Gary Trent

Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazer bench combine with Lillard to throttle Houston

Trevor Ariza, Trail Blazer bench combine with Lillard to throttle Houston

Certainly it was Damian Lillard’s night. The red-hot Portland guard posted his first career triple-double topped by 36 points, but there was much more to the Trail Blazer story Wednesday night.

The oft-maligned Portland bench, led by Gary Trent and Nassir Little, chipped in 13 points in a 41-24 Trail Blazer blitz in the second quarter that turned the game around after an agonizing first five and a half minutes.

The Blazers needed more than two minutes to score their first points of the game and five and a half minutes to make their second field goal, but things got a whole lot better in that second period.

Trent, getting regular minutes in the rotation recently, went 2-2 from three-point range, had two assists and two steals in the quarter -- finishing a plus-16 in that period. Little was also plus-16 and made his only shot.

Lillard had nine in that quarter and Trevor Ariza got six, along with a team-best plus-17 for the quarter.

Ariza’s presence in the starting lineup has made a world of difference for Portland, with not only his added size but his basketball intelligence.

“Somebody like Trevor, who knows the game, you don’t have to tell him multiple times what to do,” said Carmelo Anthony, who moved into 17th place (passing Kevin Garnett) on the all-time NBA scoring list at the 9:14 mark of the second quarter. “He just knows how to play the game.

“He knows how to play off people. For the younger guys, seeing that stuff really helps. You can’t teach it. He just knows.”

Ariza, who made nine of his 13 shots, half of his six threes, and chased James Harden all over the court most of the game, finished with 21 points and more alert plays at both ends of the court than you could count.

He credited his teammates for his ease with fitting into the team’s suddenly very solid starting lineup.

“The players,” he said. “These guys have a very high IQ and are very talented and all I have to do is catch the ball and shoot it, or get the ball and put it in the basket, or rebound and make simple plays.”

Hassan Whiteside also played a big role in this one, as Coach Terry Stotts stayed with his big man even when Houston went to smaller lineups.

“I thought Dame did a nice job of finding him and he was able to finish around the basket,” Stotts said. “Those were some big plays that he made -- the finishes and the ‘and-ones.’ He did a nice job with that.”

Whiteside had 15 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots and a team-high plus-18. And it appeared Harden wanted no part of him at the basket.

“Yeah, that’s my job,” Whiteside said. “I feel like I’m the best at doing it. Just protecting that paint.”

Whiteside pointed to Ariza as a difference-maker.

“He’s the ultimate three-and-D guy,” Whiteside said. “He’s out there playing amazing defense -- doing a great job.”

And suddenly, Lillard is getting enough help to make this team competitive.

Harden finished with 18 points, going 5-18 from the field and 2-8 from long range.

The Trail Blazers meet the Lakers in Staples Center Friday night -- a game that probably no team in the league wanted to play. It's the Lakers' first home game since Kobe Bryant's death.

Sick, wounded Trail Blazers buried under a pile of three-point field goals

Sick, wounded Trail Blazers buried under a pile of three-point field goals

The Trail Blazers were adding 2+2 most of the game Friday night. The Mavericks were multiplying by 3. Portland shot 51.8 percent from the field against Dallas but were outdone by higher mathematics in a 120-112 loss at Dallas.

The Mavs made only 43.8 percent of their shots from the floor. But unfortunately for Portland, a furious third and fourth-quarter comeback fell short because Dallas made 20 three-point shots to just nine for Portland. That's giving up 33 points from behind the arc -- way too many for the wounded Trail Blazers to overcome. It didn't help, of course, that CJ McCollum played only 11 minutes after suffering what appeared to be an ankle sprain and Gary Trent had to return to the locker room in the fourth after feeling sick.

On top of that, Damian Lillard, who led the Blazers with 34 points and 10 assists, came into the game fighting the team's ever-present upper-respiratory illness and had to play 40 minutes. Hassan Whiteside made nine of his 10 shots, had 18 rebounds, 21 points and five blocks.

"We came out and had a good start of the game," Lillard said. "The amount of fight it took to make it a game, we ran out of gas at the end. Obviously, anytime you are a little bit sick it's going to have an affect on you on the floor. I ran out of gas at the end."

This loss was almost entirely the result of the lack of long-distance firepower -- and how well Dallas shot from long range. Portland outscored Dallas a whopping 62-30 in the paint, but you can't multiply any of those points in the paint by three.

After trailing by 17 points late in the third quarter, Portland cut the lead to four halfway through the fourth quarter and trailed by only six with 3:41 left. But the Blazers got nothing after that but a meaningless three-pointer by Anfernee Simons with 26.2 seconds to go. But the strange thing was, Dallas scored only five during that span.

The Blazers were 1-6 from the floor with two turnovers over that disastrous final 3:41.

And this beaten-up bunch gets no rest, as a Saturday night contest in Oklahoma City is at hand.

The world of AAU basketball: Gary Trent's son transfers to a P.O. box

The world of AAU basketball: Gary Trent's son transfers to a P.O. box

Greg Doyel is one of the best columnists in the country and he's got a great story about the son of former Jail Blazer Gary Trent, an up-and-coming high school star, transferring from his Indianapolis high school to a prep school that isn't really a school.

The senior Trent was a poster child for the era when Trail Blazer players were known more for their appearances in court than on the court. He notoriously punched his pregnant girlfriend in the face and kicked her in the ribs. In separate incidences, he allegedly punched and choked a man and hit another over the head with a pool cue. If you're new to the area or just want a refresher course on those dark days of the Trail Blazers, you can find the text of an "Outside the Lines" show on ESPN that sums up just some of the team's problems.

Well, anyway, Trent's son, a senior, is going to transfer to a "prep school" in Napa, Calif. --  Prolific Prep -- that really isn't a school at all. It's a basketball program that houses its players with a host family and sends them to a nearby Catholic school for their education. The "school" has a website but no physical address. I bet they have nice uniforms, though. It's, of course, not the first "school" of this type to make basketball its top priority.

It's a very interesting tale about what a segment of the current basketball development process has become in this country and I recommend it.