Instant Analysis: What to make of the Blazers' defense in preseason action vs. Suns

Instant Analysis: What to make of the Blazers' defense in preseason action vs. Suns

It was a night full of young Suns players getting most of the playing time and plenty of preseason mistakes for both teams as the Trail Blazers hosted Phoenix on Saturday night.

Portland started the game off with two quick turnovers each coming after a miscue in the pick and roll.

Despite the sloppy play, the Blazers and Suns quickly started heating up from downtown and it was CJ McCollum who led the charge on the offensive end for Portland.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Suns 134, Trail Blazers 118

Here are three quick takeaways from the loss from our NBC Sports team at the game:

Mike Richman, Reporter

The Blazers defense was mostly a nightmare. It would be foolish to overreact to a preseason game, but we haven't seen this team play good defense at any point during the exhibition season. They've got 10 days to figure it out before the games start to count. Sunday is an off day, which means Monday's film session will probably be long and full of defensive lowlights.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

It felt like the Phoenix Suns could not miss from the three-point line from start to finish of this game. So the question is: Was that just preseason basketball or were the Blazers just a step too slow on rotating on the perimeter because they’re still working out the kinks? It’s probably a little bit of both. Plus, the Blazers were without starting wing Rodney Hood who was out with back spasms. One thing is certain – the Blazers will be looking at game film of the Suns’ made three-pointers.

Chris Burkhardt, Producer

We saw a couple of things Saturday that stood out. First, Coach Stotts experimented with Anthony Tolliver starting at power forward, bringing Collins off the bench. I love the fact the roster allows Stotts to tinker so much. Realistically, this could be something we see in the regular season, especially if Pau Gasol takes a while to heal up.

Back to Tolliver though. I was impressed with how he moved and communicated on both sides of the ball. He fills a lot of holes defense and is always talking to the other four Blazers on the floor. That veteran savvy is why the Blazers brought him in.

The second thing we saw tonight was the Dame-CJ-Ant three-guard lineup. That group has a lot of potential to drop buckets. At the very least, it's fun to watch. On to the next.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Utah Jazz for a 6pm tip-off on Wednesday.

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

Good dude CJ McCollum awards local family with Trail Blazers tickets, amazing night

Good dude CJ McCollum awards local family with Trail Blazers tickets, amazing night

The love Rip City has for the Trail Blazers is real. 

When a player comes to Portland, Blazers fans become invested. Players become part of the family. Whether it be one year or for what looks to be a player’s full career. Rip City takes special interest in all aspects of the players’ life. 

Prior to Tuesday’s game vs. the Knicks, CJ McCollum took a special interest in Rip City’s interests.

CJ got HUNDREDS of responses. 

But, if you’re a CJ McCollum fan, there was really only one right answer to his question. There’s a number of loves in CJ’s life: His fiancé, drinking Pinot and listening to J. Cole. 

A Trail Blazers fan who knows all of those things? Ashlee Yuille. 

Originally from Flint, Michigan, Yuille lives in SE Portland and has been in the area for 20 years. A social worker at the Portland VA Hospital emergency room, Yuille follows the Blazers pretty closely and even listens to CJ McCollum’s “Pull Up Podcast.” Yuille wasn’t just angling for tickets. She shares in CJ’s appreciation for J. Cole's music. Her favorite song of his is “Love Yourz.”

CJ responded to her tweet, and later that evening Yuille, who was sporting a CJ McCollum jersey, and her 13-year-old son, Colton, were off to the game. The 7th grade Colton likes Jusuf Nurkic, and while the Bosnian Beast wasn’t able to suit up tonight, they still had a ton of fun watching the Blazers blow out the Knicks. 

“Really, just being there was so amazing and we were so excited to see Melo for the first time!” Yuille told NBC Sports Northwest via direct message. 

This isn't the first time CJ has performed this generous act. CJ granted a Blazers fan's wish to take his son to a game for his birthday in November. 

This is yet another example of how the love between Rip City and the Trail Blazers remains genuine and real. 

Dame says, no matter what, this season will not splinter his team

Dame says, no matter what, this season will not splinter his team

The Trail Blazers left no doubt Tuesday night that no matter how bad things were going for them, they weren’t going as poorly as the New York Knicks.

The now 10-15 Blazers outscored the Knicks by at least eight points in each of the first three quarters and led by as many as 32 points while routing 4-20 New York, sending the reeling Knicks to their 10th straight defeat.

Obviously, Portland has not reached its pre-season expectations – injuries have taken care of that – but Damian Lillard says there is no worry about this team splintering or losing its way this season.

“Not us,” he said emphatically. “Because I think that starts at the top. We don’t have a coaching staff that wavers, where they come in here like, ‘We got to stop doing this!’ They are never negative. Some people have a hard time when you’ve struggling or losing and coming in the next day and still having the same positive attitude, while still addressing what the issues are. And our coaching staff, they do a great job of that.

Myself and CJ, we’ve always had that mentality of, ‘It’s not going well, but we’re going to figure it out.’ So, it’s not only no panic, when we see that from our coaching staff and our teammates see it from us, there is a level of confidence that you have throughout a group, when everybody can look to each other know and say 'He still believes, he’s still positive.'

“You keep that energy as a group. Whereas, ‘It’s going bad, but let’s keep going.’ If we finish the season bad, we’re going to have a whole season where we say, we fought through it. We always have our minds in the right place and we’re going to keep fighting through it.”

The Blazer coaching staff showed that it’s willing to tinker with things a bit, showing a 2-3 zone, a three-guard lineup and the team’s only two true bigs – Skal Labissiere and Hassan Whiteside – playing at the same time.

Asked when the last time he was on a team that played a 2-3 zone, Kent Bazemore shook his head and fought for a memory he couldn’t find.

“Um, I can’t really remember. It’s definitely a different wrinkle, especially if you throw it at them right out of a timeout,” said Bazemore, who started at small forward. “You have smart enough players on the floor, it’s actually very effective.

“You’ve got to give us credit tonight, though. We came out… Dame was super-special tonight and had the game we kind of needed from him. We’re still building. Confidence is starting to grow.”

Whiteside had another night of stuffing the stat sheet, getting 17 points, 15 rebounds and five blocked shots in 25:38. Lillard was sensational from the floor, hitting 9 of 15 overall and 8-12 from three -- and he didn't play in the fourth quarter. Portland hit 17 of 41 threes while the Knicks managed just 7-38.

Next up, Thursday night on the road, is Denver.

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

Fans went wild for Chris. You don't often see someone win big on those timeout games, and it's exciting anytime it happens. 

Congratulations, Chris!!!

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers expect new energy from Knicks

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USA Today Images

Pregame Notebook: Trail Blazers expect new energy from Knicks

The Trail Blazers are set to wrap-up their four-game homestand tonight.

Before the Blazers and Knicks tip-off at 7:00p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave his thoughts on tonight’s matchup.

Coach Stotts thinks the Knicks will be playing with a sense of urgency and newfound energy playing for their new interim head coach Mike Miller.

They’ve had a couple of days in between games. They’ll be some new things implemented. After watching their Indiana game they had some new things in as well. So, it kind of puts a premium on knowing their personnel, their tendencies, what they like to do. The one thing a coaching change usually does is it brings a bump in energy. They’ve lost nine in a row so I expect them to play with a lot of urgency.  ---Terry Stotts pregame

Coach Stotts also mentioned that Pau Gasol is still in Spain rehabbing at the moment, but he should be back in Portland late next week and then they will figure out when Gasol will join the coaching staff.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS HERE:

Trail Blazers players, coaches visit local hospitals, cuteness ensues

Trail Blazers players, coaches visit local hospitals, cuteness ensues

It’s time to spread some holiday cheer.

On Monday, a day before taking on the New York Knicks at the Moda Center, the Portland Trail Blazers visited Shriners Hospital and Doernbecher Children's Hospital. The team signed autographs and spent time with kids giving them memories they’ll treasure forever.

Here’s a thread of all the most precious moments.

CJ McCollum loved the video of Mario Hezonja and Anthony Tolliver as much as the rest of us.

The Trail Blazers' season continues Tuesday night against the New York Knicks at 7:00pm in the Moda Center. The game will be available live on NBC Sports Northwest.

Portland Trail Blazers ‘expected’ to pursue Thunder F Danilo Gallinari

Portland Trail Blazers ‘expected’ to pursue Thunder F Danilo Gallinari

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Portland Trail Blazers are “expected” to pursue Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari.

The Blazers may look to upgrade their wing rotation, especially following the season-ending injury to starting small forward Rodney Hood, who tore his achilles on December 6th against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Gallinari has averaged 18.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game this season for the Oklahoma City Thunder. As a member of the Clippers last season, he averaged 19.8 points per game and even got some All-NBA and All-Star consideration around the league. He was traded to the Thunder in the blockbuster Paul George trade this offseason. 

On December 15, all players signed this off-season will be eligible to be traded. The Blazers will most likely use the expiring salary of either Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) or Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million) to match Gallinari’s $22.6 million expiring salary. 

[RELATED: Kevin Love 'prefers' Portland Trail Blazers as his trade destination]

Kevin Love ‘prefers’ Portland Trail Blazers as his trade destination

Kevin Love ‘prefers’ Portland Trail Blazers as his trade destination

The rumors of Kevin Love coming home to Portland surfaced once again on Tuesday morning.

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, former All-Star and Lake Oswego native Kevin Love would prefer to be traded to the Portland Trail Blazers

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers have reportedly been more open to trading All-Star Kevin Love after a 5-18 start to the season. He’s in the first season of his four-year, $120 million extension he signed following the 2018 season. He currently averages 15.6 points and 10.6 rebounds a game for the Cavs. 

The Blazers have the salary space to make a trade work with the expiring contracts of Hassan Whiteside ($27.1 million) and Kent Bazemore ($19.3 million) and the Cavaliers should desire cap relief from Love’s monstrous deal while they rebuild. 

Portland needs relief at the forward and center positions after injuries to Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins, and Rodney Hood. Kevin Love would be able to play both power forward and center, while spacing the floor to give Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum more room to operate. 

Kevin O’Connor thinks that Love would fit great in Portland.

“Nurkic will return this season, and Love would be a terrific frontcourt partner because of his perimeter shooting and playmaking ability. Portland could then play big upfront, which would be valuable in a series against a team with a bigger frontcourt, like the Lakers. Or, it could go with Love at center, which could be useful against the Rockets, who often size down with P.J. Tucker at center."

Would you want to see Kevin Love sporting a red and white pinwheel on his chest, Rip City?