Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Neil Olshey: 'Our guys are dialed in, locked in' and won't give up

Trail Blazer President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been tasked with getting his team’s roster ready for its return to play in Orlando. And he’s been, as a member of the league’s competition committee, a part of the NBA preparations to go there.

So now, as teams grow closer to embarking on this unprecedented journey to a bubbled-up end of a season, how does he feel about going there himself, amid social unrest and global pandemic?

“It’s two-fold,” he said Wednesday. “On one hand, I’m excited to see our guys play again. You know, the season ended so abruptly, we were just getting healthy. We were three days from getting ‘Nurk’ (Jusuf Nurkic) back and Zach (Collins) was on the horizon -- he was about three weeks out from returning. At that point, Trevor (Ariza) was in the starting lineup, so the exciting thing is to see the guys out playing basketball again.

“I missed basketball.”

But at the same time...

“I don’t think anyone can be cavalier about the health risks,” he said. “Our players and our traveling staff have tested negative over the course of our two weeks of mandatory testing. But, it’s a concern, and we have family members concerned about us going into the environment. I do think there will be diligence down there.

“I do think Adam’s (Commissioner Adam Silver) model of trying to make it the safest place in the country, i think the league will do everything in its power to do that. But I can’t tell you that people aren’t concerned about their health.

“And, more than anything, we are used to being away from our families for intermittent periods of time, but certainly not for weeks and months at a time. And certainly not during a major pandemic and a climate of social unrest in our country.”

How does Olshey feel at this point about the league’s chances of pulling this off? Does he think the NBA will manage to crown a champion in Orlando?

“I do,” Olshey said. “I think the league, the players and the players association are resolute. That’s where they’re going.”

And what about his team’s chances of making some noise down there?

“I think one of the things that’s understated is that guys aren’t going to give up,” he said. “We’ve had guys back in this gym since May 8. They’ve stayed in market and they’ve continued to work out with no end in sight for part of that.

“And then they’re going to go to work out for three weeks in Orlando and live in a hotel without the freedom and independence that they’re used to. They’re not doing that to go through the motions and get a paycheck. We’ve had between 90 and 95 percent participation at our practice facility since May 8.

“Guys have stayed. They are dialed in. They are locked in. They’re ignoring whatever the strength of schedule we’re going to face down there. And they’re going down with the mindset that Day One, this is playoff basketball for us.

“We’re training and preparing and we’re going to give it our best shot. One of the things that has been consistent with this group is that this is a group of closers. We’ve always been better the second half of the year. It’s a testament to the character of the guys we have and our coaching staff not burning guys out and keeping them engaged and I think you will see that when we get to Orlando.”

But it won’t be easy. They’re going to have to be ready to handle tough, must-win games immediately.

“We’re going to have to get off to a fast start,” Olshey said. “It’s baptism by fire. We’re three and a half games behind Memphis and we get them on opening day.”

And there is a very small margin for error -- with the virus and the games.

The Lakers should fear the Portland Trail Blazers as the potential eight seed, and the world knows it

The Lakers should fear the Portland Trail Blazers as the potential eight seed, and the world knows it

Rip City and the Portland Trail Blazers knew Portland would be a problem down in the NBA bubble and now the rest of the league is getting a taste. 

On July 31, the Blazers began their pursuit of the Western Conference eight seed 2.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

Six games later, and Portland (4-2 in the bubble) has a very realistic shot in claiming that eight seed. Heading into the bubble, ESPN's BPI had Portland with only a 9% chance of getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That chance has more than tripled to 30.3%.

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

On Monday, The Herd host Colin Cowherd discussed his three biggest takeaways on Monday and to no surprise, Portland is on his list:

I want no part of Portland. If I am in the playoffs in the West, I got no interest playing Portland. — Colin Cowherd

Here are his reasons:

Damian Lillard is the best shooter and on most nights, the best player in the bubble. They’ve got three seven-footers, so they match up with teams like Milwaukee and Toronto and the Lakers who have size. Gary Trent Jr. - who was a nice player at Duke, always a good shooter - yikes. He looks like Steph Curry. Terry Stotts has been very good for years, very respected. Carmelo Anthony has added harmony and scoring from the wing. — Colin Cowherd

The Trail Blazers welcomed back two seven-footers to their roster and starting lineup for the NBA restart. Opposing teams didn’t have updated film on both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins. The emergence of the ‘pitbull’ Gary Trent Jr. started late in the season before the NBA suspended the season back in March. GTJ is currently averaging 20.3 points per game while hitting 29 three pointers through six games. Carmelo Anthony has come up in the clutch and resulting in apology forms circulating on social media for all those who called the 17-year and 10x All-Star ‘washed.’

And of course, Dame Time.

So for fun, let’s fast forward and think about a potential Lakers-Blazers matchup in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Portland for me, they are going to be the greatest eight seed in the history of the NBA. Their backcourt could be a nightmare for the Lakers. -- Colin Cowherd

Damian Lillard consistently gives the Lakers trouble. Lillard recorded a near triple-double in their first meeting on Dec. 6, 2019 with 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. McCollum added 15 points.

Three weeks later, Lillard recorded 31 points and nine assists. McCollum added 18 points.

In their third and final meeting before the NBA suspension and the first game following Kobe Bryant’s tasing, Lillard erupted for 48 points and 10 assists and nine rebounds while hitting 7-for-12 from 3-PT range. McCollum added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists.

The Lakers have had trouble in the past locking up Lillard and without Avery Bradley down in the bubble, expect more of the same.

Lillard’s 30th birthday wish, before games started down in the bubble, was “Let’s not waste our f****** time down here.” He and the Blazers are doing just that.

Watch more in the video below:

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker channels his inner Damian Lillard with logo shot

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker channels his inner Damian Lillard with logo shot

Damian Lillard is the king of launching shots from 30 feet and beyond. 

He’s been a leader of the deep-three revolution for years, earning the nickname "Logo Lillard" for his ability to drain long three-pointers without a single ounce of hesitation.

On Monday, as the Phoenix Suns took down the Oklahoma City Thunder 128-101 to remain undefeated in the NBA Bubble, Devin Booker decided to take a page out of Lillard’s book.

Real recognize real.

The Lillard-esque shot quickly gained traction on social media. The Suns even changed their Twitter handle name to “Logo Book.” 

Trail Blazers fans quickly noticed the name change and called out the Suns for trying to coin the nickname of their beloved Portland guard.

While Book’s miraculous shot is certainly worthy of praise, Lillard has been using deep threes in Dame Time to score against opponents for years. Hopefully these examples will jog your memory. 

If you’ll recall, Lillard advocated for Booker to join Team LeBron in this year’s All-Star Game after the Trail Blazers guard suffered a groin injury. 

“I thought he deserved to be here originally,” Lillard said. “So I am really happy for him to get his first one.” 

Lillard had nothing but respect for the 23-year-old, who he said was one of his favorite athletes to play against. 

Book is my favorite – my personal favorite – player to watch in the league. Every time I can catch a Suns game I watch. – Damian Lillard

The admiration that Booker has for Lillard is mutual. 

Just the approach that he brings to the game, the demeanor he brings to the game and the killer mindset. – Devin Booker

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

 

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

Unlike Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith has Damian Lillard’s back

“Paul George is a star. And Patrick Beverley is one of my favorite players and favorite people in the world. Don’t mess with Dame,” said Stephen A. Smith on Monday’s episode of ESPN’s First Take.

Shall we recap what occurred over the weekend down in the NBA bubble?

The Portland Trail Blazers faced their first back-to-back of the NBA restart. On Saturday, Portland fell to the Los Angeles Clippers 122-117. It was a team loss, but Damian Lillard uncharacteristically missed two free throws down the wire which prompted in Los Angeles’ Patrick Beverley to tap his wrist, shout ‘Dame Time’, and wave goodbye to the Blazers as the teams headed to the locker rooms. 

After the game, Lillard responded to his antics in the most Lillard way, taking it as respect after sending home Beverley and the Houston Rockets with that 0.9 shot back in the 2014 playoffs and then against in the 2019 playoffs against Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder. PG13 fled to the Clippers after getting sent home by Dame.

24 hours later, Lillard followed this up by dropping 51 points on the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. Portland needed the win in such a tight race for the Western Conference eight seed.

Let that be a fair warning to the rest of the NBA: don’t poke the Lillard bear.

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

Don’t mess with Dame. Don’t mess with Dame D.O.L.L.A. He’s not the one. He’s not the one. This brother on many, many occasions has stepped up in big moments and he has closed. This brother has carried this Portland Trail Blazers franchise and has been the face of the franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith’s comments come hours after Skip Bayless called out Lillard on Fox Sports’ Undisputed saying he’s not buying “Dame Time.”

[RELATED]: Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

We’d like to remind you that Lillard is averaging 29.3 points, 8.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season. So yeah, Damian Lillard is ‘that guy.”

Lillard might be adding Bayless’ name to D.O.L.L.A.’s next diss track.

But let’s get back to Smith defending Lillard because it goes far beyond what he does on the court and with a ball in his hands. 

This is also a guy that doesn’t get enough credit for his community service, his philanthropy, the fact that he is a guy that is socially conscious, never gets in any kind of trouble or whatever. This dude is worthy of being the face of a franchise. — Stephen A. Smith

Couldn’t be more true. 

Lucky for the Trail Blazers and Rip City, Lillard has stated time and time again his loyalty to Portland and his desire to bring the city of Portland another NBA Championship.

Watch the Stephen A. Smith clip below.

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

Damian Lillard responds to Skip Bayless’ “That Guy,” comments and Twitter loses it

No one wants to be on the other end of a feud with Damian Lillard. 

Just ask Skip Bayless, who got dunked on by the Portland Trail Blazers star and pretty much all of Twitter, after he took jabs at Lillard on the “Undisputed.”

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name? -- Skip Bayless

When Lillard found out about the FS1 host’s rude remarks, he clapped back and called Bayless a joke. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect -- Damian Lillard

The roasting didn’t stop there. 

NBA Twitter feasted on the comments.












Haven’t people learned by now they can’t get in a war of words with Damian Lillard? Just ask Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Patrick Beverley how that turned out...

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

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

NBA journey still has a long way to go, but so far, that's one strong bubble

As we head into the final week of NBA seeding games, it’s time to take a break and reflect on what the league has been able to do with its plan to return to play.

Start off by noting that there are still no COVID-19 cases reported inside the league’s bubble. And while I don’t expect that to continue throughout the entire span of the playoffs, I think it’s an achievement.

Particularly in view of what’s happened in baseball and even PGA golf, where players have tested positive. And I would expect the NFL to be full of positive tests once its players gather for a while.

The bubble has been very efficient for the NBA. Everyone on that campus in Orlando should be praised for their cooperation and patience in a difficult situation.

I'm certain it's not an easy life.

But wasn’t it obvious from the start that if you can get the athletes and staff to buy into the science of quarantines, social distances, tests and masks, the concept is very workable?

Again, it’s not perfect. Somewhere, sometime, somebody is going to go off the ranch or contact someone from the outside and bring the virus onto the campus. But from what I’ve seen so far, the NBA will be ready to handle what comes of that.

COVID-19 doesn’t rain from the sky and it doesn’t spontaneously combust. If you are virus-free and build a fence around you or your group, you have a very good chance of never meeting up with it.

The idea of traveling from city to city and allowing players the freedom to navigate their communities without regulation or supervision, the plan that baseball is messing with, seems doomed. Are you paying attention, NFL?

The virus is extremely contagious and nothing to be playing around with. I congratulate the NBA, its players, coaches, support staff and front office officials for coming up with a plan that, so far, is keeping everyone safe and allowing the season to continue.

If only the rest of our country was as careful and sensible.

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

Eye on the Eight: Updated look at Portland's path to the postseason

The Blazers will rest on Monday following a 124-121 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday that left Portland just half a game behind Memphis for the eighth seed in the Western Conference with two games remaining. 

Moving into the eight seed would be huge for the Blazers. Not only does it give them more separation from the ten seed to ensure Portland a chance to play its way into the postseason, but it would make it so the Blazers only need to win one play-in game rather than two.

Heading into the bubble, ESPN's BPI had Portland with only a 9% chance of getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference. That chance has more than tripled to 30.3%.

But, just because the Blazers aren't playing today doesn't mean the standings won't be affected. 

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

Here are the standings heading into Monday. UPDATED AFTER PHOENIX WIN OVER OKC. 

8. Memphis Grizzlies Remaining Schedule: Boston, Milwaukee (Win Percentage: 0.465)

9. Portland Trail Blazers (0.5 games behind) Remaining schedule: Dallas, Brooklyn (Win Percentage: 0.458)

10. Phoenix Suns (1.0 games behind) Remaining schedule: Philadelphia, Dallas (Win Percentage: 0.451)

11. San Antonio Spurs (1.0 games behind) Remaining schedule: Houston, Utah (Win Percentage: 0.449)

Note: New Orleans and Sacramento were both eliminated from postseason contention Sunday. 

Notable Games August 10:

Phoenix Suns vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Who do we want to win? Oklahoma City.

Line: Phoenix -7.5 Phoenix won 128-101. 

With the Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Spurs all on off days, the Suns are the only team in the playoff race for the eighth seed playing on Monday. However, it should be an easy win for Phoenix due to OKC resting many notable players such as Steven Adams, Danillo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous Alexander, and Nerlens Noel.  

If Phoenix wins: They move into a tie for the tenth seed with San Antonio and would stand just a half-game behind Portland with two games remaining for all teams.

If Phoenix loses: They will drop to a game and a half behind Portland for the ninth seed with two games remaining. The Suns would need Portland to lose out to have a chance to get the ninth seed. 

Notable Games August 11:

Portland Trail Blazers vs Dallas Mavericks (3:30 p.m PT):

Who do you want to win: Portland.

Incentives to rest? Dallas rested multiple starters including Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis against Utah on Monday which was one of the few teams the Mavericks could catch up to in the standings. They will be locked into the seven seed heading into their game versus Portland. 

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets (11:00 a.m. PT):

Who do you want to win: Houston.

Incentives to rest? The Rockets will be 1.5 games behind Denver for the third seed and may play for the chance to move up and play the Utah Jazz, who Houston has eliminated from the postseason two years running, in the first round rather than the Oklahoma City Thunder. 

Phoenix Suns vs Philadelphia 76ers (1:30 p.m. PT):

Who do we want to win? Philadelphia. 

Incentives to rest? Ben Simmons has already been ruled out indefinitely. Joel Embiid injured his left ankle against the Trail Blazers on Sunday and the Sixers have ruled him out for Tuesday's contest. However, Philadelphia is just one game back of the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat (who play each other Monday evening) for the fourth seed which would avoid Boston in the first round. The Sixers cannot fall to the seventh seed. 

Memphis Grizzlies vs Boston Celtics (2:00 p.m. PT):

Who do we want to win? Boston.

Incentives to rest? Boston is locked into the third seed in the Eastern Conference, but, head coach Brad Stevens said he doesn't plan to rest his starters for the remainder of seeding games.

“You obviously want to have great health, but conditioning is a great part of that, so we want all of our primary guys to play at least two more times out of three,” the Celtics coach said after Saturday’s practice per the Boston Herald. “All of our sports science people and everybody else feels a full week in between games is enough – certainly don’t want more than that. We play our guys, nothing is set in stone yet, that’s the way we’re going to approach it.”

Scenarios:

Portland Wins Eighth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis goes 1-1

-Portland goes 1-1, Memphis goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 1-1

Portland Wins Ninth Seed:

-Portland goes 2-0, Memphis 2-0

-Portland goes 1-1, San Antonio goes 1-1, Phoenix goes 1-1

-Portland goes 0-2, San Antonio goes 0-2, Phoenix goes 0-2,

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 

Next up: The Portland Trail Blazers will play the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday, August 11 at 3:30 p.m. PT here on NBC Sports Northwest.

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard is not a superstar, "That Guy" in NBA, Skip Bayless says

Damian Lillard has a superstar profile and plenty of accolades to back it up. 

He’s a five-time NBA All-Star, four-time All-NBA selection recipient, the 2012-13 Rookie of the Year and is coming off a 2019 season where he led the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in nearly two decades last season.

Heck, even NBA2K dubbed Lillard the king of point guards when they announced the Portland Trail Blazers guard as the first athlete on the cover of NBA2K21. 

But, Skip Bayless isn’t convinced Lillard has reached superstar level quite yet. On the 'Undisputed' Monday morning, he took jabs at Lillard, a 88.9 free throw shooter, for missing two free throws on Saturday as Patrick Beverley and Marcus Morris Sr. taunted his misses. 

I’ll allow you to continue to stick your head in the hand on Damian Lillard, but I’m not going to. What happened on Saturday afternoon validated what I’ve been asking about Damian Lillard. Is he really “That Guy?” Does he really have super in front of star in front of his name?

I don’t see it and I haven’t seen it when it really, really counted, and I don’t think the Clippers had seen it either. Because I gotta tell you, they laughed at your man. They clowned your man when he missed the two free throws, then missed the tying three late in that game. They’re over on the bench, their tapping their imaginary watches ‘it’s Dame Time,’ their waving goodbye to him just like the way he waved goodbye to Russell Westbrook and in the end Paul George, he was there, and their waving goodbye to him…

And the great irony of this is the Blazers are the team the Clippers are rooting for to play your team, the Lakers, because it’s obvious, it is painfully obvious, that the Portland Trail Blazers have the best chance, at least on paper, of at least giving your guys a tussle in the first round on the playoffs. -- Skip Bayless

Bayless continued to harp on what he perceives as Lillard’s failure to lead his team, referencing the Blazers star and his decision to uncharacteristically pass up a potentially game-tying 3 against the Boston Celtics. 

Instead, Lillard quickly threw a pass to a cutting Jusuf Nurkic, who laid it in with 3.4 seconds to play, pulling Portland within one. Boston hit a pair of free throws, a Nurk inbounds pass sailed out of bounds, and the Celtics walked away with a 128-124 victory. 

Damian Lillard disappeared down the stretch of that game... He missed the tying three with 53 seconds left in that game. It came early in the bubble, but the point is: they had em’ and then they didn’t, because that guy has to be that guy down the stretch of these games in the Bubble that are seed games. They should easily be 6-0. -- Skip Bayless

What Bayless failed to point out is that when the pressure fell on Lillard Sunday, as the Blazers took on the Philadelphia 76ers, he responded. 

When the Sixers took a 114-108 lead with 4:23 remaining, Portland shot back with 12 unanswered points, capped by seven-straight points from Lillard on the and-one 3-pointer and a pull-up triple on the next possession.

The Trail Blazers star followed the missed free throws game by exploding for 51 points as the Blazers took down the 76ers 124-121, putting Patrick Beverley and Paul George’s petty postgame drama in the rear-view mirror. 

Shannon Sharpe knows it’s not the bad plays or even the savage trash talk off-the-court that makes you a superstar, it’s how you respond, and Lillard did...just like he has time and time again.

“When you look at Dame, he’s a superstar,” Sharpe said. “I believe he’s a Top 10 player. He’s in my Top 10 for what it’s worth, because he’s big time. He can take and make big shots, he can get to the basket, he’s a great free throw shooter and I’m surprised like everybody else that he missed those two free throws.” 

Bayliss still isn't buying "Dame Time," but Lillard doesn't need to explain to him why he's truly an elite player. He'll never have Lillard's respect anyways. 

I have never been buying nothing about you fam. You a joke. And after our private convo full of back pedaling you will never have my respect." -- Damian Lillard

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

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

The NBA’s restart has seen its fair share of close games and so have Portland Trail Blazers fans.

Sunday’s game once again came down to the final seconds, but this time it was against the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers

However, in this one, the Blazers made stops when they needed to, and they made clutch free throws.

For future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony, that ‘rush’ of feeling needed by a team late in games is “absolutely” still a feeling that comes over the 36-year-old.

Absolutely. That doesn’t go anywhere, when you put the work in and you believe that you should be out there at those moments and your comfortable in those moments, those are just normal moments for myself, being comfortable in those situations and those moments down the stretch, being able to have your teammates rely on you to make plays, they expect that... They expect me to make the plays that I make, make the shots that I make, and they have the confidence in me to do those things. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony    

Those 'moments down the stretch' from Melo were key on Sunday. 

Thanks to Melo’s corner three with 4:08 to go along with his big-time defensive rebounds late in the game, and his final defensive stop on Josh Richardson, Anthony showed his veteran leadership and mentality to never quit was just what the Blazers needed following Saturday’s loss.

The final 10.2 seconds of Sunday’s 124-121 win over Philadelphia were intense to say the least.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave credit to the Sixers role players postgame, saying that Josh Richardson “was outstanding.”

Coach Stotts also talked at length about how much Damian Lillard’s 'on a mission' mentality and his ability to deal with last-second pressure meant to the Blazers.

Lillard finished with 51 points and seven assists in the victory.

Even though the Blazers haven’t been getting many stops on the defensive end throughout the seeding games, Anthony came up with a huge stop in the final play of the game.

With the Blazers up 124-121, the Sixers had 10.2 seconds to tie up the game after taking a timeout, but, Josh Richardson missed a 25-foot three-pointer with Melo's swarming defense.

“I thought everybody was locked in. [Melo] was aggressive on Richardson, made it difficult for him, and made him take a tough shot," Stotts said. "I thought everybody was locked in. It wasn’t pretty, but they didn’t score."

Coach Stotts had plenty more to say about his wily veteran.

His experience – his communication – he’s been in these moments and he has good ideas and good suggestions for players and coaches, but he’s been at it a long time… I think having him in these moments, he's shown here in the bubble how important he is in those moments. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Melo’s fourth-quarter performance at both ends, along with him moving up to No. 15 on the all-time scoring list, earned him the game ball.  

Anthony finished with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep. 

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

Melo did come up limping after that stop on Richardson, but, not to worry, the 17-year veteran said he’s all good after the win.

“I’m bumped knees with Richardson. But, I’ll be alright,” Melo said.

Anthony and Lillard can't get all the credit for the Blazers’ success down the stretch (but most of the credit).

Let’s go back to the 10.2 second mark of the fourth.

Jusuf Nurkic calmly stepped up and hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put the Blazers up 124-121 after the Sixers were forced to foul Nurk near mid-court with time winding down.

“Nurk came through in the clutch with two key free throws,” Stotts said.

Nurkic also played through some aches and pains as well as foul trouble.

The Trail Blazers 7-footer most likely should've sat out of Sunday's game because, of course, most players who come back from a big injury do not play in both games of a back-to-back.

But, Nurk played because he knew his team needed him with Hassan Whiteside out due to a left hip strain.

“As much as I’ve been preparing myself for the last 14 plus months, I was not prepared for a back-to-back,” Nurkic said. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play, but… Whiteside was injured, so after that loss [Saturday], I couldn’t afford to not play… So tried to fight through and I’m glad we win this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses.”

Whatever it takes.

Nurkic knows that has to be the Blazers mindset, as does Portland's team captain, who is even more thankful to have his pick-and-roll partner in crime back on the court.

He’s extremely important and he’s coming off a major injury. He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty, and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk-through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I don't really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic

Lillard had nine straight points late in the fourth to go along with Nurkic icing the game with his free throws.

Throw in Melo’s ability to come up with a big play at either end and that’s a recipe the Blazers must use moving forward, especially if Portland is going to continue a trend of close games in the bubble during the home stretch of seeding games.

With Sunday’s win, the Blazers still have a shot at reaching the No. 8 seed depending on their own results and if the Grizzlies take care of business or not.

There's no doubt that these final moments of the seeding games is giving everyone that 'rush' feeling. 

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

It seems as if players and coaches are getting restless in the bubble and they can’t help but pop off. 

A day after Damian Lillard and Paul George sparred on social media over the LA Clippers’ taunting antics, it appears Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was caught on a hot mic taking a shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference and the team the Trail Blazers would face if they clinch the eight-seed. 

WATCH

“The Lakers don’t wear these, but I do…”

In fact, all the Trail Blazers do. 

And Stotts isn’t wrong, either. 

The photos in the above tweet may seem selective, but LeBron James and company are constant violators of the NBA’s mask policy. LeBron takes it a step further and has done his media availabilities while sitting on a freaking throne!

NBA protocols in place state mask requirements outside of in-game play. The NBA even sent reminders to teams about the mask protocol for availabilities, which the Lakers, outside of head coach Frank Vogel, has been regularly ignored by Lakers players. 

Sure, the banter was playful, but there was obviously something that drove Stotts to say what he said. And, there was something. 

It will add a bit of intrigue into the Blazers potential first-round matchup with the war of words starting early. 

His comments were mostly harmless, but anything can become bulletin board material. And with all the time players have on their hands to engage in social media squabbles, we’ll have to wait and see where Stotts comments go.