Russell Westbrook

REPORT: 1st Lillard vs. Westbrook matchup of season set for November

REPORT: 1st Lillard vs. Westbrook matchup of season set for November

You may or may not believe that Damian Lillard waved goodbye and ended the Russelll Westbrook era in OCK with his 37-foot buzzer beater.

Even if you don't think 'the shot' had anything to do with the Thunder going in a new direction, fans all across the league have fun watching the Lillard and Westbrook matchup.

So it's time to mark your calendar.  

According to a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, the very first Lillard and Westbrook showdown since their postseason matchup is tentatively slated for November 17th in Houston.

With reports of Christmas Day games and various other regular season games being rumored all over twitter, NBA fans are even more eager for the 2019-20 NBA regular season schedules to be released.

The NBA should be announcing the schedules the second week of August.

For the Trail Blazers, Portland will reportedly not being play a Christmas Day Game.

Make sure to keep checking back at NBS Sports Northwest for more on the Blazers schedule has we get closer to its release.

Social media reacts: Dame didn't just call "game" or "series", he called "rebuild"

Social media reacts: Dame didn't just call "game" or "series", he called "rebuild"

Houston, we have a Brodie. The Beard and The Brodie have been reunited.

In the latest of all Woj bombs to strike the NBA, Oklahoma star Russell Westbrook is packing his bags and heading 445 miles south to join the Houston Rockets.

I think you all remember, and how could you forget, that moment that Damian Lillard sent the OKC franchise into a downward spiral... Dame didn't just call "game" or "series", he called "rebuild"... and Twitter didn't forget:



Rockets get Westbrook -- Did they watch him play in the Blazer playoff series?

Rockets get Westbrook -- Did they watch him play in the Blazer playoff series?

So the Houston Rockets wanted Russell Westbrook so bad they gave up Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two first-round swaps Thursday?

To get a point guard who seems very close to being an impossible partner for James Harden.

And I really think somebody should ask the question in Houston – did you guys watch any other playoff series but your own last spring?

The Westbrook we saw in the Portland-Oklahoma City, first-round series was one who was far below the public perception of what Westbrook is supposed to be. He’s a guy who thinks he can make all the big shots late in games and doesn’t understand that the reason the Trail Blazers were sagging about eight feet off him is that they WANTED him to shoot.

Don't fall for all that triple-double hype -- this guy is more relentless about that stat than he is about winning. He's prickly with not just the media but most people he comes in contact with, doesn't know how to gear his game down when the situation calls for it and, oh yeah -- he can't shoot.

I think this deal also sets up a situation with the starting Houston guards – Westbrook and Harden – fighting over the ball and ending up resenting each other. The only way I see this working is if Westbrook defers to Harden – because Harden isn’t going to defer to Westbrook. Nor should he.

And I don’t think Westbrook will defer to ANYBODY.

I can’t wait to see this in action. And to watch some Harden eyerolls after Westbrook clanks a few jumpers off the rim in the fourth quarter. And how crazy Westbrook is going to get while Harden is pounding the ball at the top of the circle waiting to beat somebody off the dribble.

Mike D'Antoni is going to need the touch of Houdini to make this work.

And that leaves the final question – Will the Thunder buy out Paul’s contract, freeing him to move to one of the superteams? I can’t imagine him being happy in OKC for more than a minute.

But of course, I can’t imagine anyone being happy in OKC.

Russell Westbrook traded to Houston for Chris Paul... thanks a lot Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons!

Russell Westbrook traded to Houston for Chris Paul... thanks a lot Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons!

LAS VEGAS - In the middle of the madness of NBA Summer League, an introductory press conference for newly acquired big man Hassan Whiteside, and an injury to Nassir Little's shoulder, the NBA dropped another trade bomb on fans around the league. 

Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul. 

What? Yeah, not a typo. 

But really, isn't this all Damian Lillard and Anfernee Simons' fault? 

Let us explain. In the final game of regular season, Terry Stotts went with a six man rotation while he rested his rotation players for the playoffs. Anfernee Simons played the entire game and dropped 37 points on Sacramento in a comeback win that nobody expected. That win coupled with other game results around the league flipped the playoff matchups, vaulted Portland to the #3 seed and slotted them in vs. Russell Westbrook and the OKC Thunder. 

Enter Damian Lillard. 

Trail Blazers fans know the story. In Game 5, Lillard hit a step back 37 footer to put in the dagger and send OKC packing. He finished it all off with 'The Wave' as the celebration ensued inside Moda Center. 

As former Blazers Edge contributor and current Washington Post reporter, Ben Golliver pointed out in a recent interview with Jamie Hudson at Summer League, that Wave may have shook up the entire NBA. If Simons doesn't go off in the regular season finale and change the playoff seeding and Lillard doesn't hit The Wave shot...does OKC still blow it all up?

Does Paul George head to the L.A. Clippers if OKC wins a playoff series? Probably not, according to Golliver. 

So, while the faces of the Western Conference have changed dramatically in the last three weeks and OKC's two stars have new homes, the NBA can thank the likes of Anfernee Simons and Damian Lillard for making it all possible. 

"Overhyped and Overrated" Skip Bayless thinks Russell Westbrook is more respected than Damian Lillard

"Overhyped and Overrated" Skip Bayless thinks Russell Westbrook is more respected than Damian Lillard

Oh dear. Everyone's favorite Cliff Notes sportscaster is at it again. Following the Trail Blazers Game 3 loss to the Warriors, Skip Bayless had some thoughtful words about Damian Lillard

Aside from the ludicrous nature of the comments, news also came out postgame that Lillard has been dealing with separated ribs

For more real, actual postgame coverage check out everything you need from Dwight Jaynes, Jamie Hudson, and our NBC Sports Video team:

JAYNES: Are all those games, all those minutes, catching up with the Trail Blazers?

HUDSON: Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 3

Social Media reacts to Game 3: It's Meyers, not Miles Leonard

Lillard up against a wall of defense, but must get rollin'

“This one stings for me personally..." -Meyers Leonard 

Have yourself a night, Meyers Leonard!

Highlights: Deja vu in the 3Q as POR falls 3-0 in the series 

Game 3 Top 10 Plays: Hammer Time in Rip City

"It happens..." Jordan Bell moves on from #Shaqtin dunk 

As Damian Lillard takes questions, Russell Westbrook is left searching for answers

USA Today Images

As Damian Lillard takes questions, Russell Westbrook is left searching for answers

Damian Lillard has become one of the most lethal players in the NBA.

According to NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh, Lillard generated the fifth-most wins in the NBA while the Portland Trail Blazers are the third-most efficient offense in the league.

On Tuesday night, Lillard, in the 45th minute, delivered a legendary 37-foot three-pointer over Oklahoma City’s Paul George that proved when there’s nothing left in the tank, Lillard’s ready. The game-winning shot sealed the deal for Portland, who is on its way to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

While Lillard was drilling shots and dropping 30-footers, the Thunder seemed puzzled on how to defend Mr. Unguardable. This used to be the way people would talk about Russell Westbrook, but according to Haberstroh, the tides have changed.

Here’s a few takeaways from Haberstroh’s latest article: How Dame Lillard and the rest of the NBA left Russell Westbrook behind

On Westbrook’s performance in the Blazers-Thunder series:

In this series, Westbrook struggled to get to the rack and finish at a high level. He missed over half his layups, making just 48.8 percent of his shots at the rim (league average is about 60 percent). Westbrook finished with zero dunks in the series and his transition efficiency ranked dead-last among players with at least 20 transition plays, per tracking. Normally, we could chalk that up to small sample size, but Westbrook ranked last in transition efficiency in the regular season among the 27 players with at least 250 transition plays. This is more than a blip.

On what’s changed in Westbrook:

He’s dunking less, getting to the foul line less and missing more layups than he makes. These are all the markings of a player either in decline or in the wrong era, perhaps both. George’s arrival was supposed to weed out Westbrook’s most inefficient shots and make him more effective. But the opposite has happened: George’s efficient shot has only made Westbrook’s weaknesses more glaring.

On how Lillard and Westbrook differ:

Lillard doesn’t overwhelm with his size. In fact, he was equally inefficient at the rim as Westbrook, shooting 47.4 percent on his 38 attempts in the restricted area. But Lillard has a counter.

The difference is that Lillard has put in long hours behind closed doors and developed a knockdown jumper in case he can’t get to the rim as easily as he used to. In this series, Lillard made 48.1 percent of his 3-pointers and was a mind-numbing 10-of-15 from 28 feet and beyond. It’s something you can’t readily defend, as George found out the hard way.

Lillard was facing a nearly impossible task there in the closing seconds: Find a good shot against George. These moments are extremely difficult to begin with. Potential go-ahead shots in the final 10 seconds in the last give postseasons have gone in only 26 percent of the time (17-of-64), according to data from Basketball Reference. That was the baseline from which Lillard was working. Out of nowhere, he created a shot he has made nearly 40 percent this season.

On Lillard ushering in a new generation of players shooting from 30-foot-plus:

Lillard’s long-range jumper serves like David’s slingshot in a game of goliaths. With diminutive ball-handlers like Lillard, Trae Young and Stephen Curry bombing away from deep, it’s easy to see how this might be the future of the NBA. This season, a record-breaking total of 1,008 shots were taken from 30 to 40 feet, up from 860 from last season and nearly double the total of 525 from 2016-17, per Basketball Reference. 

Read full story here

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Blazers mind their own business en route to Game 4 win at OKC

Blazers mind their own business en route to Game 4 win at OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a business trip for the Portland Trail Blazers. And business is good.

Portland’s approach to Sunday night’s pivotal Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder was a textbook approach for a team that was harassed and defeated by the home team just two days previously,

“We were very businesslike,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said after his team's 111-98 victory put it one win away from winning the series. “We took care of our business. I think, as I told the team, we have to be concerned about us, and I thought we played the way we needed to play. And there really wasn’t a lot — as we talked about yesterday – any of the peripheral stuff. I liked the way we approached the game throughout.”

But all of that started at the end of the regular season, when Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg and C J McCollum went down with a knee injury.

At that point, Lillard took command of the situation and went about the job of building confidence and trust in his teammates.

Instead of taking on more of a burden, he got more teammates involved and allowed them to help him carry the load.

The results have been spectacular and it’s the reason that, for all of Lillard’s on-court talents, his leadership may be his most valuable asset.

“We were put in a position where we had to lean on each other and trust each other,”Lillard said. “And it was great for our team. We had to lean on each other and develop trust and the confidence we needed to have with each other. Our team was together and really believing in each other. So coming into this series, this isn’t anything new for us.

“We’ve just been getting the job done. Like Coach said, we had a businesslike mentality.

“It was the first time, that after Game 3, we were in the locker room saying ‘They lived at the free-throw line,’ and all this stuff.

“But in Game 4 we’re not talking to anybody but ourselves. Referees can call it how they want to call it, We’re just going to worry about ourselves. We’re going to play hard and stay together. And when their crowd gets into it, we’re just going to keep on doing what we do and come out on top.

“I was proud that we were able to stick to that and actually get it done. And a lot of that was because of what we’d been through in the regular season and how we came together.”

The Thunder got off to a solid start but the Blazers led by two after the first quarter. Portland trailed by seven points with two and a half minutes left in the first half but finished with an 11-0 run.

That was significant because Lillard was just 2-8 from the field and had only seven points at half.

“I loved it,” Lillard said. “Anytime we can be on the road, playing against a really good team, and not playing well and not having been scoring the ball and we have a lead that deep into a game, that’s a great situation.

“All I need to do is see it go in one time. And that can turn into three or four or five.”

Of course he saw plenty of them go in during the second half, as he finished with 24 points and 4-8 from three-point range.

CJ McCollum was solid all night alongside Lillard,. He was 5-9 on threes and scored 27 and hit a couple of big triples early in the fourth quarter when Lillard was getting a rest.

The second half belong to the Blazers at both ends of the court. Russell Westbrook was held to one point and three assists after halftime and the Thunder ended up being outscored in the paint 36-22. OKC made only 11 of its 30 shots in that area.

McCollum was asked about the development of his team this season.

“I think we’re a lot more mature,” McCollum said. “We understood what we wanted to accomplish tonight. We had multiple discussions about it. If they don’t have a black and gray jersey on, don’t talk to them. Talk to our team only. Don’t talk to the refs.

“Execute our game plan and let’s get out of here with a win.”

McCollum doesn’t mince words when he talks about his team’s motivation.

“We got swept last year,” he said. “Everybody talked about it. We were on TV every day. They talked about the sweep, they talked about me getting traded, they talked about how we (Lillard and McCollum) can’t win together.”

McCollum was asked about the challenge they might face in Tuesday’s Game 5 in Moda Center vs. the Thunder.

“We’re not worried about the Thunder,” he said. “We’re worried about the Blazers. We have to execute our game plan. We have to stick to what we’ve been doing, turn it up a notch. We’re going to be at home, we’re going to be facing a desperate team that is facing elimination.

“We really just need to focus on ourselves, focus on how we can execute and how we can knock down shots, how we can empower each other. And then defensively, stay locked in.”

In other words, just stick to business.

OKC would be a lot less "talkative" if the Blazers take Game 4

OKC would be a lot less "talkative" if the Blazers take Game 4

OKLAHOMA CITY – Let’s start today’s little off-day story by making it clear that the Trail Blazers can win their first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City without ever having to win a game on the road. Everybody knows that.

Portland has homecourt advantage. Just keep winning in Moda Center and when Game 7 is over, the Trail Blazers will be headed for the second round of the playoffs.

But that’s a dangerous game to play. Usually, one team wins a game on the other team’s court and you don’t want to be the team that loses at home – particularly late in the series when it’s hard to wrestle back that homecourt edge.

That’s why I think it’s extremely important for the Trail Blazers win Game 4 Sunday night. And on many levels.

Yes, if they win Sunday they can wrap up the series Tuesday night at home. Quick series means more rest prior to the start of the next one.

But more than that, the Trail Blazers are getting sick of the Thunder. I don’t know any other way to put that, but playing a team four times in the regular season and then facing it for a possible seven more games in the playoffs is a lot – particularly when that team brings all the antics the Thunder throw at the opposition.

Russell Westbrook rocks the baby, never stops talking and overall, makes himself as obnoxious with opponents as he is with the media. Dennis Schroder was mocking Damian Lillard’s wrist tap for “Lillard Time” at the end of Friday’s game. Paul George did a reverse dunk on the Blazers just after the final horn went off and that’s considered an unprofessional act in the NBA.

“It would be huge if we were able to take the game tomorrow night and go home with some momentum and try to close it out at home,” said Maurice Harkless. “I think that would be big time.

“You know, it would put a lot of pressure on that team to win a game on the road. And I know, going back home, our fans would be super excited to be closing out a series at home.”

And is it extra motivation to win, just so you don’t have to deal with their garbage?

“Yeah, it is,” he said with a laugh. “You know, they come with a lot of extra stuff when they win. WHEN THEY WIN. They are a lot less talkative when they don’t. We just have to go in there tomorrow and handle our business and focus on that and see what happens.”

Enes Kanter is in a unique position of having played for the Thunder and is now playing against them in this series.

“I used to get nervous going against them,” Kanter said. “They are just going to do everything to get under people’s skin. So we need to just keep our calm and go out there and do our job.”

And how are his new teammates doing with that?

“I’m very impressed with Dame and CJ, especially, and they are doing a very good job… just keeping their coolness,” he said. “Russ is trying to do everything to get under their skin but especially Dame, doing an amazing job of just keep coming, focusing on what they need to focus on.”

Kanter understands the need to grab that third win Sunday night.

“This is very, very important,” he said. “I remember, I was with Oklahoma City Thunder three years ago and we were up 3-1 against Golden State and they came back and beat us 4-3.

“Every game matters. Every possession matters in the playoffs.”

Lillard said it would be “really important” to win Sunday night.

“Last game I thought we played a solid game,” he said. “We just came up a little bit short. Tomorrow we’ve got to come with that same energy and that same focus. We want to get that one tomorrow.

“You don’t want to just count on winning home games. You want to get at least one on the road and put more pressure on them.”

Coach Terry Stotts falls back on the “every game is important” stance, as he should. As a coach, you can’t really go all in on any one game. And as far as giving the Thunder momentum if they tie the series at 2?

“Momentum changes game by game in the playoffs,” he said. “If we win, they win, there’s a pendulum that goes over a little stronger one way or the other. Momentum is a fickle thing in the playoffs.”

Stotts did admit that he intended to get that technical foul he was called for in Game 3.

“I wanted to get one, yes,” he said. “There were three plays in a row – I thought Enes got fouled on a shot, I thought Enes got pushed underneath and that last one was an obvious hold. So I think it was the culmination of those three consecutive plays.”

Glad that was accomplished. It was cool to have a rare Angry Stotts sighting.

Thunder finally zero in on the pick-and-roll, but Trail Blazers like where they're at

Thunder finally zero in on the pick-and-roll, but Trail Blazers like where they're at

OKLAHOMA CITY -- After shooting under 18% in both of the first two games in their best of seven series against the Trail Blazers, OKC roared back in Game 3 by shooting 51.7% from deep as a team.

“They’re going to make shots from time to time. Did we expect them to shoot 50% from three? No. We’ve got to do a better job of running them off the line. We’ve got to continue to lock in on Paul George. We can live with some of those guys shooting threes. We’ll live with it,” CJ McCollum said.   

There’s no doubt the three-point shooting helped OKC beat the Blazers 120-108 on Friday night. But there were a few more factors that the Blazers pointed out in their postgame interviews.  

The free throw discrepancy was quite a lot. Oklahoma City attempted 15 more free throws for the game.

“They lived at the free throw line and we didn’t,” Damian Lillard said postgame.

But, as Blazers head coach Terry Stotts mentioned, one of the biggest differences in OKC’s approach was how they defended Lillard and how they defended the Blazers’ pick-and-roll. 

“Dame got hot in the third quarter. We were able to set some good screens on him and get him open, but it was clear from the beginning of the game that they were taking Dame and CJ out of our pick-an-rolls… They changed some match-ups. They took [Russell] Westbrook off of Dame and put him in the corner and had other guys guarding him, so we’ll look at film and see what we can do,” Stotts said.

Lillard scored 25 points in the third quarter to help keep Portland within striking distance. He finished the game with 32 points on 10-of-21 points. He still felt like he was able to get to the hoop even with the Thunder’s adjustment.

“They got a little more aggressive on the ball. Instead of the big just trying to stay in front of me they were coming up a little higher. I noticed [Jerami] Grant in [the pick-and-roll defense], somebody that’s more agile, athletic, so maybe they could try to trap or be more aggressive. I thought I was still able to turn the corner. I think they just wanted me to get rid of the ball,” Lillard said.

“They were more aggressive, playing at home, a little bit more energy, a little desperate, and they did a better job of guarding us in the pick and roll early,” McCollum added.

The change on defense was just one of Maurice Harkless many surprises on the night.  

Harkless was in foul trouble for most of the game. He ended up getting ejected, but he didn’t realize it. Harkless said he thought he just fouled out, which he did, but then he was surprised to learn he had to head back to the locker room with 19.2 second remaining in the game because the referees thought he had thrown his mouthpiece.

The Trail Blazers starting small forward also couldn’t believe it took the Thunder so long to make the defensive adjustment on Lillard and McCollum.

“I think they tried to towards the end of the game… put Grant on Enes [Kanter] to try to get them a guy who is a little more active in the pick-and-roll. They were a lot more aggressive tonight, all night, in the pick-and-roll on Dame and CJ. We kind of expected that. I’m kind of surprised it took them until Game 3 to do it,” Harkless said.

While it stunned Harkless it took OKC this long, Thunder big man Steven Adams praised his team’s defense on the perimeter.

“The guards did a really job tonight, just getting in [and] influencing them one way. It makes the bigs’ job a lot easier, way, way easier, so they did a really good job tonight for the whole game. So, that’s what it was really. That was the difference I think from Game 1 [and] Game 2 to now,” Adams said. 

Here’s the thing though -- Lillard and the Blazers are still up 2-1 in the series and they are still feeling really good heading into Game 4 on Sunday.

“I think we’re still in a good place, still confident,” Harkless said.

“We defended well. We’ve just got to limit our turnovers, limit their second chance opportunities… I like where we’re at,” McCollum added. 

As for the Trail Blazer captain, Lillard is expecting and hoping for a similar style game on Sunday.

“I think we go into Game 4 liking where we are. It was a competitive game. We got to the fourth quarter and we had a shot. So, we want to make it that same type of game in Game 4,” Lillard said. 

Homecourt matters as Oklahoma City Thunder bounces back to beat Trail Blazers

Homecourt matters as Oklahoma City Thunder bounces back to beat Trail Blazers

OKLAHOMA CITY – You change the venue and often, you get a different result.

The Oklahoma City Thunder shot a miserable 16.4 percent from three-point range during the first two games in Moda Center, as the Trail Blazers took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

But Friday night in OKC, the tide turned in a big way as the home team posted a 120-108 win. The Thunder knocked down 15 of its 29 shots from long range (51.7 percent).

And oh, by the way, in the two games at Portland, Oklahoma City managed to get to the foul line just three more times than the Trail Blazers. But in Friday’s game, OKC trooped to the free-throw line 15 more times than Portland.

And if you’ve been in the NBA very long, you certainly have grown to expect such things. Home teams get more of those 50-50 calls. Stuff happens.

“I’m not commenting on that,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said when asked a question about how his players handled the officiating – which isn’t exactly like asking him what he thought of the officiating.

But, you know. Fines and stuff. And it did seem the Blazers got very frustrated with the officiating during the fourth quarter.

“We knew it was going to be a physical game because so far this entire series has been really physical,” Damian Lillard said. “But you don’t get the benefit of the doubt on the road. I think on both sides, both teams played really physical and they lived at the free-throw line and we didn’t.”

There were plenty of other factors you could point to as reasons the Trail Blazers lost:

  • They led by a point after the first quarter but suffered through a horrible second quarter. In the second period, Portland made only 6 of 16 shots and had a whopping 10 turnovers.
  • They fell behind by 16 in the third quarter and had to burn a lot of energy to crawl back into the game, which they did when they tied it with 10:41 left in the game.
  • They had 18 turnovers for the night, which the Thunder turned into 18 points.
  • After blocking 15 shots in the first two games, they had only one Friday night.
  • While Lillard played Superman with 25 points in the third quarter and 32 in the game, he couldn’t find much help. Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu – Portland’s starting forwards – each made only three of their nine shots from the field and totaled three of their nine from three-point distance – on a night when they were left open once in a while by a defense that was all over Lillard and CJ McCollum.
  • Portland had the misfortune of catching Russell Westbrook on a night when he made four of his six three-pointers. He made just 29 percent of his three-point shots during the regular season.

It was once again a chippy game, with words being exchanged between players many times. Lillard and Westbrook continued to go at it and that got heated in the fourth quarter when both were barking at each other while Westbrook was handling the ball.

And Paul George, who should know better, dunked a ball as time expired (after the final horn, as it turned out) and some Portland players took exception to that. It's considered bad form when a team has a safe lead.

And this was once again a game that turned on three-point shooting. The team that has shot the best from three – and made the most three-pointers – has won each game.

“You can play really, really poorly but if you really make a lot of threes, regardless of this series or any series, I think you can always keep yourself in a game,” OKC Coach Billy Donovan said.

And for Portland, eight of its 12 threes came from two players, Lillard and McCollum. Aminu added three more and the Blazers got just one, by Rodney Hood, from their bench.

The series continues at the same site Sunday night.