Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to trade, Blazers bet on future with Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent

Unable to make a trade, Neil Olshey on Thursday decided the Trail Blazers’ best path was to gamble.

So the Blazers’ president of basketball operations took a chance in the first round, drafting guard Anfernee Simons, who earlier this month turned 19. Simons bypassed college last season and trained at the renowned IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

For Blazers’ fans who were hoping for a trade to land a proven veteran, or at least prospect who has a proven track record, the selection of Simons could be viewed as risky.

And Olshey wouldn’t dispute that.

“But it’s not our job to play it safe,’’ Olshey said. “Our job is to go get the guy who has the talent, that if he pans out, you’re not going to get as a free agent, and that nobody is going to trade him to you. That’s what we are trying to find.’’

Olshey thinks he might have that in Simons, a 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard who is slight of build but heavy in potential.

“He’s really gifted,’’ Olshey said. “We felt like he was the most talented guy (left) on the board. He has a really bright future … When the physical growth catches up to his natural, God-given ability, he’s going to be a really good player.’’

Later, in the second round, the Blazers traded with Sacramento to acquire Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th overall pick. Trent, another 19-year-old who just finished his freshman season at Duke, is a wing who is expected to have more of a chance to play next season.

“We are all looking for shooting and this is a guy we think can step in right away and fill a void,’’ Olshey said. “How much or how little is up to (coach) Terry (Stotts). But I don’t think we are going to need to be as patient with Gary.’’

Since the Blazers were swept in the playoffs, Olshey has been transparent about seeking veterans to add to one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. And on Thursday, he directly said the Blazers are looking for wings. 

Ideally, Olshey said he would have liked to execute a trade using the team’s $12.9 traded-player-exception from last July’s move of Allen Crabbe, but the rest of the league was more focused on the draft, and not player movement.  

“We were trying to look for teams where trading 24 could get us an impact rotation guy into the trade exception,’’ Olshey said. “But tonight wasn’t about existing players (for other teams); it was about the draft. 

“We were aggressive leading up to the draft – but we know it was to be a specific fit, a specific guy in terms of skill set. And a guy we believe could make an impact,’’ Olshey said. “Tonight wasn’t the night to do that.’’

So, the Blazers looked ahead, hoping that a player most had targeted in the second round because of his youth and inexperience on the big stage, will one day develop into a star.

“At that point in the draft, we are looking for the guy with the highest ceiling that we could possibly find,’’ Olshey said. “He’s really gifted.’’

Olshey said Simons will likely be an off-the-ball guard, but could someday develop into a point. The Blazers have established guards in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, but have question marks behind them, as Shabazz Napier and Pat Connaughton are free agents and Wade Baldwin is working on a partially guaranteed contract. 

“But this was not a need pick, this was a pick as far as who had the highest ceiling,’’ Olshey said. “There are things he can do that can’t be replicated by a lot of guys in this draft. He just needs to get physically strong enough to do it against NBA competition and do it more consistently.’’

Trent, meanwhile, is more ready and Olshey said he hopes for him to contribute at some level next season. Trent was a McDonald’s All-American and has played for various Team USA teams.

“He’s been on track for this his whole life,’’ Olshey said.

Trent is 6-foot-6 and Olshey said he envisions him as a something between a shooting guard and small forward – needing to improve his quickness to guard elite shooting guards and “having to play up” to guard a small forward.

Many of the mock drafts had Trent being a mid-to-late first round pick. That he lasted to the 37th pick will stick with him.

“Chip on my shoulder? It’s more than that,’’ Trent said. “Going in the second round … I believe I was a first rounder. I’m going to have to come in and work and prove I belong, prove I can stay in this league and prove that I’m better than a second round pick. I’m up for that challenge.’’

Trent’s father played for the Blazers from 1995-1998, a coincidence not lost on the younger Trent.

“It’s crazy. That can’t be nothing but God’s work,’’ Trent said. “To put me in the same place that my dad played – it’s a surreal feeling. It’s unexplainable. Crazy to think about.’’ 

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

Damian Lillard, Carmelo Anthony & Jusuf Nurkic combine for perfect playoff recipe

The NBA’s restart has seen its fair share of close games and so have Portland Trail Blazers fans.

Sunday’s game once again came down to the final seconds, but this time it was against the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers

However, in this one, the Blazers made stops when they needed to, and they made clutch free throws.

For future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony, that ‘rush’ of feeling needed by a team late in games is “absolutely” still a feeling that comes over the 36-year-old.

Absolutely. That doesn’t go anywhere, when you put the work in and you believe that you should be out there at those moments and your comfortable in those moments, those are just normal moments for myself, being comfortable in those situations and those moments down the stretch, being able to have your teammates rely on you to make plays, they expect that... They expect me to make the plays that I make, make the shots that I make, and they have the confidence in me to do those things. -- Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony    

Those 'moments down the stretch' from Melo were key on Sunday. 

Thanks to Melo’s corner three with 4:08 to go along with his big-time defensive rebounds late in the game, and his final defensive stop on Josh Richardson, Anthony showed his veteran leadership and mentality to never quit was just what the Blazers needed following Saturday’s loss.

The final 10.2 seconds of Sunday’s 124-121 win over Philadelphia were intense to say the least.   

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts gave credit to the Sixers role players postgame, saying that Josh Richardson “was outstanding.”

Coach Stotts also talked at length about how much Damian Lillard’s 'on a mission' mentality and his ability to deal with last-second pressure meant to the Blazers.

Lillard finished with 51 points and seven assists in the victory.

Even though the Blazers haven’t been getting many stops on the defensive end throughout the seeding games, Anthony came up with a huge stop in the final play of the game.

With the Blazers up 124-121, the Sixers had 10.2 seconds to tie up the game after taking a timeout, but, Josh Richardson missed a 25-foot three-pointer with Melo's swarming defense.

“I thought everybody was locked in. [Melo] was aggressive on Richardson, made it difficult for him, and made him take a tough shot," Stotts said. "I thought everybody was locked in. It wasn’t pretty, but they didn’t score."

Coach Stotts had plenty more to say about his wily veteran.

His experience – his communication – he’s been in these moments and he has good ideas and good suggestions for players and coaches, but he’s been at it a long time… I think having him in these moments, he's shown here in the bubble how important he is in those moments. -- Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts

Melo’s fourth-quarter performance at both ends, along with him moving up to No. 15 on the all-time scoring list, earned him the game ball.  

Anthony finished with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting, including 2-of-4 from deep. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

Melo did come up limping after that stop on Richardson, but, not to worry, the 17-year veteran said he’s all good after the win.

“I’m bumped knees with Richardson. But, I’ll be alright,” Melo said.

Anthony and Lillard can't get all the credit for the Blazers’ success down the stretch (but most of the credit).

Let’s go back to the 10.2 second mark of the fourth.

Jusuf Nurkic calmly stepped up and hit two free throws with 10.2 seconds remaining to put the Blazers up 124-121 after the Sixers were forced to foul Nurk near mid-court with time winding down.

“Nurk came through in the clutch with two key free throws,” Stotts said.

Nurkic also played through some aches and pains as well as foul trouble.

The Trail Blazers 7-footer most likely should've sat out of Sunday's game because, of course, most players who come back from a big injury do not play in both games of a back-to-back.

But, Nurk played because he knew his team needed him with Hassan Whiteside out due to a left hip strain.

“As much as I’ve been preparing myself for the last 14 plus months, I was not prepared for a back-to-back,” Nurkic said. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play, but… Whiteside was injured, so after that loss [Saturday], I couldn’t afford to not play… So tried to fight through and I’m glad we win this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses.”

Whatever it takes.

Nurkic knows that has to be the Blazers mindset, as does Portland's team captain, who is even more thankful to have his pick-and-roll partner in crime back on the court.

He’s extremely important and he’s coming off a major injury. He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty, and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk-through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I don't really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard on Jusuf Nurkic

Lillard had nine straight points late in the fourth to go along with Nurkic icing the game with his free throws.

Throw in Melo’s ability to come up with a big play at either end and that’s a recipe the Blazers must use moving forward, especially if Portland is going to continue a trend of close games in the bubble during the home stretch of seeding games.

With Sunday’s win, the Blazers still have a shot at reaching the No. 8 seed depending on their own results and if the Grizzlies take care of business or not.

There's no doubt that these final moments of the seeding games is giving everyone that 'rush' feeling. 

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

Trail Blazers HC Terry Stotts takes shot at LA Lakers over mask policy

It seems as if players and coaches are getting restless in the bubble and they can’t help but pop off. 

A day after Damian Lillard and Paul George sparred on social media over the LA Clippers’ taunting antics, it appears Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was caught on a hot mic taking a shot at the Los Angeles Lakers, the No. 1 team in the Western Conference and the team the Trail Blazers would face if they clinch the eight-seed. 

WATCH

“The Lakers don’t wear these, but I do…”

In fact, all the Trail Blazers do. 

And Stotts isn’t wrong, either. 

The photos in the above tweet may seem selective, but LeBron James and company are constant violators of the NBA’s mask policy. LeBron takes it a step further and has done his media availabilities while sitting on a freaking throne!

NBA protocols in place state mask requirements outside of in-game play. The NBA even sent reminders to teams about the mask protocol for availabilities, which the Lakers, outside of head coach Frank Vogel, has been regularly ignored by Lakers players. 

Sure, the banter was playful, but there was obviously something that drove Stotts to say what he said. And, there was something. 

It will add a bit of intrigue into the Blazers potential first-round matchup with the war of words starting early. 

His comments were mostly harmless, but anything can become bulletin board material. And with all the time players have on their hands to engage in social media squabbles, we’ll have to wait and see where Stotts comments go. 

Trail Blazers deficiencies highlighted in win, look to expedite improvements

Trail Blazers deficiencies highlighted in win, look to expedite improvements

Carmelo Anthony put his arm around Damian Lillard as they walked off the court, sharing a private moment after pulling out a season-saving win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Anthony declined to reveal the details of the chat, but considering how close the Trail Blazers came to blowing their playoff chances over the weekend, it’s safe to say it was a moment of catharsis for the Blazers captain and their most decorated veteran.

“That was a moment between me and him,” Anthony said, electing to keep the specifics private. “It was all great things I can tell you that.”

A day after Lillard missed two late free throws to cap off a full team meltdown against the shorthanded Los Angeles Clippers, the Blazers found themselves back in another too-close-for-comfort scramble against a playoff opponent yet again missing most of its star power at crunch time.

The Sixers were without All-Star Ben Simmons, and then lost All-Star Joel Embiid to a foot injury early in the first half, and yet Philadelphia held a two possession lead with under six minutes left in the game. Lillard more than made up for his missed free throws on Saturday, scoring 15 of his 51 points in the final 5:30 to keep the ninth place Blazers in the playoff hunt.

Lillard and Anthony certainly had plenty to discuss as they left the court. A loss would have dropped the Blazers into tenth place in the West, behind the San Antonio Spurs and into a virtual tie with the hard-charging Phoenix Suns, who remain unbeaten at Disney World. 

“Definitely coming into tonight after yesterday I knew how important it was to win the game for one,” Lillard said. “So it wasn’t really so much my performance yesterday and I wanted to perform a certain way today. It was like, ‘We let one slip that we shoulda had yesterday and I’m a big part of why it got away from us.’ So tonight I was like, ‘That’s not going to happen.’”

In many ways this was a predictable offensive performance from Lillard. After an off night, he put up 51 and delivered down the stretch. He is talented enough that a scoring binge like that can feel expected and inevitable.

But the more troubling and probably equally predictable performance came from the Blazers defense that yet again allowed a team missing its top options to light up the scoreboard. The signs were there against Denver last Thursday when the Nuggets were missing 80 percent of their typical starting lineup and still managed to hang 115 points on the Blazers defense. Then on Saturday, the Clippers rested Kawhi Leonard and pulled Paul George at crunch time only to pull out a win behind Landry Shamet and Rodney McGruder.

The trend continued Sunday when Josh Richardson got loose for 32 points and hit 6-of-10 three-pointers. The Blazers have the third worst defensive rating among the teams 22 teams in Orlando, but the advanced stats don’t do justice to the obvious. The Blazers’ transition defense is sloppy, they too often get caught scrambling in rotations and give up open jumpers or simply don’t put up enough resistance as opponents get clean drives to the rim. This problem isn’t new and isn’t going to vanish in the remaining games in Orlando. This is more team identity than it is small sample size mishap. They were a bad defensive team before the season was put on hold, and even with a revamped frontline the defense is still a major weakness.

When Richardson's final three-point attempt missed and the clock expired during the scramble for the rebound, the Blazers could exhale. Two more wins, regardless of quality or defensive execution, and they will likely find themselves in a play-in round, completely in control of their own destiny in their quest to land the final playoff spot in the West.

At this stage in the season, winning by any means is more important than inspiring confidence, but the Blazers flaws are too obvious to ignore. But perhaps Anthony summed it up best when he described his postgame chat with Lillard  “all great things I can tell you that.”

No matter how much the struggles, winning has a way to heals all wounds.

Jusuf Nurkic not sitting the second game of a back-to-back is exactly who he is

Jusuf Nurkic not sitting the second game of a back-to-back is exactly who he is

It had been 14 months since Jusuf Nurkic played in a real basketball game. 

Since that gruesome leg injury back in March 2019, all of RipCity has been eagerly awaiting the return of the Beast, even if it is all the way across the country in the NBA bubble.

Nurk doesn’t look like he has skipped a beat either, averaging 19.6 points, 11.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks through six games in Orlando, Florida. He is also currently averaging 32.4 minutes per game… Nurkic has put in a ton of work rehabbing, working out, and getting back to game shape since the injury, but Sunday was his first take of back-to-back games since the 2018-2019 season…

Should Jusuf Nurkic have even been on the court on Sunday vs. the Philadelphia 76ers after playing 24 hours earlier on Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers?

Here’s the main reason: most players who are coming off a rather large injury - this one kept Nurk out for an entire year - typically don’t play the second game on back-to-backs. The physical toll of playing an NBA game is already high for any player, but for someone coming off a substantial injury, we can only imagine.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

But the Trail Blazers, who were without Hassan Whiteside who is nursing a hip injury, couldn’t afford to not have the Beast on the court which would have meant only Zach Collins and Wenyen Gabriel available for head coach Terry Stotts.

Conditionally, I think I’m fine but as much as I prepared myself the past 14-plus months, I was not prepared for the back-to-back. I didn’t even know if I wanted to play but - Whiteside was injured - after that loss I couldn’t afford to not play. Tried to fight, tried to fight through and glad we won this one. Whatever it takes. Our season is on the line right now and we can’t afford no more losses. — Jusuf Nurkic

Behind Damian Lillard’s 51-piece chicken McNugget outing, Portland (4-2) scraped by Philadelphia 124-121 picking up another huge win and moving one step closer to locking up that eight seed in the Western Conference now just 0.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies.

I feel great. You can’t describe something, that back-to-back feeling. You been sore, you been bumped… flying around… nothing to do with injury just more different pain. I’m tight though. — Jusuf Nurkic

Well, at least he feels great.

Partly what makes Nurk lethal in the league is the partnership he and Damian Lillard have both on and off the court. 

Here’s what Lillard had to say on Nurk after Sunday’s win:

He hadn’t played in over a year and then we have a hiatus and everybody’s back and now we’re all rusty and after the first two games I forgot that these were his first few games because he just looked like himself and then you add to that, that we’re on a back-to-back tonight… This morning at walk through, he was like, ‘I’m sore. I didn’t really feel good, but I’m going to be out there, we’ve got to get it done.’ And that’s the kind of person he is. That’s the kind of teammate he is and that’s why I think our team is different now. -- Damian Lillard  

Plus, the Blazers would have missed out on Nurk’s incredible floor vision and passing ability like this play:

Nurk finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and three blocks against Philly. Not too shabby for someone who had a 14-month period of not playing a game. 

The Blazers continue their pursuit of the eight seed with just two games remaining on the regular season schedule: vs. Dallas on Tuesday and vs. Brooklyn on Thursday.

Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest or stream the games on the MyTeams app.

Last-second pressure? Damian Lillard has been dealing with it since he was 14

Last-second pressure? Damian Lillard has been dealing with it since he was 14

The Trail Blazers have been walking a tightrope in almost every game of the NBA restart, going down to the very end before the game was decided.

But Sunday they had their safety net back.

Damian Lillard, who has saved his team from a free fall with late heroics so many times, stepped up again after a rough game Saturday, when he missed two foul shots that would have put Portland in position to beat the Los Angeles Clippers.

But against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, Lillard racked up 51 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals as the Trail Blazers pulled out a tense 124-121 win. Philadelphia, like the Clippers Saturday, was playing without key parts of its attack.

Ben Simmons was lost to injury last week and Joel Embiid left the game after six minutes due to an ankle injury.

Portland led by 17 in the second quarter and nine at the half, but surrendered the lead in the fourth quarter, trailing by six with 4:23 to go.

But Lillard’s spectacular four-point play with 2:53 left vaulted the Trail Blazers into a lead they managed to hold until the end.

“I just remember looking up there (at the scoreboard) thinking, just keep the lead,” Lillard said. “Instead of playing from behind -- that's uncomfortable to be down two and don’t score, they could go up five. I just looked up there like, ‘OK, how let’s walk away from them now. Let’s close the game out and stop messing around with our season.’”

Lillard is the focus in every close game. He willingly carries that heavy burden on his shoulders and has since he was a youngster. He remembers the first time he felt that rush of having the game in his hands.

‘I was 14,” Lillard said. “I remember I was playing on my AAU team, the Rebels, and we were getting beat by about 20 in the first half. And we came all the way back.

“I started guarding their best player. I was stopping him, and I was just scoring over and over again. Then it came to the end of the game, I just hit a game winner. 

“I got that feeling. I love the feeling -- ‘We have to score every time. We have to get a stop. We have to come up big.’

“It seemed like for the rest of the AAU tournaments after that, every time it came to the end of the game i just found myself enjoying the thrill of like, ‘We could lose right here,’ or ‘We could win.’

“I just loved that ride. I’m willing to risk it all. I’m willing to … If we lose, I  can deal with it -- like I did yesterday, When we win, let’s do it again -- I enjoy it.”

It’s rare people to find players who can carry that stress. Who can handle it. Winning is the easy part, but bouncing back after a bad outcome the way he did Sunday is special.  

“I enjoy those games, mentally,” Lillard said. “People start to break down, people have lapses. You get to that point where only a few people are going to be able to push through and sustain that same level of focus.

“I like to take advantage of that, because I know I’m going to be there the whole time. That’s the fun part of the game to be in. You’ve got to be mentally strong.”

Portland needed stops down the stretch and got them, but it wasn’t easy. The Blazers survived a three-point field goal attempt by Jason Richardson with 5.7 seconds left that would have tied it, thanks to physical defense by Carmelo Anthony.

Richardson had made six of his nine threes prior to that shot and led the 76ers with 34 points.

Portland meets Dallas Tuesday, then Brooklyn Thursday to close out the eight-game seeding schedule. Two wins would still give the Trail Blazers the No, 8 seed, if Memphis loses to either Boston or Toronto.

Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers escape shorthanded 76ers

Instant Analysis: Damian Lillard, Trail Blazers escape shorthanded 76ers

Yet another one that came down to the wire for the Trail Blazers! 

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said pregame he was preparing for Jusuf Nurkic to defend Joel Embiid for a good majority of Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers, if not the entire game.

But then, less than two minutes into the contest, Nurkic picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench. With Trail Blazers backup center Hassan Whiteside (left hip strain) out yet again, rookie Wenyen Gabriel saw early minutes.

The Sixers were without Ben Simmons (left knee; patella subluxation), Philly was ready to depend on Embiid’s playmaking and scoring; however, the 76ers center headed back to the locker room midway through the first quarter after he awkwardly fell against the stanchion. Embiid did not return to the game with what the team called a ‘left ankle injury.’  

Philadelphia was clearly still trying to figure out life without Simmons and then they had to quickly figure out a game plan without Embiid. The Blazers held the Sixers to just 25.0 percent shooting in the first quarter as Portland took a 33-19 lead after the first 12 minutes of action.

Fortunately for the Blazers, Damian Lillard was on a scoring tear, which nobody was surprised by after Lillard said he was disappointed in himself for missing a pair of free throws in crunch time in Saturday’s loss to the Clippers. Lillard dropped 14 points in the first quarter.

Behind Lillard’s 22 first-half-points, the Blazers took a 67-58 lead at the break.

Philadelphia chipped away at Portland’s lead thanks to its hot shooting from deep in the third quarter and Josh Richardson’s scoring and playmaking.

Portland waas up by as many as 17 points in the first half. Heading into the final period, the Trail Blazers were clinging to a one-point lead.

It was the Josh Richardson show in the second half.

Richardson’s one mistake was fouling Lillard from behind the arc in the final three minutes, which led to Lillard completing a four-point play and ignited Lillard Time. The Blazers point guard finished with 51 points in the win. 

FINAL SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS XX, SIXERS XX

Here are three quick takeaways from Portland's sixth seeding game from our NBC Sports NW team:

Dwight Jaynes, Insider: 

Dame to the rescue in a game the Trail Blazers could not afford to lose… Four-point play was turning point.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

Sunday’s game didn’t go according to plan for the Sixers with Joel Embiid playing just six minutes before leaving the game with a left ankle injury. That obviously opened up the game for the Blazers. It seemed like with Damian Lillard on a mission in attack mode early, the Blazers could run away with this one. But, Philly’s role players had other ideas (particularly Josh Richardson) as the 76ers outscored the Blazers by 10 in the third quarter. Plus, the Blazers three-point shooting wasn't there today. BUT, we all knew that Lillard wasn't going to quit on this one. Between Lillard and Carmelo Anthony's heady play, Portland was able to squeak this one out. 

Mike Richman, Reporter

 The Blazers won. Let's just start there. There was not a lot to feel good about but, the victory preserves their chances to make the playoffs. The defense just can't stop anyone right now, which means they might need more nights where Damian Lillard scores 50-plus, regardless of who is on the court for the opponent.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon:]

Up Next: The Trail Blazers take the court Tuesday at 3:30p.m. when Portland squares off against the Dallas Mavericks. Catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest and stream the game on the MyTeams app.

Also, be sure to check back throughout the rest of the night and tomorrow morning for analysis, articles, and videos from the players!

Carmelo Anthony moves to No. 15 on NBA All-Time scoring list

Carmelo Anthony moves to No. 15 on NBA All-Time scoring list

Carmelo ‘Skinny Melo’ Anthony knows how to score the basketball.

The 18-year, 10x All-Star has made quite the impact in the league and on Sunday, made his way up the All-Time NBA scoring list to No. 15, passing Paul Pierce and John Havlicek on the esteemed list.

[Listen to the Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon].

Here is 1-14 on that list:

1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387)

2. Karl Malone (36,928)

3. LeBron James (34,195)

4. Kobe Bryant (33,643)

5. Michael Jordan (32,292)

6. Dirk Nowitzki (31,560)

7. Wilt Chamberlain (31,419)

8. Shaquille O’Neal (28,596)

9. Moses Malone (27,409)

10. Elvin Hayes (27,313)

11. Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946)

12. Oscar Robertson (26,710)

13. Dominique Wilkins (26,668)

14. Tim Duncan (26,496)

15. Carmelo Anthony (26,399)

This season in Portland, Melo is averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. 

Not bad for a guy who has been considered ‘washed up’ by so many… looking at you, Max Kellerman.

The Trail Blazers held a 67-58 lead over the Philadelphia 76ers at halftime down in the NBA bubble. In a must-win situation for Portland, Melo ended the first half recording 12 points, three rebounds and one steal. Following Portland's 124-121 win, Melo got the game ball.

Stream the game here on the MyTeams App!

Joel Embiid will not return vs. Blazers after suffering left ankle injury

Joel Embiid will not return vs. Blazers after suffering left ankle injury

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid left Sunday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers midway through the first quarter with what appeared to be a lower-body injury.

Philadelphia was already shorthanded with no Ben Simmons.

The Sixers announced late in the second quarter that Embiid will not return to Sunday’s game after suffering what the team is calling a left ankle injury.

It appeared that Embiid might've rolled his ankle after awkwardly hitting the basket stanchion. Once there was a stoppage in play, Embiid headed back to the locker room.

In Embiid’s limited time on the court, he scored two points to go along with four rebounds and one assist in six minutes of work.

Now the Blazers will look to take advantage of no Embiid down low. Portland leads Philadelphia 67-58 at halftime. Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard leads all scorers at the break with 22 points on 8-of-14 shooting.

[RELATED]: With Memphis Grizzlies' loss that guarantees play-in game(s) 

Check out all of the second half action on NBC Sports Northwest or on the MyTeams App!

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]

With Memphis Grizzlies' loss that guarantees play-in game(s)

With Memphis Grizzlies' loss that guarantees play-in game(s)

And now we know.

Sunday afternoon, the Memphis Grizzlies fell to the Toronto Raptors 108-99, which now means the NBA restart will officially have a No. 8 and No. 9 play-in game to determine the final Western Conference playoff spot.

With the Trail Blazers still controlling their own destiny in securing a spot in the play-in games, Portland knows that the final three seeding games are ‘must-wins’ as the Blazers eye the eighth seed.  

Trail Blazers all-star point Damian Lillard discussed just that following Saturday’s loss to the Clippers.

In our huddle, in our locker room we saying let’s go win all three because we trying to get a chance at the eight spot. We trying to track down Memphis so that’s what we looking at and we also know that other teams are playing well. You don’t know who is going to be playing for some of the teams that they have to play, so we’ve got to have the mindset of just going out there to win all three.  -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard

HERE ARE THE UPDATED WESTERN CONFERENCE STANDINGS AFTER MEMPHIS LOSS, SAN ANTONIO WIN, AND NEW ORLEANS LOSS:

8. Memphis Grizzlies remaining schedule: Boston, Milwaukee 

9. Portland Trail Blazers (1.0 games behind) remaining schedule: Philadelphia, Dallas, Brooklyn

10. San Antonio Spurs (1.0 games behind) remaining schedule: Houston, Utah

11. Phoenix Suns (1.5 games behind) remaining schedule: OKC, Philadelphia, Dallas

12. New Orleans Pelicans (2.5 games behind) remaining schedule: Sacramento, Orlando

13. Sacramento (3.0 games behind) remaining schedule: Houston, New Orleans, Los Angeles Lakers (Eliminated from the eighth seed)

The Western Conference play-in games will be played Saturday at 11:30am (PT). Game 2 (if necessary) will be next Sunday at 1:30pm (PT).

Both play-in games will be nationally televised games. The first play-in game will be broadcasted live on ABC, while Sunday’s game if needed be live on ESPN.  

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Blazers Podcast with hosts Channing Frye and Dan Sheldon!]