Meyers Leonard: Meaningful minutes and "earning a standing ovation"

Meyers Leonard: Meaningful minutes and "earning a standing ovation"

CJ McCollum was heading to the free throw line with 3:31 remaining on the game clock.

At that moment, Meyers Leonard turned to the home crowd and yelled, “come on” with his hands in the air, urging the fans to get on their feet.

The Trail Blazers led 110-91 as the Moda Center crowd rose to their feet and the Blazers along with Leonard rose to the occasion.  

Portland defeated Oklahoma City in Game 2 on Tuesday night, 114-94 in what turned out to be a blowout for Portland, thus Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was able to unload his bench in garbage time.

But it wasn’t garbage time minutes for Leonard.   

Just like the media, the players, and the fans, the referees also know the bad blood between these two teams and in order to keep the peace, the officials were making sure to call any and all fouls.

Whether it was a charge call, a moving screen, or a blocking call, the whistles were being blown. In turn, that meant Blazers starting center Enes Kanter got into early foul trouble. Al-Farouq Aminu and Kanter both had three fouls by halftime.

When Kanter picked up his fourth foul early in the third that made way for Leonard.

“Because Enes picked up his fourth early, we got a few more minutes out of [Meyers] and I thought it was just a good time to have him in there… Good things were happening when he was on the court, so we kept him in,” Coach Stotts said postgame.

“I was happy for him. He brought some great energy,” McCollum said.

But, Leonard rose to the occasion in unexpected way:

On the defensive end.

He challenged Steven Adams down low and was also able to slow down the Thunder guards when he switched onto the smaller players.

“He got a couple of switches, moved his feet well, you know, challenged, got a block that didn’t go, that they called a goaltend, knocked down some jumpers, gave us good spacing, and energy,” McCollum said.

Yes, the Trail Blazers backup center didn’t get that block, even though it looked good, but he did finish the game with the best plus/minus of any bench player for the game with a +17.

In his 14 minutes played, he scored five points and pulled down four rebounds.  

“I just played as hard as I could and tried to set screens, go after rebounds and be prepared to shoot, which is the thing I didn’t actually do that well,” Leonard said with a perplexed look.

“I was 2-for-4, but I feel like I should make everyone of them,” Leonard added.

Immediately after the final buzzer sounded, Kanter jumped on Leonard’s back to celebrate the win and Leonard’s performance.

That’s the thing about this team; they care about each other and are happy for their teammates success.

“He’s a guy who is always, you know, jacked up, and a guy who can get the crowd really involved,” McCollum said.

As always for any bench player with inconsistent minutes, staying ready is key.

“My focus and mindset has been to just be ready,” Leonard said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to go in, I’m not sure when I’m gonna go in, but I can tell you one thing -- I’m gonna go in there and I’m gonna play friggin’ hard and it felt good to be out there contributing and now we’re up 2-0.”

When Leonard checked back into the game at the 9:36 mark of the fourth quarter for Zach Collins, the Moda Center crowd gave Leonard a loud ovation.

As Rip City fans well know, the fan base has been up and down when it comes to Meyers.

“I’ll be honest I did see a tweet about that, just talking about, I guess, that I had a quote-unquote earned a standing ovation,” Leonard said.

“Whatever that means, it felt good. I’m always gonna give it my all, I can guarantee you guys that... Like I said, it felt good to be out there, playing meaningful minutes, helping us win a playoff game,” Leonard added.

The Trail Blazers now go up 2-0 in the best of seven series. This is the first time Portland has taken a 2-0 advantage since the First Round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs. The Blazers beat Houston in that series, 4-2.

This series now shifts to OKC and as everyone knows every possession counts in the postseason or as Meyers put it:

“The playoffs is possession basketball.”

Leonard also says he will be ready for extra possessions if they come his way.

Meyers Leonard felt "bittersweet" after Game 3

Meyers Leonard felt "bittersweet" after Game 3

PORTLAND – Another poor shooting third quarter doomed the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

“It was essentially one really good half of basketball, and then we’re talking about the World Champs,” Meyers Leonard said postgame.

Those World Champs have been here before. It’s nothing new for the Golden State Warriors to be down in a Western Conference Finals game and then be able to tighten up defensively while piling on the points.

Golden State now takes a commanding 3-0 series lead after Game 3’s 110-99 victory.

Similar to Game 2 of the series, the Blazers let this one slip away after a great first half.

The biggest adjustment for both teams was the insertion of a new center in their starting lineups.

Golden State started center Damian Jones in place of Andrew Bogut, while the Blazers went with Meyers Leonard.  Neither player had seen many minutes in the first two games.

The Blazers had the advantage with the lineup change, particularly in the first half. With Leonard in the lineup, it looked as though Portland’s plan was to outshoot the Warriors instead of trying to slow them down.  

[RELATED]: Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers?

Leonard finished with a new playoff career-high 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 3-for-7 from three, and he was the first Trail Blazers player to score in double figures on Saturday.

Leonard’s positive impact didn’t go unnoticed by Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“He had a terrific first half like the rest of the team,” Stotts said. “I liked his spacing and the way he played in Game 2 in Golden State. He can space the floor, and he and Dame [Lillard], and he and CJ [McCollum], have a good two-man game.”

Leonard’s previous playoff career-high was set back in April of 2015 during the Blazers First Round series against the Memphis Grizzlies, when he scored 13 points.

Leonard was pleased with his individual performance.

“It’s a little bittersweet because we lost,” Leonard said.

The Blazers were outscored 29-13 in the third quarter. Leonard had just one three-pointer in the quarter.

“This one stings for me personally, because I was given a bigger opportunity and I feel that for a good majority of the night I was helping us win that game and making an impact, but we didn’t come out with a win, so back to the drawing board and come back Monday night ready to go,” Leonard said.

The Trail Blazers center made sure to make a point that even though he was happy with his game, he was disappointed in the overall result.

“This isn’t about me, it’s about the team. Winning at the end of the day is all that matters. So, I’ve got to find a way to be a little bit better and come out Monday night and try to the get the job done,” Leonard said.

Leonard had 13 of his 16 points by halftime. There were a few times he hesitated from deep, and he acknowledged he knows he is in the game to space the floor, saying that is one of his jobs.

“I think I’ve put a lot of work in and all I want to do is help this team win and when I came off the floor, I think it was sometime in the second quarter, you know, the fans were pretty loud, it was a pretty special feeling, “Leonard added.

Now, the 27-year-old is eager to look at the film.

“I feel personally that I have taken more contested shots and that I’m doing a better job of that, however, I’m sure when I look at the film either late tonight or tomorrow, I’ll probably see four or five attempts that maybe I could’ve gotten up,” Leonard said.

The 7-footer was an in-demand interview after the game.  A rotating cast of media members came by to talk to the Blazers' big man, and there was one phrase he kept repeating several times: 

“If felt good to be out there tonight," Leonard said.

The positive impact was felt, but it wasn’t enough to get by the back-to-back champs.

Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers?

Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers?

There is just one question left after the Golden State Warriors disposed of the Portland Trail Blazers 110-99 in Moda Center Saturday night:

Are the Trail Blazers, trailing 3-0, going to waste the jet fuel for their charter aircraft to go to Oakland for a Game 5 of this seven-game series?

Not sure. But it’s going to take a better effort to extend this series than Portland gave in the second half of Game 3.

Halftime? That was the perfect name for what happened over the last two quarters. Portland scored 66 points in the first half and just 33 in the second. Half!

And it was a crazy night for the Trail Blazers, who got solid play off the bench and from surprise starter at center, Meyers Leonard.

The problem was the starting guards – and that doesn’t happen often to the Blazers. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined to go 7-23 from the floor and 3-13 from three in the second half, as their team shot 30.8 percent from the field and 25 percent from three after halftime.

For the game, the duo was 12-38 and 5-19 … AND just 13-20 from the foul line, the driving force behind their team’s 20-33 mess at the free-throw line. And they also combined for six turnovers, five by Lillard.

And after watching them play for the entire season, I must say I’ve never seen them as worn down as they looked Saturday.

“Everybody’s tired,” Lillard said. “It’s the third round of the playoffs after a long season. Last series I got a lot of attention and the same thing in this series. It takes a lot to deal with that and then go out there and chase guys around on the defensive end.

“But everybody’s putting that effort out. And I feel fine enough to go out there and play 40 minutes like I have been. But it’s definitely tiring.”

McCollum spoke about the blitzing the Warriors have done on Portland’s pick-and-rolls and their double-teaming.

“They’ve been up at the level of the screen and in iso situations they do a good job of loading up,” McCollum said. “So you never are really by yourself. The elbows, boxes. Sometimes they just send a second defender. They are very smart about how they structure their defense.

“But you know, we have to do a better job. That’s what elite defenses do. They make it difficult on you and try to get the other guys to beat you.”

And of course, the Blazers’ “other guys” are often not up to the task.

Leonard, who had been buried on the bench a good part of the season (and his career, for that matter), gave his team 31 solid minutes, hitting 6 of 12 and 3-7 from long range.

“He had a terrific first half, like the rest of the team,” Coach Terry Stotts said of Leonard. “I liked his spacing and the way he played in Game 2 in Golden State.

“You know, he can space the floor, and he and Dame and he and CJ have a good two-man game. Obviously, it’s designed to help our offense a little bit. It really looked good in the first half. Not so much the second half. But that wasn’t his fault.”

Of course, Jusuf Nurkic isn’t available, but I’ll never understand how a player can be deemed important enough to play the entire final quarter of Game 2 and then start Game 3 of the conference finals after not playing AT ALL in 21 games during the regular season and starting only twice. And, in fact, he did not play a single minute in Game 1 of this series, either.

A little more playing time along the way might have made him even more effective. But that’s the Meyers Leonard Story and it’s been a mystery long enough to convince a lot of people that Leonard can’t play. Until the conference finals, I guess.

Stotts was asked about his team’s second half.

“Our offense,” he said. “Our offense fell apart. We missed some shots. Took some tough shots. Didn’t move the ball as well. They were scoring so we were taking the ball out of the net and didn’t get anything in transition.

“I said at the beginning of the series, to beat Golden State you’ve got to be able to score. Scoring 33 in the second half is not going to do it.”

Draymond Green had a sensational game for the Warriors at both ends of the court and he made a telling remark at the end of his post-game media session.

The Warriors really bought into resting players this season and it may be the reason they looked so much like the fresher team Saturday night.

“You know,” Green said, “Steve (Kerr) and our entire organization has been on board, making sure our guys get as much rest as you possibly can through a rigorous season. It’s a rigorous schedule and especially right now with Kevin (Durant) out, those rest days during the year, they make a difference for us.

“So that’s been good and sometimes it may cost you a game or two during the regular season but it’s more important to be healthy at this time of the year. I understand that. We’re trying to play into late, mid-June every year. It’s good to be healthy so I think its making a difference for us.”

Portland’s final chance to extend the series comes Monday night at Moda. But by now, it’s firmly established which team is the best in the West.

Report: Damian Lillard has separated ribs and has been playing through it

Report: Damian Lillard has separated ribs and has been playing through it

Accordingly to Shams Charania, Damian Lillard has been playing injured:

Lillard has struggled throughout the series. He's only recorded 15 made field goals and 14 turnovers. 

Sam Amick of the Athletic confirmed that the play injury happenED in Game 2 after Warriors big man Kevon Looney landed on him in a scramble for a loose ball. 

Below is video of that play, where you can see Lillard come up in a considerable amount of pain.

ESPN also confirmed the injury but their sources say there is no story here:

More to come on Lillard's injury from Insider Dwight Jaynes and Reporter Jamie Hudson. 

"Overhyped and Overrated" Skip Bayless thinks Russell Westbrook is more respected than Damian Lillard

"Overhyped and Overrated" Skip Bayless thinks Russell Westbrook is more respected than Damian Lillard

Oh dear. Everyone's favorite Cliff Notes sportscaster is at it again. Following the Trail Blazers Game 3 loss to the Warriors, Skip Bayless had some thoughtful words about Damian Lillard

Aside from the ludicrous nature of the comments, news also came out postgame that Lillard has been dealing with separated ribs

For more real, actual postgame coverage check out everything you need from Dwight Jaynes, Jamie Hudson, and our NBC Sports Video team:

JAYNES: Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers?

HUDSON: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3

Social Media reacts to Game 3: It's Meyers, not Miles Leonard

Lillard up against a wall of defense, but must get rollin'

“This one stings for me personally..." -Meyers Leonard 

Have yourself a night, Meyers Leonard!

Highlights: Deja vu in the 3Q as POR falls 3-0 in the series 

Game 3 Top 10 Plays: Hammer Time in Rip City

"It happens..." Jordan Bell moves on from #Shaqtin dunk 

Social Media reacts to Game 3: It's Meyers, not Miles Leonard

Social Media reacts to Game 3: It's Meyers, not Miles Leonard

Another good lead spoiled by the three-time (in the last four years) NBA Champs once again in this series. Portland built a double-digit lead heading into halftime, but it was deja vu all over again as the third quarter was all Golden State. The Warriors jump out to a 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals over the Portland Trail Blazers with a 110-99 win in Portland, Oregon.

Here’s how the sports world reacted on social media:

Meyers Leonard was the hero that all of Rip City needed. Leonard earned the start tonight in game three providing an extra three-point threat on the floor. And boy did he relish in these extra minutes:

If you didn’t watch Warriors second-year player Jordan Bell back in college, you missed out on his impeccable ability to block shots and slam the ball down with authority. However, tonight, Bell experienced both of those traits on the same play:

Let’s bring back the hashtag, #ThingsJordanBellCanBlock:

While eyes were on Leonard and the spark he provided to Rip City, a lot wondered what is happening to superstar Damian Lillard, who hasn’t looked his typical Lillard Time, Logo Lillard self all series:

Game four is Monday night at 6 p.m. (PT) at the Moda Center in Portland.

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3

PORTLAND – As the saying goes, it really isn’t a series until somebody loses at home. The Trail Blazers came out determined not to let that happen in Game 3 on Saturday night.

As expected, the Trail Blazers crowd was loud and, as expected, the Blazers shot better at home. Lineup changes helped Portland jump out to a big lead and sustain it, but it wasn’t easy.

The Blazers led by as many as 18 points in the first half.

It was a similar type third quarter in Game 3 to what happened in Game 2. Golden State charged back on Portland and outscored them 29-13 in the third on Saturday night.

And just like Game 2, the Warriors made timely buckets and the Blazers were not able to convert from the field or from the free throw line. Golden State now takes a commanding 3-0 series lead with a 110-99 Game 3 victory.

Final Box Score: Warriors 110, Trail Blazers 99

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 3 loss:

1. Starting lineup changes

The biggest adjustments for both teams in Game 3 was getting a big man in the starting lineup, who hadn’t played much all in the first two games of the series.

It was first reported about an hour before tip-off that Golden State was going to start center Damian Jones in place of Andrew Bogut. The Blazers went with center Meyers Leonard into the starting slot, while Enes Kanter came off the bench.

Jones came back from a pectoral injury this series. He hadn’t played since December. The Blazer had the advantage with the lineup change. Leonard made a positive impact on the defensive end to start the game, alerting shots at the rim.

But Leonard not only tried to anchor the defense, he was the first Trail Blazers player in double figures. A 7-footer who can space the floor has always been one of Leonard’s best attributes. Leonard hesitated on a few of his three-point attempts, but he was still effective from deep if even with a little hesitation. Leonard finished with 16 points, second to McCollum's 23. 

2. Blazers didn’t take advantage at the free throw line

With the crowd behind them, the Trail Blazers started out as the aggressors, attacking the basket and in turn getting the Warriors into foul trouble. Portland’s biggest lead in the first quarter was 10 points and that’s exactly the number of free throws they hit in the first quarter.

Both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum got the Warriors guards caught in the air on defense. The Blazers' guards took advantage by shooting right into the Warriors. More often than not, Golden State would get whistled for the foul.

For the Warriors, it was rare to see them at the line until late in the second quarter. Meyers Leonard picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter. That was a big blow for Portland since Leonard was getting into a grove at the point in the game.

The problem for the Blazers --

They were not hitting their free throws.

McCollum missed 2-of-3 free throws midway through the final period that would’ve cut the Warriors lead to three. That seemed like the turning point for the Blazers.

3. Draymond had his way with the Blazers in transition

If wasn’t for Draymond Green getting out and running the floor for the Warriors, Golden State might not have been able to stick around. Green was not only scoring in transition, he also pushed the ball up the floor and found his open teammates. Green and the Warriors got out and ran the floor on Blazer misses and makes.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Warriors will tip-off Game 4 on Monday night at 6:00pm. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 5:30pm.

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 3

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Golden State Warriors in Game 3

The best-of-seven series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors now shifts to Portland. As the Blazer and Warriors get set for Game 3, the Moda Center is full of energetic Portland fans and more media members than the arena as seen in years.

 

This is the first Western Conference Finals game in Portland in 19 years. To say fans are pumped would be an understatement.

 

Before Game 3 tipped off, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Warriors head coach Steve Kerr addressed the media.

 

Coach Stotts said his team “feels encouraged” by Game 2 and he doesn’t expect any kind of let down after losing a game in such a heartbreaking fashion.

 

Meyers Leonard is listed as the starter tonight for Portland. He will start at center, while Enes Kanter will come off the bench. 

 

Hear from coach Stotts right here:

 

Even though Coach Kerr wouldn’t discuss his starting lineup, the news broke on social media that the Warriors are changing their lineup up tonight.

 

Warriors starting lineup change:  Golden State is going to start center Damian Jones in place of Andrew Bogut, as reported by NBC Sports Bay Area.

 

Coach Kerr did say he doesn’t expect any big changes from the Blazers. He said the first two games were very competitive and he expects more of the same in Game 3.

 

Hear from Coach Kerr right here:

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Terry Stotts misses out as Coach of the Year finalist

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Terry Stotts misses out as Coach of the Year finalist

The list is out. The 2019 NBA Awards finalists are here. Your MVP candidates are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, and James Harden, no shock there. Perhaps the biggest shock, and especially to those in Rip City, is the candidates, or rather lack of one specific person, for coach of the year. 

Portland head coach Terry Stotts is not on that list. 

Stotts and the Blazers are currently STILL in the postseason after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 and then the Denver Nuggets in seven games. 

One would think that the coach who still brought the city of Portland a 50+ win season after losing one of the “big 3” (Jusuf Nurkic) to a season-ending injury the night the team qualified for the postseason; losing another “big 3” member in CJ McCollum for a few weeks with a knee injury; as well as being a two-time Coach of the Month (February, March) this season, would warrant at least making the cut on the Coach of the Year list….

Stay ahead of your team in the Western Conference Finals. Get LIVE Trail Blazers coverage, in-depth articles, podcast, videos and more. Download the app, log-in and the Blazers are at your fingertips. Download Now

Game 3 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

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Game 3 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers easily on your device.

 

The best-of-seven series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors now shifts to Portland. Both teams are expecting an extremely energetic crowd for Game 3, especially because the Trail Blazers fan base hasn’t seen a Western Conference Finals game in 19 years.

After the Warriors held on and defeated the Blazers in Game 2 on Thursday night, Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr said, "We stole one tonight. They played better than we did."

Trail Blazer guard CJ McCollum didn’t think the Warriors just stole the game.

“I mean, they stole it, but they earned it down the stretch,” McCollum said postgame. “They made more plays than us in the last two minutes, last three minutes, but I like our chances going forward. I like the way we came out and competed.”

McCollum and Rodney Hood both expressed how eager they are to get back to Portland.

“We got to bring that same energy at home,” McCollum said. “Understand that this is the first time in 19 years we've been in the Conference Final. I know they will be excited and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity playing at home and building on what we've done. Being down 0-2, it's not what you would like to see but it's our reality, so now we got to go get some at home." 

“We were encouraged after Game 1 when we didn’t play as well and we are just as encouraged now,” Hood said. “We feel like we’ve proven we can play with those guys and we can win. It’s about sustaining it, which is the toughest part… There’s another game on Saturday. Take care of home and come back here Game 5. Every game is different. I know it feels bad, we had a chance to win this one but we’ll be ready come Saturday.”


GAME DETAILS

Where to Watch: ESPN

Tip-Off Time: 6:00 p.m. 

Point spread: Portland -7

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (5:30 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the game). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio
 

INJURY UPDATES

For the Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out for Saturday’s Game 3 vs. Golden State.

For the Warriors,  DeMarcus Cousins (left quad) and Kevin Durant (right calf) are out.


QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: Did the Warriors "steal" that game or did the Blazers just hand it to them?

Jamie Hudson: Seth Curry “watches more basketball than anyone I've ever met”

VIDEO: Locker Room Report - Moe Harkless on Game 2: "It sucks"

VIDEO: Players, Coaches weigh in on Seth Curry's impressive night

VIDEO: Trail Blazers need to stay hot from three-point range



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