Kawhi Leonard

For Trail Blazers, if the ball doesn't go in, they aren't going to win

For Trail Blazers, if the ball doesn't go in, they aren't going to win

LOS ANGELES -- Quite obviously, the Trail Blazers are not the most stellar defensive team in the NBA. But they can still win a lot of games with their offense.

And against the Los Angeles Clippers it’s going to take a lot more offense than what Portland brought to the Staples Center Tuesday night. Oh, the Blazers were good for the first half, trailing by only three while shooting 52.3 percent from the field.

But Portland left its shooting touch in the locker room at halftime. They Blazers were down by 10 a minute and a half into the third quarter, never recovered and fell 117-97 to the Clippers.

Portland made only six of its 23 shots in the third quarter, one of nine from three-point distance and turned the ball over five times.

It was a brutal quarter, except for Hassan Whiteside, who went 4-6, and CJ McCollum, who was 2-4. Damian Lillard was 0-5 in the quarter, Rodney Hood 0-3, Carmelo Anthony 0-2 and Anfernee Simons 0-3. All of them reliable scorers who hit a bad spell at the same time.

“We started off kind of sloppy,” Hood said of that fateful period. “They hit a couple of shots, we turned the ball over, we DIDN’T hit shots and had to burn a timeout. From then on, they had a good rhythm, a great flow. And I think it affected our defense.”

But against the good teams in the league, the way Portland is playing on the defensive end, if the ball doesn’t go in, Portland is not going to win.

“Anytime you’re playing a really good team, you’ve got to play good offense,” Hood said. “They’re going to play well and they’re going to score points. If we don’t play offense, move the ball like we know we can, we become stagnant, then they get really good on the defensive end.”

The Clippers have a lot of weapons and Portland disarmed a couple of them. Kawhi Leonard made only 3 of his 15 shots and scored just 11 points. Lou Williams was 4-14 for 9 points. But Paul George got loose for 25 points, hitting six of his seven three-pointers and Montrezl Harrell scored 26 with an 11-13 night.

“Our offense struggled in the third quarter,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “They were able to separate from us. We got off to a slow start in the third quarter and from there we were kind of swimming upstream.”

The Clips have the highest-scoring bench in the league and gave Portland’s reserves a working over, outscoring them 66-30.

It was a night best forgotten for the Blazers, which should be easy since they have to get back in action Wednesday night in Moda Center.

And Carmelo Anthony, who took a nasty spill after a foul by Ivaca Zubac, says he’ll be ready.

“I feel OK,” he said with a smile, before heading out for a Hollywood-style media scrum that included about 30 people and at least 10 cameras.

It makes one wonder what the media circus will be like when the Carmelo Anthony Traveling Roadshow and Comeback Extravaganza hits the Big Apple.

 

Listen to this week’s Talkin’ Blazers podcast here:

Spurs catch fire in second half, overcome Trail Blazers

Spurs catch fire in second half, overcome Trail Blazers

SAN ANTONIO -- For a half, at least, the Trail Blazers on Friday looked like they were continuing a recent trend of improved defense and better overall basketball.

Then the second half arrived. 

Behind pinpoint ball movement and superb shooting, San Antonio scorched Portland in the second half, outscoring the Blazers 63-42 to coast to a 110-94 victory at the AT&T Center. 

The Blazers played one of their finer first halves of the season, building leads as large as 13, and took a 52-47 lead on the heels of holding the Kawhi-Leonard-less Spurs to 41.7 percent shooting. It continued a string of encouraging defensive performances against Toronto and Sacramento, when the Blazers' league-worst defense stiffened amid a shift to a more active and trapping defense. In addition to the low shooting percentage, San Antonio committed 14 first-half turnovers.

But in the second half, San Antonio (27-6) cut down on its turnovers (three) and shot a blistering 57 percent (24-of-42), a large part of the damage coming from the three-point line, where they made 11-of-22 attempts. 

The good news for Portland? A December to forget is finally over. 

The Blazers (14-21) went 4-11 in December and find themselves entering 2017 in a 10th place tie with  New Orleans, behind Denver and Sacramento in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. 

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 29 points on 10-of-19 shooting  and Maurice Harkless added 12 points while Allen Crabbe had 11. Tony Parker and Danny Green led the Spurs with 18 points apiece and Jonathan Simmons added 19 points off the bench. Former Blazers star LaMarcus Aldridge had eight points and six rebounds in 30 minutes. 

It was the third straight game the Blazers played without leading scorer Damian Lillard, whose sprained left ankle is getting better, he said, but still not game ready. The Spurs played without leading scorer Kawhi Leonard, who missed his second straight game with an upset stomach. 

The Spurs took control in the third quarter, when they outscored Portland 33-21 while making 13-of-22 shots and took an 80-73 lead. 

The Blazers raced to a 32-22 lead in the first quarter, during which they had leads as large as 12. Portland shot 65 percent in the quarter, with McCollum and Harkless hitting all three of their shots. Shabazz Napier, seeing a surge in playing time with Lillard out,  was an offensive spark in the quarter, hitting  4-of-6 shots and scoring eight points while recording two assists in seven minutes. 

 

 

 

Next up: Blazers at Minnesota, 6 p.m. Sunday (CSN)