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.

CJ McCollum and all of Rip City react AGAIN to Trail Blazers Game 7 win over Nuggets

CJ McCollum and all of Rip City react AGAIN to Trail Blazers Game 7 win over Nuggets

All the emotions resurfaced for this classic game.

Game 7 of last year’s playoffs between the Trail Blazers and Nuggets had a little bit of everything!

And as all the postseason feelings came rushing back, it was fun to relive this comeback win with Rip City Faithful. 

Heading into the final game of the series, here is how things played out:

Game 1 Mon. April 29 DENVER 121, Portland 113

Game 2 Wed. May 1 Portland 97, DENVER 90

Game 3 Fri. May 3 PORTLAND 140, Denver 137 (4OT)

Game 4 Sun. May 5 Denver 116, PORTLAND 112

Game 5 Tue. May 7 DENVER 124, Portland 98

Game 6 Thurs. May 9 PORTLAND 119, Denver 108

The win in Denver was in big thanks to CJ McCollum, who posted 37 points and nine rebounds to lead the Trail Blazers to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 19 years.

McCollum got it done on both ends too.

We can’t forget about that chase-down swat!

The Trail Blazers shooting guard’s crucial chase-down block on Jamal Murray in crunch time helped turn the tide as the Blazers beat the Nuggets 100-96.

McCollum hit the Blazers first three pointer of the game about four minutes into the second quarter. Portland started the game 0-for-10 from deep.

He was the only Blazer scoring at ease early on.

During tonight's replay of the game, The Trail Blazers shooting guard was live-tweeting the second half on the Trail Blazers’ Twitter, because as CJ put it: “The first half was a snoozefest.”

McCollum’s second half play-by-play was as fantastic as his play in Game 7.

The pull-up jumper to put the Blazers up three with just under 12 seconds remaining in the game was just what McCollum wanted – he got to his spot.

AND... McCollum was out there spitting the truth on Twitter as well:

Plus, he broke the news that he and his fiancée Elise are officially adopting their puppy that they have been fostering for the last week. 

It’s really no surprise this series went to seven games. Denver won the regular season series against Portland in 2018-19, 3-1. All four games were decided by single digits.

And even though it was the CJ McCollum takeover game, Evan Turner was also clutch down the stretch.  ET came up big from the free throw line in the final seconds, while scoring 10 of his 14 points for the game in the fourth quarter.

Turner was fresh after not playing that much in the series, but was given extra minutes after Rodney Hood went out with a knee injury.  

 

ET had scored just four points in the first six games of the series before his clutch Game 7 performance.

What a night it was! To be heading to the team’s first WCF appearance in 19 years was a pretty overwhelming feeling for all of Portland, but especially for the leader of Rip City, Damian Lillard.

There really were so many great memories from that night. And Meyers Leonard even reminded us what the celebration was like in the locker room.

It was also a nice chance to trash talk Denver Nuggets fans once again:

Now, here’s to hoping the NBA resumes and the Trail Blazers are given the chance to get back to the playoffs.

Damian Lillard and his mom bring us the content we need right now

Damian Lillard and his mom bring us the content we need right now

Technology is a wonderful thing.

It allows us to be entertained and stay connected on the daily, but has never been as useful as it has in the past few weeks. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced millions of people into self-isolation and social distancing. No big get-togethers. No big family parties.

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, he's just like the rest of us - stuck in his house going stir crazy.

And just like us, he turned to technology to entertain himself. In doing so, he entertained all of us.

Lillard was on Instagram Live having a chat with his mom. 

Lillard, at the request of his mom, played some E-40 and the two started an impromptu karaoke session.

It was wholesome, sweet, and funny all wrapped into one. 

In these tough times, we have to find joy wherever we can. 

On Monday, Lillard and his mom made it easy for all of us. 

Hear it all in the video above, and be sure to put it on repeat. 

FULL FEATURE: Jusuf Nurkic-- Not done yet

FULL FEATURE: Jusuf Nurkic-- Not done yet

Now that we are nearly three weeks in of the NBA suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Trail Blazers fans have been eager to find out how their favorite Blazer players are doing.

Our Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes caught up with Jusuf Nurkic to find that out and get his thoughts on many of the current happenings in the NBA world.

For one, Nurkic is in favor of play-in tournament for the playoffs should the NBA resume play.

The Trail Blazers center also discussed why his targeted date of Mar. 15 against the Houston Rockets was a “perfect” game for him to make his debut.  

And, we didn’t let Nurkic get off the hook that easy. We finally found out if he knew that referee Tyler Ford had kicked his leg while he was laying on the baseline immediately after the gruesome injury.

Nurk says he"can't get over" that incident.

Plus, the Bosnian Beast let’s us know what he has been up to while self-isolating, which he says he is now an expert at since he has pretty much been a homebody for the past year rehabbing his leg.

Oh and, Nurk is like all of us – “Thank god for Netflix.”

Check out the entire Jusuf Nurkic interview above. 

The NBA sorted into Hogwarts Houses: CJ McCollum is a Hufflepuff?

The NBA sorted into Hogwarts Houses: CJ McCollum is a Hufflepuff?

Quidditch isn’t the only sport in the wizarding world of Harry Potter anymore.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Harry Potter franchise that has forever changed the reality we live in today, Hogwarts is the school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The school is divided into four houses: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin.

Upon arrival for your first year at Hogwarts, students are placed into one of the four houses based upon character and personality traits. 

Gryffindor: brave and daring

Ravenclaw: wisdom and willingness to learn new things

Hufflepuff: described as loyal, just, hardworking and nice

Slytherin: sly, cunning and would do anything to achieve their own goals

Ever wonder which house your favorite NBA player would be sorted into? Look no further.

This post on Reddit sorts the NBA into their houses.

It includes the founder of the house (formally Godric Gryffindor; Rowena Ravenclaw; Helga Hufflepuff; and Salazar Slytherin) but now listed as NBA greats Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan, as well as a house ghost (Nearly Headless Nick, Gryffindor; Helena Ravenclaw, Ravenclaw; Fat Friar, Hufflepuff; and the Bloody Baron, Slytherin) now listed as more recently retired NBA veterans.

The editor's notes are from our producer Ashley Young.

Enjoy.

GRYFFINDOR

Founder: Bill Russell

House Ghost: Kevin Garnett

Coach: Doc Rivers

Starting five: Russell Westbrook (PG), Damian Lillard (SG), Jayson Tatum (SF), LeBron James (PF), and Bam Adebayo (C).

Bench: Kyle Lowry, Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo, Jrue Holiday, Draymond Green, Zion Williamson.

Editors Note: Okay I’m sorry, but no way Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green are in Gryffindor.

RAVENCLAW

Founder: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

House Ghost: Tim Duncan

Coach: Erik Spoelstra

Starting five: Chris Paul (PG), Steph Curry (SG), Luka Doncic (SF), Kawhi Leonard (PF), Giannis Antetokounmpo (C).

Bench: Ben Simmons, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Editor’s note: Couldn’t agree more with Duncan being the house ghost of Ravenclaw.

HUFFLEPUFF

Founder: Wilt Chamberlain

House Ghost: Shaq

Coach: Brett Brown

Starting five: Kemba Walker (PG), Klay Thompson (SG), Khris Middleton (SF), Anthony Davis (PF), Nikola Jokic (C).

Bench: Bradley Beal, Karl Anthony-Towns, D’Angelo Russell, Devin Booker, Rudy Gobert, Kevin Love, CJ McCollum.

Editor’s note: Completely agree with Jokic being in Hufflepuff although he does have some Slytherin tendencies; Kevin Love I would argue being a Ravenclaw.

SLYTHERIN

Founder: Michael Jordan

House Ghost: Kobe Bryant (Full disclosure: I worried it wasn't in good taste to have Kobe here, for obvious reasons. However, given his public admiration for the HP Universe and just saying in January that he took a house quiz and was sorted into Slytherin, it felt right to include him.)

Coach: Mike D’Antoni

Starting five: Kyrie Irving (PG), James Harden (SG), Jimmy Butler (SF), Kevin Durant (PF), Joel Embiid (C).

Bench: Trae Young, Goran Dragic, Lou Williams, Blake Griffin, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kristaps Porzingis, Zach LaVine.

Editor’s note: Couldn’t agree more with this starting five.

MUGGLES (aka non-magic folk)

Paul George and Andrew Wiggins.

Editor’s note: OMG.

Click the Reddit link for full sorting descriptions. 

Anfernee Simons wants multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

Anfernee Simons wants multiplayer in Modern Warfare 2 Remastered

With the NBA season suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, many NBA players have a lot of newfound free time on their hands.

Including Trail Blazers point guard Anfernee Simons who has been streaming on Twitch games such as Madden and the newly released Call of Duty: Warzone. He's even streamed with Blazers Outsiders host Danny Marang lately.

Given Ant's age of 20, it checks out he'd be attracted to playing Call of Duty since he grew up in the golden age of Call of Duty between Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare up until Call of Duty Black Ops II during his late elementary to high school years.

The installment from that time that's usually seen in the highest regard is Activision's sequel to Modern Warfare; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which broke the record as the biggest entertainment launch in history at the time. In less than three months, the game had generated over a billion dollars in revenue and that doesn't include microtransactions. 

Also, personally, as I'm just a few years older than Simons, some of my fondest memories growing up was playing Modern Warfare 2 with my best friends online all night, so when a remaster of the game got leaked last month, I was hyped. The campaign was fun, but what made the game iconic was the most fun multiplayer the series has ever produced. 

Well, Monday afternoon, the Playstation Store in Germany accidentally leaked the reveal trailer for a remastered version of Modern Warfare 2 with one catch: it's only the campaign which disappointed many, including Simons.

How u gonna drop just the campaign? Y’all playing with my emotions

He wasn't alone in his disappointment.

Someone even started a petition.

However, it makes sense for the game to not offer multiplayer since Call of Duty: Warzone, a multiplayer-only experience, came out earlier this month of March 10 to great success. Activision doesn't want to split the player base by offering two competing titles within the same franchise. 

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Campaign Remastered will launch one day after the leak of the trailer on March 31, 2020. 

The real reason Jusuf Nurkic chose the Houston Rockets as his return game

The real reason Jusuf Nurkic chose the Houston Rockets as his return game

Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic was all set to make his triumphant return on Sunday, Mar. 15 against the Houston Rockets.

It was a home game for the Blazers.

An early matinee game on national television.

It was 10 days away from Nurk’s one-year mark of his leg injury.

And to the Bosnian Beast, it was a “perfect” game to make his debut for the 2019-20 season.

In choosing that day to return, it was a collective effort by Nurkic’s camp along with the entire Trail Blazers organization.

In a recent interview with NBC Sports Northwest’s Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes, Nurk detailed what went into the decision making of that game.

“It was basically, I was taking my rehab and try [to] really focus on day-by-day. When I felt like I was like with the last exam I have with the doctors, and my agents and, of course, with the team and organization, we kind of looked to the dates and it was like, ‘are you okay with this?’ And I was like, ‘how about this?’ So, we figured out that date. It was like perfect,” Nurkic said.

That ‘perfect’ day was a special one because of the time of tip-off as well.

Bosnia-Herzegovina is 9 hours ahead of Portland, OR; thus, the timing of a noon tip-off in Rip City also worked out great for his family and friends back home.

It was an earlier game Sunday, and of course, I need to look [out] for my people back home. It was perfect for them too. It was like 8:30pm back home. So, everybody was pretty much set up and I thought it was a really good game because it was [a] home game and I really wanted to play [at] home first. -- Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic told our Dwight Jaynes   

Days leading up to Nurkic’s impending return, the rumors began swirling that the NBA was looking at the possibility of playing games with no fans in attendance. Of course, that all changed quickly when Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made the decision to suspend play.

[RELATED]: Jusuf Nurkic says he "can't get over" referee kicking him after injury

But, days before the NBA hiatus, Nurkic was hopeful that he would be able to play in his first game back while fans cheered him on -- that was a big concern of his at the time.

Having Trail Blazers fans greet him with a warm welcome back at Moda Center was weighing on his mind and rightfully so -- he had been waiting for this moment for nearly a year.

Of course, there was the rumors about how there was no fans, start of the coronavirus more and I was just – ‘let me play one game with the fans, then the rest I would figure out.’ -- Trail Blazers big man Jusuf Nurkic

More than anything though that Mar. 15 date circled on Nurk and everyone’s calendar, was the day that the Bosnian Beast thought fit his timetable of checking off his last few rehab benchmarks before getting back out on the floor.

“I think it was really good timing and I still believe we was on the right track to make [the] playoffs.”

Now, as the anticipation of Nurk’s return, as well as the NBA’s return grows, the 7-footer says he is in favor of a play-in tournament for the playoffs if the NBA decides to go that route.

Memories from the Trail Blazers 2019 Game 7 win over Denver

Memories from the Trail Blazers 2019 Game 7 win over Denver

You aren’t supposed to win a Game 7 on the road in the NBA playoffs.

But that’s what the Trail Blazers did last season and you will have a chance to relive that terrific Portland comeback triumph over the Denver Nuggets that ended with the visitors posting a 100-96 win that vaulted them into the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors. It’s another in the series of Trail Blazers classic games and it will be aired Monday at 6 p.m. on NBS Sports Northwest.

This featured a sensational performance by CJ McCollum, not only on defense but with a spectacular defensive play late in the game.

McCollum made 17 of his 29 shots, had nine rebounds and hit big shots all game. But it was his chasedown block of a Jamal Murray breakaway layup with 4:44 left that will be the lasting image of this game.

‘’He put it right there for me and I went and got it `Bron style,” said McCollum, referring to the famous LeBron James block of Andre Iguodala in the NBA Finals. “Shout out to my guy `Bron. It was a mini-version of `Bron’s block on Iggy some years ago. Definitely didn’t get up as high but it was a cool play. I might get a picture of that.‘’ 

The Trail Blazers trailed 39-22 in the first half but closed to within a point as the fourth quarter began.

Then, with his team leading by just a point and 12.4 seconds to play, McCollum nailed a pull-up jumper over Torrey Craig that hiked the Portland lead to 98-95. Nuggets Coach Mike Malone second-guessed himself on that play for not double-teaming McCollum.

“I was saying after, we should have sent someone at him,” Malone said “He’s having a great game and make somebody else make a play or make a shot.‘’

Evan Turner, who had scored just four points in the first six games of the series, added 14 -- 10 of them in the fourth quarter -- for the Blazers.

Jusuf Nurkic in favor of play-in tournament should NBA resume play

Jusuf Nurkic in favor of play-in tournament should NBA resume play

There is all sorts of speculation about what it would look like if and when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes.

A lot of people are talking about scenarios without finishing the regular season -- just taking the current standings as they are and sending those teams directly to the playoffs. That, of course, would leave out the Trail Blazers.

But there is also talk of a play-in tournament in the Western Conference, which I think Portland fans would like. There are several ways to do that but one way would be to take the teams in the No, 8-12 spots -- Memphis, which is No. 8 now, and then New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio and Sacramento -- and run some sort of sudden-death elimination bracket. The easiest way would be to give Memphis a bye to the championship game, since it’s in the eighth spot now, and then match up the other four in a bracket with the survivor meeting the Grizzlies for the final playoff berth.

It would create interest, with the one-and-done format, and give all teams still in the running for that spot a chance to make it. In the Eastern Conference, the top eight teams are much more delineated and likely would not need such a play-in tourney.

I’ve also heard some people pushing for all 30 teams to meet at one location -- Las Vegas being the most obvious -- and playing all day in two gyms, in a summer-league format. You could get multiple games played faster without travel, you probably aren’t going to be able to have fans at the game, anyway, and at least theoretically, you could keep players sequestered, away from COVID-19.

This could work for finishing the regular season and/or the playoffs. I like it, actually, because it seems to fill the need of getting a lot of games played in a short amount of time without the travel normally needed to do so.

These are all scenarios worth exploring and you can bet the league is mulling these and many other possibilities. And that, of course, is if the season CAN be finished.

Brandon Roy's No. 7 deserves to be retired by the Trail Blazers

Brandon Roy's No. 7 deserves to be retired by the Trail Blazers

To retire a number or not to retire a number. That is the question. 

And that the debate that Trail Blazers fans have widely debated in relationship to No. 7. 

The No. 7 was last worn by Brandon Roy in 2011 and since that time the number has been untouchable. 

Mo Williams chose to wear No.7 in 2013, but days later changed to No.25. 

In 2019, the Blazers traded Caleb Swanigan to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for Skal Labissiere. Upon arriving in Portland, Labissiere reportedly asked if he could wear No. 7, but was told by the team that it wasn't available. 

Not even future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony, famous for wearing No. 7 in New York, couldn't get his hands on it. When Anthony was signed he was given a list of available numbers, and No.7 wasn't on it. He instead chose 00.

The odd part about all of this is that the Blazers have never officially retired No. 7. There is no Roy banner in the rafters at Moda, but should there be?

On Sunday night, NBC Sports Northwest aired another Trail Blazers Classic Game, this time featuring Roy's heroic performance against the Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs. 

On that night, Roy went off for 24 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter to help the Blazers erase a 23-point deficit and pick up the win.

Two games later, Roy played his last game with the Blazers.  

There is little doubt that Roy is a Trail Blazers legend, but anytime you see his highlights or talk about his greatness the inevitable question gets asked: Should the Blazers retire No. 7?

The fact of the matter is, Roy is one of the greatest players to wear the red and black. While he never won a championship with the Blazers, or took them deep in the playoffs for that matter, he did something far greater given the time in history - He rescued Portland from the Jail Blazers era. 

The year prior to Roy's arrival the Blazers finished with a 21-61 record, tied for their worst record since the 1972-73 season, and their second-worst season in franchise history.

Players like Sebastian Telfair, Darius Miles, Ruben Patterson, and Zach Randolph continued to have issues on and off the court, and attendance was at an all-time low. 

Then Roy came along. He took over as a leader and face of the franchise from day one. He won NBA Rookie of the Year, turned the league on its head, and ushered in a new era. 

By his third season, all remnants of the Jail Blazers were gone, and after hitting the lowest of lows prior to his arrival the Blazers were now riding high. Roy led the team to a 54-28 record in 2008-2009, tied for the fifth-best record in team history. In 2009-2010 the Blazers once again won 50 games, making it just the third time in franchise history Portland had back-to-back 50 win seasons.

Unfortunately, the Blazers lost in the first round of the playoffs in both of those seasons, but Roy's status as the franchise savior was already set in stone. He could do no wrong.

The quick rise of Roy and the Blazers came to a screeching halt in 2011 when Roy's knee problems forced him to retire. His time in Rip City was short, but his impact will last a lifetime. 

Roy will forever be known as the man that helped save the franchise. The player that helped usher in a new era of Blazes basketball. A man the helped a city get over the Jail Blazers era. 

That is why No. 7 is untouchable. 

The Blazers know it. That's why they wouldn't give it to Labissiere or Anthony, and won't give it to anyone else coming through the doors in the future. 

There is something so special about the No.7. Should the Blazers retire it and hang Roy's name in the rafters where it belongs? 

Absolutely. 

No. 7 was Roy's then. It's Roy's now. It's Roy's forever.