, as a team, knocked down 23 three pointers, a franchise-high, as Gary Trent, Jr. continued his hot shooting, connecting on 7-of-10 from beyond the arc. 

“We’re just trending and going in the direction that we want to be,” Lillard said.

Portland now sits just a half game back of the No. 8 seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

There’s a real chance that Portland could leapfrog the Grizzlies heading into the play-in games as the eight seed.

The Memphis Grizzlies have four games remaining: Oklahoma City, Toronto, Boston, and Milwaukee.

The Trail Blazers still must face the Los Angeles Clippers, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Brooklyn.

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

  

But, as cliché as it may admittedly sound, Portland is taking it one game at a time.

And hey, that’s worked thus far.  

We can’t afford to watch the standings or watch the scoreboards because it’s that close and they’re so many teams that are right in the thick of things that… nobody is even close to a magic number so right now it’s just most important that we concern ourselves with winning games and doing what we have to do.-- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

“I think we’re playing good basketball,” Coach Stotts added. “I think we’re playing with a determination in a playoff stretch that you have to have during this. So whatever people say about us or ninth seed, eighth seed, we have to win games and we’ve dug ourselves this hole, and we’re playing with the urgency that we need to play with, and I think one of the reasons we’ve won three of these games is because, and we played well against Boston, is that we’ve really approached each game with a playoff mentality, a must-win mentality, and when you play like that there’s a good chance you’re gonna play a lot better.” 

Coach Stotts reiterated that with four more games to go, there’s still so much up in the air with how close teams are in the standings in the bottom half of the West.  

“We’re all playing the same way,” Stotts said of the teams vying for a playoff spot. “There’s only one spot for us and we have to play that way… We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and it’s just about playing the next game.”

“Sorry, pretty cliché,” Stotts added for good measure.  

A statement that was never looked at as cliché was the conversation Lillard had with Yahoo! Sports' Chris Haynes at the end of May when Lillard said he wouldn't play when the NBA returns unless Portland has a chance to compete for a playoff berth.

Four games in and now everyone sees why.

With the addition of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins and the emergence of Gary Trent Jr., the Blazers are right where Lillard thought they would be if they were given the opportunity.   

Months ago when I said, ‘if we don’t have a chance to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t want to play,’ because I knew that if we did have a chance to play for a playoff spot it would look something like it looks right now because we’re a more healthy team, more rested, and I knew what our team was doing – guys was getting conditioning in and we stayed in contact. As soon as we opened our facility, guys were there every day. I knew that once we got here, we would be one of the teams that could take advantage of it. So far we have.  -- Damian Lillard

The Western Conference race for the eighth seed is heating up. While the Blazers are 3-1 in the restart, Memphis has struggled. So has New Orleans. The Blazers are 0.5 games behind the eight seed.

And Rip City knows, Lillard still has a lot more to say and do. 

Buckle up, Rip City! The chase continues.