Lillard in awe of Warriors' performance in the Western Conference Finals

Lillard in awe of Warriors' performance in the Western Conference Finals

By Ali Thanawalla, NBC Sports Bay Area

The Portland Trail Blazers entered the 2019 Western Conference finals with a lot of confidence.

They had just knocked off the No. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets in seven games in the second round of the NBA playoffs, and felt they could compete with the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

As you know by now, the Warriors swept the Blazers to advance to their fifth straight NBA Finals.

So, what the heck happened to the Blazers, who were the No. 3 seed in the West?

"We just lost, bruh," All-Star guard Damian Lillard said on The Joe Budden Podcast. "Them n----s good."

The Oakland native then proceeded to give the hosts a real answer about what he saw during the four-game series against his hometown team.

"I ain't never seen nobody go on runs like that," Lillard said. "They put runs together like that. You can do nothing but respect it."

In Game 1, Portland led by five at one point before the Warriors won by 22. In Games 2, 3 and 4, the Blazers held either a 17- or 18-point lead and lost all three games.

The Warriors teams of the last five years had the incredible ability to overcome any deficit. No lead was safe with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson bombing away from deep.

The amazing part about the Warriors' four-game sweep of Lillard and the Blazers is that they did it without Kevin Durant, who at the time was recovering from a strained right calf.

The good news for Lillard is that Durant is gone. The bad news is Curry and Draymond Green are still around, and Thompson will be back in a few months.

REPORT: Jordan Bell agrees to contract with Minnesota

REPORT: Jordan Bell agrees to contract with Minnesota

The Minnesota Timberwolves and restricted free agent Jordan Bell have agreed to a one-year, $1.6 million contract, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports. The Warriors will have the opportunity to match the offer.

Bell was drafted in the second round (No. 38 overall) in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls (and immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors). 

In his first two seasons, Bell has earned 2,193,857 million dollars with the Warriors. 

The former Oregon Duck men’s basketball star is known for his rim protection skills earning the hashtag #ThingsJordanBellCanBlock during Oregon's run to the Final Four in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

In his second season with the Warriors, Bell averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 68 games. Bell’s role on Golden State typically stays with the second unit. 

REPORT: Warriors’ Jordan Bell to become restricted free agent

REPORT: Warriors’ Jordan Bell to become restricted free agent

The Bell just may stay in the Bay.

Reported by Shams Charania, the Golden State Warriors looks like they want to keep Jordan Bell in blue and yellow. 

As a restricted free agent, the Warriors may now match a qualifying offer for Bell should other teams be interested in acquiring the two-year player.

The former Oregon Duck men’s basketball star, who coined the hashtag #ThingsJordanBellCanBlock for his outstanding rim protection skills, is known for his defensive efforts and athletic abilities. 

Bell was drafted in round two (No. 38 overall) in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls (and immediately traded to the Golden State Warriors). 

In his second season with the Warriors, Bell averaged 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds in 68 games. Bell’s role on Golden State typically stays with the second unit. One moment in particular stands out in Bell’s career with Golden State and the impact he is making: during the NBA Western Conference Finals between the Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers, Bell missed a wide open dunk. Instead of sulking, Draymond Green didn’t allow him too.

After the game, Green said in the postgame press conference, “I told him ‘Klay [Thompson] has missed shots, I’ve missed them and Steph [Curry] as well’… It just came upon me to stick with him, give him some confidence, and sure enough, he had a dunk the next play and a block. I think that was an important moment.”

The players and the organization are putting their stocks in Bell.

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

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NBC Sports Northwest

Scoop Journal: Who else wished they were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night?

Welcome to The Scoop Journal, where every week I empty my notebook of wide ranging Trail Blazer thoughts, observations, and randomness. I hope you enjoy this light-hearted weekly blog...

June 14, 2019

Dear Scoop Journal,

This is my first journal entry since the Trail Blazers season ended and it seems fitting to write down my random Trail Blazers/NBA thoughts today since the season came to an end last night with the Toronto Raptors taking home the 2019 NBA Championship.

Now that I’ve had a night to sleep on it, with all the injuries for the Warriors, and the celebrations in Toronto, here are my latest Blazers and NBA thoughts:

*Everyone I talk to today, I want to ask them this question: How bad did you wish you were partying it up in Jurassic Park on Thursday night in Toronto? (Toronto knows how to celebrate a championship!)

*First off, Congrats to Toronto and the Raptors fans on earning their first NBA Championship! I know I’m not alone in thinking Blazers fans are happy for their fellow northern neighbors.

*It’s so hard not to think about what it would be like here in Portland for the Blazers to win a title in the modern NBA era. Rip City will go absolutely crazy when the next championship happens here. This is something I think about often. Obviously, I can’t wait for that day!   

*There were so emotions for Golden State fans on Thursday night. It was the last game played at Oracle Arena, the Warriors had just lost Kevin Durant to a ruptured Achilles a couple days before Game 6, and then Klay Thompson goes out with what we all later learned was a torn ACL.

*Injuries are the worst part of the game. You hate to see players go down with these horrific injuries.  

*And not to mention, Thompson and Durant will both become free agents this offseason. This summer is going to be very interesting and next season could now be wide open.  

*I saw a Blazer fan tweet this out on Thursday night and I think this is how every non-Warrior fan was feeling:

*For now, NBA fans wish for a speedy recovery to all the players who went down with major injuries this season.

*Let’s now shift our focus to the NBA Draft. Thursday evening can’t come soon enough. Who will the Blazers pick at No. 25? Or will Portland trade the pick in a package deal? We’re about to find out!

On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

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USA Today

On a night the Warriors won, the NBA lost

These NBA Finals have been absolutely amazing. 

One team is trying three-peat while the other team is trying to win its first championship in franchise history. 

It's Steph and Co. vs Klaw and Co.

The North vs The Bay.

U.S.A vs Canada.

No matter how you slice it, the series has been well worth the price of admission and just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it got better.

Like one of those famous Marvel Cinematic Universe end scenes that get you hyped for the next movie and hint at a new character, Twitter started to tease us with the prospect that Kevin Durant could return to play in Game 5. Then the tease turned to reality. KD was a full go. He was about to play superhero. He was going to will the Warriors up from the ashes and the brink of elimination to another championship. 

The story had the making of a Hollywood script. Durant came out on fire. He showed no signs of rust as he torched the Raptors early.  Then in a snap, it all came crashing down. One wrong move and Durant fell to the floor.

It is feared the Durant has torn his Achilles. If that's the case, what a heartbreaking end of the season for one of the greatest players in the game. 

Injuries are the worst part of sports. 

The. Worst.

You know what sucks? Jusuf Nurkic breaking his leg.
You know that sucks? Victor Oladipo rupturing his quad tendon
You what sucks? Kevin Durant tearing his Achilles.

Now I'm not here to place blame like so much of social media was quick to do on Monday night. Was it Golden State's fault? Was it Kevin Durant's fault? Was it your next door neighbors fault? Come on. 

No matter who we choose to blame for this accident, the end result is the same - We don't get to watch one of the most amazing basketball players in the world next season, and even worse, he doesn't get to lace up his shoes and play the games he loves. 

That was my first reaction when I saw the injury Monday night. A man who put it all on the line, who wanted nothing more than to play the game of basketball, had it cruelly ripped away from him on the world's biggest stage. I cared not for the series. I cared not for how this could impact free agency. I cared only for the person on the court wearing the blue No.35 jersey.

Too often we forget that these players are not robots. they are people. Kevin Durant the person will be around long after Kevin Durant the player is gone, so we should really take time to enjoy Durant the player while we can.

We should all be rooting for Durant, because as much we want to make him a basketball villain and pretend like we hate him, deep down we all know we need him. 

It's like the scene in The Dark Knight where Batman says The Joker wants to kill him. Joker's response, "I don’t want to kill you! What would I do without you... No, no, you… you complete me." 

Durant completes us.

Why? Because as fans we all love the game of basketball, and the game of basketball is better when the best in the world are suited up. Seeing Durant, arguably the best player the game has to offer, on the court makes the game that much better. 

I hope Durant comes back stronger than ever. The game next season won't be the same without him. 

The legend of Seth vs Steph in the Western Conference Finals

The legend of Seth vs Steph in the Western Conference Finals

The Portland Trail Blazers needed every advantage they could get in their Western Conference series against the Golden State Warriors, and in Games 2 and 3 it looked early on like one of the answers might just be Seth Curry and his lifetime of experience playing older brother Stephen Curry. 

No doubt Blazers fans will remember Game 2 fondly, and the legend of Curry vs. Curry has already started to grow. But just how much did little brother actually bother big brother?

The initial results aren't great. Stephen Curry scored a combined 73 points in Games 2 and 3, and his assist totals, field-goal shooting, and plus/minus was stellar. 

But the younger Curry did get his digs at big bro, and all of Seth's steals in Game 3 came against Steph. 

So what should we really think about the family rivalry that budded in the Western Conference Finals in 2019? How much did Seth throw his MVP sibling off his game?

Watch the video above to see the full breakdown and the verdict.

 

We the Northwest...but who to root for in the NBA Finals?

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USATI

We the Northwest...but who to root for in the NBA Finals?

The Toronto Raptors and the Golden State Warriors are tied in the 2019 NBA finals, 1-1. The defending champions got punched in the mouth at Scotiabank Arena in Game 1, and Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson to responded in Game 2.

Game 1 of the Finals was certainly different than how the Warriors cruised through their Western Conference Finals matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite a strong showing in the first two rounds, the Blazers finally ran out of gas and Golden State was able to sweep their conference foes.

With the weather starting to turn sunny in Rip City, but with the town still interested in NBA basketball, the question has become which of these two remaining teams should Blazers fans root for?

It's been suggested that Golden State is the obvious choice. Not only are the Warriors a Western Conference team, but they’re the squad that knocked the Blazers out of the playoffs. In a true college football, conference bowl game-y way, the logic is that the better Golden State plays, the stronger Portland looks in retrospect.

But there’s no preseason rankings in the NBA, and no SOS factor heading into next season. So really, I’m not sure anyone thinks Portland looks stronger if the Warriors play better.

There's also been a suggestion that fans should root for Golden State as a means to drive Kevin Durant away. The superstar wing has been out with an injury since the second round, and it's unclear if he will return in this series.

Should the Warriors be able to beat Toronto without Durant, it could signal to both sides that it's time for the former Oklahoma City Thunder star to head to greener pastures. Then again, the logic is if Durant is unable to play and the Raptors are victorious, it could induce Durant to stay with Golden State, tipping the scales in the Warriors’ favor for the rest of his contract.

This is truly some galaxy brain level thinking, but with the sun shining and no Blazers basketball to be watched, this kind of circuitous scheming is to be expected here in the Willamette Valley.

The case for the Raptor is his clear. First, cheering an Eastern Conference team to beating the dynasty from the Bay feels natural in and of itself. The Warriors have beat Portland three of the last four years in the postseason. Portland fans don't necessarily think of Golden State as a direct rival, but “the enemy of my enemy” and all that.

Toronto is also a team more in the mold of Portland, both in this current Trail Blazers roster and in the ethos of the franchise itself. Up until this moment, Toronto has been a loser of epic proportions in the playoffs this decade. Where Blazers fans are haunted by the memories of blown-out knees, Raptors fans have had Kyle Lowry’s playoff performances.

Thanks to Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, Danny Green, and even Lowry, when the Raptors are playing at their peak they also resemble this Blazers team. That is, Toronto is a unit with one superstar and several crucial players that must contribute lest they get blasted the way they did in their first couple games against the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.

I can see why the issue is so difficult for Blazers fans. To root for a team simply because they are in the Western Conference has too much of a college football-y vibe. But so too is hoping the Warriors’ result will influence the future makeup of their roster and thus affect Portland's chances to go deeper in future postseasons.

But in this town, we root for the underdog. We root for uncanny performances from average participants. We root with unrelenting optimism because, just like Toronto, Portland wants to prove to the rest of the world just how great it really is; about why people choose to live here; about what basketball really means to this city.

That's why, even though it's June, you can still root for the team in black and red. Kevin Durant be damned: Go Raptors. We the Northwest.

How the Warriors' passing beat the Blazers and what that means for the Raptors

How the Warriors' passing beat the Blazers and what that means for the Raptors

The defending champion Golden State Warriors were able to take care of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals in just four games, partly due to their incredible passing. While the Toronto Raptors were able to tame Golden State's assists in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals, no doubt there will be plays in this penultimate playoff series that will have us asking, “How the heck is he that wide open?”

The Warriors had an average assist differential in the Western Conference Finals of +5  but more concerning was the quality of shots Golden State got from their open looks. Portland was often left looking around, with too many players lumped onto one shooter while cutters ran to the basket or as Warriors floated to the corners.

Golden State’s guard movement was made more difficult to defend on plays when the Blazers would get the first switch correct, but then continue to overplay shooters, leading to easy buckets on backdoor cuts and slashes from the wing.

So how do the Warriors confuse defenses so much, and will the Raptors need to do to stop them? Take a look at our film study from their games against Portland in the video above to see the full breakdown.

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

Warriors vs Raptors: Who you taking in the NBA Finals?

One team is looking to three-peat while the other team is appearing in its first NBA Finals ever. So who you got, the Warriors or the Raptors?

Our Blazers Outsiders took a time to give us their picks:

Jake McGrady: Heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. The Raptors are intriguing. Kawhi Leonard is a complete force of nature, a beast in his own right. He's been to the NBA Finals with the Spurs, but he's never been the sole leader and heart of a franchise going into the finals. I think something interesting is going to happen and at the least, the series will go farther than people are predicting. 

Alex Haigh: I don't have a good feeling about the Raptors... I'm with Jake. It's like heart says Raptors, mind says Warriors. But my mind really says Warriors, especially if KD comes back. It's the Raptors' first trip to the finals and I don't know if they have it in them

Chris Burkhardt: Until they are dethroned it's hard to go against the defending champs. We saw first hand what they did to the Blazers, and that was without Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. And before you say "well, the Blazers were trash..." No. No, they weren't. We can argue about Portland's roster deficiencies all day long, but the fact of the matter is that roster was good enough to get them to Western Conference Finals. Then, a team that was just that much better than everyone else destroyed them. The Warriors are that good. Now, with the way the Raptors are playing, I think the Warriors are going to get the biggest test they have had in these playoffs. I even think the Raptors have what it takes to pull off a series upset if the cards fall right. But if I'm walking up to window in Las Vegas right now, I'm putting my money on Golden State. 

 

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

Sweep? Doesn't matter -- it was a great season for the Trail Blazers

It was a great season for the Portland Trail Blazers. Let’s get that out of the way right here and now. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you anything different.

It doesn’t really matter that the Golden State Warriors completed the sweep of the Trail Blazers with a 119-117 overtime win Monday night in the Moda Center.

In the big picture, it’s meaningless, really. The Blazers weren't going to win the championship, anyway. The Warriors were always going to be too much for them and perhaps everyone else in the league.

The Trail Blazers accomplished too much this season to allow the outcome of this series to spoil what they did.

This was a team that Las Vegas figured might win 42 games. It was a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs and, after the devastating injury to Jusuf Nurkic certainly wasn’t expected to win many playoff games, let alone a series.

But the Blazers won enough to capture the third seed in the Western Conference, then knocked off Oklahoma City in five games and won a seventh game on the road to decide their series with the Denver Nuggets.

This was a big step for this team, which can now go into next season knowing they were in the NBA’s Final Four and played the defending champions tough in three of the four games.

“I think it’s more than just the playoff run,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “I think the fact that we had a very good regular season, the fact that we were able to win two series, we were competitive in this series, even though it was a sweep – we played competitively.

“But I think (next season) is a long way away from now. I think when that time comes, we’ll be able to reflect. I think it’s a little too early to look at how this series helps us right now. Right now, it kind of stings.”

Damian Lillard, the captain, was not at all reluctant to put this accomplishment in perspective.
“It’s the Western Conference finals,” he said. “The other night after our game, I was looking for another game on TV and I was like, there’s two series going on right now and we’re one of them. For me, we’ve shown what we’re capable of. We can get it done. And our route here was as hard as anybody’s.
“We played the Thunder, great team. We played Denver, great team. So it wasn’t like we just eased our way in. We earned this. We got here. I think we showed this is who we are.

“This is what we’ve capable of. It’s not like some random thing. We’re in the playoffs every year. We bounce back every year regardless of how it ends. And this year we pushed it even further. So I think we showed we have it in us.

“So now we take this experience and move forward again. Obviously, you don’t want to go out with a sweep. We could have easily won every game. We just didn’t. Just got to keep going.

“We’ve shown that what we’ve been believing in and what we hang our hats on, works. That has taken time. We’ve invested a lot in our culture and our togetherness and that stuff. We’ve proven that works.

“We just ran up on a high-powered team and we still played well enough to beat them, but it was just those small lapses, those stretches when you give a game away against a team like that.”

Monday’s Game 4 was a lot like the previous two games, Portland frittered away a 17-point lead in the face of a Warrior charge and missed a chance to win the game at the end of regulation when Lillard’s right-handed hook shot trickled over the rim and then had another game-winner at the end of overtime when his three-pointer from the right corner missed.

What separated this game from all the others in the series, though, was the emergence of Meyers Leonard, not only in the starting lineup for the second straight game, but as a major factor in the game.

Leonard played 40:11, scored 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead his team in both categories. He was 10-12 from the field in the first half with 25 points but got only four shots in the second half.

But for a man whom Stotts had buried on the Blazer bench for a good portion of his seven seasons with the team, it was a big coming-out party.

And it left serious questions about why he hasn’t been used more frequently by a team that often hungers for another outside shooter. Leonard hit 5 of his 8 three-point shots in the game.

“Again, he, the first half was outstanding,” Stotts said. “Twenty-five points and he was playing with a lot of confidence. He certainly had an impact on the game, much like Game 3. And again, he played well and I’m happy for him.”

I would say Leonard was outstanding for more than the first half, he just didn’t get the ball much after intermission and that wasn’t his fault. Stotts normally throws compliments Leonard’s way about as frequently as it snows here in July.

But Golden State Coach Steve Kerr was willing.

“Meyers Leonard was fantastic,” Kerr said. “I thought the game softened up when Meyers Leonard started making threes. We had to make some adjustments and as soon as we did that, Damian’s eyes lit up. He started to see single coverage and he got going.”

The Warriors got their usual triple-double from Draymond Green, and it included a big three-pointer in overtime. Steph Curry also chalked up a triple-double that included 37 points and 13 rebounds.

The Trail Blazers have exit interviews scheduled for Tuesday and there will be full written and video coverage on this website.

And with that, a season that could almost qualify as magical, comes to an end.