Lillard: Blazers making playoffs is 'biggest accomplishment of my career'

Lillard: Blazers making playoffs is 'biggest accomplishment of my career'

Once written off for dead, the Trail Blazers are going to the NBA playoffs, and on Sunday the man who drove them there didn’t mince words on what it meant to him.

“Biggest accomplishment of my career,’’ team captain Damian Lillard said. “Lot of fingers were pointed at me from the outside when we struggled, and people said a lot of things about me. I didn’t make excuses or cry about it. I said I would be better and I would man up – and I did just that.

“Now we stay locked in and go try to shock the world,’’ Lillard said.

The Blazers (40-40) will play Golden State (66-14) in Lillard’s hometown of Oakland in a best-of-seven series that will start next weekend.

The Blazers were 11 games under .500 as they entered March and overcame as much as a three-game deficit to the Denver Nuggets. But behind a torrid March – during which Lillard was named Western Conference Player of the Month for averaging 29.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 6.0 assists – the Blazers went 13-3 and overtook the Nuggets.

The final steps of their comeback came this weekend, when Lillard scored a franchise-record 59 points in a 101-86 win over Utah on Saturday, then watched Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook eliminate Denver with a three-pointer at the buzzer on Sunday afternoon.

"This season has had its challenges,'' Coach Terry Stotts said Sunday. "But the players never stopped competing. We had some difficulties along the way. I am so proud of our players and staff for grinding it out, believing in themselves and never quitting on the season.''

The season turned in mid-February with two major events: The Feb. 12 acquisition of center Jusuf Nurkic in a trade with Denver, and the All-Star Break, which allowed Lillard to rest a nagging sprained ankle and clear up some consuming personal issues. 

It was heading into that break, in a locker room in Utah after the Jazz blowout, where Lillard vowed to man up and play better when the team would regroup a week later in Orlando.

In the first game, Lillard scored 17 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to lead a come-from-behind win and the resurgence began to take life.

While Nurkic become a cult hero in Portland – his passing, shot blocking, and late-game pick-and-roll magic causing “Nurkic Fever” --  it was often Lillard who was setting the tone. During a season-defining 4-1 road swing, Lillard averaged 12.3 points in the first quarter of those games, leading coach Terry Stotts to alternatively say Lillard “willed” the team or “set the tone” or “carried the responsibility.”

There were other contributions along the way, of course. Lost in Nurkic’s big night against Denver was CJ McCollum’s 39 points. Allen Crabbe scored 10 points in 48 seconds to resurrect the Blazers from the dead in the fourth quarter against Minnesota. Al-Farouq Aminu got hot just enough and played some yeoman’s defense, and Noah Vonleh became a solid rebounder and valuable perimeter defender.

But more than anything, it was Lillard, who is averaging a career-best 27.0 points with two more regular season games remaining.

Of all his accomplishments – Rookie of the Year, two All-Star appearances, two-time All-NBA, the shot to beat Houston, the 59-point night – Lillard now has his favorite: leading the Blazers back from dead and into the playoffs with a chance to shock the world.

Kevin Durant posts cryptic photo after Blazers dramatic win over Nets

Kevin Durant posts cryptic photo after Blazers dramatic win over Nets

Now, that was stressful!

Deep exhale.

The Portland Trail Blazers clinched the eight-seed and have advanced to the play-in game for the right to the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies beginning Saturday.

The win over Brooklyn didn’t come easy. Portland carried on its struggles in the third quarter and the Nets shot 55.2% from the field, but Portland prevailed through grit and hustle down the stretch and on the back of one Damian Lillard.

Dame, Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum combined for 89 points while Hassan Whiteside and Gary Trent Jr. each had 16 off the bench. 

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon and special guest Kevin Love].

Social media was buzzing after the game from players and fans alike, but one reaction stood out and it came from injured Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant. 

No words, no context.

Just a photo of KD hanging on the rim in a dark gym... smiling. 

Creepily. 

WHY, KEVIN?! WHY!!!???

Here are some initial theories: 

  • Injury update (weird timing)
  • KD is throwing shade at the Lakers, whom the Blazers would play if they beat the Memphis Grizzlies in either of this weekend's play-in games
  • KD is somehow involving the Blazers for not drafting him in 2007 (that's not it) 
  • KD just saved a ton of money on his car insurance by switching to Geico

Of course, we'll never truly know what is going through Durant's head, so one of the above answers can/should be considered. 

Here’s how the rest of social media reacted to the Blazers grinding out the win:

Would it be a game if Logo Lillard didn’t make an appearance? Well, this one was deeeeeeeeep.

Dame's backcourt companion CJ McCollum, who is playing with a fractured back, showed up big and punished the Nets' defense when the double teams were sent on Dame, including this big shot in the fourth:

The Trail Blazers now move on to the play-in game(s) vs. Memphis beginning on Saturday. 

Play-in games schedule:
Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

Unstoppable Damian Lillard provokes NSFW reaction from Nets Joe Harris

Unstoppable Damian Lillard provokes NSFW reaction from Nets Joe Harris

Damian Lillard is super human. 

The man is on another level. He's playing out of his mind. 

The superlatives can't even size up what the Trail Blazers point guard is doing on the basketball court. 

Since entering the bubble, Lillard has averaged 37.5 points, including tying a career-high 61 points vs. Dallas. 

In what was 'the biggest game of our lives,' as Damian Lillard noted going into Thursday night's contest vs. the Brooklyn Nets, Dame put it ALL on the line. 

And he was firing on all cylinders, from every part of the court. 

WATCH

But, it was in the third quarter when Lillard, who was well defended by Joe Harris, rose up and hit a crazy three pointer, prompting a NSFW reaction. 

WATCH

Sometimes the only words to describe Damian Lillard is to just give him credit and swear loudly, which is what Harris did in this instance. 

Not having fans in attendance has surely allowed for more player reactions, and this one is what all NBA players, as Lamar Hurd eluded to on the TV broadcast, are thinking. 

The Trail Blazers now move on to the play-in game(s) vs. Memphis beginning on Saturday. 

Play-in games schedule:
Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

RELATED-- Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

RELATED-- Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion

It wasn't easy. 

The Trail Blazers and Nets traded baskets for most of the night Thursday. At the end of the first quarter, the game was all tied up at 31.

It was clear from the jump, the Nets wanted to play spoiler since Brooklyn had already locked up the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference before Thursday’s game.

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum, who has reportedly been playing with a fractured back since Portland’s first seeding game, didn’t look like he was playing with pain as he found success from mid-range and at the rim. McCollum had a quick 12 points in the first quarter.  

As for Nets shooting guard, Caris Levert, who has been hot in the Orlando bubble and was averaging 18.3 points heading into Thursday’s game, was in a groove against the Trail Blazers. Levert finished with 37 points. 

The Nets shot 59.1 percent from the floor in the first half, but still trailed at halftime.

Portland led 73-67 at the break in big thanks to the Blazers backcourt duo of McCollum and Damian Lillard. The two combined for 35-first-half-points. Portland also dominated on the boards in the first half, outrebounding Brooklyn, 25-15.

As many NBA teams do, the Nets defended Lillard with two players blitzing him in hopes of forcing someone other than the Trail Blazers All-Star point guard to get buckets. Portland did get scoring from others, but the problem for the Blazers was that Brooklyn had six players in double figures. 

Lillard and McCollum played the entire second half and Portland needed it.

Once again, the Blazers' final seeding game came down to the wire after the Nets outscored Portland, 37-24, in the third to take a 104-97 lead heading into the fourth.

Between Lillard, Jusuf Nurkic, and Carmelo Anthony's efforts in the fourth quarter, the Blazers left it all out on the floor and are now staying in Orlando.  

Just a reminder, the first Western Conference play-in game will tip-off at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.   

FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 134, NETS 133

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's eighth and final seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider:   

 

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

The Blazers didn’t make it easy on themselves after allowing the Nets to see the ball go through the net early and often. You’ve got to give credit to the Nets throwing everything they had at Damian Lillard. Brooklyn definitely didn’t make it easy for Lillard and the Blazers. BUT, this Portland squad wanted this win more than anything and when Lillard is determined, nobody should ever bet against him. 

Mike Richman, Reporter

Did this one feel familiar? An opponent scored at will. The Blazers were bad in third quarter. And Damian Lillard was really special. That seems to be the script for these. See you Saturday.

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

Up Next: As the No. 8 seed the Trail Blazers will face the No. 9 seed Grizzlies in the first play-in game this Saturday at 11:30a.m. PST.

Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed, advance to play-in games vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed, advance to play-in games vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Blazers playing on in the play-in! 

And, that was a close one.

But where there’s a Damian Lillard, there’s a way!

Now that the Trail Blazers beat the Brooklyn Nets, 134-133, Thursday night, Portland is now the No. 8-seed and will face the No. 9-seed Grizzlies in the first play-in game Saturday at 11:30a.m. PT.

Being the eight seed means Portland will need to win just one of the play-in games to advance to the playoffs.

[RELATED-- Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers clinch 8-seed in shocking fashion]

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

In Thursday’s victory, Lillard finished with 42 points and 12 assists despite the Nets throwing two defenders at him a majority of the game.

If the Blazers had lost Thursday’s game, they would be heading home and the season would be over.

But now Portland’s sights are set on beating the Grizzlies Saturday to secure their playoff spot.

The Western Conference First Round playoffs will begin Tuesday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers.

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

Check back for more updates from postgame!

Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Everything you need to know about Trail Blazers play-in game(s) vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Blazers took care of business on Thursday, beating the Brooklyn Nets 134-133. In doing so, the Blazers locked in the 8th seed in the playoffs and a play-in series with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

It will all be on the line this weekend with two teams battling it out for one open spot and a chance to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round. 

As the current team in eighth place, the Blazers have an advantage. There will potentially be two games played for the play-in, but Portland only has to win one. Memphis, on the other hand, has to win twice.  Game 1 is scheduled for Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT, and Game 2 (if necessary) is scheduled for Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT.

[RELATED: Trail Blazers eliminated from playoff contention after shocking loss to Nets]

The winner of the play-in will go on to face the No.1 Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, with the first game taking place on Tuesday, August 18th. 

HOW DID WE GET HERE: 

Back on July 31st the Blazers and Grizzlies played their first of eight seeding games to finish the season. They happened to play each other that night, with the Blazers earning the 140-135 overtime victory. 

With seven games left, the Blazers trailed Memphis by just 2.5 games. According to the NBA rules for the seeding games, all Portland had to do to force a play-in game was finish in ninth place and be within four games of the eighth-place team. However, the Grizzlies stumbled, going 2-6 in Orlando. The Blazers took advantage, going 6-2, and passed Memphis in the standings. 

Many experts thought Portland would rely on the play-in, but now it's Memphis benefitting from the rule. The irony of it all is that prior to the seeding games starting, Memphis star Ja Morant said the play-in series was unfair. 

Honestly, I don’t think so, but we can't control that. Only thing we can control is how, you know, we go out and attack each of these games before that decision is made. -- Memphis rookie Ja Morant on fairness of play-in games

The unfair play-in could now help Morant get into the playoffs. Funny how that works.

[RELATED]: Ja Morant says NBA's play-in format isn't fair ahead of game vs. Blazers

However, Morant and the Grizzlies would have to beat the Blazers twice, on back to back nights. No easy feat. 

The two teams meant twice this season, with each team picking up a victory. 

WHAT'S NEXT?:
Game 1: Saturday, August 15 at 11:30 a.m. PT
Game 2 (if necessary): Sunday, August 16 at 1:30 p.m. PT

The winner of the play-in gets the reward, if it can be called that, of playing the No.1 Los Angeles Lakers. 

The schedule for the first-round series is as follows:

GAME 1: Tuesday 8/18 6pm 
GAME 2: Thursday 8/20 6pm
GAME 3: Saturday 8/22 5:30pm 
GAME 4: Monday 8/24 6pm
GAME 5 (if necessary): Wednesday 8/26 TBD
GAME 6 (if necessary: Friday 8/28 TBD
GAME 7 (if necessary: Sunday 8/30 TBD

The Grizzlies went 1-3 against the Lakers this season, while the Blazers went 1-2.

Report: CJ McCollum suffered back injury in first NBA restart game vs. Memphis

Report: CJ McCollum suffered back injury in first NBA restart game vs. Memphis

The Trail Blazers are playing in a ‘win or go home’ game Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets.

One concern heading into Thursday’s game has been the health of Blazers starting shooting guard CJ McCollum. 

On Tuesday, NBCSNW Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes reported McCollum had suffered a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced). It was first reported that McCollum suffered the injury in Portland’s fourth seeding game against Denver.

However, during Thursday’s Blazers and Nets game on TNT, sideline reporter and NBA Insider from Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes reported that McCollum suffered the back injury on July 31 in Portland’s first seeding game.  

 

Sources informed me McCollum actually suffered the injury in the first game of the Restart against Memphis when he dove for a loose ball and was kneed in the back by Jaren Jackson. He has been treated daily. --  Chris Haynes on CJ McCollum

 

According to Haynes, McCollum told him, ‘I’m not worried now. I can worry about it in the offseason.’

McCollum had just 8 points in the Blazers 134-131 win over Dallas Tuesday before the news broke, shooting just 2-14 from the field. He did sink two clutch free throws in the final seconds of Tuesday’s game. 

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

[RELATED]: Injured or not, Damian Lillard believes in CJ McCollum

McCollum is off to a hot start against the Brooklyn Nets Thursday. McCollum scored 12 points in Portland’s do or die game. 

Portland leads Brooklyn, 73-67, at the break. 

Check out the second half action between the Blazers and Nets on NBCSNW right now. 

Carmelo Anthony earns 2019-20 Maurice Lucas Award

Carmelo Anthony earns 2019-20 Maurice Lucas Award

The Portland Trail Blazers announced Thursday before the Blazers and Nets tipped off in their final seeding game, that Carmelo Anthony has been named the recipient of the 2019-20 Maurice Lucas Award.

The award was presented to Anthony in Orlando by Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts.

In the team’s press release, Olshey said, “Carmelo’s selfless attitude and leadership on and off the court make him an ideal recipient of this year’s Maurice Lucas Award,” while President & CEO of the Trail Blazers, Chris McGowan added, “Carmelo is an authentic leader both on and off the court and truly embodies what the Maurice Lucas award is about. His experience, knowledge, leadership and authenticity have been the perfect addition to the Trail Blazers and the city of Portland.”

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

The annual Maurice Lucas Award was created in the 2010-11 season to “honor the Trail Blazers player who best represents the indomitable spirit of Maurice Lucas through his contributions on the court and in the community, as well as in support of his teammates and the organization.”

Melo has selected the Social Change Fund for the Trail Blazers to make a $5,000 donation to the organization in recognition of the award.

In his 17th season, Anthony signed with the Trail Blazers back on November 19, 2019. The 36-year-old is averaging 15.5 points (43.1% FG, 38.7% 3-PT, 84.5% FT), 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 57 games (all starts). Anthony (26,437 career points) has moved up to 15th on the NBA all-time scoring list this season and ranks second among active players in career scoring.

Melo has made a huge impact both and off the court for the Blazers this season. In the NBA restart, he is averaging 17.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. 

Former Trail Blazers All-Star Maurice Lucas passed away on October 31, 2010 at the age of 58. A beloved member of the franchise and Rip City. "The Enforcer" was a central figure on the Trail Blazers' 1976-77 NBA Championship team. Portland retired Lucas’ No. 20 on November 4, 1988.

PREVIOUS MAURICE LUCAS AWARD WINNERS

  • 2018-19 – Jusuf Nurkic
  • 2017-18 – Evan Turner
  • 2016-17 – Al-Farouq Aminu
  • 2015-16 – Ed Davis
  • 2014-15 – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • 2013-14 – Robin Lopez
  • 2012-13 – Damian Lillard
  • 2011-12 – Wesley Matthews
  • 2010-11 – LaMarcus Aldridge

Trail Blazers vs. Nets available for $4.99 via "Blazers Pass"

Trail Blazers vs. Nets available for $4.99 via "Blazers Pass"

Tonight’s Portland Trail Blazers’ game against the Brooklyn Nets, which tips off at 6 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest, is available for purchase one time only as a single game on NBC Sports Gold’s “Blazers Pass” for $4.99. Starting now, fans can sign up for “Blazers Pass” to access tonight’s game (NBA regional restrictions apply).  

The Trail Blazers (34-39) currently sit in eighth place heading into tonight’s last game of the season restart against Brooklyn. The Trail Blazers would clinch the Western Conference’s eighth seed and a spot in the conference’s play-in series with a win. 

NBC Sports Gold’s “Blazers Pass” is a streaming product that features live broadcasts of select Trail Blazers road games during the 2019 – 20 NBA season for $34.99. NBC Sports Northwest will continue to present its traditional TV offering and streaming via “TV Everywhere.”

Blazers Pass” is part of NBC Sports Gold’s suite of direct-to-consumer live streaming products available on desktop, mobile, tablets and connected TV devices. Find NBC Sports Gold in the NBC Sports app available in the U.S. on Apple iOS & tvOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, and NBCSportsGold.com, and also on Cox Contour, Contour Stream Player, Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex

Eye on the 8: It's win or go home for Trail Blazers

Eye on the 8: It's win or go home for Trail Blazers

It all comes down to Thursday evening.

And then it will come down to this weekend’s play-in games, but more on that later.

Now that the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 119-106, AND the Phoenix Suns took down the Dallas Mavericks, 128-102, earlier today, the Portland Trail Blazers will need to win their game versus the Brooklyn Nets to secure a spot in the play-in games this weekend.

Yes, Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard is going to have his chance to shine Thursday night as he has been discussing the reality of the Blazers reaching the No. 8 seed in the West and that he didn’t want his team to come to Orlando for the NBA restart and waste their time.

Portland and Brooklyn tip-off at 6:00p.m. PT on NBCSNW.

If the Blazers win, they’ll be the No. 8-seed and will face the No. 9-seed Grizzlies in the first play-in game Saturday at 11:30a.m. PT.

Being the eight seed means Portland would need to win just one of the play-in games to advance to the playoffs.

If the Trail Blazers lose Thursday night, their season will be over as they will finish in the 10th or 11th seed out West depending on the result of the San Antonio Spurs-Utah Jazz game, which is being played as this article was written.

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

It all comes down to this…

Watch Thursday’s Blazers-Nets game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers with tip-off set for 6:00pm. Our coverage starts at 4:30pm with ‘Blazers Game Day’ followed by ‘Blazers Warm-up’ at 5:00p.m. and ‘Blazers Pregame’ at 5:30pm.

Plus, to wrap up a Blazers Game Day, check out ‘Blazers Outsiders’ immediately following the 'Blazers Postgame Show.'

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 eighth and final seeding game make sure to follow Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team throughout the day. Follow us on social for the latest updates. 

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard is making sure Blazers' Disney World trip isn't a 'waste of time' 

[RELATED]: CJ McCollum, playing with fracture in lower back, hits 2 free throws to seal win 

[RELATED]: Move over, Wilt Chamberlain -- make room for Damian Lillard in 60-point club