Seth Curry

The key: Will Thunder continue to outshoot the Blazers from three?

The key: Will Thunder continue to outshoot the Blazers from three?

When Oklahoma City takes the floor Sunday afternoon against the Trail Blazers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, the Thunder will undoubtedly take some confidence with them for having swept Portland 4-0 during their season series.

But I’m never certain that what happens in the regular season carries over into the playoffs. And this season series was marked by something uncharacteristic that may not be repeated in a playoff series.

The biggest reason the Thunder held a 4-0 edge on the Blazers was three-point shooting, OKC did it well and Portland did not.

And by a wide margin. Which I’m not sure will continue to happen.

Oklahoma City made 39.3 percent of its threes against the Trail Blazers. For the season on the whole, the Thunder made just 34.8 percent from three-point range.

In the four games vs. OKC, the Trail Blazers managed an anemic 28.5 percent from three – and this was a team that shot .359 for the season from that distance.

Looking at it another way, the Thunder took 27 fewer three-point shots over the four games between the teams but made four more.

And if you want to talk individually, the first thing you need to know is that vs. the Thunder, Damian Lillard made only 25 percent of his threes and OKC’s Russell Westbrook hit 35 percent of his. For the record, Westbrook managed to make just 29 percent of his three-point attempts against the league this season. And he’s a career 30.4 percent shooter from distance, while Lillard was a 36.9 percent shooter from three this season.

There were mitigating circumstances in those four games, of course. There always is during a long season.

“They’ve shot the ball very well against us from three and we haven’t,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said Saturday. “That’s been the deciding factor in most of the games.”

Is that something OKC did on defense or was Portland  just missing good shots?

“In general, it’s a little bit of both,” Stotts said. “You’ve got to credit their defense but I think we had a lot of makeable shots… that’s part of basketball.

“As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t know if fatigue was a factor but two of the games were second of a back-to-back and that could have been a factor, and another was after a seven-game road trip.

“That could have been a factor. I’m not blaming that. But it could have been a factor.”

Seth Curry, the Blazers’ most accurate long-range shooter (45 percent in the regular season), went only 2-11 in the four games vs Oklahoma City.

“A couple of games were tough schedule-wise,” Curry said. “I think we’ve created good shots against them every time we’ve played them, pretty much. We’ll be able to knock them down.

“They’re a good defensive team but with Dame and CJ and myself coming off ball screens, we’ll be able to create good shots. As long as we create good shots, we’ll live with the results.

“You’re not going to shoot a good percentage if you’re taking bad shots. If you’re taking good shots, you might miss a few in a row but eventually it will even out. You’ll be back to your average.”

Curry also made a good point. These games were not played in a series – they were spread from January through March.

“It was four games throughout the year,” he said. “It’s not in a vacuum. You play a lot of games in between. It wasn’t four games in a row against one team.

“Create good shots, have strong legs and a strong base to shoot the ball.  Regular season numbers don’t tell the story.

“We’re a different team than when we played them. Our rotation is different. This is a much different team they’re playing.”

For sure, including Curry’s minutes, which have increased as the season has moved along.

Lillard, as is his habit, has taken a close look at the games -- and came away shaking his head.

“I was looking at it on film,” he said. “I forgot, we got some great looks – we just didn’t make shots. That’s been our focus,  shooting the ball with confidence.

“This is it. I don’t know what else to say. This is it. Looking at our four games against them, we got great looks. Our offense on the weak side was there, we were finding shooters but we didn’t make shots. Hopefully that turns in our favor.”

And when you look back at what happened during the season, you’d have to conclude that the Thunder will win this playoff series if it continues to dominate Portland from the three-point line.

But percentages do take over as the sample size increases. And that’s why I expect the Trail Blazers to win the series.

Playoff Mode Harkless: Athletic, Healthy and Confident

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Playoff Mode Harkless: Athletic, Healthy and Confident

LOS ANGELES – The Trail Blazers bench unloaded in an uproar of cheers and excitement after Blazers starting small forward Maurice Harkless swished home a game-winning three-pointer to beat the Lakers, 104-101 on Tuesday night.

Harkless finished with a season-high 26 points and the Blazers finished with the feeling of securing homecourt in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has said the goal this week was to make sure his team locked down the fourth seed and the last possession at Staples Center on Tuesday did just that (and there's still a chance at the three seed).

“Moe Harkless had a tremendous game, made big plays at the offensive end, arguably one of his best games of the season, really active, worked the baseline well… Seth Curry’s steal at the end put ourselves in a position to win the game,” Stotts said.

It was all smiles in the Blazers locker room postgame.

“Obviously it’s a great feeling in the locker room right now after that and to get homecourt, to confirm it,” Harkless said.

Harkless scored the Blazers final 12 points of the game including not only knocking down the game winning three, but also hitting clutch free throws down the stretch.

“He put himself in good positions. I think his teammates did a good job of finding him,” Stotts said.   

The Blazers were tied at 101 with 18.2 seconds remaining when Seth Curry stole the ball from Alex Caruso.

“We knew we had to get a stop right there. Caruso had it going a little bit, so I just had to sit down and guard him. I knew he was going right a lot throughout the night, just playing a game within the game,” Curry said.

The Blazers then called for a full timeout.

Lillard explained how he surveyed what the defense was giving him when they came back out on the court after the timeout.

“Pretty much this whole season, end of quarters, end of games, whenever it’s a chance for us to go hit a last shot, teams don’t let me go no more, they just run two guys at the ball… My first look, I was looking at CJ… I hit CJ and Moe just popped out to the corner,” Lillard said.

“We thought Dame was gonna get the shot, they sent the double, he was able to find CJ, my guy rotated, CJ dropped it off to me in the corner, I knew I had to shoot it. I just shot the ball with confidence,” Harkless added.

Rising up with confidence was what it took to beat the scrappy young Lakers squad.

McCollum, who said his knee felt good after his second game back, thought that Harkless was the key to a victory on Tuesday.

“He hit a big shot for us, he sealed the game for us. He made a lot of great plays that made the difference,” McCollum said.

“He’s getting in playoff mode and it just shows the work he’s put in over the course of his career, being able to hit jumpers, score in the paint, make free throws, defend, block some shots, he did a little bit of everything tonight and that was all the difference,” McCollum added. 

Lillard feels that coming up big this season is nothing new for Harkless.

“He’s had a lot of moments were he came up big for us and usually it was in the form of a block or a big rebound, or a big offensive rebound and then he dunks -- it’s always like that,” Lillard said.

What’s the difference in Harkless’ play on Tuesday?

“I was just taking my time, locking in for every possession, every shot, it’s winning time, man,” Harkless said.

But the real biggest difference might just be that he is now completely healthy.

“I’m feeling really good. I’m able to move well and not really feel restricted or anything,” Harkles said.

“I’m feeling athletic again,” Harkless said with a big smile.

A healthy Moe heading into the postseason is just what the Blazers need and it’s just what is making Harkless happy right now.

“It’s been a long process, so I’m happy to be playing, and that I’m feeling well at this point in the season,” Harkless said.

So now the big question is -- do the Blazers rest their key players or chase a higher seed on Wednesday night vs. the Kings?

So do the Trail Blazers now rest their key players or chase a higher seed?

So do the Trail Blazers now rest their key players or chase a higher seed?

So now what?

With the homecourt advantage and the No. 4 seed in the West wrapped up Tuesday night in Los Angeles, do the Trail Blazers rest their regulars Wednesday night in Moda Center vs. the Sacramento Kings, or do they chase the No. 3 seed?

The best chance of getting the higher seed would probably require playing the starters, rather than giving them an obligatory game off at the end of the season. For a few of the Trail Blazers, I’d advocate a night off.

But the No. 3 seed could possibly mean a first-round matchup vs. San Antonio, depending on results of other games Wednesday night. Certainly the Spurs would appear to be a more advantageous opponent for Portland than Utah, which would be the opposition if the Blazers settle for the fourth seed. But there are no guarantees which team would be there.

And of course it’s always possible Coach Terry Stotts could put together a lineup Wednesday night without some of his key players that would still beat the Kings.

Stotts would not tip his hand Tuesday night about his plans.

“I’m not talking about that tonight,” he said.

It’s almost become customary in the NBA these days to sit premier players in these sorts of situations. In fact, some players see it as something of a status symbol. But most of them would never publicly ask for the rest game.

Who would I rest?

I’d start with Damian Lillard, who has looked tired since the recent four-game trip that concluded with the game at Minnesota, and CJ McCollum, who probably shouldn’t be playing back-to-back games coming off his knee injury. Seth Curry has become an important scorer and has had some aches and pains lately – I think I’d rest him, too.

And honestly, any other player who wants a day off, I’d be easy to convince. You can talk about homecourt and seeding all you want, but the health of your players always has to come first. And taking a tired team into the playoffs is a recipe for disaster, homecourt or not.

I’d want them rested and ready. As you might expect, the players had no interest in taking a side Tuesday.

“Our focus has been to get homecourt,” Lillard said. “And tonight we did that. We’ll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.”

The Blazer win over the Lakers was accomplished thanks to Maurice Harkless’s three-point shot at the buzzer. It was the only three-pointer Portland’s starting forwards hit in seven attempts.

Harkless was asked about the possible courses of action Wednesday night.

“We’ve all thought about it. But we’re not fixated on it. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Harkless said. “Coach has a couple of decisions to make and so we’ll just do whatever he feels comfortable doing.”

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

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Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Denver Nuggets

Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum (left knee) had missed a total of 10 games before returning on Sunday night to face the Nuggets. Portland went 8-2 during that span.  

With the Nuggets now guaranteed to finish no worse than third in the Western Conference standings, Denver decided to rest Nikola Jokic, Paul Millsap, and Jamal Murray on Sunday.

Even though, Denver was without three starters, the Nuggets kept it close throughout.  Denver took care of the ball and despite being the smaller team down low, they were able to keep up with the Blazers on the glass. Portland eventually was able to pull away and snag a 115-108 victory behind McCollum's passing and Damian Lillard's key three-pointer in the last three minutes of action.  

With the win, the Blazers snapped a six-game losing streak to the Nuggets.

FINAL BOX SCORE: Trail Blazers 115, Nuggets 108

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers seventh consecutive home win:

1. McCollum back and on the attack

Trail Blazers fans at Moda Center gave CJ McCollum a warm welcome back during introductions.

It looked as though McCollum had not missed the last 10 games. He was still as aggressive as you expect from him. From media row, McCollum was getting up and down the court just fine, which is always the biggest concern when a guy misses that much time.

Rodney Hood subbed in for McCollum at the 3:16 mark of the first quarter. In his first stint, McCollum went 3-of-6 from the field for nine points and dished out 2 assists in nine minutes of work.

McCollum returned at the 8:58 mark of the second quarter and when he got his name called off the bench, he sprinted to the scorer’s table to get back in the game. That sprint made you forget about any kind of knee injury. 

McCollum played a surprising 14 minutes in the first half. He had nine points, four assists, and two rebounds at halftime.

Despite the good first half, McCollum looked rusty in the second. Only time will tell how long until McCollum hits his full game stride again. 

The 27-year-old finished with 25 minutes of work. He had nine points, six assists, and six rebounds in the win. 

2.  Getting more shooters back on the court

Not only did the Blazers get McCollum back, Seth Curry returned from a one game absence as well after dealing with left tibia soreness. The Blazers had missed Curry’s shooting in Friday’s loss to Denver. Curry had been playing so well with McCollum out and just because the Blazers got their starting two-guard back, it did not effect Curry’s minutes or his shot.

Through the first two quarters, Curry had had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 1-of-2 from three.

His shooting from deep and his midrange game has been on point lately. There’s no doubt his scoring is going to be a necessity in the postseason. Having another weapon like Curry off the bench is what the Blazers were missing last season when Portland got swept by New Orleans.

Al-Farouq Aminu was also very aggressive on the offensive end. Chief notched a new season-high with 23 points.

3. Short-handed Nuggets hang around

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Blazers had a five point lead. The Nuggets relied on Gary Harris and Trey Lyles on the offensive end. You’ve got to give the Nuggets some credit; they never once looked like they didn’t believe they could win.

Denver’s head coach Mike Malone said before the game, even though they were resting their stars, that did not mean they weren’t looking to get the win and “play the right way.”

Sunday’s performance by Denver showed just how deep this team is this season. For Portland, the game showed this squad could be a little worn out right now.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers will finish the regular season with a back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday night. Portland travels to Los Angeles to take on the Lakers Tuesday at 7:30pm. You can catch all the action on NBC Sports Northwest with our pregame coverage starting at 6:30pm. The Blazers then host the Kings at 7:30pm on Wednesday.

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.

Shootaround Notebook: What a difference a year makes for Harkless, playoff-like feeling vs. Nuggets, & more

Shootaround Notebook: What a difference a year makes for Harkless, playoff-like feeling vs. Nuggets, & more

Tonight marks the third of four meetings between the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers this season. The teams will play twice over the next three days with the Nuggets making a stop in Portland on Sunday.

This has been a very competitive series with the first games being decided by three points or less. Denver holds a 2-0 series lead.

There’s a lot on the line in regards to seeding in the Western Conference. Portland is looking to secure homecourt advantage, but after Trail Blazers shootaround this morning, it’s apparent that Portland is playing loose, confident, and ready to execute their game plan.

After shootaround, Seth Curry and Maurice Harkless gave insight into tonight’s matchup in Denver, as well as updates on their health and more.

Giving credit where credit is due

Portland is coming off a 116-89 home win over Memphis Wednesday night, which was the Blazers’ 11th victory in the last 13 games. Portland is now 16-5 since All-Star break. After injuries to Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum plagued the Blazers over the last two weeks, this team has rallied together.

Working together as a collective effort is exactly what Blazers head coach Terry Stotts has been preaching in recent weeks.

“That’s his message -- In any night it could be, anybody or all of us playing well and contributing to a win. We know we’ve got to do this together. We know we are our best when we do, do it together, so we’ve got to keep that same mindset,” Harkless said.

Curry echoed the same sentiments.

“His leadership and Dame’s leadership… has been great. Nobody has made excuses. We haven’t talked about the injuries too much. Obviously, we’re thinking about Nurk and his injury, but he hasn’t let us use it as a crutch,” Curry said.

A healthy Harkless -- physically and mentally

Last week was the one-year mark since Harkless began having trouble with his left knee. The Blazers forward underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in late March 2018.

Harkless smiled today when talking to reporters about how different he is feeling physically and mentally at this point in the season compared to last season.

“Last year, it was kind of a low-point because I had just had surgery, so it kind of sucked knowing that I wasn’t going to be out here and play to the best of my ability,” Harkless said. “This year, I’m feeling good, so it’s pretty much just getting ready for the postseason now. It’s definitely a different mindset.”

Curry added to the injury report for Friday’s game

With McCollum out, Curry has stepped up in a big way to help the Blazers get buckets when they need them. Curry attributes his recent play to getting back to good health and knowing his role.

“I think I’ve been consistent as of late,” he said. “I think we are playing well… I’ve figured out my role towards the end of the season, and what they want from me on a nightly basis, and I’ve gotten healthier and stronger as the season has gone along and that has allowed me to play better.”

Despite, Curry feeling healthier than he has in the last couple of seasons, he is now dealing with soreness to his left tibia.

Friday afternoon, the Blazers added Curry (left tibia soreness) to the Injury Report, listing him as questionable for tonight’s game.

Treating this weekend like a playoff series

Blazers fans are eager for tonight’s 7:30 p.m. tip-off and so are the players.

“We’re kind of viewing it as like a mini-type of playoff series. We’ve just got to go out here and use these two games and try to prepare…. It’s probably going to be a playoff-like atmosphere in here and when we get back home,” Harkless said.

Curry knows the Blazers must put together a complete game in order to defeat the second-seeded Nuggets.

“They have a deep team… A lot of people, they contribute. Their system is free flowing and you’ve got to keep that pace for 48-minutes to be able to beat them,” Curry said. 

Why are the Blazers playing so loose right now?

According to Harkless and Curry, Portland is coming out every night and not “overthinking” things, while also having “a lot of fun," on the court.

Those two factors have played a big role to the team’s recent success and you should expect the Blazers to continue to play like this tonight against the Nuggets.

“We’re in a good space,” Harkless said. “We’re kind of all just playing, you know? We’re playing off each other. We’re making reads, we’re not really overthinking it and that’s when you play your best basketball.”

“I think everybody has figured out their roles on the team so far. Everybody’s playing with a lot of confidence. I feel like everybody on the team is playing well. Nobody is really in a rut right now… We’re having a lot of fun out there. We’re winning games – that’s a good feeling to have heading into the playoffs,” Curry added.

With the Blazers bigs putting on a dunk show after shootaround today, this video shows just how loose and how much fun this team is having right now:

 

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Evan Turner after triple-double: "I'm straight-up tired"

Evan Turner after triple-double: "I'm straight-up tired"

MINNEAPOLIS – This game Monday night, a 132-122 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, is probably going to have to be something of a blueprint for the rest of the season for the Trail Blazers.

Portland got scoring from everywhere, including 60 points off the bench. Enes Kanter got 20 and 11 rebounds. Rodney Hood, in a starting role, scored 21. Seth Curry, in 21:51 off the bench, scored 19. Meyers Leonard made all four of his shots and had 9.

And the main event – Evan Turner had 13 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in just 24:56 – a triple-double while making all five of his shots from the field and both his free throws.

“I really thought this game exemplifies how we need to play,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “Rodney and Enes had really good games – they were our leading scorers – and they didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.

“Evan played a great role as a facilitator, did a little bit of everything with his triple-double. Zach’s defense in the fourth quarter made a difference. Seth continues his role. And we had to depend on different guys for different things. A lot of good contributions. I liked our resiliency after we got down six in the fourth quarter.”

The Blazer bench went crazy when Turner grabbed his 10th rebound to complete the fourth triple-double of his career.

“I had no idea,” Stotts said of Turner’s pursuit of the triple-double. “I was clueless until the bench erupted.”

The biggest thing about Turner’s feat was that it fueled Portland’s fourth-quarter comeback. He pushed the ball up the floor and increased the tempo, which helped the Blazers retake the lead.

“A great win,” Turner said. “Tired. Straight up, I’m really tired. It was cool. Obviously, guys hit shots. I got some shots up.

“I thought we needed to make the most out of every stop we got because there weren’t really very many stops.

“Everybody has to step up in different situations and tonight was my night. Whatever my minutes are, I play defense and am a distributor. That’s pretty much it. That’s the most minutes I’ve gotten in a while, probably the most shots I’ve gotten in a while. Just go with the flow and ride the wave.”

Asked about the reaction from the bench when he got that 10th rebound, Turner smiled.

“That was dope, man,” he said. “That was dope. I think it says a lot about our team that we’re all genuinely happy for each other’s success.”

Turner’s other three triple-doubles came in Boston for the Celtics. He seemed happy Monday just to get the playing time.

“Shoutout to Rodney and Mo for letting me play longer.” Turner said with a grin.

Damian Lillard had another night when he could dial it down a little, with scoring help coming from all directions. Lillard finished with 15 points, 12 assists and five rebounds.

“A big game for Evan to bounce back with everything he did,” Stotts said. “What I liked the most is what I said in the beginning.

“Rodney gets off to a great start and Enes has a double-double and they’re our leading scorers and they don’t get in, in the fourth quarter. And they’re cheering the team on.

“That’s what teams are made of. You do what you do when you’re on the court, give what you can when you’re on the court and when you’re not, you cheer your teammates and hopefully, it all works out.”

And it did Monday night.

After win streak snapped, Stotts says a lineup change is "possible"

After win streak snapped, Stotts says a lineup change is "possible"

MINNEAPOLIS – After CJ McCollum suffered his knee injury March 16 at San Antonio, Portland Coach Terry Stotts was faced with a decision.

Who starts alongside Damian Lillard in the Trail Blazer backcourt?

Stotts opted to start Jake Layman, who had spent most of his career as a forward, in that spot and even though Layman didn’t set the league on fire, the Blazers went on to win six straight games.

And Stotts is a bit more old-school when it comes to lineups than you might think. He stayed with that winning lineup with Layman a part of it.

But Saturday night in Detroit, Portland lost to the Pistons. After the winning streak was snapped, would Stotts, asked at the team's Monday morning shootaround, then consider a change in the starting lineup?

“It’s possible,” said Stotts, who very seldom reveals his starting lineup until he has to, just prior to the game. “I think we have to look at some things. You win five or six in a row without CJ and you don’t want to change things up. It’s more about getting wins than experimenting.”

Stotts has several options. Seth Curry has been scoring very well off the bench and certainly would be a candidate for that starting spot. So would Rodney Hood, who has started 224 games in his NBA career.

But the Portland coach could also reach past the second unit, as he has in the past so as not to disrupt his bench rotation. That could perhaps mean a chance for rookie Anfernee Simons.

Yes, that sounds like a bold move, but Simons has played 8:45 in the last two games and hit four of his five shots. He’s played well in his limited time on the court recently. And a good many insiders with the team – including players – believe he is going to be a very good player.

Would Stotts make that move at this point of the season?

“I don’t think that would be fair to them,” Stotts said. “This is an important stretch and those minutes – we really don’t have those minutes to spare, because it’s a 10-man rotation. Seth is going to play 30 minutes. Rodney’s playing. Jake’s playing. Those minutes (to Simons) would come at the expense of one of those players.

“I don’t think we have the luxury to do that. It would be a good experience for him. But right now, the rotation’s tight.

“At this point of the season, fighting for home court, I just don’t think it’s fair to put him in that situation now.

Or to the other players. I don’t think we’re in a position to do that.”

So, we must wait until tonight. Will it continue to be Layman? Or someone

The night the Trail Blazers clinched a playoff spot and nobody cared

The night the Trail Blazers clinched a playoff spot and nobody cared

With 2:23 left in the second overtime at Moda Center Monday night, the Portland Trail Blazers were headed toward a win that would clinch a playoff spot. And Jusuf Nurkic was bulling his way to an outstanding game, with 32 points, 16 rebounds, five assists and four blocked shots.

And just one second later – a blink of an eye --  it all came apart for Nurkic and his team. He landed on the floor after going after a rebound and collapsed, his left leg awkwardly bent and apparently broken.

Even though Portland would go on to 148-144 double-overtime win over the Brooklyn Nets, it was the quietest just-clinched-a-playoff-berth locker room you’d ever find.

Sports – and life – are so fragile. On top one minute and on the bottom the next. Healthy, then broken. You just never know.

And the sight of Nurkic on the floor with teammates having to turn away from the ugly scene and the arena as quiet as it would be an hour later – it was terribly sad.

“That’s what our guys are talking about in the locker room right now,” said Nets Coach Kenny Atkinson. “They’re not talking about the game or the loss, they’re talking about, you know, a player who was having a great game and a heck of a player and you just pray that it’s not a long-term thing and he can bounce back.

“It just takes the wind out of yourself. It’s just not the same.”

The Trail Blazers, indeed, said a prayer after the game in the locker room. The realization that their season could have tumbled to the ground along with Nurkic was obviously a factor. But more than that, it was the serious injury to a teammate, a brother and a friend.

“Yeah, it’s all fragile,” said Damian Lillard. “Everything about it is. Other than the friendships you have, because regardless... same team, different team, during career post career, you’re going to be friends with guys. But every little thing about the game, about the NBA season, the NBA career – it’s fragile.

“You can be on a team one day, gone the next. You can be healthy one day, injured the next. Have a job one day, fired the next. It’s a lot of things about the game that’s fragile and that’s one of them. It’s one of the more unfortunate ones.”

The game was a physical one that saw 61 fouls called and a whole lot more calls that were missed. The Blazers appeared to be in deep trouble in the fourth quarter, trailing by five with 1:47 to go. They were still down by 3 with 34 seconds left when Lillard hit a layup to pull his team within a point.

But then Seth Curry pulled off a steal from D’Angelo Russell and set sail for the basket at the other end. He was fouled, though, and went to the line with two shots and 3.5 showing on the clock.

“In that situation, I know he likes to bring it back in his left hand,” Curry said. “So I was anticipating that left hand. He kind of lost it and put it in front of me and I was able to knock it away.”

Curry missed the first foul shot, then nailed the second, Russell missed a wild three-point shot and the teams headed to overtime.

Portland had the last shot of the first overtime with 8.8 seconds left but squandered the opportunity and settled for a 34-footer from Lillard.

Nurkic fouled out two Brooklyn centers and was working against 6-7 Jared Dudley in the second overtime when the game got very physical inside.

In fact, the league’s “Last 2-minute Report” ought to be very hard on the trio of officials, who seemed unable to control the contact.

But in the end, none of that seemed to matter much to the participants, whose hearts were with Nurkic. Curry, perhaps more than anyone in the locker room, knows what it’s like to suffer a serious injury.

“I definitely don’t take it for granted,” he said of his career. “I already know how it is. My injury last season, missing the whole season. You hate to see it. Especially for somebody who had worked as hard as he had all year.

“Having his best season and having his best game. It’s unfortunate.”

Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard overwhelm Pistons down the stretch

The Detroit Pistons had won seven of their last 10 games and brought their “A-Game” to Moda Center Saturday night.

But the Trail Blazers countered with an “A-plus Game” and finished off the Pistons with a flourish in the final two minutes to win 117-112.

Damian Lillard led the Portland parade, as usual, with his passing and his shooting. He finished with 28 points – hitting 9-16 from the floor, including 6-10 from three-point territory – to go with nine assists and six rebounds.

And down the stretch he was dictating the game, chapter and verse. But make no mistake, he had a lot of help on this night – the Trail Blazers got winning performances from just about everyone who played.

Portland trailed 109-103 with four and a half minutes to play but held the Pistons scoreless for the next four minutes.

Lillard hit Maurice Harkless knifing through the lane for a layup. He found Jusuf Nurkic for another layup and the game was tied with 1:58 to go.

Then, with the score tied, Nurkic made a terrific block on an Andre Drummond layup. Seth Curry found Lillard in the front court and Lillard nailed a 28-foot jumper to push his team into the lead, was fouled, and made the free throw.

It was downhill from there. Harkless passed to Nurkic for a dunk and then Al-Farouq Aminu jumped on a missed Lillard shot and banked in a basket with 4.1 seconds to go that provided the final margin.

It was a terrific outing for the Trail Blazers, who shot .544 from the field, .423 from three and outrebounded the bruising Pistons 42-29.

“A gutty and gritty win,” Terry Stotts said. “Basically we held them scoreless the last four and a half minutes. We made a lot of good defensive plays, big shots.”

You can find contributions everywhere:

  • Harkless had 10 points, four assists and some big defensive plays.
  • Aminu had a season-high 22 points, a lot of hustle plays and a solid defensive job on Blake Griffin.
  • Nurkic had 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots.
  • Enes Kanter mixed it up inside with Drummond and came away with 10 points and seven rebounds.
  • Zach Collins had his usual quota of energy plays, as well as 4-6 from the field, four boards, a block and nine points.
  • Seth Curry was 5-9, had 16 points and five rebounds.

It was quite a night for the home team, whose interior passing was a thing of beauty.

“When guys draw double-teams or guys just drive and somebody steps up, we’ve done a good job of finding the open man,” Harkless said.

Lillard probably had four or five “hockey assists,” where his pass led to the pass that resulted in the score. And that’s indicative of how well the Trail Blazers moved the ball around.

“Those are the plays you have to make in order to take advantage of what they were trying to do,” Lillard said. “I’m not always going to be the guy getting the assist when they’re out so high on me. Can the guy I pass the ball out to, make the next play? We had guys doing that.

“That’s what I mean when I say we’re making the right plays. The ball is going where it’s supposed to go. When it does that, you take advantage of what the other team is trying to do. Tonight we did a great job of that.

“We’ve been playing the style of play we want to play,” Lillard said. “And we can sustain that.”

Pistons Coach Dwane Casey, who has done an outstanding job with his team, loaded up against Lillard.

"You're not going to stop everything," he said. "They're one of the top offensive teams in the league. And we made a decision that we were going to try to keep the ball as much as possible out of Lillard's hands. And again, you take away one thing, you're going to open up something else."

The Blazers play host to the Brooklyn Nets Monday night before heading out on a four-game trip to Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit and Minnesota.

Seth Curry was just being himself in win over former team

Seth Curry was just being himself in win over former team

The Blazers followed up their win Monday night vs. the Indiana Pacers with a 126-118 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night to improve to 2-0 on their four-game homestand.

It was also their second game without CJ McCollum, who is sidelined with a popliteus strain in his left knee. In McCollum’s absence, Damian Lillard continued to lead the charge in a variety of ways. Lillard finished with 33 points and 12 assists.

But, he wasn't alone in the Blazers efforts. Backup guard Seth Curry stepped up to help carry some of the load, too.  

Curry scored 12 of his 20 points in the second half after going 8-of-16 from the field, and 4-of-7 from deep. Curry also pulled down five rebounds.

This was Curry’s third game of 20-plus points this season.

The best part about Curry's by committee performance?  

Lillard feels this performance from Curry is nothing out of the ordinary for Curry’s skillset, or for the Trail Blazers’ offense.

“The way he got it, I think that it translates even when CJ comes back and we are at full strength. The things that he was doing, he will still be able to do. It wasn’t like he just went out there and got out of what we typically do, the role we typically have him in, he was just being himself,” Lillard said.

“The way he did it, I think it will work for us going forward, regardless of who’s out there, who’s not,’ Lillard added.

Curry echoed those sentiments, saying that as a team they were playing “similar offense, moving the ball, trying to find the best shots” as they would when McCollum is in the lineup.

The 28-year-old knew he had to be on the attack more, while playing some extra minutes with McCollum out.

“A little more opportunity, obviously, there’s a lot of shots missing with CJ not in the lineup, so other guys gotta step up and try to help where we can,” Curry said.

Since McCollum was sidelined last Saturday in the Blazers loss to the Spurs, Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts has preached that they need the entire team to contribute and it may be a different guy on any given night. 

Coach Stotts was happy to see that Wednesday night was Curry’s night; at least until he got winded as the game drew on.

“I thought he was active,” Stott said. “I don’t know if he got a little tired in the fourth quarter, but I thought he got good looks. He was pretty close to having a really good night. I thought he had three or four really nice moves to the basket and wasn’t able to finish them, but again, with CJ out… It’s gonna be by committee... We need his shooting.”

So, was Curry getting a little gassed in the fourth?

“I was a little tired at the end, playing 16 minutes, or whatever, straight in the second half,” Curry said with a smile. 

Curry had been with the Mavericks from 2016-2018 before signing a two-year deal with Portland in free agency last summer. It’s always fun to see a player do so well against his former team.

During Wednesday night’s game, Curry made it a point to look over at the Mavs bench a few times after scoring a bucket.

Does Curry enjoy taking it to his former teammates?

“Just a lot of guys I like over there, a few friends that I played with, obviously. So, it’s just all fun,” Curry said.

So, he wouldn’t admit that he gets hyped up a little bit more when the Blazers play the Mavs, but he might have admitted there could be some potential trash-talking going on. 

“Nah, not much,” Curry laughed.

Okay, maybe not.

But one things for sure—

Curry was having fun.

“We’ve got a good team over here. Everybody’s doing their part, moving the ball, finding the open man tonight, so it’s fun to play when guys are moving the ball like that and everybody contributed tonight,” Curry told Trail Blazers sideline reporter Brooke Olzendam immediately after the game.

The ball movement is fun for the players and fun for the fans.

On to the next—Blazers host Detroit on Saturday.

Which role player will step up next?