Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1

The Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder squared off in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs in Game 1 on Sunday.

The NW division foes are both looking to advance to the second round for the first time since 2016.

Thunder All-Star Paul George has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder since February 26th, and was listed as questionable, but since it’s the playoffs George played his normal minutes in Game 1 but did not have a good shooting night. 

As most people expected, the game got a bit chippy at times with hard screens and some “friendly” shoving. Portland jumped out to 39-25 lead at the end of the first quarter behind the Moda Center crowd.

Portland tightened up its defense in the second half. It was a block party for Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Evan Turner turned it up too, coming up with crucial steals.

In the finals minutes, the Trail Blazers closed out the game by hitting clutch free throws, getting stops, and Enes Kanter gobbling up offensive boards, as Portland beats OKC 104-99.

The Blazers now take the 1-0 advantage in the best of seven-series.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 104, Thunder 99

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 1 victory:

1. Ball movement opening up the perimeter for Lillard and McCollum

The Blazers started the game playing a little inside, outside game. Plus, Portland made sure to zip the ball around the three-point line to find the open man. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard both got clean looks early. The Blazers backcourt duo took advantage of it too, both starting the game off going 2-for-2 from three.

Portland as a team went 7-of-10 from three-point range in the first quarter. Shooting well from deep was an emphasis for the Blazers heading into the series after having so much trouble from long distance against the Thunder in the regular season.

Lillard and McCollum were not messing around. When they got open looks, they took them. It is apparent these two learned a lot from their last first round series against the Pelicans.

Seth Curry carried the three-point load early in the second quarter. For the first half, three-point shooting was the difference in the game. Portland led 54-48 at the break after hitting 9-of-17 from three to the Thunder’s 2-of-18 from deep.

2. Playoff intensity crowd – plenty of cheers and boos

The Trail Blazers came out of the gate with the intensity you expect in the postseason. Blazers fans did the same.

Here’s a short list that got the Moda Center crowd really going on Sunday:

-The Blazers hitting from deep

-Hard screens set by Meyers Leonard

-CJ McCollum and Terrance Ferguson getting into at the free throw line, which resulted in offsetting technicals

-Lillard at the free throw line (MVP chants a plenty)

-Whenever Raymond Felton checked into the game or caught the ball (So. Many. Boos.)

-Thunder calling a timeout after Blazers extending the led back up 10 with 2:41 remaining in the third

-OKC getting called for the offensive fouls

-When Westbrook air balled it from the corner… Or really when he did anything you could expect boos

-#LillardTime three-pointer with less than three minutes left in the game

3. OKC shot selection

In the first half, it looked as though OKC was settling for tough shots or just not hitting wide-open ones. The second half didn’t go much better for the Thunder.

OKC could not buy a basket, especially from three. After three quarters, the Thunder were 3-for-24 from three. The bad news for the Blazers – Oklahoma City was awful from three and yet the Thunder were still able to keep the game close. A big reason for the Thunder sticking around was the fact that OKC was able to snag offensive rebounds. 

You have to imagine OKC and Paul George particularly will not shoot this bad in any other game the rest of this series.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Thunder will tip-off Game 2 on Tuesday night at 7:30pm. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:30pm.

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

Everybody is talking about Anfernee Simons' offense, but what about his defense?

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Everybody is talking about Anfernee Simons' offense, but what about his defense?

SACRAMENTO -- Trail Blazer guard Anfernee Simons is already known as an offensive weapon, a knockdown shooter, and a multiple scoring threat.

The second-year player is averaging 11.9 points, while shooting 50 percent from the field and 40.5 percent from long distance.

But, it isn’t his shooting that’s on his brain these days.

Simons still thinks about that shot Kyrie Irving made over him last Friday night. The 20-year-old discussed how he’s been feeling about his defense thus far this season at Tuesday morning’s shootaround.  

“I think it’s been alright, except when Kyrie hit that shot on me… I’m still thinking about that one, but I think it’s been alright. I think I can get better at it,” Simons said.

Irving was able to hit a tough fadeaway jumper over Simons to put Brooklyn up five with 17.8 seconds remaining in last Friday night’s 119-115 loss to the Nets.

Simons’ defensive pressure on Irving did not go unnoticed by the Blazers floor general.

“He’s fearless,” Damian Lillard said after shootaround. “A lot of times when we talk about players being fearless, it’s like you think about taking a big shot or stepping up in that way, but, I mean, it’s just being able to go out there and compete against the best and he was lined up against one of the best, and he wasn’t afraid, and there wasn’t an option, and that’s the kind of person and player he is.”

“He’s also [been] going against me and CJ [McCollum] in practice for two years, so he’s prepared for it,” Lillard added.

The Blazers know what they have in Simons as far as offense goes, but at the other end of the floor, the coaching staff is still working with Ant to get better.

“The coaches have been telling me to make sure I continue to play defense,” Simons said.

Simons feels that he has made a leap from his Summer League defense to now.

“For sure, I think it’s just more knowing your personnel and knowing who you’re guarding I think that helps out a lot too,” Simons said.

McCollum agreed with Lillard that Simons has been “growing” on both ends this season.

“I think he’s done a great job continuing to learn – technique, spacing, you know, how close he should guard certain players, and how to really approach the game. I think he’s got a lot of practice in guarding Dame and I these last couple of years, learning a lot of tricks offensively and defensively to where it helps him kind of maneuvering screens. He’s growing daily. He’s very talented offensively, but he has the tools to be a really good defender as well,” McCollum said.

“We all guard each other so we’re constantly learning,"  McCollum added.

The Blazers are looking to keep their momentum going after Sunday night’s win over the Hawks as Portland takes on Sacramento.

Portland’s trio of guards will continue to learn about themselves as they take on a Kings team who is without their leader in De’Aaron Fox. Fox is dealing with a left ankle sprain.

The Blazers and Kings tip-off at 7pm tonight. You can watch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

Headstrong with Damian Lillard: Being under a microscope

Headstrong with Damian Lillard: Being under a microscope

Nobody in a Trail Blazer uniform carries as much pressure around on his shoulders every day than Damian Lillard. Not only is he his team’s best player, its perennial all-star, its captain and leader – on and off the court – but he’s the face of this city’s most important sports franchise and one of its most visible businesses.

And he’s handled it all with quiet grace.

Certainly, scoring 60 points in a game – a franchise record – isn’t easy, but it’s probably not as difficult as knowing that your every move, every word and every gesture (how about waving bye-bye to the Oklahoma City Thunder last year in the playoffs after breaking their hearts with a long-distance three-point shot?) is analyzed, broken down and discussed not only during the season, but all summer, too.

He understands the situation and, most important, prepares for it.

“The mental side is where the challenge is,” he says in the accompanying video. “You’ve got to prepare yourself on that side, as well, with having clarity. Having your life be as pure as possible, dealing with your issues. There are so many distractions and things that come along with being a professional athlete that it can cause issues. And it’s hard to deal with. And mentally, that’s where you break down and have trouble facilitating and dealing with those things outside of the game.”

Lillard talks about surrounding himself with people he loves and those he can trust – a support system – that helps him survive the mental side of the game. You can watch the full video above. 

How to watch, stream Portland at Sacramento tonight at 7pm

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How to watch, stream Portland at Sacramento tonight at 7pm

The Trail Blazers hit the road for a quick one-game trip tonight in Sacramento. It’s the second of four meetings between the Blazers and Kings. Tip-off is set for 7pm. 

Portland leads the series 1-0 after beating Sacramento on the road, 122-112, on October 25th. It was a 37-point third-quarter for the Blazers that made the difference. A big reason for the uptick in points was the Damian Lillard and Hassan Whiteside connection.

Rodney Hood (back spasms) is listed as probable vs. the Kings. Hood played in just six minutes of action in Friday night’s loss to the Nets due to back spasms. He didn’t suit up on Sunday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

You can watch the game on NBC Sports Northwest, the Official Network of the Portland Trail Blazers and you can stream the game on our website or by downloading the MyTeams app!

And, have you heard about Blazers Pass?

You can get 15 live Trail Blazers games, pre and postgame shows, and on-demand full-game replays with Blazers Pass! (Only available to fans located in Blazers Territory, pursuant to NBA rules and agreements. No TV provider required. Subscription Period: November 4, 2019 - April 16, 2020. Subscription auto-renews prior to start of next season.)

Don't miss any of the coverage of tonight's game:

4:30pm Blazers Game Day with Chad Doing

6:00pm Blazers Warm-Up

6:30pm Trail Blazers Pregame Show

7:00pm Trail Blazers vs. Kings

After the game catch Blazers Outsiders with hosts Joe Simons and Dan Marang!

And, full coverage of the game from Dwight JaynesJamie Hudson and our digital team. Follow us on social throughout the night for the latest updates. 


“It’s feeling better, it’s just locked up right now. It’s getting better with a lot of treatment. I’m getting treatment around the clock, and hopefully it’ll get better day by day so I can get back out there.” – Rodney Hood (back spasms) gave a health update after Sunday’s win over Atlanta

Zach Collins back at Blazer practice... the latest post-surgery update

Zach Collins back at Blazer practice... the latest post-surgery update

When the door opened for the media to enter the gym at the Trail Blazer practice facility Monday, there was a surprise spectator watching practice on a sideline bench.

Zach Collins, fresh off his surgery last week to repair damage in his left labrum, was back.

He said he is feeling better and, as expected, his left arm was in a sling.

“They said I could probably take (the sling) off when I’m home, hopefully next week,” Collins said. “But if I’m out in public, I still have to wear it. The worst part is when I sleep. I always sleep on my side and for some reason, at night all that pain comes back. The last couple of nights were a lot better. I’ve been almost pain free.

“But when I sleep I have to have everything right,” he said. “Quiet and dark. I’ve been waking up about every hour.”

And for right now, the up-to-the-minute update on Collins’ condition is simply:

He’s working on sleeping on his back.

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum lead NBA in minutes played -- is that sustainable?

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum lead NBA in minutes played -- is that sustainable?

Interesting to look at the top of the NBA leaderboard for minutes played today and find the Trail Blazer backcourt sitting at No. 1 and No. 2.

Damian Lillard is averaging 38.6 minutes per game and CJ McCollum is playing 37.7 – higher than anyone else in the league.

Is everybody happy with that? Are there concerns in this era of load management?

“I’m a little bit old-school,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “There is going to be somebody to lead the league in minutes played. But if we hadn’t gone to overtime (Sunday night), Dame would have been at 39 minutes. To me, two guys in their prime can average 38 minutes and be fine. We did a study on how many players over the years averaged 40 minutes a game – Wilt Chamberlain averaged at least 40 minutes a game every year of his career and 48.5 one year. To me, it’s about managing his minutes,” Stotts said. “I’m very aware of Dame’s minutes. He only played 15-something in the first half last night. I like his minutes to be relatively low in case we need to extend his minutes in the second half. To me, managing his minutes – we do that in the course of the game. Today he took the day off.  So, he’s kind of built for it.”

Neither player showed any outward concern about the length of his playing time in games.

“There’s going to come a point where everyone is going to wear down and get tired,” said Lillard, who played in all 82 games and averaged the same 38.6 minutes he’s clocking this season as a rookie and has averaged 36.3 per game through his career. “It turns into a mental thing at that point.”

Can he sustain that load?

“Yes,” he said.

McCollum, annually one of the players who runs the longest distance on the court during a season, believes he and Lillard can sustain those minutes over the long haul.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We take great care of our bodies. We know how to get our rest. It’s a long season but we don’t really have a lot of room for error right now. What’s our record? We have to take care of our bodies, be in shape and sustain a certain accountability to play. It’s a part of the game. This is what I do. I play basketball. My job is to be available. Obviously, we all battle little injuries here and there but it’s your job to take care of it and if you’re able to play, you play. That’s how I was trained.”

For these guys, load management is not a familiar concept.

Damian Lillard's most meaningful jersey swap

Damian Lillard's most meaningful jersey swap

Damian Lillard is no stranger to jersey swaps.

We've seen them before: Postgame jersey swaps show appreciation for a player's long career, for family, collegiate ties. They're symbolic. But, Damian Lillard's jersey swap on Sunday night at the Moda Center after the Trail Blazers overtime win over the Hawks was the possibly the most meaningful one. 

As fans were filing out of the arena, Lillard walked across the court and pulled the jersey off his back. There, he met U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Michael Ramage, who spent three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. 

"He DM'd me on Instagram one day, and it just happened to catch my attention," Lillard told NBCSNW postgame. "I agreed to it."

Jersey swaps are sacred. They're held in great honor. A sign of respect. Lillard last swapped jerseys with Dwyane Wade during his farewell season. So, this one, which occurred on Military Appreciation Night, the day before Veterans Day... 

"It was fitting."

Evan Turner on the Trail Blazers: 'Dame always figures it out'

Evan Turner on the Trail Blazers: 'Dame always figures it out'

If anyone understands what it’s like to have a rocky adjustment with the Trail Blazers it’s Evan Turner, the now Atlanta Hawks wing, who spent the past three seasons going through his own ups and downs in Portland.

Turner, who sat out on Sunday with an Achilles injury, said he has watched the Blazers a “decent amount” in the early stages of the season and while he understands that fans might be panicking about a less than ideal start to the year, he doesn’t think it’s warranted.

“It’s literally not anything to fret over,” he said.

The Blazers started 12-14 in Turner’s first season in Portland in 2016-17 and opened the following season at 6-6 before surging to the third seed in the Western Conference playoffs. So when Turner saw this iteration of Blazers struggle out of the gates, it didn’t raise much concern.

“It’s a lot of new guys in the locker room,” Turner said. “So they’re adjusting to how you do things. The core, the focal point are the two guards so you have to really get acclimated and find your way around how you can make an impact the best way you can.”

Turner isn’t one to insincerely butter up his former team. He is refreshingly honest, the type of player who will tell reporters the truth to a fault. If he thought this team was bad, it would be in the headline. Instead he insisted this team will be fine. So what is inspiring Turner about the Blazers who needed an overtime win Sunday to run their record to 4-6 on the season?

Chiefly it’s Anfernee Simons, the 20-year-old guard who scored 20 points against the Hawks, and is averaging just shy of twelve points a game in his second season.

“I thought he was going to hit his stride like this eventually but I didn’t know it’d be this quick. It’s unreal. He will be very, very, very, very, very, very, very good,” Turner said, giving his seven-very seal of approval.

“I think the thing I’m noticing about him now is — his confidence wavered sometimes in and out. Like even in the summer he’d have those big games and stuff. He had like 35 and 10 (at summer league). Now the kid knows he’s got it, and you could see it on the court (Sunday) where he went off and Dame and CJ and the coaches were letting him rock out. I think it’s obvious.”

Turner and Simons developed a close bond last season and Turner was one of the first Blazer veterans to confidently proclaim that Simons was going to be an impact player in the NBA. But Turner’s Blazer optimism extends beyond his admiration for their promising youngster. He has seen enough Lillard, his good friend, up close to hit pause on the skepticism.

“If three games go a different way, they’re 7-3, and nobody’d be whining, right?," Turner said. "I think they’ll be fine. Dame always figures it out."

Sunday wasn’t a perfect game. The Blazer looked disjointed early and failed to put the Hawks away late, before narrowly avoiding a five-game losing streak in overtime. But to hear Turner tell it: the Blazers are in a good spot, even with the injuries, even with the new parts adjusting to a new system. But for fans still concerned over a 4-6 record and the obvious issues facing the roster, Turner points in one direction: Toward the team’s All-Star point guard.

“He just keeps getting better and better each year,” he said. “I think it’s still early on in the year and the dude is just going to keep being Dame Lillard. He’s going to keep getting better, and you think you’ve already seen the best he has and there’s more. He’s in his prime and he’s flourishing.”

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers first home win

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers first home win

It was a battle of two teams who have been hit hard with injuries early in the season.

Neither the Trail Blazers nor the Hawks were able to have a comfortable lead... until overtime when it was all Blazers, all the time.

The Blazers were without starting small forward Rodney Hood, who is still dealing with back spasms, but Kent Bazemore stepped up big in place of the injured Hood.

Bazemore was key defensively on Sunday night. He was tasked with the tough assignment of defending Trae Young. Young finished the game 9-of-30 from the field for 35 points. On the other end of the floor, Bazemore was clutch in overtime, hitting not one, but two threes.

Damian Lillard once again led the charge, finishing with 30 points. CJ McCollum added 23 points on the night as the Blazers got the last word, earning them their first home victory in four games at Moda Center.


Hood gave an update on his back injury:

It’s feeling better, it’s just locked up right now. It’s getting better with a lot of treatment. I’m getting treatment around the clock, and hopefully it’ll get better day by day so I can get back out there.

Damian Lillard on the play of Kent Bazemore:

Tonight, he had the assignment with Trae Young and (Young) had the ball in his hands pretty much the whole game – chasing him off screens, finding him in transition – just that type of effort is tough.

Evan Turner on the growth of Anfernee Simons:

I thought he was going to hit his stride like this eventually but I didn’t know it’d be this quick. It’s unreal. He will be very, very, very, very, very, very, very good.



Instant Analysis: It took overtime, but Trail Blazers get first home win of the season

Kent Bazemore gets revenge against the Atlanta Hawks, propels Trail Blazers at both ends of the floor

Injury updates from Rodney Hood

Highlights: Home sweet Moda

CJ McCollum feeling good after hitting big three in OT... Out of his slump?

CJ McCollum feeling good after hitting big three in OT... Out of his slump?

It was a much needed win for the Trail Blazers, who were riding a four-game losing streak entering Sunday night’s game vs. the Hawks.

But not only did the Blazers show up in overtime to put away the Hawks, 124-113, CJ McCollum’s shot also showed up once again. 

There was no bigger shot for McCollum than his only three-pointer of the night, which gave the Blazers a nine-point lead with 1:43 remaining in overtime.

“It’s good to see one go down from distance,” McCollum said postgame. “I had some great looks tonight from three. A lot of in and outs, but a big moment, big game for us, especially since we lost so many in a row. We needed a win at home desperately and I’m thankful we were able to get it.”

McCollum finished with 23 points on 11-of-23 shooting to go along with his eight rebounds and four assists.

Coming into Sunday’s game, the Blazers starting shooting guard had made just three of his last 18 three-pointers. Over his previous five games when he found himself in ‘a slump,’ he was shooting 33.7 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from deep.

McCollum felt like he was in a better rhythm on Sunday night. 

“I felt great. I felt like my balance was good. I was sticking my landing a lot of time on my jumpers, creating enough space to get a shot off -- is something I pride myself on. I think I’ve done that, now the second part is just finishing the play,” McCollum said.

Damian Lillard led the charge offensively once again for the Blazers with 30 points and six assists.  

Lillard mentioned how McCollum is not one to have his confidence waver and that the entire team and coaching staff has and will always have faith in McCollum.

“I think we all know the level of player that he is and our team and coaches have got a thousand percent confidence in him. He’s not a person that you ever have to worry about with confidence and that’s not ever going to stop. It was just good to see him get going and hit some big shots and find his way,” Lillard said.

For the Trail Blazers team captain, he believes that people were making too big of a deal of McCollum’s slow start to the season.

“He started the season struggling shooting the ball and it happens,” Lillard said. “I mentioned after last game that sometimes you have losing streaks in the middle of the season and things like that and it doesn’t seem as bad as it seemed for us. Since it’s the beginning of the season, it seems worse, and I think his situation is similar. He started off kind of struggling shooting the ball, so it’s a bigger deal, but if it just happened in the middle of the season, it’d be like he’s just in a shooting slump and then he’ll come out of it. So I think that’s all it was.”

McCollum and the Blazers will now look to continue their winning ways when they visit the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night.