David Fizdale

A Jake Layman double-double & Jusuf Nurkic putting in the practice time as Trail Blazers ease past New York Knicks

A Jake Layman double-double & Jusuf Nurkic putting in the practice time as Trail Blazers ease past New York Knicks

It’s supposed to be an easy night when a team with a 10-29 record drops into Moda Center.

But the New York Knicks are not your normal get-down-by-15-points-and-quit NBA team.

The Knicks play hard, no matter the score and they never surrendered when the Blazers put double-figure deficits on them in the second half. They played it physical and tough.

But the Trail Blazers took care of business and hiked their record to 24-17 at the halfway mark of their schedule with a 111-101 win.

“A lot of traps, hard hedges and stuff like that,” said CJ McCollum, who scored 17 points. “They play hard, they have a lot of talented guys and they continue to get better. Obviously, when they get (Kristaps) Porzingis back they’ll be a better team.

“They compete to the end of the game. Obviously, Noah (Vonleh) and those guys are hungry and they’re trying to prove themselves. They have guys in contract years trying to show they can play.”

THE BENCH STAYS READY

The Trail Blazers spread the playing time around Monday, with none of the five bench players who reached the court getting fewer than 21 minutes. Jusuf Nurkic led the way with 20 points and Lillard matched McCollum’s 17.

Jake Layman came off the bench in relief of Maurice Harkless, who played only 8:39 due to soreness in his left knee, and chalked up the first double-double of his career with 10 points and 10 rebounds, along with a career-high four assists.

“I just stay ready,” Layman said. “And stay aggressive.”

The continued solid play from Layman is going to be important for this Trail Blazer team who continues tweak lineups and rotations as Harkless deals with his knee injury. 

LONG PRACTICES PAYING OFF FOR NURK

The Blazers led by only one point at halftime but took control in the third quarter.

“You know, it’s easier said than done just to stop either one of those guys (Lillard or McCollum),” said New York Coach David Fizdale. “But it’s not like the rest of those guys are slouches out there.

“They’ve done a good job of developing their players. You know, their big fellow is a beast. He’s one of those skilled bigs who can do all of those things and so you know when you do get it out of one of their hands, it’s going to a capable guy.”

The "big fellow," Nurkic, suffered early foul trouble but hit seven of his nine shots. He’s becoming more skilled at the post by the game, having added a reliable left-handed finish to his already impressive repertoire.

“I would say I trust (the left hand) more,” Nurkic said. “Long practices.”

Coach Terry Stotts said, “He’s on a roll. He’s finishing around the paint. He’s making his free throws. And that’s not to mention what he’s been giving us at the defensive end.”

Portland is back in action Wednesday night in Moda Center against the Chicago Bulls.

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New York Knicks

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USA Today Images

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for New York Knicks

As Portland continues its five game homestand all three of the remaining games on the docket are Eastern Conference teams who are in the bottom half of the standings, which means the Blazers can pick up some momentum with the Knicks, Bulls, and Hornets coming to town. Portland will look to improve on its 15-7 home record tonight vs. New York.

 

Before tonight’s game tipped off Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts and New York’s head coach David Fizdale gave updates to the media.

 

Blazers Injury Update: Maurice Harkless (left knee) and Evan Turner (left ankle) were listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s contest. The Blazers announced that both Harkless and Turner are available for tonight's game.

 

Coach Stotts said he feels that being listed as ‘probable’ means there is a 75% chance that the player will play and a 25% chance he won’t play. Stotts added that teams around the league have a different definition of ‘probable’ and ‘questionable.’

 

Tonight will be a homecoming for Noah Vonleh, who played in Portland from 2015 to early 2018.

 

Stotts is happy to see Vonleh is getting an opportunity and consistent minutes with the Knicks.

 

“It looks like he has fit in well… They rely on him defensively. He’s getting a good opportunity,” Stotts said.

 

This season Vonleh is averaging 8.5 ppg and 8.7 rpg in 26.8 minutes played.

 

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

 

The Knicks are going to be “focused” on Damian Lillard on the defensive end, but Coach Fizdale added that you have to respect the other players around Lillard.

 

Coach Fizdale also talked about how he has been pleased with Vonleh’s “evolution.”

 

“His three-point shooting, he’s ball handling, his post up game, his overall effort and focus defensively, his rebounding,” those are all areas of improvement from Vonleh’s game according to Coach Fizdale.  

 

Hear from coach Fizdale right here:

 

Fizdale on Lillard and McCollum: "Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers"

Fizdale on Lillard and McCollum: "Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers"

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Knicks head coach David Fizdale address the media ahead of tonight’s Blazers-Knicks contest and both coaches had a lot to say about how their teams are progressing at this point in the season.

Coach Stotts attributes the quick start of his team to the “togetherness” and “character” of his players. Portland is currently number one in the Western Conference Standings with an 11-5 record.

Coach Stotts also discussed how Jusuf Nurkic’s defense this season has made such a big impact for the team’s defense overall.

“Young teams will make mistakes… But number one on our scouting report is they’re going to play hard,” Stotts said of the Knicks as he team prepares for tonight’s contest.

As for New York, the Knicks have been changing up its starting lineup this season.

Here’s tonight’s staring lineup vs. the Blazers—

Emmanuel Mudiay, Tim Hardaway, Mario Hezonja, Noah Vonleh and Enes Kanter.

This young Knicks team is “learning” and “growing” right now and Coach Fizdale feels that with continuing to learn, his team has not been winning as many games as everyone in New York wants, but he says the players “have to learn through some suffering.”

When talking about tonight’s matchup, Coach Fizdale has high praise for the Blazers…

“Two of the elite shooters in this league, elite playmakers,” Fizdale said about the Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Fizdale also added that the players around Lillard and McCollum “are really solid and they make them better.”  For the Knicks defense vs. Portland, “it tarts with the competition on the ball,” coach said.  

Once the Knicks get to about 25 games, that is when Coach Fizdale feels he will be able to solidify the Knicks rotation. Knicks Forward Noah Vonleh, who played for Portland from 2015 to early 2018, is averaging 7.7 points and 7.9 rebounds while playing 23.2 minute per game. Vonleh has started 10 of 17 games so far this season.

 

 

Coach Stotts

 

 

 

Coach Fizdale

 

 

You can find out more about tonight’s matchup on the Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show right here.

Former Oregon star Dillon Brooks showing NBA he is 'real deal'

Former Oregon star Dillon Brooks showing NBA he is 'real deal'

I don’t know about anybody else, but I left Tuesday’s Memphis-Portland game really impressed with Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks.

The former Oregon star not only started, he was a key player in Memphis’ 98-97 win over the Trail Blazers, making a steal that he converted into an and-one layin with 39.4 seconds left.

Then on the game’s final play, his defense made CJ McCollum hesitate in the corner after the Blazers guard had chased down a potential game-winner that missed. McCollum’s hesitation caused the clock to run out and preserved the Grizzlies win.

“He makes plays in crunch moments,’’ Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “That was something we noticed, our front office guys noticed when they watched the film on him. He always rose to the occasion in crunch moments. That’s something we really liked about him. He finds a way to help you win when everything is on the line.’’

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I’m not sure even the most die-hard Ducks fans who watched Brooks win the Pac-12 Player of the Year award thought Brooks would be making this kind of impact, this quickly.

In fact, it sounds like the more Memphis tours the NBA, the more eyes Brooks is opening.

“He looks like been playing in league for a while,’’ Memphis star Mike Conley said. “Each game he earns more respect, not just from us, but around the league. That’s all people come up and talk to us about – ‘that Dillon Brooks kid, he’s the real deal’ -  and we love that. He plays with chip on shoulder and he’s not afraid of the moment.’’

Because of injuries, Brooks on Thursday started his third game, and it looks like he could stick in that role, in large part because he defended well within the Grizzlies’ active and aggressive system.

It’s why Fizdale had no hesitation putting Brooks on McCollum for the final shot.

“I feel good with him on anybody,’’ Fizdale said. “We’re developing him to be a starter. He has to go through mistakes, getting the respect of officials – all of that stuff. But we can’t hide him from those guys.’’

The question many around the league might be asking is where was Brooks hiding on draft night? He was drafted with the 45th pick overall by Houston, then traded to Memphis. On opening night, he scored 19 points against New Orleans, the highest scoring NBA debut by a Canadian, surpassing Rick Fox’s 13 points in 1991, and the highest-scoring debut by a Memphis player since Rudy Gay had 21 points in 2006.

“Man, somebody made a mistake not drafting him,’’ Grizzlies star Mike Conley said on opening night.

For the season, Brooks is averaging 8.5 points and 4.3 rebounds in 29.7 minutes a game after he finished with seven points, eight rebounds, three steals and two blocks on Tuesday. He played 38 minutes, the most of any player on Memphis.

“Before I came here I didn’t like playing defense,’’ Brooks said. “But now, I love playing defense. It keeps me on the floor. I get to challenge the best players in the NBA.’’

Today's Blazers' links:

Three final thoughts on Tuesday's loss to the Grizzlies. 

Fan heckles Damian Lillard.

Trail Blazers.com looks at where the Blazers stack up in power rankings.