Trail Blazer defense wasn't good enough to erase THAT offensive show

Trail Blazer defense wasn't good enough to erase THAT offensive show

MINNEAPOLIS – Defense has been a proud possession of the Portland Trail Blazers in this early part of the season.

But it wasn’t good enough Friday night to make up for a woeful offensive performance by the Trail Blazers that resulted in a wire-to-wire 112-96 Timberwolves’ win over Portland.

The Blazers’ starting lineup went 3-18 from three-point range. The team total was just 8-29. Put that together with 18 turnovers that resulted in 22 points.

This game was decided in the first half, when Portland had 13 of those turnovers for 18 points and allowed eight offensive rebounds.

That set a tone – and a 12-point deficit – that was impossible to overcome in the final two quarters.

“The first half was frustrating because of our turnovers and the offensive rebounds,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “We gave them too many opportunities. We dug the hole in the first half because of that.”

Al-Farouq Aminu, who did an outstanding defensive job on Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, offered some wisdom on the evening’s outcome.

“In these types of games we have to do better defensively,” he said. “I don’t want to be the kind of team just relying on our offense. We have to take it to another level on defense when we have trouble on offense.

“We have to make it a defensive battle. We have to play defensive games as well as offensive games.”

Well said.

Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range.

“We allowed them to have second or third opportunities,” Damian Lillard said.  “Our offense wasn’t going for us. You can’t hurt yourself by giving them extra opportunities but that’s what we did. The offensive rebounds and we turned the ball over.”

Lillard, who is still playing with a right knee that isn’t 100 percent, made only 1 for 7 from three-point range. Very often, players suffering from knee troubles have a problem with outside shooting, because getting adequate lift on their shot from deep is difficult off sore knees.

But Lillard wouldn’t even consider using that as an excuse.

“I am not going there,” he said sternly. “When I was shooting, it felt fine.”

Evan Turner, who went scoreless in 21 minutes, was asked to sum up the game.

“It was tough,” he said. “We didn’t get our pop going. They scored a lot on the second opportunities. Stuff just wasn’t going our way. They went on a great run and played a great game tonight.

“I don’t think it will be something that will stay like that. We’ll get back to getting stops and getting into transition. It will be all good.”

And the next chance to make it all good will be Sunday in Washington against the Wizards.

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Ranking the nightlife on the current road trip

Talkin' Blazers with Channing Frye: Ranking the nightlife on the current road trip

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be on the road in the NBA? Numerous days on airplanes, numerous nights in hotels, all the best food from around the country, and more!

Sure, it can be exhausting, but it’s not without its moments of relaxation and fun.

In the latest edition of the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast, Channing Frye ranks the nightlife on the Blazers' current six-game road trip.

San Antonio. Houston. New Orleans. Milwaukee. Cleveland. Chicago. Who wins this race?

Which city ranks as a negative on a scale of 1 to 10?

Which city is middle of the road, but easy to get in trouble in?

Which city ramps up the “creepy” factor?

We won’t spoil it, but you can take a listen for yourself in the latest episode of Talkin’ Blazers with Channing Frye. The discussion starts around the 19 minute mark. 

But don’t forget, Utah nightlife is undefeated. Nothing beats Salt Lake City on the road.

Back to Basics: CJ McCollum got it going in San Antonio

Back to Basics: CJ McCollum got it going in San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO – The Trail Blazers needed every bit of CJ McCollum’s 32 points on Saturday night along with some key stops down the stretch to defeat the Spurs.

Even though McCollum struggled in the final period, his scoring early helped boost the Blazers.

It also helped boost McCollum overall.

However, don’t think for a second that he didn’t feel confident that he would turn things around offensively.

“I knew I’m going to make shots eventually,” McCollum said. “I ain’t going to go 80 games and shoot 33 percent from three. That’s impossible based on how I work and the shots I get, and the type of player I am. It was just a matter of time – watch the film, breaking it down, get to my spots… I had some good looks that I didn’t make, I should’ve made about eight or nine of those threes, but you can’t make every one.”    

In Saturday’s win, McCollum went 13-of-25 from the field, including 6-of-11 from three-point range. Through the first three quarters McCollum shot 66.7 percent from the floor.

Blazer head coach Terry Stotts mentioned postgame how McCollum didn’t shoot well down the stretch, but added, “CJ had a terrific offensive night for the first three quarters… CJ probably got a little fatigued, but he had it going.”

On the season, McCollum is now shooting 40.7 percent overall and 31.3 percent from long distance.

It has been hard for Trail Blazer fans to not think about his 21.1% shooting night against the Nets or his 16.7% shooting night from three against the Clippers.

For McCollum though, he got back to the basics, and now his jumpers are falling.

“Just getting to my spots and raising up is the biggest thing. I’ve been getting the same shots all season, they’re just starting to go in,” McCollum said.

Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little enjoyed watching the McCollum show on Saturday. Little also noted that he is one of the biggest cheerleaders on the team.

Well, he didn’t use that word.

“If you look closely, I’m a gasser,” Little said. “So, I’m gassing him up all game, telling him to keep killing, keep going… It was really fun to watch.”

McCollum and the Blazers will look to keep the momentum going when they visit Houston on Monday.

 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast below:

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win over the Spurs

Morning After: Everything you may have missed from the Blazers win over the Spurs

Talk about a roller coaster of emotion, because that is what Blazer fans dealt with in San Antonio on Saturday night.

The Blazers, without Carmelo Anthony and in desperate need of a win, jumped on the Spurs early. Portland held the 41-23 lead at the end of the first, and the lead ballooned to 23 just minutes into the second quarter.

It looked like the type of game the Blazers would pull away and coast to victory. But the Spurs wouldn’t have it.

In the second half, Gregg Popovich earned two quick techs and was ejected, jolting a little life back into the Spurs. San Antonio went on a 32-13 run following the ejection and had a double-digit lead in the fourth and final quarter.

Just when it looked like the Spurs had flipped the script, Portland flipped it right back. The Blazers clawed back and ended the game on a 17-6 run to grab the lead, and the victory over the Spurs.

Final score in San Antonio: Blazers 121 – Spurs 116.

 

QUOTABLES:

Nassir Little on the key to winning:

I mean, down the stretch we got key stops, and I think honestly the biggest play of the game was when I tipped it off of Rudy (Gay) and got the extra possession and Rodney (Hood) got the and-one to put us up three.

CJ McCollum on importance of the victory:

Super important. We took a loss to Sacramento then another loss at home. We got another long road trip, four games under .500, it was huge for us to not only get a win on the road to begin the trip, but just to start the trip the right way. 

Coach Stotts on what the win means:

Well, to win it in the fourth quarter, you know our defense, we had held them to 20 (points) in the fourth quarter, that's big for us. I think defensively in the fourth quarter, that was really important for us. It's been our Achilles heel lately, so hopefully, that will reinforce them.

BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA:

 

LATEST NEWS AND ANALYSIS:

Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

Trail Blazers ordered up a side dose of energy in the form of Nassir Little 

How a duo of techs ALMOST doomed the Trail Blazers

Instant Analysis: Blazers rally late vs. Becky Hammon & Tim Duncan led Spurs to save the win 

Highlights: A wild game in San Antonio ends in Blazer win

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

That win in San Antonio Saturday night for the Trail Blazers?

It was engineered by the “other guys.”

With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – usually the ones carrying the heavy load in the fourth quarter – suffering through 1-7 efforts from the field in the final period, their teammates stepped up and forged a rally from a 15-point deficit with 8:32 left to a 121-116 win over the Spurs.

And it was the rest of the starting lineup that provided a good deal of the firepower. In the fourth quarter:

  • Rodney Hood hit both his field goal attempts and only free throw opportunity, including a huge three-point play with 1:21 to go that pushed his team into its first lead of the period.
  • Nassir Little had five rebounds in the quarter, some outstanding defense, big hustle plays and a resounding dunk.
  • And Hassan Whiteside was the biggest of them all, hitting four of his five shots from the floor, all three of his free throws, grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots – all in the final quarter. Whiteside finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and made perhaps the biggest play of the game with 37.1 seconds left and his team clinging to a one-point lead. He made a terrific block on DeMar DeRozan and then drew a loose-ball foul on DeRozan, who grabbed Whiteside’s shirt and pulled him down after the blocked shot.

Whiteside, a 57.5 percent career foul shooter, calmly made both free throws to push the lead to three.

“Hassan played a terrific fourth quarter at both ends,” Coach Terry Stotts said.  “He scored for us, he finished around the bucket, made his free throws. He was a big presence at the rim. He deterred a lot of shots. He really made a difference.”

Portland once led this game by 23 and had an 18-point lead after the first quarter. But the Spurs caught fire after Coach Gregg Popovich got booted out of the game at the 9:37 mark of the third period and climbed all the way into that 15-point lead.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Whiteside said. “The difference in this one is we communicated down the stretch. We got stops at the end. I was telling the guys, we worked too hard to let this one slip away. We were just locked in on defense. Everybody just said it’s winning time. We definitely need a sense of urgency, but it’s not like the season is over. Guys are getting better. I’m doing things I’ve never done before in my career. I’m passing the ball more. Making backdoor passes to Dame. It’s the system here.”

The Trail Blazers were not sharing the ball early in the fourth quarter and missing quick shots. The big problem was a lot of one-pass or no-pass possessions before Stotts seemed to call for some multiple-player weaves, just to get the ball moving. The result was an 11-0 run that got the Blazers back in the game.

“Defensively, the fourth quarter was really important for us,” Stotts said. “We came up with a lot of loose balls and got some steals. It was a great game, big for us.”

Portland plays Game 2 of this six-game junket Monday in Houston.

Trail Blazers ordered up a side dose of energy in the form of Nassir Little

Trail Blazers ordered up a side dose of energy in the form of Nassir Little

SAN ANTONIO— An energy difference maker? 

That is Trail Blazers rookie Nassir Little’s emerged role these days.

Portland fought back from being down by as many as 15 points in the second half to beat San Antonio 121-116. The Blazers tightened up on the defensive end and were able to come up with big plays down the stretch. 

And that’s where Little enters the conversation. 

“I think he made some amazing plays tonight," Rodney Hood said postgame. “Offensive rebounds… His energy was amazing and that’s what we needed. If we didn’t have that I don’t think we would’ve pulled this win out. I think he was one of the MVPs of tonight.”

Little finished with a plus/minus of a plus-15, the third best on the team.

The 19-year-old was in the game when it mattered in crunch time. He had an impact giving the Blazers extra possessions and bringing that energy.

Little threw down a monster dunk with 3:03 remaining in the game.

That dunk was mentioned on numerous occasions as a game changing moment with Little bringing that spark.

“He's got a lot of energy and a lot of athleticism, and he is using that. I think he’s been great for us in terms of his energy. He’s still learning and figuring out the game, but one thing he is going to do is play hard, and I think you can see that,” CJ McCollum added.

Little explained how the seas parted ways for him and he took it hard to the rim for the jam.

“CJ came off a pick-and-roll and I was coming behind rather than standing on the three-point line. I just cut because CJ was going off… I cut to the basket and then just went off. That’s one of my roles on the team -- is to bring energy, make those kinds of plays, and get my team extra possessions and keep us in the game,” Little said.

Just seconds before the dunk, Little was called for a shooting foul.

His teammates thought it was a clean block, but it cost the Blazers just one point with Derrick White making 1-of-2 from the line.

Little’s teammates loved his aggressive nature.    

“I think Nas got called on the foul, it wasn’t a foul but he really was the MVP. He made big plays tonight,” Hood said.

And so did Blazers head coach Terry Stotts.

“Nas got called for a foul on a block, but it was a great energy play,” Stotts said.

Little had played in just three games with 32 total minutes prior to starting the last two contests.

In his second straight start, Little is now averaging 6.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, and four personal fouls.

Little said he is “trying to do the small things” now that he has been given the opportunity.

As Damian Lillard put it postgame, Saturday’s game was a “super important one" for the Blazers to win.

And now, Little is showing off his super important athleticism and energy. Through the last two games Little has been a valuable piece to the puzzle. 

 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers podcast below:

How a duo of techs ALMOST doomed the Trail Blazers

How a duo of techs ALMOST doomed the Trail Blazers

How many times have you watched your favorite team in a mid-game slump, only to yell at the screen “coach really needs to get a tech right now! Pump some life back into this team!”?

Well, that is exactly what Spurs fans thought about their team on Saturday night, and it’s exactly what head coach Gregg Popovich did.

With 9:37 left in the third quarter and the Spurs trailing 77-64, Popovich had had enough. Upset with a call, he voiced his displeasure to the refs. Apparently, he said the magic words because he was handed two technical fouls on the spot and was promptly ejected.

Damian Lillard hit two technical free throws to makes it a 15-point game, but the Blazers' good feelings were ripped away shortly thereafter. 

Popovich walked out of the tunnel to the roar of the Spurs faithful showing their approval. There was energy in the stadium, and energy back in the Spurs lineup. With newfound life, the Spurs went on a 30-11 run to end the quarter and take the six-point lead into the fourth.

San Antonio only built on the lead from there, and it looked like it was going to be another big lead blown by the Blazers. But this is not how this one ended.

The Blazers showed poise, they showed character, and with their backs against the wall they were able to claw back and counter. Portland ended the game on a 17-6 run of its own, grabbing the lead back from the Spurs and the win with it.

The Blazers came out victorious, but they can still take a few notes from Pop and Co.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to shake it up. To do the unconventional in an attempt to ignite a fire. When Popovich earned the ejection, the Spurs regained their focus. Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon took the reigns and guided the ship and it almost worked.

However, the Blazers were ready for the challenge. Finishing strong has been hard for the Blazers early this season, but they were able to put the pieces together against the Spurs.

The lesson here is - next time you are watching the Blazers and think Stotts should take one for the team… you might get what you wished for. On Saturday, the Blazers saw just how effective that strategy can be.  

 

Instant Analysis: Blazers rally late vs. Becky Hammon & Tim Duncan led Spurs to save the win

Instant Analysis: Blazers rally late vs. Becky Hammon & Tim Duncan led Spurs to save the win

SAN ANTONIO – The Trail Blazers jumped out to a good start, like they have done in numerous games so far this season, but the difference on Saturday night vs. the Spurs was that the Blazers were able to come up with big plays in the finals seconds.

Of course, San Antonio made its run in the third quarter. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was hit with two technical fouls within seconds of each other in the third period.

With no Coach Pop, Becky Hammon became the first female acting head coach in the league since she is officially listed as San Antonio’s first assistant. Hammon and Tim Duncan worked together to handle timeouts. 

The move by Pop to get tossed looked like his way of lighting a fire under his team.

It worked until a loose ball foul on DeMar DeRozan meant two free throws for Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside sank them both and then came up with a big rebound in the final seconds.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 121, Spurs 116
Here are three quick takeaways from Saturday’s win:

1. Portland lets it fly from three

Multiple Blazers were getting in on the action from three-point range. Whether it was Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, or Mario Hezonja, there were plenty of made threes on Saturday night.

Rookie Nassir Little, who has been labeled as a guy that needs to work on his shot from deep, had one early from the corner. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave Little the starting nod at power forward for the second straight game.  Little also assisted on a couple of threes as well.

2.  Whiteside making his presence known

Trail Blazers center Hassan Whiteside went to work early on both ends. Whiteside forced LaMarcus Aldridge out of the paint. LA shot from three, and went to his fadeaway jumper more often than not as to not take it to the rim against Whiteside. On the other end of the ball, Whiteside started the game a perfect 4-for-4. He wasn’t as effective in the pick and roll in the second half.  

3.  CJ is back

After what he has called a slow start to the season offensively, CJ McCollum was cooking on Saturday night. He was efficient from three, and was able to score in a variety of ways. He looked like his old self, and the Blazers needed every bit of McCollum’s 32 points.

Up Next: Portland continues its six-game trip with game number two in Houston on Monday night. The Blazers and Rockets tip-off at 5:00pm PT.

Check back throughout tonight and tomorrow for more articles and videos from the player!

 

Listen to the latest Talkin' Blazers Podcast below:

How do Trail Blazers handle a six-game road trip? -- Certain tips and tricks

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USA Today Images

How do Trail Blazers handle a six-game road trip? -- Certain tips and tricks

SAN ANTONIO – Being a leader on and off the court, Damian Lillard makes sure to get his mind right before every game, especially on a grueling six-game trip.  

The Blazers tip-off their 11-day trip in San Antonio on Saturday night.

As Portland embarks on their first of two six-game trips this season, Lillard offered up his tips and tricks of handling a long road trip.

“I’m a big mental person,” Lillard said after Friday’s practice. “Just like what your mentality is, as in how you feed it, and usually on these type of trips I come in and I try not to think about it being a long trip and what teams we play and all of that stuff. I just come into it with like – I’m going to get some rest tonight, come out tomorrow and I’m going to have my mind sharp, have myself convinced that this is what I’m going to come into the game and do – I’m going to come in, I’m going to be aggressive, I’m going to come in and give the effort defensively.”

After Saturday’s game, the Blazers will visit Houston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and wrap things up next Tuesday in Chicago.

Portland is currently 3-4 on the road heading into Saturday’s contest.

Since the Trail Blazer All-Star point guard has been in the league, he has made sure to take the advice of not letting his mind wander.

“When we get to the next one, it’s like, alright, the first game is behind us. Let’s do the same thing over again. And, I always have been able to literally separate a six-game trip into one game every time, and it helps you not wear down when you don’t think about it all as one. It helps you mentally and physically stay sharp and strong,” Lillard said.

Rodney Hood mentioned how “a lot more team dinners together” will also be key in how the team is able to manage a long trip. 

For Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, he finds peace of mind in his daily walks.  

“When you’re old like me, walking is your exercise. San Antonio is a good walking city. In every NBA city I kind of have a path that I get my five-mile walk in,” Stotts said.

Coach Stotts also mentioned that life on the road means everyone needs to be better with managing their time.

Oh and what he brings with him in his suitcase is also a concern.

“Packing is the main issue,” Stotts said with a smile. “Making sure I’ve got three suits, six shirts, six ties, but as far as preparation -- it’s the NBA schedule you just get ready for the next game, some nights we’ll spend the night [after a game], some nights we won’t. A lot of it is just time management.”  

Now with the Blazers and Spurs slated to tip-off at 5:30p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App (and on Blazers Pass), the Blazers are looking to even up the season series at one apiece.

What sticks with Lillard the most when thinking about the last time these two met nearly three weeks ago?

“Having a 19-point lead and blowing it,” Lillard said.

“I think we got off to a great start, defended, the ball was moving, and obviously it’s a game of runs. Teams, especially on their home floor are going to have moments, they’re going to find it and have stretched in games… But to go from up 19 to down 19… We blew it, that’s what comes to mind,“ Lillard said.

Coach Stotts gave more insight to their matchup against the Spurs during his pregame interview.

He also mentioned that Carmelo Anthony is in New York right now. Melo will get his physical there, and Stotts hopes to have him join the team in New Orleans on Tuesday.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS PREGAME HERE:

Talkin’ Blazers Podcast: Should Carmelo Anthony start for Portland?

Talkin’ Blazers Podcast: Should Carmelo Anthony start for Portland?

Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen!

Former Trail Blazer and NBA Champ Channing Frye has some opinions about Carmelo Anthony reportedly set to join the Blazers.  

The Talkin’ Blazers Podcast duo of Frye and Dan Sheldon discussed freeing Melo and so much more on this week’s podcast.

Frye shared his thoughts on the Trail Blazers starting lineup and how the rotations should work once Anthony suits up for Portland:

 "I would start Nassir Little. Because I don't want Carmelo out there in the first unit because there's not enough shots for him to be productive... He's a stand still shooter... And defensively, he's not guarding four men in this league anymore. His biggest threat is his offensive firepower."

Not only could the second unit use Anthony’s shot making ability, but Blazers head coach Terry Stotts expressed after Little made his debut on Wednesday night vs. the Raptors that he “felt like it was worth taking a look at” Little in the starting lineup. And Stotts believes "it is easier for a young guy to be out there with the starters and blend in."

Melo doesn’t need to blend in. In fact, he’d probably prefer leading the second unit and feeling like he has the ultimate green light to get more shots up because the Blazer bench has struggled to be productive on the offensive end thus far this season.

You can listen to the full podcast below: