Gregg Popovich

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

Hassan Whiteside leads Trail Blazer "other guys" to win at San Antonio

That win in San Antonio Saturday night for the Trail Blazers?

It was engineered by the “other guys.”

With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum – usually the ones carrying the heavy load in the fourth quarter – suffering through 1-7 efforts from the field in the final period, their teammates stepped up and forged a rally from a 15-point deficit with 8:32 left to a 121-116 win over the Spurs.

And it was the rest of the starting lineup that provided a good deal of the firepower. In the fourth quarter:

  • Rodney Hood hit both his field goal attempts and only free throw opportunity, including a huge three-point play with 1:21 to go that pushed his team into its first lead of the period.
  • Nassir Little had five rebounds in the quarter, some outstanding defense, big hustle plays and a resounding dunk.
  • And Hassan Whiteside was the biggest of them all, hitting four of his five shots from the floor, all three of his free throws, grabbing six rebounds and blocking two shots – all in the final quarter. Whiteside finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks and made perhaps the biggest play of the game with 37.1 seconds left and his team clinging to a one-point lead. He made a terrific block on DeMar DeRozan and then drew a loose-ball foul on DeRozan, who grabbed Whiteside’s shirt and pulled him down after the blocked shot.

Whiteside, a 57.5 percent career foul shooter, calmly made both free throws to push the lead to three.

“Hassan played a terrific fourth quarter at both ends,” Coach Terry Stotts said.  “He scored for us, he finished around the bucket, made his free throws. He was a big presence at the rim. He deterred a lot of shots. He really made a difference.”

Portland once led this game by 23 and had an 18-point lead after the first quarter. But the Spurs caught fire after Coach Gregg Popovich got booted out of the game at the 9:37 mark of the third period and climbed all the way into that 15-point lead.

“Basketball is a game of runs,” Whiteside said. “The difference in this one is we communicated down the stretch. We got stops at the end. I was telling the guys, we worked too hard to let this one slip away. We were just locked in on defense. Everybody just said it’s winning time. We definitely need a sense of urgency, but it’s not like the season is over. Guys are getting better. I’m doing things I’ve never done before in my career. I’m passing the ball more. Making backdoor passes to Dame. It’s the system here.”

The Trail Blazers were not sharing the ball early in the fourth quarter and missing quick shots. The big problem was a lot of one-pass or no-pass possessions before Stotts seemed to call for some multiple-player weaves, just to get the ball moving. The result was an 11-0 run that got the Blazers back in the game.

“Defensively, the fourth quarter was really important for us,” Stotts said. “We came up with a lot of loose balls and got some steals. It was a great game, big for us.”

Portland plays Game 2 of this six-game junket Monday in Houston.

How a duo of techs ALMOST doomed the Trail Blazers

How a duo of techs ALMOST doomed the Trail Blazers

How many times have you watched your favorite team in a mid-game slump, only to yell at the screen “coach really needs to get a tech right now! Pump some life back into this team!”?

Well, that is exactly what Spurs fans thought about their team on Saturday night, and it’s exactly what head coach Gregg Popovich did.

With 9:37 left in the third quarter and the Spurs trailing 77-64, Popovich had had enough. Upset with a call, he voiced his displeasure to the refs. Apparently, he said the magic words because he was handed two technical fouls on the spot and was promptly ejected.

Damian Lillard hit two technical free throws to makes it a 15-point game, but the Blazers' good feelings were ripped away shortly thereafter. 

Popovich walked out of the tunnel to the roar of the Spurs faithful showing their approval. There was energy in the stadium, and energy back in the Spurs lineup. With newfound life, the Spurs went on a 30-11 run to end the quarter and take the six-point lead into the fourth.

San Antonio only built on the lead from there, and it looked like it was going to be another big lead blown by the Blazers. But this is not how this one ended.

The Blazers showed poise, they showed character, and with their backs against the wall they were able to claw back and counter. Portland ended the game on a 17-6 run of its own, grabbing the lead back from the Spurs and the win with it.

The Blazers came out victorious, but they can still take a few notes from Pop and Co.

Sometimes it’s beneficial to shake it up. To do the unconventional in an attempt to ignite a fire. When Popovich earned the ejection, the Spurs regained their focus. Tim Duncan and Becky Hammon took the reigns and guided the ship and it almost worked.

However, the Blazers were ready for the challenge. Finishing strong has been hard for the Blazers early this season, but they were able to put the pieces together against the Spurs.

The lesson here is - next time you are watching the Blazers and think Stotts should take one for the team… you might get what you wished for. On Saturday, the Blazers saw just how effective that strategy can be.  

 

The alarm clock didn't go off quite in time for Trail Blazers to beat Spurs

The alarm clock didn't go off quite in time for Trail Blazers to beat Spurs

SAN ANTONIO – The Trail Blazers had every right to be tired Monday night for their game vs. the San Antonio Spurs. They were playing the night after a tough, emotional win at Dallas that saw them make a 19-point comeback.

But grabbing a nap through the middle of Monday's game was certainly not the appropriate thing to do.

Portland jumped to a 23-4 lead halfway through the first quarter before hauling out the blankets and pillows. Things were looking good and the Blazers were finally making three-point shots at a high rate, knocking down their first five in a row.

But it didn’t last. The snoring began and the scoring stopped.

The Spurs turned a 19-point deficit into a 19-point lead, which they held with 5:48 to go in the game – at 101-86 -- outscoring the Trail Blazers by 38 points, before an alarm clock went off somewhere near the Portland bench.

The Trail Blazers went to work, getting stops at one end and converting them into points at the other. Damian Lillard, working his way through a difficult shooting night, suddenly caught fire, scoring his team’s final 18 points.

But it wasn’t quite enough, as the Spurs held on for a 113-110 win.

A game in which each team held a 19-point lead went down to the final horn, though, as Lillard missed two three-pointers that would have sent the game into overtime – the last one as time expired. And that one WENT IN – but it popped back out.

“It did go in,” Lillard said of his corner three, which rattled around the rim before kicking back out. "I mean, I looked right at it. It was halfway down and it actually came out. I got two opportunities back-to-back and I don’t miss two of them. If I miss one, I can live with that, but it’s a little harder because I had two opportunities.”

It was a physical game and Lillard took a pretty good beating on his drives to the rim. He was 3-16 from the field heading into the fourth quarter and missed his first three shots in the final period. But he made six of his final nine to spark the rally.

The Blazers were fortunate to get a final chance to tie it. After Lillard drew his team within three with 40.4 seconds to go with a driving layup, DeMar DeRozan missed a jumper and first Lillard and then Tolliver missed threes that would have tied the score.

Portland had no choice but to foul DeRozan with 7.9 seconds left, sending the career 82.7 percent free-throw shooter to the line. But he missed both foul shots and the Blazers won a video replay for possession of the rebound.

Lillard, thinking the Spurs would do what most teams do in that situation with a three-point lead – foul – and he lofted a three-point shot off one leg but didn’t get the anticipated foul and the shot missed.

However, Portland got the ball back, setting up Lillard’s final misses.

“I was really proud of the way we competed to get back into it,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “Offensively, we really struggled for most of the second half. Somehow, Dame was able to will us to get back into the game. I don’t know if fatigue played a part of it. I thought the one-legger was in. I thought the other one was in. I thought Anthony Tolliver’s was in. I think we had four threes to tie the game. I thought one of them would go.”

But that’s been part of the Trail Blazers’ problems this season. In a league where games most nights are being decided by three-point shooting, they aren’t shooting them with high volume or high percentage.

Coming into the game, they were shooting just 33.8 percent from three and then shot 30.3 percent against the Spurs. Even after making their first five attempts. And they have taken 28 fewer attempts than their opponents through four games.

San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich probably summed up the game best when talking about Portland’s hot start from the three-point line:

“We shot jumpers, they shot jumpers,” he said. “Ours didn’t go in, theirs did. It doesn’t have much to do with anything other than that.”

Which is getting to be a description of an average game in the NBA.

Why is Gregg Popovich escaping criticism for Team USA failure?

Why is Gregg Popovich escaping criticism for Team USA failure?

The U.S. men’s basketball team dropped its second straight game at the FIBA championships and the excuses are flying.

Of course, the No. 1 alibi is that we didn’t send our best players. And that’s true. The best of the NBA would rather wait for a chance at an Olympic medal than waste a summer chasing a championship that didn’t even find its way to network television in this country. And I don’t blame them.

But it’s not as if we didn’t send very good players to China for this tournament. Only Mason Plumlee on this roster was not an NBA starter and there was a projected NBA payroll of $265 million for these guys.

Sorry, but no other team over there could feature talent of that magnitude.

So let me take a different path of trying to explain this problem. For one thing, doesn’t it seem that very few of our international teams have enough outside shooting to take advantage of the international three-point line? For years, other countries have sagged off in some form of zone defense as our teams struggled to make outside shots and couldn’t execute zone-breakers that some high-school teams can handle.

Yes, I think the selection process has been flawed for a long time, still enamored with spectacular dunkers and drivers, rather than pure shooters – even if they aren’t among the league’s high-priced endorsers.

And one other thing, how does Gregg Popovich escape unscathed? Why is there never any criticism of how he handled the team’s preparation or roster? Apparently Pop the Great is above all that.

He certainly couldn’t find many answers with this team, other than using smaller and smaller lineups. I don’t think Team USA was prepared for the situation. And that usually falls on the coach, doesn’t it?

Everything you need from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for San Antonio Spurs

Everything you need from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for San Antonio Spurs

The Trail Blazers begin a two-game road trip tonight with a stop in San Antonio. Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich addressed the media before tip-off.
Blazers Injury Update (5:30pm):

Per Blazers PR, Evan Turner (left Achilles tendon inflammation) is OUT and Caleb Swanigan (personal reasons) is not with team for tonight's game vs. Spurs. 

Turner had been listed as questionable, but after going through a short warm-up, he has now been ruled out. This is a key absence as Turner has been handling point guard duties in the second unit. Plus, Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been playing Turner in crunch time with the starters at the small forward position.

The absence of Swanigan is a surprise, but shouldn't have any effect on tonight's game as he is not in the regular rotation.

More to come from San Antonio as information becomes available.

In Coach Stotts' pregame availability, he discussed how his team has focused on getting off to quick starts, but more so, playing a complete game or as complete as you can. Stotts mentioned that a lot of teams who win the first quarter, win the game. He also noted that against the Clippers, the Blazers got off to a great start but then had a bad third quarter. So, again it goes back to playing all four quarters.

The Spurs are 10-12 on the season and Coach Stotts admitted it is different to face a San Antonio team with a losing record, but he reminded everyone the Spurs still have two All-NBA players and a Hall of Fame coach.

Hear from Blazers head coach Terry Stotts:

For San Antonio, it’s about getting back into a rhythm.

The Spurs will start: Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Davis Bertans, Rudy Gay and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Coach Popovich discussed how Saturday’s practice was all about trying “to get on the same page, so we understand what we are trying to do and what we’re trying to accomplish… There’s a lot to go over with a new team, so obviously we were pretty discombobulated the last couple of games, we’ll hope that we can have a little bit more rhyme and reason to what we do this afternoon."

Kawhi wanted to go to LA and got Toronto -- call it Spurs' Revenge

Kawhi wanted to go to LA and got Toronto -- call it Spurs' Revenge

I have a few thoughts on that crazy all-star-for-all-star trade that essentially sent DeMar DeRozan from Toronto to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. I find some aspects of the deal fascinating.

First of all, don’t cross Gregg Popovich or the San Antonio Spurs. Not only did the Spurs land DeRozan, a very good player,  Jakob Poeltl and a first-round pick for Leonard, they absolutely managed to send Leonard to the polar opposite of where he wanted to go.

You want to go to LA, young man? Here’s Toronto, enjoy yourself. Toronto is a beautiful city but between the frigid weather and the taxes -- good luck. And leave your bathing suit at home. You can't get much further from the beaches of southern California than Toronto. The Spurs' revenge cut deep.

I heard a lot of people around the league talking about trading for Leonard – with just one season left on his contract – including a lot of Trail Blazer fans. Sorry, but that’s a terrible gamble.

Just because Paul George – apparently a victim of basketball’s version of Stockholm syndrome -- decided to stay in Oklahoma City, doesn’t mean any other one-year rental would make the same decision. George's decision to stay in Oklahoma was bewildering and I have to believe that someday he’ll be sorry.

And to think other players will follow suit and stay put just because George did is silly. You can talk about rolling the dice and gambling on the big move all you want, that's a very big longshot to go all-in on. And if the gamble doesn't pay off, the penalty is way too high.

The risk/reward on this one just doesn't pencil out for the Raptors. If you think it's time to trade DeRozan, that's fine -- but a one-year rental may not be the best idea.

 

 

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

Fining teams for resting players sounds great, but...

It is being reported that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is attempting to get the authority to fine teams for resting multiple players in a single game or healthy ones in a nationally televised game.

A fine idea. People pay big money to watch stars play and feel cheated if a player sits out even though he is probably healthy. And networks surely must be miffed when the stars sit out games that the networks pay monstrous sums of money for the right to show.

But like a lot of fine ideas, this sounds great until you try to actually make it work.

Seriously, if LeBron James wants to sit out a game in January, you think the Cleveland medical staff can't come up with some sort of "injury" to justify his absence? And he probably deserves his rest days, given how hard he plays. League-wide, we might begin to see a lot of bogus "injuries."

But I will say this, the whole Popovich/Spurs idea of resting multiple players in the same game CAN be dealt with. And it's gone on long enough. If San Antonio wants to go without 80 percent of its starting lineup, then it must be done for a home game. Let the coach face the wrath of his home fans for that.

I might also add that giving a commissioner unrestricted, absolute power in regard to matters like this scares me. Certainly it doesn't seem to be working well for the NFL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

I've always kind of liked Gregg Popovich. But I've respected him even more than I liked him. He is one heck of a coach who has been able to adjust to changing times and players.

But he's been getting on my nerves lately.

I'm not a fan of the way he treats sideline reporters during games, seemingly turning ridicule into his favorite sport. And is it just me or does he seem to pick on the women more than the men? Either way, every other coach in the league has to put up with those in-game interviews and I'm not sure why he thinks he's so special that he shouldn't have to do them. And he seems to treat the people doing the interviews as if they were the ones compelling him to do the chats. Trust me, Coach, they are no more excited to talk to you than you are to them.

But Popovich's rant about Za Za Pachulia stepping under the airborne feet of Kawhi Leonard, which resulted in a Leonard ankle sprain, bothered me. Popovich, of course, is trying to intimidate officials into giving him a few more calls during Game 2 of the series against Golden State and intimidating officials is something the Spurs' coach does better than anyone in the league.

But he's also engaging in some situational ethics.

Bruce Bowen used to play for Popovich in San Antonio and he slid under so many sneakers that the ploy used to be called "the Bowen." But Popovich, when he heard the league had called Bowen and threatened his player with a suspension for such actions, sprung to Bowen's defense:

“So why did they call Bruce? Because it’s happened to him twice? Bruce guards an All-Star every night. If he was doing what they’re accusing him of doing, wouldn’t it have happened a higher percentage of times?”

And:

“The league is just trying to cover its ass,” Popovich said. “I told Bruce, ‘You be Bruce Bowen. You’re the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.’

In other words, keep doing it Bruce. If they don't like it, too bad.

Now I will say that I've seen more incidents of this thing happening in recent seasons than I ever did in the old days. But is it intentional? Probably not, in most cases. But I would go along with Popovich that it doesn't matter if there is intent or not, players should not be allowed to slide under jump-shooting players.

Not that Popovich felt that way when his own player did it.