Rick Carlisle

Blazers, Mavericks show you what the evolution of the NBA game looks like

Blazers, Mavericks show you what the evolution of the NBA game looks like

If you are curious about the evolution of NBA basketball, Thursday night’s game in Moda Center was for you.

Dallas’ 133-125 win over the Trail Blazers was the template for what analytics have done to the game.

These days, the smart guys have figured out that the shots that carry the most value are three-pointers, free throws and layups or dunks.

Thursday’s game tied the league record for most threes (43) made in a game. But the analytics go even deeper than that.

Dallas had 50 points in the paint, 15 free throws and scored 66 points on threes. In other words, that’s 131 of the Mavericks’ 133 points. Portland had 46 points in the paint, 63 points off threes and 12 free throws -- 121 of its 125 points.

So much for mid-range jump shots, huh?

“Never thought I’d see this many threes in a game,” said Carmelo Anthony, a veteran in his 17th NBA season. “But that’s the way it is.”

The Mavericks jumped out to an early lead in this one, thanks to a 45-point first quarter, and never looked back. Every time the Trail Blazers mounted some sort of rally, Dallas was able to counter by shredding the Portland defense for a shot near the basket, an offensive rebound or a wide-open three.

Damian Lillard followed up his 61-point game with another big one, getting 47, thanks to 8-15 shooting from the three-point line.

But Lillard was miffed after the game. And during the game. And after the game, he talked about it -- succinctly.

Lillard was assessed a technical foul by Ray Acosta with 13 seconds to go, while Lillard was on his way to the bench after being removed from the game.

“It’s just frustrating, man,” Lillard said. “I mean, it’s a fast game -- a tough game to call. But there was a play at the end of the game, four minutes to go and I go up for a reverse layup and guy just smacked me in the head.

“The whole game, I’m telling them, ‘They’re putting their hands in my chest. They’re pushing me in the back, they’re riding me. All the things we get whistled for, they’re doing them to me.

“They’re trying to stop me -- they’re being physical, they’re trying hard. Just look for the contact because it’s there.”

Lillard was asked what he said to draw the technical.

“Like I said, we were down 13, I was doing a reverse layup and the guy smacks me in the head, the referee is right there. And I asked him, ‘How do you not make that call?’ and he tells me, ‘We all agreed that you leaned into him.’

“That’s an insult, man. I leaned into him? He smacked me in the head. Come on, man, that’s frustrating as hell when somebody smacks you in the head and you get that kind of explanation.

“I went right up to him and said, ‘If you say you didn’t see it, that’s one thing. They say that all the time. But you can’t tell me ‘All three of us agree that you leaned into him and i’m doing a reverse layup. I don’t have time to lean back while I’m looking at the basket. Don’t insult me like that -- just say 'I didn’t see it.'”

Lillard’s game spoke for itself, regardless of the officiating. But Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle spoke plenty about Portland's star guard.

“I have one statement to make: Before the game I tried to pass a note to the locker room to tell Damian Lillard he had my All-Star vote, so he didn’t play the game,” Carlisle said. “Obviously, he didn’t get the note, but he had my vote before he went for 47 against us. What an amazing player. He’s virtually impossible to stop. He’s got an iron will. Obviously a great leader and when he’s on the floor they’re hard to beat, no matter what.”


A suggestion for the Trail Blazers: Why not try a little more zone defense?

A suggestion for the Trail Blazers: Why not try a little more zone defense?

The Trail Blazers have pulled a zone defense out of their very small bag of tricks recently, using it for just a possession or two in games over the last couple of weeks. They’ve had mixed success with it on a very limited basis.

And I’ve always wondered what would happen if NBA teams really worked on zones – actually practiced them more than a little bit – and put them out there in games more than a few times, so their players could get used to their roles and responsibilities.

And face it, NBA teams playing so many games with little prep time, cannot spend hours getting ready for something your team does that others do not do. You will profit from doing something different.

Toronto has had success this season with all sorts of zones, using what the old timers used to call “junk defenses,” like "box-and-one” and “triangle-and-two.” The Raptors have had the ability to take star players away from their teams by loading up on them with those defenses. Of course, the Raptors have some pretty solid defenders to use in those situations and that matters, too.

But Miami, a zone user over the last few seasons, employed one Wednesday night for a good part of the game and used it to hand the 76ers their first home loss of the season. The Heat used a zone 39 defensive possessions, a full 40 percent of its time on defense:


The last time these two teams played in this building, on Nov. 23, the Heat played zone defense on only one possession. That game was uncompetitive, with Philadelphia running Miami out of the building, leading by 20 at halftime and winning by 27.

Wednesday night, though, was a very different story. To combat Embiid's massive size advantage in the middle, the Heat employed a zone on 40% of their defensive possessions -- and held the Sixers to 12-for-32 shooting (38%), including 7-for-21 from 3-point range.

To put that number in context, the Sixers entered Wednesday night having taken 31 shots all season against a zone defense.

On the 59 possessions the Heat played man-to-man defense, the Sixers shot 26-for-58 (45%). More importantly, their average distance from the basket per shot, per Second Spectrum, was 12.3 feet -- compared to 19.7 feet against the zone.

In other words: The Sixers settled for one jumper after another and didn't make enough of them.

Dallas has also done a decent job with zones over the last couple of seasons and I don’t think either Erik Spoelstra or Rick Carlisle are known as dumb coaches. Quite the opposite. And that’s why I’ve wondered this season why the Trail Blazers haven’t experimented more with zones – and not just high-school 2-3 zones but perhaps matchups or something just a bit more sophisticated.

NBA shooters, on a given night, are going to riddle zones from the outside. That’s a given. But on those nights, they’re probably going to do the same thing to man-to-man defenses, particularly if the defensive team doesn’t close out well on long-range shots.

All I’m saying is, for a team that’s undersized, having trouble on the defensive boards and isn’t defending very well, isn’t it worth a try? I know, often it’s difficult to block offensive players off the boards out of a zone… but if zones are taught correctly, rebounders can be shelled off the offensive boards by defenders already put in position to do so.

Hey, just a thought. And there’s no better advice than free advice.

Terry Stotts takes Damian Lillard at his word -- and the Trail Blazers win

Terry Stotts takes Damian Lillard at his word -- and the Trail Blazers win

DALLAS -- If you can’t trust Damian Lillard, who can you trust?

That’s what it came down to with 8.4 seconds remaining in the game between Portland’s Trail Blazers and the Dallas Mavericks Sunday night. The Blazers were leading 120-119 when Damian Lillard was called for a foul on Dorian Finney-Smith, who was headed to the basket for a layup. Two shots and a chance for the Mavs to take the lead, right?

Not this season. New rule. This Blazers had not used their referees' challenge and Lillard implored Coach Terry Stotts to use it on the play. That made for a tough decision for Stotts because Portland had only one timeout left and if he lost the challenge, he’d also lose the timeout.

“Damian put me over the top,” Stotts said of his decision to challenge, which led to the call being overturned. “He was pretty adamant. Eight seconds and see what happens with the free throws. If Dame hadn’t been so adamant I probably wouldn’t have challenged. We’ve had this discussion. I told the players, when I ask you, you have to be truthful. Because most of you think you didn’t foul. I will trust them in those situations, but they have a responsibility to know if they foul them or not. But you don’t know what would have happened if they would have shot the free throws. I don’t know. It worked out for us tonight.”

As it turned out, there was a jump ball at center court because no one had possession after the play. With Hassan Whiteside fouled out and Zach Collins in the locker room with a dislocated shoulder, there was no way Portland should have won a jump ball against the Mavericks’ 7-3 Kristaps Porzingis. And really they didn’t – Porzingis just backtipped the ball toward the Blazer basket and Jalen Brunson was called for a foul on Kent Bazemore as they chased the ball down,

Bazemore made the first foul shot, missed the second and with 5.5 seconds left, Dallas hustled the ball upcourt, where Tim Hardaway Jr. missed a wild three-point attempt and the game belonged to Portland – which for a good part of the night seemed like an impossibility.

The Blazers trailed by 19 in the second quarter, cut the lead to 4 and then trailed by a dozen at the half. The young Mavericks, sparked by Porzingis and Luka Doncic, played free and easy in the first two quarters and were in charge of the game.

But things began to turn in the third quarter as Portland kept tinkering with coverages and lineups. The Mavs, meanwhile, appeared to tighten up a bit in the second half and particularly in the fourth quarter when they hit only one of their 14 three-point attempts.

“It was a wild game from start to finish,” Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. “As the game went on, they became more consistent. We were just a little too volatile.”

Lillard, who scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half, immediately went to Stotts looking for him to make what proved to be a game-changing challenge.

“I walked up to him and said, ‘Coach, you gotta trust me. I hit all ball. After the game when I was walking through the tunnel I asked him, ‘Do you trust me now? I didn’t lie to you.’”

The Blazers got 35 points from CJ McCollum, who kept his team in the game in the first half, and 20 from Rodney Hood, who made all three of his three-point shots. Portland was 9-22 from three-point range and Dallas finished 13-50.

The Trail Blazers get no rest. Monday night they meet the Spurs in San Antonio.


Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Terry Stotts and Rick Carlisle reminisce

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Trail Blazers Pregame Notebook: Terry Stotts and Rick Carlisle reminisce

DALLAS - Before the Trail Blazers and Mavericks tip-off at 4:00p.m. today on NBC Sports Northwest and on the 'My Teams' App, both coaches gave their thoughts on today’s matchup and more with their pregame media availability.

Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle discussed how he knew the moment Dallas hired, now Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, that Stotts would be an NBA head coach.

Carlisle knew Stotts was something special.

Just minutes after Carlisle was reminiscing about having Stotts on his coaching staff, Stotts interrupted the pregame press conference to come in and give Carlisle a hug and tell him happy birthday. Carlisle turned 60-years-old today.

The two had a nice embrace and then Coach Carlisle went back to chatting with the media.

Carlisle mentioned that he thinks Hassan Whiteside fits so well in Portland because Stotts and the Blazers coaching staff have done well with ‘classic big men.’
Hear from Coach Carlisle right here:

Today marks a reunion for the Blazers with former Trail Blazer Seth Curry. Coach Stotts discussed how he’s happy that Curry has found a home with the Mavericks once again, saying Curry having familiarity after previously playing for Carlisle really helps his offensive flow.

Stotts also believes because Curry is such a smart player and has gained more experience that his defense has been improving.
Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

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

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Dallas Mavericks

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Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS – Today's game in Dallas is the first of a back-to-back on the road for the Trail Blazers. Portland will face Oklahoma City on Monday night. As for the Mavericks, this will be the third game in four days.

Before Sunday's matinee tipped off, both Blazers head coach Terry Stotts and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle addressed the media to give updates on their newest players and more.

Coach Carlisle discussed how Kristaps Porzingis has been fitting in despite not being able to play. Coach talked about how he has shared with Porzingis his plans on how he will fit into the rotation next season as the Mavs have decided to hold Porzingis out for the rest of the year to rehab his knee.

Carlisle also praised his former assistant coach, saying, “Every player that has gone [to Portland] has played better because of Terry Stotts.”

Coach Carlisle wasn’t just praising the Blazers head coach. He had this to say about the Trail Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum:  
“The tandem of those two guys is murder to deal with, for sure… They’re an amazing one-two punch. I saw a stat recently on TV… I think they’re the leading scoring guard tandem in the league right now. There’s no off night in the Western Conference… It’s a good challenge for us,” Carlisle said.

Hear from Coach Carlisle right here:

Coach Stotts said pregame that the Trail Blazers newest addition Skal Labissiere is ACTIVE for today’s game.

Stotts also mentioned that the Blazers’ rotation might not look like it did on Thursday night vs. the Spurs.

With the new addition of wing Rodney Hood the rotation could continue to change based on matchups and figuring out what works best.

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:



Trail Blazers put another brick in the foundation of the “Legend of Luka Doncic” – and lived to tell about it

Trail Blazers put another brick in the foundation of the “Legend of Luka Doncic” – and lived to tell about it

The Trail Blazers put another brick in the foundation of the “Legend of Luka Doncic” Sunday night – and lived to tell about it.

Doncic dropped a game-tying, three-point bomb from the right corner while falling out of bounds at the horn to end the fourth quarter.

The shot sent the game into overtime but Portland recovered to take a 121-118 overtime win over the Mavericks.

It was a miraculous shot but not a surprise, given the impact the rookie prodigy has made for the Dallas Mavericks so far this season.

Doncic, a Lithuanian, signed a pro contract with Real Madrid at the age of 13 and made his debut with the team at 16, helping the team to the Euroleague championship.

But he didn’t quite have enough to beat the Blazers.

Portland seemed in control throughout most of the game, leading by as many as 14 and by 10 with six and a half minutes to play in the fourth quarter.

“It was a wild finish,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “Obviously, Doncic hit an outstanding shot. We didn’t defend it well but it was an amazing shot. We regrouped in overtime, kind of maintained the lead throughout the overtime.”

The Mavericks had three chances to hit a game-tying three-pointer with under 30 seconds to play in overtime but missed them all.

“The last possession got a little wild with all the threes but we were due to have a little good luck go our way,” Stotts said.

It was another game when the Trail Blazers struggled from long distance – hitting just 11 of 38 from three – but shot 47 percent overall, thanks to the inside presence of Jusuf Nurkic and Meyers Leonard.

Nurkic made five his eight shots, had 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks before fouling out after 29 minutes on the court.

Leonard came on to make six of his 10 shots, grab six rebounds and score 13 points.

“I’m happy that Coach Stotts has given me some freedom out there,” Leonard said. “All I used to do, in high school and college, is dunk the ball. I never shot the ball.

“When I was younger I needed to find a way to play. All I did was dunk. I was bigger than everybody. So I’ve extended my range and become a three-point shooter but I’m trying to be aggressive from several different areas on the floor.”

As usual Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum carried a heavy load for Portland.

Lillard had 33 points and seven assists, McCollum totaled 22 points and five assists. Each made big shots down the stretch in overtime, as did Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu.

But afterward, a whole lot of the talk was about Doncic’s incredible shot.

“The guy has an uncanny knack for making shots like that,” Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said. “I can’t say I was surprised when it went in. I’ve seen him do things like that too many times.”

The Mavericks had the ball out of bounds with six-tenths of a second left on the clock to set up Doncic, who caught the ball in the corner and fell out of bounds as he shot.

“I mean, it just went in,” he said. “It was a tough shot. I don’t know what to say.”

Does he practice those shots?

“Yeah, most of the time,” he said. “A lot of people think it’s a joke, but it’s not. Sometimes you need those shots.”

Lillard said, “He’s a really, really, really good player. It’s very obvious he’s been playing professionally. I’m sometimes on the weak side seeing him come off the pick and roll and his eyes are open. He’s seeing everything. He’s making the right plays.

“He’s kind of manipulating the situation to get what he wants to get out of the plays. And you don’t see that out of rookies – they’re playing much more off their natural ability.

“He’s got real game. He’s a real pro.”


Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Dallas Mavericks

Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Dallas Mavericks

With the Trail Blazers hosting a struggling Mavericks team this is a chance for Portland to improve its 12-5 home record before hitting the road and an opportunity to regroup after Friday’s home loss to the Jazz.

Before tonight’s game both Portland head coach Terry Stotts and Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle addressed the media.

Coach Stotts discussed how his team has been getting out and contesting their opponents shots, yet teams are still making threes and mid-range shots at high clip.

Stotts also had plenty to say about Mavs rookie Luka Doncic.

“He’s really skilled. He has a good basketball IQ.. I think he’s gotten better as the season as gone along.,” Stotts said.

And, since Coach Stotts spent four years as an assistant in Dallas from 2008-2012, he gave a lot of praise to Dirk Nowitzki saying, Dirks is “obviously the best European to play in the NBA.”

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:

Mavs Injury Update:

Coach Rick Carlisle says Luka Doncic  (right hip) will most likely play tonight but still needs to go through warm-ups to make sure he’s good to go. Dennis Smith Jr. (right wrist), who was listed as doubtful, is out for tonight’s contest.

Coach Carlisle discussed how Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are both “terrific” and pose several challenges. He also noted the last time these two teams played, his team was coming off a day of rest, unlike tonight.  

Hear from Coach Carlisle right here:

Wesley Matthews looking for first win, not back at Trail Blazers

Wesley Matthews looking for first win, not back at Trail Blazers

DALLAS – By now, Wesley Matthews says he is over his time with the Trail Blazers, the strangeness of going against his former team long ago worn off.

Plus, his mind these days is occupied with trying to right the ship of his current team, the winless Dallas Mavericks.

Dallas (0-4) plays host to the Blazers (2-3) tonight at the American Airlines Center (5:30 p.m., CSN), and both Matthews and coach Rick Carlisle say the Mavericks’ problems are easy to identify.

“We haven’t been playing hard enough, long enough,’’ Matthews said. “We put ourselves in position to be in every game, just not enough to get over the hump.’’

Matthews is the Mavericks’ second leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, but he is shooting 31.3 percent from the field and 9-of-38 from three-point range (23.7 percent).

“I haven’t been shooting it the best, but you can’t question what I have been doing on the other end of the court,’’ Matthews said. “My shooting is going to come. I’m not going to worry about that part.’’

Matthews at the team’s shootaround wanted nothing to do with reminiscing about his five years in Portland -- “I’m pretty sure they don’t miss me” – and he sounded and appeared like he was already in game mode.

“We have to come out with an approach that we are pissed off,’’ Matthews said. “We are not going to roll over. We are a lot better than what our record says. We have talent in the locker room, we have vets, guys who’ve had success, we have champions, we have youth, we have everything. We just have to put it together.’’

Carlisle said he won’t mess with his lineups as he tries to avoid his first 0-5 start. The Mavericks are expected to start Deron Williams, Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki and Andrew Bogut.

“To me, this is less about lineups and more about disposition, presence, execution and doing little things well,’’ Carlisle said. “Not making the untimely, bad play. Margins are slim.’’

Nowitzki, who has missed two games because of illness, is expected to play against the Blazers, but Carlisle said his minutes will be monitored. Williams is also expected to play after saying his groin injury is feeling better.

“(Nowitzki) is working through this,’’ Carlisle said of the illness. “He’s not feeling super great, but he’s going to play. He just has to work through this period of getting his legs back and back to feeling himself.’’