JaVale McGee

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Los Angeles Lakers

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Los Angeles Lakers

LOS ANGELES –Playoff implications were on the line for the Trail Blazers entering Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers.

Portland was looking to clinch homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs with a win on Tuesday. 

It was in the Blazers’ hands after the Utah Jazz ended up beating the Nuggets earlier in the evening as Portland battles with Utah for that fourth spot in the West.

With the Lakers resting its stars, the young LA squad has been playing spoiler against playoff bound teams after beating the Jazz and Clippers last week.

Los Angeles kept Portland on its toes that’s for sure. The Lakers were scrappy and hitting shots. It wasn’t a pretty game, but the Blazers were able to keep pace in the final 90 seconds after Moe Harkless knocked down clutch free throws and hit the game winning three. Portland defeats LA, 104-101.

The win secures homecourt for Portland now that the Blazers cannot do any worse than the fourth seed in the West. The third seed is still up for grabs.  

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 104, Lakers 101

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers last regular season road game:

1.Kanter vs. McGee: An entertaining battle

To start the game, all eyes were on the battle down low. Enes Kanter and JaVale McGee were going at each other early with some friendly pushing. Whether it was crashing the glass or shoving to get better position on offense, the two starting centers looked to be getting under each other’s skin.  

Kanter got the best of McGee, especially early.

In his first stint, Kanter scored 15 points after shooting 6-of-8 from the field, including knocking down his only three-point attempt. Kanter also had three rebounds in his first nine minutes of work.

The Blazers got away from going down to the Kanter when he returned to the game in the second quarter, but Portland got Kanter involved more in the second half. And, if he wasn’t getting enough touches on the offensive end he would gobble up a rebound for a put-back.  

2. Young Lakers equals sloppy play

There were plenty of times you could easily tell this is a very young Lakers team who is lacking quality NBA minutes. The game was very sloppy at times and it was pretty obvious that the Lakers fans in attendance were much more excited about the giveaways since it was Fan Appreciation Night.  Everyone knows this fan base has been looking forward to next season for months now.

3. Blazers struggle from deep

If it wasn’t for Seth Curry’s three-point shooting it could’ve been the worst three-point performance from the Blazers this season. Two minutes into the fourth quarter, Curry had half of the Blazers eight three-pointers on the night.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Portland was 8-of-31 from deep.

When the three-ball isn’t going in and with shots falling short, it’s hard not to think this team needs some rest.

NEXT UP: It’s the last game of the regular season as the Trail Blazers host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday with a 7:30pm tip-off on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:30pm.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

Surprise, surprise: Lakers supporting cast causes fits for Trail Blazers' defense

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James did LeBron James things. You expect that and you can live with that many games.

But when Lonzo Ball, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope do things they don’t normally do, you’ve got a problem.

And the Trail Blazers had several problems Wednesday night in Staples Center when LeBron and his Lakers hung a 126-117 loss on Portland.

James hit five of his six three-point attempts and scored 44 points on 19 shots, along with gathering 10 rebounds and nine assists. He also passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scoring list.

“Anybody – when they’re hitting (three-point) shots like that, they are tough to guard,” said Portland’s Al-Farouq Aminu, who had the responsibility of chasing James around most of the game. “It’s the same with Dame. It’s a different complexity when somebody’s so good at getting to the rim and then they hit shots that well. It makes it tough.

“A lot of guys from their team stepped up, though. They made some big shots. Those guys played well, too.

“Trying to lock in on LeBron, he’s such a good passer, it makes it difficult. And with the veteran pieces they have, like (Rajon) Rondo, they understand the game and they get the most out of their supporting cast.”

The Trail Blazers were done in by their defense. Offensively, they were not at their best but 117 points and 42.4 percent shooting from three-point range should be good enough to win most games.

But the Lakers got 20 points, two steals and two blocked shots from McGee, who made life miserable in the paint for Portland’s penetrators.

And Caldwell-Pope knocked down three of his four three-point attempts en route to 13 points.

Heck, even the notoriously poor-shooting Ball got into the act, making three of five from three-point range, where the Lakers shot 46.9 percent.

The Trail Blazers took a 13-point lead in the first quarter but James began to heat up from the outside and Los Angeles had a four-point lead by halftime.

Portland Coach Terry Stotts wasn’t pleased with his team’s defense.

“We just couldn’t quite get over the hump in the second half,” he said. “Lebron had a dominant performance. When he’s making his threes and putting his head down (driving to the hoop) it’s tough to guard.

“Offensively, we did a good job most of the game. We passed the ball well, we made our threes early. Offensively it was a good night for us.

“We couldn’t get over the hump defensively.”

Portland gave up 50 points in the paint, a high number.

“A lot of those paint points are probably transition. We gave up too much transition.”

This was just Game 1 of a six-game road trip for the Trail Blazers and the mission now is not to let the hangover from this one cost another game or two.

Game 2 is Friday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

Game 2 gets away from Blazers amid avalanche of turnovers, missed shots

OAKLAND, Calif. – The Trail Blazers had a great three-minute opening to Game 2.

Then the rest of the game happened.

Golden State took a 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven playoff series in commanding fashion Wednesday, using a 20-2 run in the first quarter and a 21-6 spurt to begin the second half that led to a 110-81 victory at Oracle Arena.

Teams in the NBA playoffs with 2-0 leads are 364-24 (.938) all-time and 262-18 in best-of-seven series.

Game 3 is Saturday in Portland.

Neither CJ McCollum nor Damian Lillard could replicate their Game 1 excellence and the Blazers as a whole were sloppy (19 turnovers) and generally off (33.3 percent shooting) as Golden State beat Portland for the 12th consecutive time.

After scoring 41 points in Game 1, McCollum missed his first five shots and finished with 11 points in 4-of-17 shooting. Lillard, who had 34 in Game 1, made four of his first five shots then made only one of his next 12 shots, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting.

Portland led 9-4 in the first three minutes as Lillard made three driving baskets, but Golden State answered with a 20-2 run that was fueled by some shoddy passing from McCollum and Evan Turner and some close-range misses, as Lillard, McCollum and Maurice Harkless all missed layins.

The only Portland threat came in the second, when the Blazers trimmed their 33-17 first-quarter deficit to 43-42 behind the play-making of Turner and the scoring of Harkless. Turner had six assists in the second and Harkless 10 of his 15 points, but the Warriors closed the half on a 12-4 run to lead 55-46 at the break.

In the third, Portland was held to 12 points, the lowest by a Golden State playoff opponent in the shot-clock era, and by 10:24 in the fourth it was 89-60 and Stotts had taken out his starters and replaced them with Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton, Jake Layman, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard.

Golden State entered the game worried about its depth after star Kevin Durant (calf), backup point guard Shaun Livingston (finger, hand) and reserve Matt Barnes (ankle) all were ruled out.

But behind a game-changing 13 minutes from reserve center JaVale McGee (15 points, five rebounds) and another all-around game from Draymond Green (six points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists), the Warriors got by without Durant and off-nights from Stephen Curry (6-of-18, 19 points) and Klay Thompson (6-of-17, 16 points).

Harkless led the Blazers with 15 points, all in the first half, and Lillard (12) and McCollum (11) were the only other Portland players in double figures. Allen Crabbe, who guaranteed a better Game 2 after going 1-for-5 with three points in Game 1, went 3-for-10 and missed all five of his three-point attempts.

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Most painful interview of my career? No doubt it was "Pistol Pete"

Most painful interview of my career? No doubt it was "Pistol Pete"

I was interested to read about Sports Illustrated's Lee Jenkins revealing his most painful interview -- former NBA player JaVale McGee.

That got me thinking about my most painful interview and there's never been any question about it. Through all my years in this business one interview still makes me shudder when I think about it, because I've never had this happen, before or since.

As a young reporter at the Oregon Journal I was sent to Memorial Coliseum to do a sidebar story at a Trail Blazer game. I was still covering high school sports in those days and this was my first time getting to go near an NBA game as a reporter. Being assigned to sidebars at that time usually meant interviewing someone on the opposing team after the game.

There was no doubt who I wanted to interview and he was probably my favorite basketball player up to that time -- the great Pete Maravich. I knew, of course, that Maravich was a prickly personality, not given to being cordial to those who wished to speak with him. As I recall, his team lost the game that night, too. I was ready to take the challenge.

But as it turned out, Maravich didn't turn down my request. He didn't snap at me. He didn't swear at me. None of that -- those are things I would get later from J.R. Rider and they were easy to deal with.

Maravich did something nobody has ever done -- he absolutely refused to acknowledge that I existed on the planet earth. He went about his business of getting dressed, packing up a bag and shuffling out of the locker room, expertly acting as if I wasn't even there as I attempted all sorts of questions and conversation-starters! I followed him all the way to the bus trying to get an answer out of him, but not once did he look at me, slow down or even act as if I was as important as a pimple on his backside.

Nothing.

And for somebody doing an NBA locker room for the first time, it was about as embarrassing and humiliating as it could have been. And this is coming from someone who was once called "the devil on earth" by Rider, whom I actually thought I was going to have to fight at one point.

Maravich passed away years ago and by then he'd started to be a little more welcoming to the media's requests. But I'll never forget "Pistol Pete" and his his vacant stare over the top of my head.

It was excruciating.