How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

How one foul call doomed the Trail Blazers

There was a lot to point at and put the blame on following the Blazers 107-99 loss to the Kings on Tuesday, but I can tell you exactly when the wheels came off: The 5:38 mark in the first quarter.

It was then that Hassan Whiteside was called for this third foul of the game. He subbed out and in came Skal Labissiere. With Whiteside relegated to watching from the bench, Coach Stotts really had to tinker with his lineups.

Labissiere played big minutes at center, the team went small and Anthony Tolliver saw time at center. Even Moses Brown saw time at the five. That’s right, Moses Brown. A guy that was on a G-League roster just a few days ago made his NBA debut because the Blazer had no one else.

No disrespect to any of those guys, but the Blazers never envisioned a season where Skal and Tolliver would play 18 minutes, and a late training camp invitee would see the floor. Injuries have Portland behind the eight-ball, and Coach Stotts can’t get the cue ball through.

Coach Stotts will tell you otherwise, but of course he will. It’s coach speak. Always saying the right things at the right time. Asked about the foul trouble, Stotts said:

In the first half, we managed it alright. Skal gave us good minutes and Moses Brown came in and did well… So foul trouble didn’t really hurt us too much in the first half.

But it did. It forced players on the court that weren’t used to being in those positions and in rotations they weren't familiar with. It forced Stotts to play mad scientist and find the perfect formula for success. He failed, but what were you expecting?

Injuries have piled up and the Blazers have key guys in suits on a nightly basis. Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood are all out and they were all key contributors to last season’s success. Pau Gasol is injured and has yet to make his Trail Blazers debut. When this team is fully healthy, players like Labissiere, Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Gary Trent, Jr. will likely struggle to see the floor. Right now, those very same players are playing big minutes to try to get Portland over the hump.

You do the math.

That is why when Whiteside picked up that third foul, the Blazers were fighting an uphill battle. It was almost like another injury, and the Blazers had to find another guy to fill the “next man up” role.

Unfortunately, they’re about out of bodies.

 

 

Here's your ultimate Jusuf Nurkic workout highlight

Here's your ultimate Jusuf Nurkic workout highlight

Jusuf Nurkic continued to show how his rehabilitation is going Saturday in Phoenix. 

Nurkic going through drills is yet another evolution in his rehabilitation, this coming days after he was seen running stairs at Pepsi Center after Trail Blazers shootaround. 

It's a welcomed sight, to say the least. 

While there are reports that Nurkic is angling to return around the All-Star break, the Bosnian Beast isn't putting a timetable on it. 

"I need to do what's best for me," he said. Nurkic mentioned that not only is he going to come back healthier, but also a better player as a whole.  

Check out the highlight video above to see how Nurkic's workout went!

Nurkic, covered in sweat after a workout, talks about his progress

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NBC Sports Northwest

Nurkic, covered in sweat after a workout, talks about his progress

PHOENIX – Apparently, this has been going on for a while now.

Jusuf Nurkic was on the floor of the practice gym in Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday afternoon, spinning, jab-stepping, jumping, dribbling, shooting and looking for all the world like a man healthy enough to play NBA basketball.

Which, of course, he isn’t. Nurkic, after a workout that left him drenched in sweat, pronounced himself “right where I want to be” and “pain-free.”

Pressed, he put his readiness at “60 percent.” Nurkic has been sidelined since last March 25 ,after suffering compound fractures in his left tibia and fibula that required surgery.

It was originally estimated he could be out of action for a year and then the talk was that he could be ready to return to a Trail Blazer uniform by the All-Star break in February. But he raised the hopes of Portland fans when he was shown on video shooting free throws prior to Tuesday’s game in Moda vs. the Knicks and then shown again on video running the stairs in Denver’s Pepsi Center before Thursday’s game with the Nuggets.

The team made him available for interviews after the Blazers’ practice Saturday afternoon and seemingly showcased his workout for the media – because we see only what they want us to see of their practices.

The franchise has refused to put a timetable on his return to active duty and Nurkic dodged all those questions, as did his coach. But it was made clear that he has been doing more work on the court than previously thought.

“He’s been doing a lot of stuff,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “This is the first time you’ve gotten to see it. He’s been doing things similar to this. Today wasn’t anything new from our standpoint. You just haven’t seen it.

“I think we’re all encouraged by the progress he’s made.”

And the 7-foot center made it a point that every day is not like the heavy workout we saw Saturday.

“If I was doing this every day, I probably would have played already,” he said.

But during an interview that stretched longer than what the team may have expected, Nurkic refused to dig deeply into what he’s been doing and what his schedule will be, moving forward.

“I can’t tell you everything,” he said with a smile.

 

Listen to this week’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast here:

 

     

 

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

DENVER – It wasn’t until the third quarter when Trail Blazers PR announced that rookie forward Nassir Little would not play in Thursday’s game versus the Nuggets due to back spasms.

Through the first three quarters, it looked as though Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was electing to give Mario Hezonja the minutes Little had been taking up.

But, after the Blazers’ 114-99 loss to the Nuggets, Little explained how the injury came about and how ultimately he ended up not playing:

It’s been tight. Just warming up, I just jumped and it was just off. -- Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little 

Little has been dealing with a tight back for the past week, but Thursday during warm-ups was the last straw.

“I told the trainers during the game—no way,” Little said of being able to play against Denver.

Little was grimacing as he leaned down to put on his socks and shoes in the locker room postgame.

In 18 games played this season, he is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game.

The Trail Blazers forward said his pain level was “at a nine” when his back flared up initially as he went up for a lay-in. “It was immediate.”

Little sounded optimistic though saying he hopes not to miss too much time. The 19-year-old will begin treatment Friday morning and NBCSNW will follow-up with the Trail Blazers rookie throughout the weekend to see what his status will ultimately be for Monday night's game vs. the Phoenix Suns. 

 

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

DENVER  – Nuggets fans showed up in force Thursday night, but it's not certain if it was for their team, or Carmelo Anthony.

Either way, it was as close to sold out as the Pepsi Center gets for a Nuggets game. It even looked like there were more fans in the stands on Thursday than there were during last year’s postseason.

In Anthony’s return to Denver, he looked like vintage Melo, but also showed off his defense coming up with a couple of steals. 

It was a hard fought battle between two teams that are continuing to deepen their division rivalry. 

But, down the stretch, Portland wasn’t able to get stops. The Nuggets took a 2-0 series lead in their 111-99 win over the Trail Blazers. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 99

Here are three quick takeaways from Thursday’s loss: 

1.  Vintage Melo, Whiteside with multiple dabs

After Thursday’s shootaround, Melo talked about how special it was to be back where it all started for him. He then showed Denver that he could still be special. The 10-time All-Star finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-5 from three. 

But, the first and third quarters were really all about Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside. 

Whiteside’s 13 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.   

The Blazers 7-footer was also 1-for-1 from three in the first quarter. With the three-pointer also came a celebration from Whiteside with not one, not two, but multiple dabs.  Whiteside’s energy was contagious at both ends especially in the first and third quarters. 

2.  Nuggets go off from three

If it wasn’t for Denver’s hot shooting from three, the Nuggets would’ve had a tough time staying in the game early on. After three quarters, Denver was shooting 14-of-30 from deep and held an 11-point lead heading into the final period. The Nuggets shared the wealth too. Five players scored in double figures. 

3.  Blazers moving more without the ball, but couldn’t get stops in crunch time

Kent Bazemore made it hard on the Nuggets defense, especially in the first half. Whether he was cutting hard to the basket or running the baseline, he was on the move and his teammates were able to find him.  Bazemore made sure to convert too. And he wasn’t the only one making Denver work. The Blazers as a team were moving and cutting all night. Portland’s offense was clicking, but ultimately they weren’t able to get stops at the other end of the court when they needed them. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers will visit the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. Tip-off is set for 6:00pm 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!