Raptors take Damian Lillard away and what was left couldn't win the game

Raptors take Damian Lillard away and what was left couldn't win the game

The Toronto Raptors obviously came out Wednesday night with the intent of not letting Damian Lillard beat them. They defended him full court, denying him the ball, then double-teamed him whenever he got the ball on the pick-and-roll and often triple-teamed him on drives to the basket. He even saw a little box-and-one.

And make no mistake, the Raptors were good at all of it. They’re one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and all but took Lillard away from the Blazers.

Lillard has become so accomplished at scoring near the basket, somehow getting his shots up against defenders when it seemed impossible. But the Raptors made it impossible, putting Lillard in jail when he got to the basket – fencing him in with long arms and big bodies.

Lillard ended up with nine points on 2-12 shooting and when the chips were down, in the final stretch of the game, his teammates couldn’t hit big shots when left open and Portland lost 114-106.

“You know, we’re rolling the dice a little bit with these schemes, right?” Toronto Coach Nick Nurse said. “But if you do the work on the primary player first of all, and then you get the rest of the guys to do what they’re supposed to do in their help situations on them, whether it’s blitz or drives or whatever, and make it difficult for them, you’re opening up some other stuff. But we rolled the dice here on these guys and it turned out pretty good.”

And in spite of all the recent defensive problems, Portland didn’t score well enough in this game.

Rodney Hood, Anfernee Simons and CJ McCollum all had reasonable shooting nights but the Trail Blazers shot only 39.6 percent from the field overall and 17-48 from three-point range.

And the offensive standouts in Moda Center were both wearing Toronto uniforms. Pascal Siakam scored 36 with a marvelous combination of inside and outside play and Fred VanVleet did a terrific job of dogging Lillard and scoring 30 at the other end.

The Raptors have had success in their last three games taking Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and now Lillard out of their offensive game.

“The good thing about our game is most of the superstars are pretty unselfish,” VanVleet said, “So we throw two or three guys at the names you just mentioned and we just want to make them pass and make somebody else make the shots. Rodney Hood came in and made some big shots and got hot but overall, we just didn’t want to let Dame Lillard shoot. That’s the best way to guard those guys on not many attempts.”

Siakam was held in check by rookie Nassir Little in the first half but got loose in the lane over the last two quarters. And while Lillard was seeing all sorts of players thrown at him at one end, the Blazers let Siakam back them down in the lane one-on-one and never got to him with any double-teams.

The disturbing trend of the undersized Trail Blazers getting outscored in the paint continued, as Toronto posted a 50-22 edge in paint points.

“They outworked us,” Lillard said. “We gave them second, third and fourth opportunities. We couldn’t score. We needed to score and the game got away from us. It’s the fourth team in a row to come out and deny me fullcourt.”

Is it frustrating that you are seeing all those bodies coming at you on one end and then your team isn’t double-teaming Siakam at the other end?

“Yeah. It’s frustrating, But this is the hand we’re dealt.”

 

Here's your ultimate Jusuf Nurkic workout highlight

Here's your ultimate Jusuf Nurkic workout highlight

Jusuf Nurkic continued to show how his rehabilitation is going Saturday in Phoenix. 

Nurkic going through drills is yet another evolution in his rehabilitation, this coming days after he was seen running stairs at Pepsi Center after Trail Blazers shootaround. 

It's a welcomed sight, to say the least. 

While there are reports that Nurkic is angling to return around the All-Star break, the Bosnian Beast isn't putting a timetable on it. 

"I need to do what's best for me," he said. Nurkic mentioned that not only is he going to come back healthier, but also a better player as a whole.  

Check out the highlight video above to see how Nurkic's workout went!

Nurkic, covered in sweat after a workout, talks about his progress

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NBC Sports Northwest

Nurkic, covered in sweat after a workout, talks about his progress

PHOENIX – Apparently, this has been going on for a while now.

Jusuf Nurkic was on the floor of the practice gym in Talking Stick Resort Arena Saturday afternoon, spinning, jab-stepping, jumping, dribbling, shooting and looking for all the world like a man healthy enough to play NBA basketball.

Which, of course, he isn’t. Nurkic, after a workout that left him drenched in sweat, pronounced himself “right where I want to be” and “pain-free.”

Pressed, he put his readiness at “60 percent.” Nurkic has been sidelined since last March 25 ,after suffering compound fractures in his left tibia and fibula that required surgery.

It was originally estimated he could be out of action for a year and then the talk was that he could be ready to return to a Trail Blazer uniform by the All-Star break in February. But he raised the hopes of Portland fans when he was shown on video shooting free throws prior to Tuesday’s game in Moda vs. the Knicks and then shown again on video running the stairs in Denver’s Pepsi Center before Thursday’s game with the Nuggets.

The team made him available for interviews after the Blazers’ practice Saturday afternoon and seemingly showcased his workout for the media – because we see only what they want us to see of their practices.

The franchise has refused to put a timetable on his return to active duty and Nurkic dodged all those questions, as did his coach. But it was made clear that he has been doing more work on the court than previously thought.

“He’s been doing a lot of stuff,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “This is the first time you’ve gotten to see it. He’s been doing things similar to this. Today wasn’t anything new from our standpoint. You just haven’t seen it.

“I think we’re all encouraged by the progress he’s made.”

And the 7-foot center made it a point that every day is not like the heavy workout we saw Saturday.

“If I was doing this every day, I probably would have played already,” he said.

But during an interview that stretched longer than what the team may have expected, Nurkic refused to dig deeply into what he’s been doing and what his schedule will be, moving forward.

“I can’t tell you everything,” he said with a smile.

 

Listen to this week’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast here:

 

     

 

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

Nassir Little suffers back spasms during warm-ups in Denver

DENVER – It wasn’t until the third quarter when Trail Blazers PR announced that rookie forward Nassir Little would not play in Thursday’s game versus the Nuggets due to back spasms.

Through the first three quarters, it looked as though Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was electing to give Mario Hezonja the minutes Little had been taking up.

But, after the Blazers’ 114-99 loss to the Nuggets, Little explained how the injury came about and how ultimately he ended up not playing:

It’s been tight. Just warming up, I just jumped and it was just off. -- Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little 

Little has been dealing with a tight back for the past week, but Thursday during warm-ups was the last straw.

“I told the trainers during the game—no way,” Little said of being able to play against Denver.

Little was grimacing as he leaned down to put on his socks and shoes in the locker room postgame.

In 18 games played this season, he is averaging 4.6 points and 3.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game.

The Trail Blazers forward said his pain level was “at a nine” when his back flared up initially as he went up for a lay-in. “It was immediate.”

Little sounded optimistic though saying he hopes not to miss too much time. The 19-year-old will begin treatment Friday morning and NBCSNW will follow-up with the Trail Blazers rookie throughout the weekend to see what his status will ultimately be for Monday night's game vs. the Phoenix Suns. 

 

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers couldn't overcome Nuggets hot shooting from three

DENVER  – Nuggets fans showed up in force Thursday night, but it's not certain if it was for their team, or Carmelo Anthony.

Either way, it was as close to sold out as the Pepsi Center gets for a Nuggets game. It even looked like there were more fans in the stands on Thursday than there were during last year’s postseason.

In Anthony’s return to Denver, he looked like vintage Melo, but also showed off his defense coming up with a couple of steals. 

It was a hard fought battle between two teams that are continuing to deepen their division rivalry. 

But, down the stretch, Portland wasn’t able to get stops. The Nuggets took a 2-0 series lead in their 111-99 win over the Trail Blazers. 

FINAL BOX SCORE: Nuggets 111, Trail Blazers 99

Here are three quick takeaways from Thursday’s loss: 

1.  Vintage Melo, Whiteside with multiple dabs

After Thursday’s shootaround, Melo talked about how special it was to be back where it all started for him. He then showed Denver that he could still be special. The 10-time All-Star finished with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 2-of-5 from three. 

But, the first and third quarters were really all about Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside. 

Whiteside’s 13 points in the first quarter on 6-of-8 shooting and six rebounds helped the Blazers keep pace with the Nuggets early on.   

The Blazers 7-footer was also 1-for-1 from three in the first quarter. With the three-pointer also came a celebration from Whiteside with not one, not two, but multiple dabs.  Whiteside’s energy was contagious at both ends especially in the first and third quarters. 

2.  Nuggets go off from three

If it wasn’t for Denver’s hot shooting from three, the Nuggets would’ve had a tough time staying in the game early on. After three quarters, Denver was shooting 14-of-30 from deep and held an 11-point lead heading into the final period. The Nuggets shared the wealth too. Five players scored in double figures. 

3.  Blazers moving more without the ball, but couldn’t get stops in crunch time

Kent Bazemore made it hard on the Nuggets defense, especially in the first half. Whether he was cutting hard to the basket or running the baseline, he was on the move and his teammates were able to find him.  Bazemore made sure to convert too. And he wasn’t the only one making Denver work. The Blazers as a team were moving and cutting all night. Portland’s offense was clicking, but ultimately they weren’t able to get stops at the other end of the court when they needed them. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers will visit the Phoenix Suns on Monday night. Tip-off is set for 6:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the MyTeams App.

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