Trail Blazers trying different combinations but unlock win over San Antonio Spurs

Trail Blazers trying different combinations but unlock win over San Antonio Spurs

It was a game that saw the Trail Blazers testing as many different combinations as a rookie safecracker trying to bust into a bank vault.

In the end, the Blazers found a combination that worked and it opened up a 127-118 Portland win over the Spurs.

In the first quarter, it appeared that former Trail Blazer LaMarcus Aldridge was going to single-handedly carve up Portland. Aldridge hit five of eight shots and scored 13 points in a period that ended with San Antonio holding a 34-31 lead.

But then the Trail Blazers got a little rougher. Meyers Leonard, who was accustomed to battling Aldridge in practice years ago, came in for Portland and got a little bit rougher, a little more physical with Aldridge.

Jusuf Nurkic picked up on it and followed suit. Aldridge would make just 2 of his last 11 shots and score only four more points the rest of the night.

“LaMarcus is a monster down there,” Leonard said afterward. “But I felt we were kind of trying to feel out the game – gauge whether we were going to double off the baseline, guard him individually, things like that.

“My job was just to come in and try to disrupt the game. Be physical. In the second half, ‘Nurk’ did a great job on him. Nurk had a really good second half and LaMarcus plays a lot of minutes. LaMarcus looked to be a little worn down in the second half and that's when shots end up being a little short.

“I try to always come in and be physical and disrupt his rhythm a little bit. On the first post up he bobbled it – maybe he traveled and maybe he didn’t, I don’t know. I just try to make it difficult for him and in the second half, ‘Nurk' was very, very good.”

Nurkic knew he had a battle on his hands with Aldridge.

“We are big guys,” he said. “He’s playing his game and I tried to make it hard for him.”

The Trail Blazers built a 21-point lead with 7:45 to play in the third quarter but the Spurs sprung Rudy Gay loose at the three-point line and they had it tied at 88 with two minutes left in the quarter. But Portland dug in and got the advantage back up to 17 about halfway through the final quarter.

CJ McCollum had 30 points and Damian Lillard 24 for the Blazers. Nurkic totaled 22. Newcomer Rodney Hood made his debut with 14 points, hitting six of his seven shots.

“We started off the game going back and forth,” Lillard said. “Both teams scoring and then kind of got on top of that, had a good second quarter, started the third well, too, and then they had a run.

“A lot of mistakes – losing guys, letting them get open shots, they just had a really good stretch. That happens. It’s a game of runs. They had their run but I was proud of how we handled that.

“We pulled out a good win.”

McCollum agreed.

“We never panicked,” he said. “We know they’re a good team – well coached, and they’re going to execute and play hard.”

Portland Coach Terry Stotts admitted that with the addition of Hood, his job of putting together a rotation and in-game substitutions has gotten more difficult.

“Honestly,” he said, “it’s going to be a challenge for everybody. It’s going to be a challenge for me, it’s going to be a challenge for the team. I mean, there are going to be nights whether it’s Mo or Chief or Zach or Meyers or Jake or Evan or – you go down the list.

“We kind of had a rhythm to what we were doing and that rhythm has been broken and everybody is just going to have to be patient, figure it out and one night it’s going to be one thing and maybe the next night it won’t. That’s just the way it’s going to be until it changes.

Portland finished with a crew of Jake Layman, Hood, Nurkic, McCollum and Lillard -- and Stotts liked it.

"They were really good tonight," he said. "Jake was all over the place. For Jake, he goes one for five from three, but he certainly had a big impact on the game. That lineup gives us a lot of spacing, a lot of mobility and the question will always be, can we defend, matchup-wise. Can we defend the positions?

"It's going to take patience on everybody's part where different lineups may finish games."

Carmelo Anthony's Trail Blazers debut: Hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, and so much more

Carmelo Anthony's Trail Blazers debut: Hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, and so much more

NEW ORLEANS –Tuesday night had a different vibe in the air, even before future NBA Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony stepped foot in the arena.

Anthony wasn’t just making his debut for the Portland Trail Blazers, he was returning to the life he has always known. He was returning to the life he has always loved.

The excitement that exuded from him was also felt from peers, Pelicans fans, and those who work in and around the league.

It was a night of hugs, emotions, fouls, buckets, getting acquainted with each other, and so much more for a player who hasn’t played in the league since November 8 of last year.

And most importantly for Anthony, he felt great.

“It felt great to be back into the flow of the game, be back on the court, be back to where I think I belong at, just be out there with the guys again, more so the routine – the team bus, team lunch… That’s the routine that I’ve been used to for 17 years now… As far as the game goes, it felt great to get back out there,” Anthony said postgame.

Portland dropped its 10th game of the season after the Pelicans came up with a big third quarter to take a 115-104 victory.

Anthony started alongside backup point guard Anfernee Simons in place of an injured Damian Lillard, who was out due to back spasms.

It didn’t take long for Melo to get on the scoreboard Tuesday.

At the 10:50 mark in the first quarter, he drained his first three-point attempt.

The Blazers hung around with the Pelicans even though they were working through adding a player, who has yet to practice with them.

Not only has Melo not be given the chance to run up and down on the practice court with the Blazers, but he feels he hasn’t been able to fully digest this new chapter in his life.

Instead, it's go-time for Melo.

“Going from just getting that phone call to really solidifying that and making it happen, and to coming here and playing my first game, not really having a chance to kind of take it all in and think about it, and reflect on it, it’s – you gotta go, there’s no time for that,” Anthony added.

Clearly, Anthony has been playing in several pickup games and his workouts have not included NBA referees officiating his game. In his first game back, it was obvious Anthony is going to have to get used to having fouls called against him again.

He admitted the game has changed in his time away from the court. "Within a year the game has changed. The physicality of the game has changed, the way that they call the game, the way that the game is played changed.”

The 35-year-old finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with his four rebounds, one block and five personal fouls.

Trail Blazers starting small forward Rodney Hood believes Melo’s scoring output could’ve easily doubled if he had some calls go his way.

“It could easily turned to a 20-point night for him, if got a couple of those calls, get to the free throw line, and stuff like that, but he was real aggressive, real patient… He looks good, obviously he hasn’t played in awhile, and as he gets more acclimated he’ll get better and better,” Hood said postgame.

Not only did Anthony have zero practices with the Blazers under his belt, he also didn’t even get to run through shootaround with the team because the Blazers were coming off a game in Houston on Monday night.

Inserting a new player fifteen games into the season obviously presents its challenges.   

For Hood, it was all about feeling each other out.

“Sometimes it can be difficult, but you just feel it out. We turned the ball over a lot during that first few minutes, just trying to feel each other out, which it was expected, get some of the rust off. He’s going to be an integral part of our offense, so we’ve gotta continue to use him, get acclimated with him. Tonight was a great practice even though it was a game,” Hood said.

The Blazers and Melo will now try to get acclimated a little more and get set for Thursday’s tough test against the Bucks.

Young Blazers grew up watching, emulating Carmelo Anthony

Young Blazers grew up watching, emulating Carmelo Anthony

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Carmelo Anthony era of your Portland Trail Blazers. 

Anthony, a 10-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer, made his debut with the Blazers on Tuesday to a tremendous amount of fanfare. 

Anthony hadn't played in an NBA game since November 8 of last season when he was with the Houston Rockets. More than a year later, he finally returned to the court.  

The former Knick played 24 minutes, scoring 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, to go with four rebounds and a single block. Anthony showed signs of rust, but he also showed Blazers fans a glimpse of what he can offer to this team moving forward. 

Unfortunately for Portland, they were playing without Damian Lillard (back spasms), on the second night of a back-to-back, and the Pelicans spoiled Anthony's debut. What they didn't spoil was the feeling Anthony's teammates had from seeing him back on the court. 

Blazers rookie Nassir Little was just three years old when Anthony made his NBA debut. Growing up, Little called him an idol. On Tuesday, he called him a teammate. 

It's kinda crazy, man. I've been watching him my entire life. This past year I was like, 'If Melo ain't on a team how am I ever going to be on a team?'  I'm glad. It  was really cool to see him out there doing his thing. - Nassir Little

Rodney Hood has played with a few legends himself, namely LeBron James in Cleveland. But that didn't stop him from feeling the nostalgia. 

These are guys that I watched when I was a little kid, eleven o'clock at night, staying up and watching them play. I watched them on YouTube... I used to be in class watching his post-ups and how he played. It's just amazing to be out on the court with him - Rodney Hood

People on social media were ripping Anthony for looking rusty and shooting 4-14. Seriously? This man hasn't played in a year, joined the team Monday night, and has not even practiced with them. That's a lot to overcome. 

Said CJ McCollum after the game, "You have to be able to adjust on the fly. Like you said, he hasn't practiced with us. He walked through some plays by himself with the coaching staff this morning. He's trying to memorize five plays. We have 100 plays... it's a lot in the middle of a season." 

The Blazers will likely go through a light practice tomorrow and will have the normal game day shootaround before Thursday's game in Milwaukee. Chances are we will see a better Anthony against the Bucks. Even if we don't, it's still fun to jump on the nostalgia hype train. 

Nassir Little loses starting spot but finishes with his best game yet

Nassir Little loses starting spot but finishes with his best game yet

Something you don’t see very often… a young rookie loses his job to a veteran, a someday Hall of Fame player, and then goes out that night and outplays him.

Seriously outplays him.

And that was just about the only Trail Blazer highlight during a dismal 115-104 loss at New Orleans. The Trail Blazers were undressed in the second half at both ends of the court in the debut of Carmelo Anthony in a Portland uniform.

Anthony got off to a decent start but ran out of gas in the second half (1-7 from the field after halftime) while rookie Nassir Little – who had been starting -- went 5-6 from the field, including 2-2 from three-point range, had 11 rebounds, two blocked shots and 12 points.  Anthony scored 10 points but managed to hit only 4-14 from the field, had five fouls and five turnovers.

And really, you can’t blame Anthony, but taking a guy who hasn’t played in a year and throwing him into the starting lineup without as much as a practice with the team is probably not likely to be voted Idea of the Year.

“Nassir continues to play well,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “I’m glad to see him hit a couple of threes. He plays with a lot of energy.”

Little has been playing hard and instead of shrinking from the challenge of playing behind Anthony and his big-time credentials, or pouting about the situation, he responded with his best game of the season.

“I think I had a pretty good game,” Little said. “I had my first double-double. I made shots and rebounded the ball well, so it was pretty solid.”

His teammates were impressed.

“He’s just bringing energy,” Rodney Hood said. “He doesn’t care if he’s starting or not starting. He’s been a great boost to us since he’s been in the lineup.”

CJ McCollum said, “He was great. He’s kind of figuring out the NBA lifestyle, on and off the court. I think he’s finding his sweet spot between work and rest.”

The Trail Blazers led after one quarter and at the half, but were beaten by 10 in the third quarter and offered barely a hint of a fourth quarter rally, perhaps because they were without Damian Lillard (back spasms) and on the second of back-to-back games. Portland shot 48.7 percent in the first half and 39.1 in the second half.

Oddly, Portland had a terrific night from three-point range but wasted it. The Blazers were 16-29 (55.2 percent) from three but only 8-13 from the foul line while the Pelicans hit 20-24.

Instant Analysis: Carmelo Anthony still shaking off the rust as Blazers can’t shake Pelicans

Instant Analysis: Carmelo Anthony still shaking off the rust as Blazers can’t shake Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS – It was a night with national media in the building to catch Carmelo Anthony in New Orleans as he made his debut for the Trail Blazers against the Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Pelicans fans gave a nice applause to Melo as he was introduced. NBA fans all around the league were happy to see the future Hall of Famer back on the court. 

Anthony started alongside backup point guard Anfernee Simons in place of the injured Damian Lillard (back spasms).

It didn’t take long for Melo to get on the scoreboard.

At the 10:50 mark in the first quarter, he drained his first three-point attempt assisted by CJ McCollum.

The Blazers hung around with the Pelicans even though they were working through adding a player who has yet to practice with them.

With Melo being inserted into the starting lineup, rookie Nassir Little came off the bench, but Little played down the stretch due to Anthony’s minutes restriction.  
FINAL BOX SCORE: Pelicans 115, Trail Blazers 104

Here are three quick takeaways from Tuesday's loss:

1. Initial Melo observations

-- Is still looking to dominate one-on-one

-- Will take a few games to get back in game shape

-- Puts a little extra zing on his passes and sometimes the Blazers weren’t ready for it

-- Is going to need to get used to having NBA officials calling fouls on him again

-- Is still shaking off the rust (careless turnovers, fouls)

--A practice with the team will be helpful (several miscues on both ends)

Carmelo finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting to go along with his four rebounds, one block and five personal fouls.

2. McCollum taking it upon himself

CJ McCollum was very active on the defensive end against the Pelicans. He was getting deflections, getting in passing lanes, and sacrificing his body to take potential charges. With no Lillard, McCollum took it upon himself to shoulder a lot of the scoring load. McCollum was dialed in from three early on. He struggled to hit from deep in the final quarter though.

3. Future is bright in New Orleans

The Pelicans have a fun brand of basketball despite dealing with a number of injuries. 

On Tuesday night New Orleans was without Lonzo Ball (right adductor), Jahlil Okafor (left ankle), Derrick Favors (left lower back), Josh Hart (left ankle) and Zion Williamson (right knee).

But between Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick, and Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans have some athletic wings. Rookie Jaxon Hayes showed he has a lot potential at center with his length and mobility. 

Up Next: The Trail Blazers visit the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. Tip-off is slated for 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest.

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

 

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Carmelo Anthony to start in debut

Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Carmelo Anthony to start in debut

NEW ORLEANS – The national media in the Big Easy is in full force. Tuesday night in New Orleans marks Carmelo Anthony’s debut with the Trail Blazers.

Portland and New Orleans tip-off at 5:00 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Northwest.   

After reports surfaced on Twitter prior to the game, Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts confirmed that Anthony will be starting tonight. He also mentioned during his pregame media availability that he feels Melo will remain in the starting lineup for the foreseeable future. 

[RELATED]: How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

Even though the Blazers will be adding Melo into the mix tonight, Portland will be without Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers All-Star point guard is dealing with back spasms.

Coach Stotts said Lillard’s back was bothering him last night in Houston.

HEAR FROM COACH STOTTS RIGHT HERE:

How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

How Carmelo will change this road trip, starting in NOLA

The Trail Blazers are on the ropes. Reeling from a haymaker thrown by the Houston Rockets, Portland needs to find the power to get up from the mat before the ref counts to ten.

The Blazers are just 5-9 on the season and injuries have left them thin at power forward. Enter Carmelo Anthony.

The 10-time NBA All-Star officially became a member of the Trail Blazers Tuesday morning and hopes to make his Blazers debut and return to the NBA on Tuesday against the New Orleans Pelicans. A team in desperate need of a jolt has reached out to a future Hall of Famer with nothing to lose.

Anthony hasn’t played in over a year, but he is just what the Blazers need. Since Zach Collins went down with a dislocated shoulder, the Blazers have struggled to get any real production at the four.

Mario Hezonja has had some nice moments but hasn’t really put a full game together. Anthony Tolliver has struggled to find his shot and wasn’t signed to play 20 minutes a night. While rookie Nassir Little has shown some flashes, he has also made a lot of rookie mistakes. But, the biggest thing the aforementioned players are lacking is scoring punch. It may sounds cliché, but in the current NBA, getting stops isn’t as important as making sure the other team can’t stop you. You have got to score more points to win. With Anthony, the Blazers are showing offense is the focus.

Those who are anti-Melo may argue that he only averaged 13.4 points in 10 games with the Rockets last season, far off his career average of 24.0. Well, the Hezonja-Tolliver-Little trio has combined to average just 11.2 points per season. If Anthony is the same Anthony we saw last season, it doesn’t matter. It’s still what the Blazers need. One guy to fill the production of three. That’s an upgrade.

Anthony also gives the Blazers a shooting threat on the floor with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. He’s someone they can pass the ball to and have confidence he can hit the open shot. Just by being on the floor, defenses will have to remain honest. It’s a rare skill when you don’t have to score a bucket to make the defense adjust to you. Anthony can do just that.

The biggest questions with Anthony are how does he fit in the lineup and how does it affect the rotation, particularly with Nassir Little. Little has slotted in as the starting power forward spot in recent games and has played well. Well enough, at least, to remain the starter, for now. He’s good on the glass, decent on defense, and has shown some explosion on the offensive end. He has earned a spot in Stotts’ rotation with or without Anthony.

How Anthony’s role impacts Little remains to be seen, but given how Stotts has used the rookie lately, you would have to assume those two will be 1-2 on the power forward depth chart, with Hezonja and Tolliver getting spot minutes.

All of this should culminate in Anthony sparking the Blazers. Portland has four games remaining on this road trip, with Milwaukee being the only team that has a winning record. If Anthony shows up, shows out, and fits like a glove, then this could be a stretch of games that change the season. Or, at least, a stretch of games that get the ship back on course.

With Melo, fans should expect to go 3-1 and return home next week with a chance to return to .500 on the season. Who do they play when they get back to Moda? The Oklahoma City Thunder – the last team Anthony played a full season for.

This has the potential to be the start of a storybook, and Melo has a chance to be the story’s hero.

Trail Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Trail Blazers unveil new city edition uniforms

Get your fire emojis ready! On Tuesday morning, the Blazers unveiled their new city edition uniforms. A blast from the past collides with accents of the present to create the perfect new Trail Blazers look. 

According to the Trail Blazers, "Portland's newest uniform combines the team's first two uniforms (70-71 through 74-75) along with some modern design accents and vintage coloring."

The uniform features Rip City across the chest and a classic black and red piping through the uniform. The red is lighter than the modern red, while the white is a slight off-white to help create that vintage look. 

Fans on social media loved the new combo:

[VIEW THE ENTIRE PHOTO GALLERY HERE]

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

Damian Lillard has back spasms: Isn't it time to consider load management?

If ever it was no surprise that somebody was going to have to sit out a game because of back spasms, it’s tonight with Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers.

The man has been carrying this team on his back all season, leading the league in minutes – and those were some pretty stressful, high-usuage-rate minutes, at that. No wonder Damian Lillard has back spasms.

You don’t believe in load management? Well, you probably don’t believe in flu shots, either, right?

It’s the same thing. You don’t have the flu when you get that shot -- you get the shot to keep you from having the flu. Same with load management. You are healthy enough to play in a game, but rather than stress your body another night, you rest. You rest to prevent injuries – which is easier than trying to treat the injury once you get it. And you stave off fatigue that comes from piling game on top of game.

The Trail Blazers are in the midst of a six-game road trip that offers too much travel, too many games and are tonight playing the second of back-to-back games. Lillard should probably sit this game out even if his back wasn’t hurting.

More and more, people are coming to realize that the density of the schedule combined with a lack of sleep that occurs because of the crazy cross-time-zone travel leads to fatigue. And fatigue leads to injuries.

The Trail Blazers, for whatever reasons, have refused to rest healthy players over the years. Part of this, I’m sure, is because the players themselves wish to play. And the team wants to win every possible game in order to make the playoffs. But that shouldn’t matter. The team needs to step up and protect players from themselves. Particularly a player such as Lillard, who knows how important he is to his squad.

Will resting players cause losses? Yes, of course. Not all the time, but sometimes. But would you rather lose a player for three months because of a severe injury, or just lose a game or two here or there?

And when I think back about the troubles this team has had keeping franchise players healthy, I believe more than ever that load management could have been an answer.

Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, Brandon Roy – would any of them have lasted a little longer with a lighter load? Maybe sitting out a game here and there or playing with a limit on minutes? I think that’s possible.

Obviously, there is no way to prove any of those players – or Lillard – would have profited from load management, but I’d certainly favor giving it a try.

And at some point, the league is going to have to explore shortening the schedule. This is too much and players are paying a price for it.

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

Damian Lillard OUT vs Pelicans

The Blazers had an unlikely name pop up on today's injury report: Damian Lillard.

Per Trail Blazers PR, Damian Lillard is dealing with back spasms and is out for tonight's matchup against the Pelicans. 

Lillard played 35 minutes in last night's loss to the Rockets, scoring just 13 points. For the season Lillard is averaging 28.6 points, 7.1 assists, and 4.,9 rebounds -  all career highs. 

With Lillard out, the Blazers will likely lean on second-year guard Anfernee Simons to shoulder the load at point guard. Simons has been a key bench contributor this season, averaging 11.3 points and 1.3 assists per game. 

Tonight's game also marks the potential debut of newly signed forward Carmelo Anthony. Without Lillard on the court, this could be a perfect opportunity for Anthony to debut in a big way. The Blazers will certainly need his scoring touch. 

The Blazers tipoff against the Pelicans at 5:00pm on NBC Sports Northwest and the NBC Sports My Teams App.