Lillard, Trail Blazers stay hot, with big win over Houston

Lillard, Trail Blazers stay hot, with big win over Houston

The NBA’s best team in March was in Portland, and on Thursday the red-hot Trail Blazers capped a sizzling month with an impressive 117-107 victory over the Houston Rockets that left the Moda Center buzzing.

Damian Lillard had 31 points and 11 assists and the Blazers won their fifth straight to complete March with an NBA-best 13-3 record.

The Blazers closed the game on a 10-2 run in which Houston’s MVP-candidate James Harden repeatedly came up empty.

Harden, who entered as the NBA’s second leading scorer at 29.3 points, scored 30, but he had only three in the fourth quarter while going 1-for-4 from the field and committing two turnovers.

Portland (37-38) moved 1.5 games ahead of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games remaining. Houston (51-24) has locked up the third seed in the Western Conference.

Jusuf Nurkic continued his resurgence in Portland, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and he scored two late buckets to help seal the game.

But more than anything, the Blazers got huge nights from their role players, none bigger than Maurice Harkless, who had 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks while guarding Harden for much of the game. Harkless made a key play on Harden late in the fourth with the Blazers clinging to a 103-101 lead, poking the ball away for a steal, then later finishing the possession with a driving dunk to put Portland up 105-101 with 3:37 left.

Allen Crabbe also added 17 points, and his strip of Harden, which he took the length of the court for a dunk, gave the Blazers a 113-105 lead with 1:12 and sent the Moda Center into perhaps its loudest decibel of the season.

"We are the sum of our parts,'' Coach Terry Stotts said. "When we get contributions up and down (and) we're not relying on Dame and CJ, it just makes us a better team.''

Lillard scored 11 in the first quarter and 12 in the third and broke the Blazers franchise record for points in the month of March (465), eclipsing Clyde Drexler in 1989 (439 points).

The Blazers led 65-56 at halftime as they rode the play of Lillard and Nurkic and got sizeable contributions from their role players. Lillard had another strong opening quarter, hitting his first three 3-pointers en route to 11 points, but he was complemented by Harkless, who also scored 11 while also being tasked with the defensive assignment on Harden.

The Blazers took advantage of Harden on the bench to start the second quarter, extending a 32-31 lead to 54-42 before Harden returned with 6:21 left. The Blazers’ spurt was led by Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu, with Crabbe hitting three 3-pointers and Aminu scoring eight.

Next up: Phoenix at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (CSN)

Podcast:

Why the Blazers will look back & “appreciate the grind” of seeding games

Why the Blazers will look back & “appreciate the grind” of seeding games

All Damian Lillard wanted was a shot. 

Not his ‘layup’ from the logo, but rather a shot at the playoffs.

The Trail Blazers point guard said on his birthday, which happened after the Blazers arrival in the bubble, "Let's not waste our f-ing time." 

The NBA restart gave the Portland Trail Blazers eight games to force a play-in for that final spot in the Western Conference playoffs and the Blazers have done just that.

They haven't wasted their time in the bubble.

And after another heart attack finish Thursday night, Rip City is trying to wrap its head around what’s with all these close games? The Blazers have managed to pull out wins and each of the eight games were decided by single digits.

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

As much as it is stressful to watch back home, it’s equally as nailbiting on the court in Orlando.

‘Big Z’ Zach Collins joined our Blazers Outsiders crew of Joe Simons and Danny Marang after Portland’s one-point victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, explaining that these close games will only benefit Portland in the long run.

Frustrating, stressful, annoying, all those things but we put ourselves in a position to win every game here and that’s the thing you got to take away. Every game, we were winning and had to hold onto a lead and there were a lot of games where we weren’t winning and had to fight back into it. You can look at that as a negative or you can look at that’s getting us ready for what playoffs are going to be. 

I think when we get this next win and when we get to the playoffs, I think we’re going to look back and appreciate the grind that these eight games were. — Zach Collins

It has been a grind indeed. Nothing has come easy for the Trail Blazers during this restart. Portland has had to claw its way through third quarter slump after third quarter slump; CJ McCollum is battling through a fracture in his back; Dame is averaging nearly 40 minutes per game; it is exhausting. 

Lillard said it clearly after the game on Thursday: ‘I’m tired.”

But the benefit to games like these are they feel a lot like playoff games and playoff games are often played down to the wire. Should the Trail Blazers win on Saturday and advance to the playoffs, they have that added experience of winning in tight games. 

We’re obviously just very happy that the eight games are behind us and now we just got to win one more to get there. — Zach Collins 

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

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. 

Trail Blazers' season came down to one shot and, lucky for them, it missed

Trail Blazers' season came down to one shot and, lucky for them, it missed

All the games prior to the break, all the weeks of the hiatus, all the scrimmages and then the games in the NBA bubble -- and the Trail Blazers’ season Thursday night came down to just one shot.

And this time it wasn’t even a shot by a Portland player.

Brooklyn’s Caris Levert, who had already scored 37 points on 16-for-29 shooting, played the clock down in the fourth quarter with his Nets trailing by a single point.

He was closely guarded by CJ McCollum but got some space with a step-back move and lofted an arching jump shot from near the top of the key as the game clock neared :00.

The city of Portland held its breath.

If the ball goes in, the Trail Blazers’ season is over. Finished. Done. If it misses, the team moves on to a play-in series against Memphis, in which the Grizzlies must defeat the Trail Blazers twice before Portland wins once. One win from a playoff berth.

“I was tired,” Damian Lillard said. “I had played the whole second half. I was just like, ‘Please miss. Please get the rebound and let’s end this game.’”

It did miss. And when Carmelo Anthony grabbed the rebound and hugged it, the game was over, a 134-133 win.

Asked what that moment felt like, Coach Terry Stotts played the levity card.

“Trust in our defense,” Stotts said. And when that was met with deserved silence, he pulled his COVID-19 mask down, revealing a big smile and added, “I’m smiling.

“Honestly, we played good defense down the stretch. We just couldn’t get a rebound. We forced them into some tough shots but that’s how it is. I’m glad we got the stop when we needed it.”

Jokes aside, the Trail Blazers’ defense didn’t make the trip to Florida with the team. Stotts’ team survived another tightrope walk to the finish line and ended the seeding portion of its schedule with a 6-2 record.

Of course, just like those other wins, Lillard played a starring role.

He made 13 of 22 shots, including 8-14 from three-point range, scored 42 points and handed out 12 assists. His three-point shooting was critical, since his teammates went a combined 5-25 from three on a night when a Brooklyn zone defense left guys not named Lillard wide open for threes, many of them even being the easier variety, from the corner.

The Nets’ plan was to take the ball out of Lillard’s hands as much as possible with traps and double-teams. And they were able to do that often.

But Lillard was still able to wear them out with his scoring and passing.

Brooklyn, meanwhile, was hitting at 55.2 percent overall and 42.4 percent from three. And if that wasn’t enough to do in Portland, the Nets worked the offensive boards to death in the fourth quarter.

Brooklyn got seven of its 14 offensive rebounds in the final period and turned them into seven points.

Portland got a big game from CJ McCollum alongside Lillard. McCollum, dealing with a broken bone in his back, scored 25 points and had seven assists.

Jusuf Nurkic, fighting off foul trouble, finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds and Hassan Whiteside was solid off the bench with 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.

But still, this was a Damian Lillard game.

Again.

And just one more team -- the Grizzlies -- stands in the way of a Portland playoff appearance. And perhaps one more tightrope walk to the end of a game.

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!!!???

The photo is from Drake's "Laugh Now Cry Later" music video in which KD appeared playing 1-on-1 against Drake, dunking on him multiple times. 

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) 
  • A play on "Laugh Now Cry Later" and how the Blazers may have won now, but will have to face the No. 1 Lakers if they advance past the play-in games
  • 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