Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

It was a great season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you anything different.

It doesn’t really matter that the Golden State Warriors completed the sweep of the Trail Blazers with a 119-117 overtime win Monday night in the Moda Center.

In the big picture, it’s meaningless, really. The Blazers weren't going to win the championship, anyway. The Warriors were always going to be too much for them and perhaps everyone else in the league.

The Trail Blazers accomplished too much this season to allow the outcome of this series to spoil what they did.

This was a team that Las Vegas figured might win 42 games. It was a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs and, after the devastating injury to Jusuf Nurkic certainly wasn’t expected to win many playoff games, let alone a series.

But the Blazers won enough to capture the third seed in the Western Conference, then knocked off Oklahoma City in five games and won a seventh game on the road to decide their series with the Denver Nuggets.

This was a big step for this team, which can now go into next season knowing they were in the NBA’s Final Four and played the defending champions tough in three of the four games.

“I think it’s more than just the playoff run,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “I think the fact that we had a very good regular season, the fact that we were able to win two series, we were competitive in this series, even though it was a sweep – we played competitively.

“But I think (next season) is a long way away from now. I think when that time comes, we’ll be able to reflect. I think it’s a little too early to look at how this series helps us right now. Right now, it kind of stings.”

Damian Lillard, the captain, was not at all reluctant to put this accomplishment in perspective.
“It’s the Western Conference finals,” he said. “The other night after our game, I was looking for another game on TV and I was like, there’s two series going on right now and we’re one of them. For me, we’ve shown what we’re capable of. We can get it done. And our route here was as hard as anybody’s.
“We played the Thunder, great team. We played Denver, great team. So it wasn’t like we just eased our way in. We earned this. We got here. I think we showed this is who we are.

“This is what we’ve capable of. It’s not like some random thing. We’re in the playoffs every year. We bounce back every year regardless of how it ends. And this year we pushed it even further. So I think we showed we have it in us.

“So now we take this experience and move forward again. Obviously, you don’t want to go out with a sweep. We could have easily won every game. We just didn’t. Just got to keep going.

“We’ve shown that what we’ve been believing in and what we hang our hats on, works. That has taken time. We’ve invested a lot in our culture and our togetherness and that stuff. We’ve proven that works.

“We just ran up on a high-powered team and we still played well enough to beat them, but it was just those small lapses, those stretches when you give a game away against a team like that.”

Monday’s Game 4 was a lot like the previous two games, Portland frittered away a 17-point lead in the face of a Warrior charge and missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Lillard’s right-handed hook shot trickled over the rim and then had another game-winner at the end of overtime when his three-pointer from the right corner missed.

What separated this game from all the others in the series, though, was the emergence of Meyers Leonard, not only in the starting lineup for the second straight game, but as a major factor in the game.

Leonard played 40:11, scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead his team in both categories. He was 10-12 from the field in the first half with 25 points but got only four shots in the second half.

But for a man whom Stotts had buried on the Blazer bench for a good portion of his seven seasons with the team, it was a big coming-out party.

And it left serious questions about why he hasn’t been used more frequently by a team that often hungers for another outside shooter. Leonard hit 5 of his 8 three-point shots in the game.

“Again, he, the first half was outstanding,” Stotts said. “Twenty-five points and he was playing with a lot of confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3. And again, he played well and I’m happy for him.”

I would say Leonard was outstanding for more than the first half, he just didn’t get the ball much after intermission and that wasn’t his fault. Stotts normally throws compliments Leonard’s way about as frequently as it snows here in July.

But Golden State Coach Steve Kerr was willing.

“Meyers Leonard was fantastic,” Kerr said. “I thought the game softened up when Meyers Leonard started making threes. We had to make some adjustments and as soon as we did that, Damian’s eyes lit up. He started to see single coverage and he got going.”

The Warriors got their usual triple-double from Draymond Green, and it included a big three-pointer in overtime. Steph Curry also chalked up a triple-double that included 37 points and 13 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers have exit interviews scheduled for Tuesday and there will be full written and video coverage on this website.

And with that, a season that could almost qualify as magical, comes to an end.

The Bridge Podcast with Trail Blazers TV Analyst Lamar Hurd

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NBCS NW

The Bridge Podcast with Trail Blazers TV Analyst Lamar Hurd

On this edition of The Bridge Podcast, Justin Myers and Lamar Hurd, the TV Analyst of the Portland Trail Blazers, go into the contrast of growing up in Houston and going to college at Oregon State.

They also dive into Lamar's transition from being a college basketball player to the broadcast booth and his relationship with Kevin Calabro.

Get the behind the scenes of your favorite broadcasting team with this fun interview with Lamar Hurd.

Countdown to Tip-Off: The Lakers (and NBA) got their first dosage of rookie Damian Lillard in 2012

Countdown to Tip-Off: The Lakers (and NBA) got their first dosage of rookie Damian Lillard in 2012

We're counting down the days until the Portland Trail Blazers open up the 2019-20 NBA season by looking back at each of the victories in the 18-game home-opener win streak. Here is a look at what happened back in 2012 when the Portland Trail Blazers and rookie Damian Lillard faced the Los Angeles Lakers in the home opener.

Can’t remember what the NBA was like in 2012? Let’s paint the picture:

- LeBron James was the reigning MVP

- The Miami Heat, lead by their big four of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Ray Allen, would go on to win back-to-back NBA titles (2011-12, 2012-13).

- Kyrie Irving had just won Rookie of the Year

- Anthony Davis was the No.1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft (selected by the New Orleans Hornets)

- The Blazers had the No. 6 pick and drafted Damian Lillard (Weber State). They also drafted Meyers Leonard (Illinois) at No. 11 and Will Barton (Memphis) at No. 40.

- Carmelo Anthony was the league's leading scorer

As for the Blazers home opener...

NBA, meet Damian Lillard; Damian Lillard, meet the NBA. 

The Blazers opened up their home schedule and the 2012 season with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite a combined 63 points from Bryant and Dwight Howard, it wasn’t enough to overcome all five Blazers starters reaching double figures. Rookie Damian Lillard recorded a double-double in his regular season debut combined with Nicolas Batum’s sharp shooting prevailed the Blazers over the Lakers 116-106.

Notable stats: 

Los Angeles -

Dwight Howard – 33 points, 14 rebounds

Kobe Bryant – 30 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists

Portland –

Damian Lilllard – 23 points,11 assists

Nicolas Batum – 26 points, 6 rebounds, 3 steals

Wesley Matthews  – 22 points, 4 steals

LaMarcus Aldridge – 19 points, 3 rebounds

J.J. Hickson - 13 points, 10 rebounds

The Blazers would finish the season 33-49, good for the eleventh-best record in the Western Conference and would miss the playoffs for back-to-back seasons.

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

It’s a load management kind of night for Blazers in Denver

After treating Wednesday’s game vs. the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City as a dress rehearsal, the Trail Blazers announced on Thursday that both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum will not play in Denver.

The two stars are out for ‘load management.’

Portland will also be without Hassan Whiteside who had tweaked his left ankle in the Blazers win over the Jazz on Wednesday.

[RELATED]: Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

You can expect a lot of Anfernee Simons and the rest of the young training camp roster to get plenty of run in Denver.

Thursday’s game is the final exhibition contest of Portland’s preseason schedule and since the Blazers will be hosting the Nuggets on opening night, it’s best to save your stars and your plays for the regular season.

CJ McCollum makes guest appearance in Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s latest music video

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USA Today Images

CJ McCollum makes guest appearance in Dame D.O.L.L.A.’s latest music video

The wait is over.

The second music video from Dame's Big D.O.L.L.A. album has dropped.

Damian Lillard announced on his Instagram on Thursday that the ‘Money Ball’ music video featuring Jeremih, Danny From Sobrante and Derrick Milano is here.

The best part for Trail Blazers fans: CJ McCollum makes a guest appearance! 

Lillard and McCollum are dropping some serious money in this 'Money Ball' music video. Check it out here:

With new faces and better shooting, can the Trail Blazers rely less on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?

With new faces and better shooting, can the Trail Blazers rely less on Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum?

The Portland Trail Blazers have been a good 3-point shooting team in years past. Well, their stars have been. Terry Stotts has relied largely on both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to carry the load for them on that end of the floor. But now there is a glut of new wing and front court players in Portland, many of whom might be able to take some of the pressure off of Portland's stars to start the year.

Things will start from the inside out, where Zach Collins will need to shore things up. Collins will play a bigger role this year, starting at power forward, and he didn't shoot a very good percentage at the rim relative to other centers in 2018-19. 

Oddly enough, this could be compounded to start 2019-20 by both CJ and Damian. According to Cleaning the Glass, they both ranked in the lower percentiles for for guards when it came to shooting at the rim last season. But their attacking is a function of how the Trail Blazers offense works, and how the team garners free throws, which are each important in their own right. You can't really change how Lillard and McCollum plays at this point, and so it's up to other teammates to make up for them at the rim.

Alongside Collins' individual improvement could be another solution at the rim: the fastbreak. Portland was 29th in frequency in transition last season, but they were a whopping 6th in points per play. That's some untapped potential, particularly off defensive rebounds.

Then there's what Portland can do with 3-pointers, how Kent Bazemore can act as a one-man wrecking crew... the list goes on. I'm excited about how this team can look different on offense this year, and more dynamic. The real question is whether Stotts recognizes the need to break out of his shell a little bit.

Watch the full breakdown above to see all the ways the Blazers can contribute on offense outside of Lillard and McCollum.

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers win in Utah

The Morning After: Everything you missed from the Trail Blazers win in Utah

In their second to last exhibition game, the Trail Blazers were able to put it all together and look like a cohesive team for the first time this preseason.

CJ McCollum was showing off his extended range. He scored a game-high 28 points while going 5-of-7 from three-point range, including a deep 27-footer. Damian Lillard added 25 points as the Blazers came out on top, 126-118 over the Jazz.

Here is what you might have missed:

Quotables:

"I don’t think it’s worse, I don’t think it’s worse. It’s sore because it’s still fresh, but we’re going to keep compressing it and go day-by-day.” -- Hassan Whiteside on his most recent ankle injury compared to tweaking that same ankle in training camp

“I thought Zach in particular made some really impressive plays at the rim. I don’t know how many blocks he ended up with, but he had two or three really impressive blocks that should’ve been scores, and it really ignited us the other way.” -- Blazers head coach Terry Stotts on Zach Collins

“Just having them back there for support, and knowing how well they do what they do, it’s a great feeling as a perimeter guy.”  Damian Lillard on having the twin towers in Collins and Whiteside on defense

Best of Social Media:

Latest news & analysis:

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

Hassan Whiteside tweaks left ankle in preseason game at Utah

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

Elhassan: People sleep on the Blazers for real and every year they prove us wrong

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

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Chris Burkhardt

How one man's custom Damian Lillard jersey meant more than just basketball

The Blazers opened up preseason play last week by traveling back in time and playing a game inside the "Glass Palace," aka Veterans Memorial Coliseum. 

Among the sea of black and red jerseys, disco outfits, and stylish suits straight from the 1970s, one custom jersey stood out like a sore thumb: A custom Damian Lillard jersey. 

Obviously, it wasn't the name on the jersey that had fans doing a double-take. Rather, it was the jersey the name was on. No, it wasn't a Blazers jersey. No, it wasn't a Weber State jersey. It wasn't even an Oakland High School jersey... Lillard's name was seen on the back of a Golden State Warriors jersey.

But this wasn't just some Hamptons Five fan pulling the ultimate troll. It was a fan that wanted to show his pride for everything Lillard means to the East Bay. 

The man behind the jersey is Segun De Silva. I had a chance to catch up with him before the game simply to ask why he wore the jersey. His answer came from the heart. 

De Silva proceeded to tell a story about how he loved Damian Lillard, but refused to wear a Trail Blazers jersey. He has his reasons, but he still wanted to find a way to show his love for Lillard. 

De Silva, an Oakland native, went to his roots. He picked a Golden State jersey not because he bleeds blue and gold, but because it represented his home town. How? Well, he didn't go with a jersey that said Warriors across the chest. He instead picked the alternate "The Town" jersey. A jersey made to represent more than the Warriors on the court, but the entire city of Oakland. 

Not only did it speak to Oakland, but it matched Lillard in a special way.

For those who don't know, "The Town" jersey features the Jack London Oak on the chest. The oak tree is an everlasting symbol of the city and also happens to be tattooed across Lillard's chest 

De Silva got Lillard's name on a Warriors jersey, but a jersey that had Oakland's nickname and Lillard's tattoo on it. For De Silva, it had nothing to do with basketball. 

Lillard is a hero in Oakland. As De Silva told me, "If he can leave Oakland and embrace a city like Portland, then I can too." Lillard, and fellow Oakland legends like Marshawn Lynch, are beacons of hope that show so many people what can happen when you dream big and put your mind to it. 

I asked Lillard what he thought about a fan wearing a custom Lillard/Warriors jersey to a Blazers game. He laughed at first. Then I told him De Silva's explanation and this is what he had to say:

That means a lot because I always tell people growing up in Oakland how much pride we had in successful people from our city. I'd go to school and everybody would swear up and down that Gary Payton was they uncle, or they was related to Jason Kidd, they was related to Antonio Davis.

They just wanted some type of attachment because that's the kind of pride that people have from Oakland. That shows exactly that. Just that sense of pride and him being proud of not only my success as a basketball player, but who I am as a man. He seems like he has a lot of respect for that.

It sounds like just an Oakland thing.

I tell this story simply to say, don't be so quick to judge. What looked like a troll, was a man with a story. A story we can all appreciate and understand. And if you don't get it, there is a reason why... It's an Oakland thing. 

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

An update from Hassan Whiteside on his injured ankle

It was just last week that Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside was explaining how his left ankle injury that he suffered during training camp "wasn’t as bad as a broken heart."

He tweaked the ankle weeks ago in practice after battling for a rebound with Zach Collins and then coming down on Collins’ foot.

Whiteside told reporters this week that his ankle was pain free as of few days ago.

The 7-footer seemed to be finding his groove in Utah on Wednesday night with the Blazers beating the Jazz in Portland’s fourth preseason game.

Unfortunately for Whiteside, he tweaked the left ankle yet again.

Nearing the 8:45 mark of the third quarter, Whiteside appeared to roll his left ankle while securing a rebound.

Shortly after Whiteside went back to the locker room, the Blazers announced that he would not return to the game due to a left ankle sprain.

The good news:

Whiteside doesn't believe his tweaked left ankle is worse than last time he injured it.

“I don’t think it’s worse, I don’t think it’s worse. It’s sore because it’s still fresh, but we’re going to keep compressing it and go day-by-day,” Whiteside told reporters postgame.

Before leaving the game, Whiteside scored five points on 2-of-4 shooting, while also pulling down 11 rebounds on the night to go along with one block and one steal.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was pleased with Whiteside’s 16 minutes of action.

“He played well in both halves. I didn’t even look at his numbers, but you know, he gets 11 rebounds in 16 minutes, he had an impact on the game,” Stotts told reporters.

Next up for Portland, the Blazers will travel to Denver to visit the Nuggets in the second night of back-to-back to finish up the preseason.    

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

Trail Blazer Coach Terry Stotts after Utah win: "We really played well"

SALT LAKE CITY – As far as preseason games go, Wednesday night’s contest against the Utah Jazz was just about all the Trail Blazers could have asked for -- and more.
So many things went well, it’s hard to know where to start in what turned out to be a not-as-close-as-it-sounds 126-118 win over the Jazz.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were terrific – in mid-season form -- against the Jazz backcourt of Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. Lillard had 25 points with five rebounds and four assists and McCollum scored 28 while shooting 11-15  from the floor, including 5-7 from three.

“I felt good,” Lillard said. “Playing at altitude, we knew that was going to be a challenge. We came out in attack mode and played it like a real game. We challenged ourselves and our conditioning, trying to get into regular-season form and we just had a good run tonight. These are the kind of games you want to have at least one time going into the regular season.”

McCollum, continuing to show signs he’s going to be shooting more from long range, did a nice job of showcasing his varied offensive arsenal.

“This was going to be our last preseason game and so we wanted to get some good conditioning in with the altitude,” McCollum said. “Go compete. They’ve got some good guards and we wanted to see where we’re at.”

Zach Collins started at power forward and Hassan Whiteside started at center and the duo has a chance to be a matchup nightmare for a lot of teams. They are both aggressive rim protectors and Collins hit his first three-point field goal of the exhibition season and a handful of tough shots under duress inside. He finished 6-6 from the field.

“I love playing with Hassan,” Collins said, “We’re both rim protectors and he’s very good at it. Both of us being at the rim it’s going to be tough for other teams to score.”

Whiteside played well, getting 11 rebounds in 16 minutes but provided the only downer of the night when he reinjured his left ankle, spraining it again after leaving the game in the first half when he cut his right hand on the rim.

“I don’t think it’s serious,” said Whiteside, who sat out 10 days during the exhibition season after spraining it the first time. “First time I’ve ever had to go to the back twice in one game.”

Several rotation players had solid outings and Rodney Hood was reliable as the starting small forward. Mario Hezonja made five of his eight shots, including a couple of three-pointers, on the way to a dozen points, four rebounds and three assists. Kent Bazemore was solid at both ends and Anthony Tolliver got some significant time at center, forcing the Jazz to go to a smaller lineup.

Portland led 117-100 when Coach Terry Stotts pulled the last of the starters off the floor in the fourth quarter.

Stotts hasn’t been concerned with getting a win – this was his team’s first over an NBA team in the exhibition season – but he did want to see the group play better. And it did.

“We really played well,” Stotts said. “Offensively, the first half was fun to watch. We moved the ball, Dame and CJ were in a really good rhythm. All in all, it was the best game we’ve played so far.”

Stotts had praise for Whiteside, whom he said, “played well in both halves. He had an impact on the game. It was good to see for him.

“And I thought Zach, in particular, made two or three very impressive plays at the rim. He had two or three blocks that could have been scores and they really ignited us going the other way.”

Portland wraps up its exhibition schedule at Denver Thursday night but it’s anybody’s guess who will be on the floor for the Blazers. Stotts wouldn’t commit after the game about it, but he’s indicated he would not use his key players much – if at all.