Gary Trent Jr.

Blazers needed every bit of Vintage Carmelo Anthony

Blazers needed every bit of Vintage Carmelo Anthony

A jab here, a jab there.

And no, we aren’t talking about punches.

This season, the younger Trail Blazers have gotten a few old man cracks aimed at Carmelo Anthony.

It’s all love, though.

Bring on the jokes because Melo was laughing all the way to a season-high Sunday night.

The Trail Blazers clawed their way back after being down by as many as 10 points in the third quarter to snag a 107-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons Sunday.

Melo’s offensive production along with CJ McCollum’s takeover performance, sprinkled in with timely stops in the fourth quarter all added up to Portland snapping a three-game losing streak.

Anthony finished with 32 points in Sunday’s win, eclipsing his previous season high he set back on Jan. 7 at Toronto with 28 points. 

[RELATED]: Carmelo Anthony turns back the clock against Detroit, does something he hasn't done in three years

And boy was Melo right -- the Blazers required all 32 of those points to get the win.

I’ll tell you, we needed every bit of that. Every single point, we needed that tonight. Those guys just wasn’t trying to go away. After we got out in the first quarter, we kind of let our foot off the gas and those guys got confidence. They gained some momentum, they stuck with it to the end of the game. – Trail Blazers veteran Carmelo Anthony on scoring 30 plus for the first time in nearly three years. -- Carmelo Anthony

With Damian Lillard out for the second straight game with a right groin strain, both Melo and McCollum have stepped up in a big way.

“We have to,” Anthony said. “We don’t have a choice, right? We’ve got to go out there and do what we’ve got to do to help this team win, at least put ourselves in position to try to win a basketball game. At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to us two putting that pressure on us and saying this is what we’ve got to do. It’s the last quarter of the season. We’re in a dog fight trying to get that spot.”

That dog fight has included Gary Trent, Jr. stepping up in a big way on the defensive end. Trent, who was inserted into the starting lineup with Lillard out, admitted he got to see the Melo he grew up admiring.

It’s like vintage Melo tonight. Man, you know, I have flashbacks. I grew up watching him. I love all his moves. I got to see a lot tonight. Big up to Melo. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. said postgame

“It’s crazy. I play with him on video games,” Trent added. “I watch all his games, all his highlights, his playoff battles with Kobe Bryant in ’09. I watch all of his stuff. It’s crazy. It’s surreal to come into practice every day and watch him, watch how he works, his approach to the game, he’s a true professional.”

Melo’s response of Trent Jr. playing him in NBA 2K:

“I’ve heard it before, but they won’t come to me and say it… It puts things in perspective. It puts a lot of things in perspective to know back then where I was at in my journey to see those guys finding my journey… It comes back full circle. [For Trent Jr.] to make that statement, it makes me proud.”   

Hearing that a second-year player plays him in NBA 2k, might make some people think Anthony would feel old with such a comment.

But, that’s not the case.

Melo was not only proud of that comment from Trent Jr., he was extremely proud of the way the Blazers came together to get the win Sunday night.

Now, who wants to bet Trent, Jr. went home Sunday night and started playing 2K?   

The 3rd quarter and 3-point shots doom Trail Blazers in New Orleans

The 3rd quarter and 3-point shots doom Trail Blazers in New Orleans

The number three was a big problem for the Trail Blazers Tuesday night in New Orleans.

The third quarter was the turning point of the game, where Portland was outscored 41-21 by the Pelicans. And three-point field goals? Mission impossible.

Between them, Damian Lillard and Gary Trent split a 0-8 shooting night from distance and their team was an anemic 7-29.

Three strikes and you’re out. And Portland, which led by 16 points during a furious first quarter, by nine when the quarter ended and by two at the half, were steamrolled in the third quarter and Zion Williamson was driving that machine.

It was a downright brutal 12 minutes.

“Transitions for the most part,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “Offensively, I don’t know what we shot in the quarter, but we gave up a lot of transitions. Some of it was them and some of it was us. I think the boxscore had them for 17 fast-break points.

“When we didn’t score, they were getting out and running. In the third quarter, we missed some shots and gave them momentum.

“We made our run in the first quarter. That minute and a half where we got a lot of turnovers and converted them in transition. That little minute and a half stretch was kind of an anomaly.

“Other than that run, the first half was kind of even, as well.”

The Pels made 18 of their 28 third-quarter shots and Portland hit just 6 of 18. The rebounds were a ridiculous 17-4 and the assists were 13-3.

Talk about getting slapped around -- the Trail Blazers were the JV team playing against the varsity in the third quarter, when the Pelicans did have 17 fast-break points to Portland’s 2.

That won’t work.

“Our energy wasn’t there,” Lillard said. They made all the effort plays. They just outplayed us. We lost that quarter by 20. When you have that kind of quarter, it’s tough to win on the road.”

And on Wednesday, the team travels to Memphis for a big contest against a team the Blazers trail in the standings by guess how many games?

Three.

Nassir Little pays up on bet with Rodney Hood after Duke-UNC game

Nassir Little pays up on bet with Rodney Hood after Duke-UNC game

The Duke-UNC rivalry is probably the most known rivalry in all of basketball. It's a rivalry that dates back to Jan. 24, 1920 and the two schools are separated by a mere 10 miles along Tobacco Road.

UNC leads the series all-time, 133-105.

The rivalry has infiltrated the Portland Trail Blazers this season with Nassir Little (UNC, 2018-19), Rodney Hood (Duke, 2013-14) and Gary Trent Jr. (Duke, 2017-18). The three never played one another in college and even though they are teammates in the NBA, that doesn't stop the betting or the rivalry.

If you caught the game over the weekend, it was nothing short of what a rivalry should be: an overtime thriller.

Unfortunately for Nassir Little, his team lost which means he had to pay up, and not with money.

On Monday, Little posted a photo of himself in a Duke University sweatshirt with the caption "I always thought Duke blue was better! #gthc"

Damian Lillard even commented "Lmao" in the comments on the post.

Turns out it was actually Hood that placed the bet with Little, and not Trent Jr. But that didn't stop him from getting in the photo and teasing his Blazer teammate.

Little played at UNC for one season (2018-2019) and was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 25 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Trent Jr. played at Duke for also one season (2017-2018) and was drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the No. 37 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft before the Blazers traded for him that same night.

Duke and UNC will play again in the final week of ACC conference play on Saturday, March 7 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Virtuous to victorious: A patient Gary Trent, Jr. has seized the opportunity

Virtuous to victorious: A patient Gary Trent, Jr. has seized the opportunity

“Control what I can control. Just continue to work. If the opportunity comes I’ll just be ready.”

Those were the words of Gary Trent, Jr. six months ago following the Trail Blazers final Summer League game in Las Vegas.

Here he is present day-- “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity, so just take full advantage of it, play hard, control what I can control. ”

It’s fair to say that Trent controlling what he can control is truly paying off.

In five games at the 2019 MGM Resorts Summer League, Trent averaged 20.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 1.8 assists.

Many wondered if the 37th overall pick of the 2018 draft would be able to bring that confidence and knockdown shooting ability when he faced the big boys.

Now, we know.  

And yes... yes, he can. 

Trent has been key to Portland's recent success with his play on both ends of the court. He is a role player who has figured out exactly what his team needs from him.

Damian Lillard couldn’t be more proud of the second-year player.

 “You just love to see it,” Lillard said after Sunday’s win over the Heat. “I told him the other day – I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud or happier for another player or a younger player since I’ve been in the league than I am of what he’s been doing. Second round pick – he’s a McDonald’s All American, went to Duke and you know, he comes out and doesn’t get opportunity right away, has a lot to learn. He was young, 19 years old, his dad played in the league – so I mean, he just had a lot to figure out and he did it.”

Over the summer, he did the work. He came back in shape, he was lean, low body fat, you could tell he was picking up the plays easier; he was picking up the defensive assignments easier. You can just tell he was locked in from camp and still came to start the season and wasn’t playing a lot, but he stayed with it and I think all of those things that he did from day one as far as growing up and getting better and paying attention, it’s just shining right now and it looks good. It’s not like garbage minutes – he’s doing it in the first half, he’s doing it in big stretches of the game, towards the end of the game. And, I think it shows in how everybody’s showing trust in him… Super happy for him. -- Lillard on the emergence of Gary Trent Jr. 

With injuries piling up this season, the Blazers have had a challenging road trying to figure out how to play together. It’s been difficult for Portland to find a consistent second unit player, too.

Until now.

In his last 10 games, Trent is averaging 13.1 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, including 46.8 percent shooting from distance.

His extra scoring punch is what the Blazers haven’t had, but needed all season. He has turned into the Jake Layman or Nik Stauskas-type where they might not be on the scouting report, but when they get hot, WATCH OUT.

Trent is also averaging 1.1 steal in the same time period.

The result? The Blazers have gone 7-3. 

The 21-year-old is a self-proclaimed “dog” on the court, and that’s just the type of mentality the Blazers need as they look to get back into the playoff race.

Trent was the second leading scorer in Sunday’s win over the Heat with 22 points off the bench. He went 8-of-11 from the field and 5-of-7 from three-point range. His defensive also provided a big spark as well with four steals on the night. 

Trent’s consistency, confidence, and toughness isn’t going unnoticed.

“I think if you look at Gary Trent and how he’s really come along, I think he’s certainly grown,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said Sunday. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence. But I think the passing, he’s had some good looks, I think that helps, he’s a really good shooter, he’s a confident shooter, that helps. But he’s gained a lot of experience over time and the opportunity that he has now because of injuries he’s taken advantage of it. But a lot of it is him taking advantage of the opportunity more than anything. I think he’s grown defensively, I’ve said that many times, but I think that’s carried over to his offense as well.”

Carmelo Antony, who has seen many young players grow over his 17-year career, discussed how he can respect the journey that Trent is on at that moment.

“It’s called confidence,” Melo said. “We instill the confidence in him. We let him know how important he is to this team and what we’re trying to do trying to accomplish--His hard work is paying off."

Trent says he is continuing to work hard and grow, but more than anything, he is taking the challenge by the horns and letting the game come to him.

Just like he said he was doing back in July at Summer League:

“Just being patient. I know where to get to my spots, where I can get my shot off… All last year, I didn’t play that much, so just getting an opportunity to get on the floor, get up and down, being able to get a foul, being able to knock down a jump shot, it’s a great feeling.”

Things are definitely come full circle for the young fella. 

Right now, just about the only way to stop Damian Lillard is goaltending

Right now, just about the only way to stop Damian Lillard is goaltending

It doesn’t seem to matter what anybody tries to do in order to stop Damian Lillard right now, it’s not working. Double-teams, triple-teams, small guys, big guys -- whatever.

Lillard went for 33 points Sunday night along with eight assists, four rebounds, a steal and a blocked shot as his Trail Blazers won their seventh out of their last 10 games, a 115-109 triumph over Miami.

During those 10 games, Lillard has scored more than 60 points once, 50 or more points twice, 40 or more points six times and 30 or more points eight times.

He has scored 30 or more in 25 games this season, fourth most in the NBA.

“We did about as good of a job as you can on Lillard,” Miami Coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We got the ball out of his hands, which is very hard to do, and then it ended up in Gary Trent’s hards and he made those shots.”

Trent is becoming a big (and sometimes only) Portland weapon off the bench. He hit five of his seven three-pointers and scored 22 points. The other three Trail Blazer players who came on in a reserve role did not score at all.

The 6-2, 195-pound Lillard found himself defended by 6-6, 235-pound Jae Crowder and 6-6, 215-pound Andre Iguodala at times Sunday and they weren’t gentle with him.

But lately, goaltending seems to be the only way to deny Lillard.

Are bigger, stronger defenders who can bump him around more becoming a common practice?

“I think it’s been that way for a while now,” Lillard said. “It’s more obvious on a team like that because they just look bigger and they’ve got so many like-sized guys, it stands out more.

“But I think it’s pretty much been that way for a while now. Small, tall, strong -- I’m a scorer I know how to play, so I’m going to figure out a way to do what I need to do.”

Lillard’s minutes have grown as his scoring has gone up and he’s playing about 39 minutes a game over his last 10. Is that wearing on him?

“I feel good,” he said.

Coach Terry Stotts talked about his team’s toughness -- “both mental and physical” -- and said “I’m proud of our team right now.”

And he’s running out of superlatives for Lillard.

“Dame’s been playing great,” Stotts said. “He does whatever it takes. It’s obvious to everyone what a competitor he is and how important winning and making the playoffs is, and he’s doing whatever it takes.”

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers apparently can take the Heat

Instant Analysis: Trail Blazers apparently can take the Heat

Sunday was a battle between two injury-riddled teams.

Portland was without Anfernee Simons (concussion) and Nassir Little (left ankle sprain) for Sunday's game and then lost Mario Hezonja to a left ankle sprain early in the second quarter. He did not return to action.

The Trail Blazers did, however, get starting center Hassan Whiteside back from a one game absence due to a left leg contusion. 

As for the Heat, Miami was without Jimmy Butler (right shoulder strain), Tyler Herro (right ankle soreness), Meyers Leonard (left ankle sprain) and Kyle Alexander (right knee hyperextension & PCL sprain).

Portland started out the game shooting 6-of-8 from the field, but whenever it looked as though the Blazers were going to take command of the game, the Heat would charge back. Portland’s biggest lead in the first half was 11 points. Yet at halftime, Portland held just a three-point lead. 

After such high-scoring first and third quarters for the Blazers, Portland had a tough time scoring in the final period, but were able to get just enough stops in crunch time.

FINAL BOX SCORE: TRAIL BLAZERS 115, HEAT 109 

Here are three quick takeaways from the win from our NBC Sports team at the game:

Mike Richman, Reporter

The Blazers did it with balance against the Heat on Sunday night. Six guys scored in double figures, and while Damian Lillard (31 points) was excellent but he didn't have to carry the entire load. Trevor Ariza (21 points) was hot early, Gary Trent Jr. (22 points) made some timely shots late and Hassan Whiteside owned the glass (16 rebounds). Blazers are 7-3 in their last 10 games, and are playing their best basketball of the season heading into the All-Star break.

Jamie Hudson, Reporter

Damian Lillard and Trevor Ariza had a strong two-man game going, especially early on, with Lillard finding Ariza cutting to the hoop on a number of occasions. Ariza was getting the job done on both ends all night. With Portland forced to go deep into its bench, the Blazers still shot the ball well and continued to get production from Gary Trent Jr. The Blazers ball movement was also on full display in the third quarter. Wing players on both teams found a lot of success from behind the arc, which really helped the Heat stay in the game with their timely threes.  

Chris Burkhardt, Producer

What more can be said about Gary Trent Jr.? He has been on an absolute tear in recent weeks, and had another huge impact on Sunday. The second year guard scored 22 points and was once again all over the place on defense. Trent is a self proclaimed “dog” on the court, and that’s just the type of mentality the Blazers need if they hope to get back in the playoff race.

Up Next: The Trail Blazers will play in a road back-to-back starting with a game in New Orleans on Tuesday night. The Blazers and Pelicans will tip-off at 5:00pm.

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

Gary Trent, Jr. is living in Donovan Mitchell's head

Gary Trent, Jr. is living in Donovan Mitchell's head

Gary Trent is a dog on the court and he's not afraid to bark in your ear, either. 

The second-year guard has been playing the best basketball of his career over the past few weeks, adding to that success with another great game on Friday night at Utah. 

The self-proclaimed "dog" on the court, Trent, Jr. was all over the floor against the Jazz, pestering players like Jordan Clarkson and Mitchell all night long. 

As the halftime buzzer sounded, Trent and Mitchell exchanged pleasantries from across the court and received off-setting technicals. It was a sign of things to come. 

Trent, Jr. doesn't back down from anyone and he wasn't about to start in Utah. 

Every play, he was diving on the court, hitting timely shots and talking trash all along the way. 

But, that trash talk didn't sit well with Mitchell. 

I don’t see why a guy like Gary Trent should come in and think he can just punk us. ... We’re not a team that you can come in and just talk trash to. We’re not just gonna back down. - Donovan Mitchell 

Well, Mitchell's words found their way to the ears of the Blazers. 

Damian Lillard, who was already in a foul mood following a missed goaltending call at the end of the game, had two simple words for Mitchell, "Man stop."

The target of Mitchell's mini-rant, Trent, Jr. responded, as well. 

Trent laughed, but the really funny part about all this is: He and Mitchell played similar games. 

They both scored 16 points, but Trent, Jr. had a better shooting percentage and added four steals to the box score. 

Mitchell is one of the best young stars in the league, but on this night, the Blazers were in no mood to listen to him talk. 

The Blazers and Jazz don't meet again this season unless they matchup in the playoffs. 

After Friday's game, it's a playoff matchup fans around the NBA would love to see. 

Gary Trent, Jr. gets defensive, which keeps him in Trail Blazers rotation

Gary Trent, Jr. gets defensive, which keeps him in Trail Blazers rotation

The development of second-year player Gary Trent, Jr. has undoubtedly been a big part of the Trail Blazers’ recent success as Portland has gone 6-4 in their last 10 contests.  

Whether it’s a pull-up mid-range jumper, a corner three, or a nifty finish at the basket, Trent has proven he can get buckets... and plenty of them.

That has exuded confidence with his shot this season and even more so in his recent play.

Trent is coming off an 18-point game in Thursday’s 125-117 win over the San Antonio Spurs in which was a perfect 4-for-4 from long distance in the fourth quarter.  

In his last 10 games, the 21-year-old is averaging 11.3 points on 47.2 percent shooting from the field, and 41.1 percent from three-point range.

But really, it’s Trent’s defense that has his coach and teammates taking notice. 

“I think he’s giving good effort, mentally he’s locked in, he’s gained experience in how to guard perimeter guys close to goal or off ball screens," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said after Thursday’s win. "I think the biggest thing for me and the challenge for younger players is mentally anticipating -- seeing things. When people talk about effort, it’s more than that. I think it’s just being aware on every possession, not falling asleep, or being caught on the play. You gotta lock in on the task at hand."

CJ McCollum added, “It starts in practice with him having to guards us each day – paying attention to the details, being physical, learning, and taking the challenges.” 

Trent himself, knows how important it is, especially at this point in his career to come out with energy, effort, and focus on the defensive end. 

When you’re a young player in this league, when you touch the floor you got to be able to defend. Last year they told me to work on my defense and I took that to heart and watched some of my defense with the coaching staff to continue to get better at it. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard Gary Trent Jr. 

“Just knowing your angles, knowing players tendencies, and really having heart. Not letting anybody scoring on you and take it to heart when somebody scores on you and just have pride in yourself.”

The back-up shooting guard is averaging 26.1 minutes per game over the last 10 contests. Along with focusing on his defense, he knows that real game action can’t be beat. 

“Getting game reps, you can practice all you want and do all the conditioning in the world, but you can’t simulate a real game,” Trent said. “Knowing angles, knowing players tendencies, knowing what they can do helps me out there.”

After all, Trent Jr.’s motto is "Just Be Great."

He’s obviously listening to himself with that slogan, but it's also clear that he has being listening to others' advice at both ends of the floor.

And he's here to stay.

Gary Trent, Jr. has arrived, earned his minutes

Gary Trent, Jr. has arrived, earned his minutes

Rewind back to the first couple of weeks of October when the Trail Blazers opened training camp.

Instead of a new face turning heads, it was back-up shooting guard Gary Trent, Jr. who was on the tip of every Trail Blazers' tongue.

Now, fast forward to the present day where the second-year combo player out of Duke has shown all of Rip City what his teammates saw during training camp: His improvement at both ends of the court.

During the Blazers 125-117 victory over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, Trent was dialed in from long distance. He went 6-of-7 from three-point range and finished with 18 points and four assists.

Learning from the Blazers backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum also helps. 

The two were singing the 21-year-old’s praises back in October and again on Thursday night.

“Yeah, in training camp, he made a lot of shots, he was aggressive, he showed who he could be,” McCollum said. 

“I noticed it when he came back to training camp,” Lillard said of Trent's overall progression. “You could tell he came back with a better understanding of what he needed to do and how he needed to be to get real time... I noticed it then and then I think I sat out the game in Milwaukee, and that was when I got to – not being part of the game – I got to really watch and I was like, this dude is deflecting passes, chasing people all over the place, playing physical, he’s making shots, competing, knew the plays – he was executing the scouting report defensively. He was just really sharp in that game. Tonight, he had a game that would jump out to you more, but since I got to watch that game, it was so obvious to me that night that he was ready to be a rotation player.”

Becoming a consistent rotation player all started with Trent’s 2019 offseason.

The former Duke Blue Devil explained that his ability to play with so much confidence right now was due to the time he put in over the summer. 

“I stayed in Portland, didn’t go anywhere else. Just in the gym every day, sometimes twice. It’s just a testament to the hard work. I’m nowhere near where I want to be as a player and I’m going to continue to work.”

Trent earned 24 minutes of playing time Thursday night with McCollum in foul trouble against the Spurs. This season, he's averaging almost 10 minutes more per game.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts admitted he had to sub out McCollum when he picked up his fifth foul early in the 4th quarter, and elected to keep Trent in the game as to “not screw it up” by tinkering with what was working.

And what working... was Gary Trent, Jr.

He led the way from three in the fourth quarter with four three-pointers, while the Blazers as a team were nearly perfect from behind the arc in the final period.

"He’s been playing with a lot of confidence," Stotts said. "Obviously he shot the ball well-- that’s an understatement. He’s taking what’s there."

Trent is seizing his opportunity. 

And, if there's one guy who really knows all about making the most of his minutes when getting the chance at a young age, it's McCollum.

Hello, 2015 playoff series against Memphis. 

McCollum has also seen Trent’s hard work paying off.

He’s been himself. He’s consistent with his work ethic, his approach, his confidence never wavers. He’s going to be a really good player for a long time. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum

But that's only the half of it. Stay tuned for Part II on Trent, Jr.'s arrival and how it's really his work on the defensive end that has helped keep him on the court. 

Lillard calls Hassan Whiteside 'the best shot-blocker I've ever been around'

Lillard calls Hassan Whiteside 'the best shot-blocker I've ever been around'

It was a long day for Hassan Whiteside. But things got a whole lot better a little after the noon hour.

That’s when the Trail Blazer center knew for sure he wasn’t going to be shipped out of town at the NBA trade deadline, after months of speculation that he might be dealt to a team looking for salary-cap relief when his contract expires at season’s end.

“This was probably the most… I was thinking about it this time,” Whiteside said Thursday night after his 17 points, 23 rebounds and four blocked shots propelled Portland to a 125-117 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Moda Center. “It wasn’t anything I lost sleep over. I just didn’t want to hear about it no more. It was more that I got tired hearing about scenarios, outside noise …”

Whiteside played 36:15 as Coach Terry Stotts matched his minutes against the Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge, who played the identical total.

Aldridge is smaller and more mobile than Whiteside, so it meant a long night of chasing the former Trail Blazer all over the floor. But Aldridge finished with 20 points and needed 23 shots to get them.

“He took a lot of shots,” Whiteside said with a laugh. “I played a lot of defense. I just wanted to make it tough for him and I felt like I did. I think our team defense was great in the second half.”

Whiteside blocked Aldridge twice -- and getting him even once is usually an achievement.

“He shoots so high,” Whiteside said. “He likes to lower his shoulder and hit you, then create space. He’s got a quick release. He’s going to get enough attempts.

“I feel like I did good.”

Others felt the same way.

“He’s the best shot-blocker I’ve ever been around,” said Damian Lillard, who had 26 points and 10 assists for the Trail Blazers. “I feel like he’s going to block everything. The only people I’ve seen block (Aldridge’s) turnaround is him tonight and Anthony Davis. Those are the only two people I’ve seen even get to that or come close to it, so it’s impressive.

“I mean, it’s crazy. You want to see those type of numbers impact winning and I think that’s what he’s been doing lately. It’s been a big part of us winning games.”

Stotts was just as impressed.

“Hassan was terrific,” he said. “I thought the defensive job he did with LaMarcus in the second half -- LaMarcus had four points -- and what he had in the first half, 16. He took away the middle, contested shots, obviously the rebounding. But he had a terrific game.”

And it isn’t just the blocked shots. It's also that he’s leading the league in that department is like putting a big, flashing “Caution” sign in the middle of the lane.

Opposing players steer clear of the rim very frequently when he’s lurking in the basket area. He’s an intimidator in a league where it’s considered embarrassing to get shot batted into the third row of the seats.

The Blazers had a big night from three-point range (18-37), sparked by a 6-7 effort from Gary Trent -- enough to make up for a 16-point deficit from the foul line.

Portland has little time to rest. The Blazers were scheduled to be on their charter before 11 p.m., to fly to Salt Lake City for a Friday night game against the Jazz.