Blazers Outsiders

Outsiders Blog: Blazers vs Thunder, who you got?

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NBCNW

Outsiders Blog: Blazers vs Thunder, who you got?

It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, we're not talking about the holiday season. We're talking about playoff season! The Portland Trail Blazers finished the regular season as the No.3 team in the Western Conference, setting them up for a matchup with the No.6 Oklahoma City Thunder. Oklahoma City swept the Blazers this season, but it was just last season that the Blazers swept the Thunder. Who will win this epic matchup in the first round? The Blazers Outsiders give us their predictions:

JOE SIMON: The longer I sit with this matchup, the more I believe the Blazers will win. Even though they come into this series riding a 10-game playoff losing streak, Portland finds themselves in the unique position of playing with house money. The Nurk injury leaves them unencumbered by expectations. If they lose, meh, they were without their best player. If the Thunder lose? Woof. Russell Westbrook is a number hungry weirdo who can’t win with KD or Harden. Remember, OKC is yet to win a playoff series since Durant left to chase titles and fight with Draymond.
A few national media members have picked Portland to make the Western Conference Finals. I’m in. LET’S DO THIS! Blazers beat the Thunder in 6, and hopefully stare down LA and the Spurs in Round 2. Maybe it’s Rose City colored glasses, but who cares. If you can’t be optimistic about this team, after all the overachieving and battling through injuries, when will you be?
Blazers in 6.

ALEX HAIGH: Have you guys seen Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey? The movie where a cat and two dogs get lost in the woods and have to find their way back to that dorky-ass Seaver family? Along the way, Chance gets quilled by a porcupine, Sassy goes over a waterfall and nearly drowns, and Shadow falls into a muddy pit and injures his leg. Well, I’m sorry but the Trail Blazers are these three animals, which makes Rip City the dorky-ass Seaver kids (by the way, the father in this movie is an alarming amalgamation of Rob Huebel and Bob Saget- I just had to point that out.) We’ve been injured, we’ve been counted out, we’ve had some losing streaks; but have you seen the ending? When the adults have given up and decided to ignore their problems by living in a perpetually autumn Nantucket-like setting, the kids hold onto the hope that their best friends will still make it home- and they do. Chance comes up over the hill, and then Sassy.  After a dramatic pause, Shadow is seen hobbling toward the family, favoring his injured leg but still gunning for home. I’m holding out for that ending. The one where all of the adversity we’ve been through has only made us stronger and given us the motivation to push through to the second round. I think we win this series in seven games. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go watch Homeward Bound again.

JAKE MCGRADY: I'm gonna keep this short and sweet... Portland in 7. Book it. This is going to be an absolute DOG FIGHT, and I am 100% here for it. Don't get me wrong, Russ and PG are monsters and OKC is nothing to take lightly, but I just have this feeling that Damian is going to go ballistic this series. Yes we don't have Nurk, yes Kanter struggles on defense, I get it. However, it can't be ignored that PG's shoulder could pose a big problem for the Thunder in these coming weeks. When you compare this three seed team to last year's three seed team, even without Nurkic I say that we are FAR better. The additions of Seth Curry and Hood alongside the performances from Evan Turner as of late have made all the difference. There is no shot in hell that we get swept a third year in a row. Also, Damian hasn't faced anyone in the playoffs yet that he TRULY dislikes and has a history with. This series will be defined by a Russ vs Dame showdown, and I think it lights a whole new fire under Dame. Let the fun begin.

CHRIS BURKHARDT: I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Thunder are beatable. Everyone wants to point to Paul George and Russell Westbrook, two elite scorers in the NBA. Well, Portland happens to have to elite scorers as well in CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. The star duos will do everything they can to lead their respective teams to victory. However, it will be the role players that decide this series. Can guys like Al-Farouq Aminu, Moe Harkless, Seth Curry, and Evan Turner outplay guys like Dennis Schroder, Terrance Ferguson, and Jerami Grant? I think so. Even without Jusuf Nurkic, the Blazers have played well. Sure, Oklahoma City went 4-0 against the Blazers this season, but they won those four games by a combined 28 points. That's an average of just seven points per contest. It was a close series all season and it will be a close series in the playoff. There is no way the Thunder go 8-0 against the Blazers. My pick, Blazers win the series in six. 

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Outsiders Blog: Would you welcome the L-Train back to Portland?

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USA Today

Outsiders Blog: Would you welcome the L-Train back to Portland?

It seems like it was yesterday and at the same time, it feels like it was forever ago that LaMarcus Aldridge called Rip City home. Aldridge, once the face of the franchise, left in 2015 to play with the San Antonio Spurs in his home state of Texas. 

At the time, Aldridge leaving felt like a bitter betrayal. He said he wanted to be the greatest Blazers player of all-time and then bolted in free agency. Fans felt played. Teammates seemed to be caught off guard. Reports started to surface that there may have been a rift between him and Damian Lillard. The whole situation just felt dirty.

But as the old saying goes, time heals all wounds. Now, some four years later, it appears Aldridge and Lillard have mended fences and according to The Athletic, Aldridge is open to returning to Portland. 

"I keep telling him (Damian Lillard) I’m going to come back and finish there," Aldridge said in a recent interview. "That’s something him and I have talked about — playing together again.”

So, the question is, would you welcome The L-Train back to Portland?

The Outsiders share their thoughts:

Chris Burkhardt: Don't let hurt feeling from 2015 cloud your judgment. This is a no-brainer. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. LaMarcus Aldridge is still a high-level player. He was an All-Star this season and can still change the game. As much as I enjoy Al-Farouq Aminu, I would take Aldridge over him 10 out to 10 times without thinking twice. A team with Lillard, CJ McCollum Aldridge, and Jusuf Nurkic as its core is pretty dang good if you ask me. I'm not thinking about this for the story or the reunion, I'm just thinking about basketball. If one of the best power forwards in the game wants to play for you, you welcome him on board.
Will it happen? Probably not. But I won't be upset if it does.

Alex Haigh: This is how I feel, and I think I've come a long way since 2015 when he ruined my life... I am so over that, that I think I'm ok with him coming back. As long as it benefits the team and as long as they aren't a dirty player, bring 'em in.

Jake McGrady: Under the right circumstances. If it's in free agency, he'll be 35-years old when his contract ends in San Antonio in 2021, at that point if we're able to get him on some sort of cheaper veterans deal... even if he were a backup he's still better than most of the power forwards in the NBA. To answer the question, yes. 

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Outsiders Roundtable: How are we feeling the day after opening night

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USA TODAY

Outsiders Roundtable: How are we feeling the day after opening night

The Trail Blazers opened the 2018-19 season with a 128-199 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, extending their winning streak against the Lakers to 16 games and their winning streak in home openers to 18! Here's what our Blazers Outsiders think following the big win. 

JOE SIMONS:

Like all of Rip City, I'm obviously thrilled with the Blazers 16th (!) straight win over the Lakers. ET running the second unit was beautiful to watch; highlighted by Collins' defense and Sauce pouring in 24. The Spurs will be a fun test on Saturday. I'll be looking forward to the bench play most of all, to see if this is the new normal, or if the Lakers are just not very good. 

ALEX HAIGH:

So I get to the bar, and there’s this Lakers fan that won’t stop shouting “LEBRON, LEBRON, LEBRON” (I didn’t realize it is apparently very cool to just shout your team’s entire roster without any supporting statements) and I’m convinced the night will be ruined because of this guy’s mouth. But aside from a few dunks, LEBRON and the Lake Show (extremegag.gif) weren’t playing the spectacular basketball that so many had predicted they would, and Sauce Castillo came onto the floor to rain 24 points onto the heads of the Lakers *AND* pleasantly surprised Blazers fans. It was truly a thing of beauty to watch the lone Lakers fan in this Blazers bar progressively fold in on himself as the sound of “BEAT LA” filled the air, and the Portland Trail Blazers filled my heart with our first win of the season. Go Blazers!!!

JAKE MCGRADY:

As much as I hate to be THAT guy who gets overly optimistic over one game.... yeah, I'm excited. The Trail Blazers definitely have some weak spots still, but the strong points overshadowed those by far. The Lakers legitimately are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, Dame is looking very Dame-ish as always, Zach is looking poised and confident, Aminu didn't break our hearts with a million three attempts, and Nik Stausaks is our new lord and savior. Build the man a statue outside the Moda already; I'll pitch in for the fees.

CHRIS BURKHARDT:

His name is Nik Stauskas. If you didn't know it before, you know it now. The man known as Sauce Castillo poured in 24 points off the bench, including 5-8 from deep. Sure, this level of play may not be sustainable for the entire season, but what we saw Thursday was simply amazing. Questions filled the air entering the season when the Blazers let Pat Connaughton go. Fans worried if Stauskas could fill the void. He slammed the door shut on those worries. Stauskas' performance was so jaw-dropping that we are barely talking about Zach Collins and his six blocks! Collins looked out of sorts early on but made some great adjustments as the game progressed and his defense was key to the Blazers victory. It's still early, but I really liked what I saw in Game 1. 

DAN MARANG:

I’m not a novelist so I’m just going with what I saw last night and simply put… the Los Angeles Lakers thought Nik Stauskas was a towel boy. That’s the only excuse for letting him get open and off the way he did. Credit to Sauce Castillo here for taking and making those shots and for inspiring me to become the biggest Nik Stauskas fan in the world but it felt like after Lebron James and JaVale McGee were done dunking on everyone’s soul that they were pretty much spent. From there on out it was Stauskas Time! Nik Time? It’s a work in progress.

While Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum struggled from the field it was the Blazers bench who carried with day - of course, buoyed by Stauskas- with 55 combined points from the bench. I can’t remember a time that has happened all too recently off the top of my head and I don’t yet expect that to be the norm but it was truly fun.

Of course, the flipside to the inspired offense was the Blazer’s defense- particularly that of the 2nd unit. Now, the first half the interior defense was… let’s call it suspect to be nice. The Lakers hit a single shot outside of 10 feet in the first half and yet Portland was still running out to shooters and jumping at ball fakes allowing the Lakers to score at will inside.

Whether it was an inspirational speech or someone finally saw the shot chart, the Blazers figured it out and started clogging the lane. Zach Collins was hyped. Apparently, they have decent block parties at Gonzaga because dude was acting like he’d been doing this for a long time. Six blocks? Have a night!

Kudos to all of you who picked Stauskas and Collins to make the biggest contributions of their NBA careers on the same night. Perhaps you should also consider investing in that $1B lottery drawing.

 

*You can catch Blazers Outsiders pre and postgame show with Danny, Joe, and Shain before and after every Trail Blazers game. And on weeknights when the Blazers aren't playing you can catch Blazers Outsiders with Alex, Chris, and Jake.